Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Looking Beyond Borders - book it !

Now Borders is closing its remaining stores around the country and is about to ride off into the sunset. This should be a, pun intended, textbook example of why some big businesses fail. I’m not buying their “excuse” for leaving the marketplace. Then again, fewer people were buying anything that Borders has been offering lately.

Their closing up shop is more of a result of consumers acceptance of ‘big business policy’ than e readers and the rest of the excuses some PR people have put out there as if to justify this closing. What is unfortunate is that so many very capable employees have and will lose full and part-time positions doing what they love because of goofy policies. Over the years, I always found the Borders employees to be knowledgeable about the books no matter what the topic. That’s the one thing the company did right, across the board, over the years. Employees with knowledge of the product. Management seems to have been a different story, however.

An employee can know and love certain books and talk about them all day with eager customers. But if that employee can’t deliver the product, the consumer still suffers.

There was the time a new DVD came out that I wanted. Out of convenience, I went into a Borders store the morning of the release date. Didn’t find it on the shelves. I asked the Customer Service rep, who knew what I was talking about and looked it up for me. They didn’t have it “yet”. I said something like “thanks anyway, I’ll pick it up down the street later in the day”. The rep looked offended and said that she would order it for me. I said that I would get it somewhere else that same day, which I did, and for a couple dollars less.

A few months ago, I went into 2 different Borders seeking a new release book which wound up on the N Y Times best seller list. One store didn’t have it yet. The other showed it as “in store” on the lookup computer. Couldn’t find it. When I asked, the rep looked it up, then agreed that it’s “in store”, and went to check on this for me. She then came back and said that the book is in the store, but still boxed up in the back and that they wouldn’t have it on display until tomorrow. As if I would come back for it.

Not only are the more incidents like the above, there is also the checkout process. Granted, Borders wasn’t as crazed as Radio Shack in terms of “needing” your information to make a simple purchase, but they came close at times. I shouldn’t have had to give my phone number or e-mail address just to buy a magazine. When they had the most current one in stock.

Over the past couple of years, I found more and more instances of them not having items in stock, but you could order them via Borders.com. However, I, the customer who couldn’t find the item in their store, was asked to pay the shipping charges, which took away any discount.

Forward ahead to the past couple of years and their Borders online “membership” plan. The one where they e-mail you every day with some discount possibilities for which you had jump through hoops and still not always get your buy. You had to keep checking back during the course of the day to see how many people “registered” for their daily specials which would “open” when a certain number of members had done so.

Then, I actually got one of them, which wasn’t easy. Their discount turned out to be, in part, via something called WOW Points which turn into cash. In order to get cash back, Borders wanted my personal checking account information to transfer the funds, failing to leave me any other option to get the money. Ya, right. Like I’m going to give some retailer the information to access my personal checking account?

That one kills me. In this day and age of identity theft and personal information leaks, Borders expects us to blurt out our phone number or e-mail address to make a simple purchase, and to provide them with our personal account information to take advantage of a special discount.

All they needed was some capable management and a sense of what potential customers want in terms of convenience and price. They would still have over 1,000 stores in operation.

Like the little kid who spills his drink and yells “It’s not my fault”, Borders is blaming the e-books and the current marketplace for reading. Heck, a little kid would know to have merchandise ready on the shelf the morning it is released – and easily available at other retailers.

One can only hope that other retailers will see the real reason for the Borders decline and keep in mind what current and potential customers really want.

1 comment:

  1. Your observations make a lot of sense--too bad you weren't part of their management team!