My Problems with Borders Bookstores

Last year, a Borders store opened up down the street.  Since then, I have had a few complaints from my students about them (see here and here).  But today, two of my students brought up separate events they had experienced at our local Borders which annoyed me a little.  Obviously, as a passionate language arts teacher I work extremely hard at getting my students to become readers (and hopefully lifelong readers).  So it really irks me when a sales associate who does not know my students makes a judgement about their reading. 

Case in point #1– One of my students is  having a hard time finding books that she likes.  We have been working very hard and she is being a really good sport about finding books and giving them a try.  She just hasn’t found that spark or connection yet.  Recently she went to Borders in search of some books, hoping to find that perfect book.  Apparently, a sales associate approached her and began giving some suggestions.  In theory, I LOVE this idea.  Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out for her.  When my student got up the nerve to say that she was interested in reading Twilight , the associate said no! According to my student, the associate said, “That’s not an appropriate book for you. That’s a book for girls who like romance. Why don’t you try and read that in a few years?”

Excuse me!? First of all, my student had her mother with her. I support telling the mother what the book is about, letting her make the final choice. But what right does a bookseller have to tell a tween that she shouldn’t read a book sold in the YA department? There is no sex, no cursing, and by all accounts Meyers wrote a pretty tame book by YA standards. And if a 12 year old wants to read a book, why discourage her?! My student was so upset she left without any books at all. The bookseller made her feel like she wasn’t mature enough to choose her own books. UGH.


Case in point #2– A different student is flying through the Cirque Du Freak series.  He is thrilled about the upcoming movie and comes in everyday to share news and tidbits with me.  I only have the first four books in the series in my classroom library, so he went to Borders to purchase the remaining 12 books.  When he couldn’t find them on the shelf, he asked for help from a sales associate.  The associate checked the computer and then told he, “No one reads those books so we don’t stock them.  We stock books that sell well and no one is interested in those”.  When he protested and explained that the movie would be coming out in 2009 and that a lot of kids in his class love them, the associate responded that the movie wasn’t going to do well and then turned away!  No offer to special order them, nothing!  Can you imagine?!  Who says that to a teenage boy who is reading?  And requesting books!  At a bookstore!

So he went to Barnes and Noble, who apologized that they were sold out and immediately placed a special order for him.  


It’s things like this that only further discourage tweens/teens from reading.  And it’s why I wish we had independent bookstores around here!

19 Responses

  1. Uggh! I hate Borders too, but in my case, it was because I got dumped by an old boyfriend at one.

    Good for your student for going to Barnes & Noble instead of giving up! And I’m a public librarian and we have the whole Cirque Du Freak series and they check out fairly well, so that “no one reads those” comment is completely wrong.

  2. That’s terrible! Why don’t you put in a complaint to the store manager? Hopefully they’ll retrain the staff, so your students will be treated better in the future.

  3. Hmmm….this kind of thing really annoys me! Aren’t they on commission? At least sell it for the commission!!

    A few years ago one of my grade 3 students picked up Nicholas Nickelby” by Charles Dickens because a) it had cool gold edged pages, and b) his own name was Nicholas. It was an obvious (to me) bad choice, but he wanted it. I decided to let him take it, read for a few days, then discuss in a conference why it was a bad choice. Instead, one of the assistants in the school saw that he had it in his desk, demanded that he take it to the library immediately, and then leave the books on “that shelf” alone in the future. I tried to explain to her (out of earshot of the kids) what I was trying to accomplish, and she just gave me a blank look and walked away. Grrrr.

  4. Yikes! I hate horror stories like these (the bookstore ones and the one from LisaC!

  5. As a person who worked at Barnes & Noble for many years, I will refrain from sharing my immediate response to this post. 🙂

    I’m so sorry the kids had bad experiences and I’m glad that Kid2 was able to get the books ordered.

    There is simply no excuse for poor customer service like that anywhere. And if you feel strongly about it, I’d definitely encourage you to fill out a comment card or speak with a manager at the store.

  6. Nasty bookstore. Poor kids.

  7. I’ve had my fair share of poor Borders encounters – such as, when asking for a book that I already had a copy of, was told it was not a children’s book. My issue with Borders is how the children’s section is organized. It really makes very little sense to me and I always have to walk in circles to find a book, even when I know the author and the title. As much as possible, I stick to B&N.

  8. It just sounds like you have a bad Borders. I have been a customer at multiple Borders for years, and am now an employee, and none of these things seem right. My store carries the Cirque Du Freak series and does not have the books separated by gender.

    The whole place sounds shady, but I wouldn’t blame the chain. I have had horrible experiences at both of our local Barnes & Nobles, but I don’t assume the whole company is like that. I’m sorry you have a bad one.

  9. Please limit your criticism to this particular store, and not Borders in general. For every story like this out there, there’s one about B&N to cancel it out. I’ve been in many Borders stores that have very knowledgeable and dedicated staff who would stay and talk to those kids for 30 minutes going through what’s cool and why, to say nothing of offering to order any book desired. I’ve also been in Barnes & Nobles that have the same welcoming feel, and I’ve been in Barnes & Nobles where the staff is condescending and appear to resent a request for help. It sounds like this Borders has a bad manager. You should report the store to the corporate office.

  10. Casey-

    I can’t stand the way the store is organized, either! I spend what feels like hours wandering around the children’s and YA sections- sometimes it seems like the books are haphazardly arranged by genre, sometimes alphabetically. Regardless, I can never find what I am looking for!

  11. Glad to know I’m not the only one who feels that way! 🙂

  12. really? you are a teacher and cannot find a book you want in a book store? its really quite simple. they are broken down by genre and then shelved under the author’s last name.

    i feel like you are the type of person that walks in and asks, “where is the non-fiction section?” or “where are you paperbacks located?”

    and the last book in the twilight series does have sex and curse words in it! maybe pick up a few of the books your students are reading them and actually read them before commenting on them . the bookseller was absolutely right in saying twilight is not appropriate for a 12 year old.

    • Not a Teacher-
      The issue I have with the way Borders’ children’s section is set-up is that it is NOT how you describe. The books are not in alphabetical order at my store. They are broken down into strange “themes” that sometimes the booksellers can’t even figure out. Then within those themes they are often arranged by best-selling, etc.

      And I have read every book that is in my classroom library. If you look around on my blog you will see that I have read over 100 middle grade and YA books published in 2008 alone. In my opinion, TWILIGHT is a fine book for 12 year olds. They see and hear much worse on TV. It is not a bookseller’s job to police a child’s reading. That is the job of a parent. There are four books in the series and many of my students won’t even make it to BREAKING DAWN. Those who do are subjected to a talk from me.
      Yes, there is a wedding and a honeymoon, but the descriptions are not erotic. In fact, most young teens/tweens don’t even realize what is going on in those pages. And they skim what bores them!

      And to be honest, I find CIRQUE DU FREAK more inappropriate for 12 yr olds due to the blood and gore. But TWILIGHT has no cursing, no sex, and nothing they wouldn’t see in a PG movie. If a parent is unhappy with a book their child is reading, they need to speak to their child. My classroom library must appeal to 45 children of varying backgrounds and maturity, so there are books above and below everyone!

  13. So…wait, one store has lame employees so they’re all bad?

    Sigh. I love this society.

  14. You should definitely have told one of the managers about your experience — that was completely unprofessional behavior. If a bookseller is not corrected, they will continue to make the same mistakes, continuing the problem.

    Lisa C — Borders booksellers do not get a commission on sales, and never have in the 11+ years I have worked as a part-time bookseller.

    When I started, the children’s section was organized much better. Unfortunately, you get corporate types who have never actually worked as sellers trying to fix things that aren’t broken. I worked the kids section almost exclusively for many of my years there – it was my favorite place in the whole store. I liked nothing better than to help people – kids and adults — find the books they wanted. I have noticed over the years that most booksellers are terrified of the kids section, because they are not comfortable with it.

    I would never even consider telling a kid that they couldn’t read a book. I would prefer to see them challenging themselves, rather than sticking to the same old same old (and don’t even get me started on manga). My own kids always read far above their grade level, which I attribute to them being allowed to try anything.

  15. As a keyholder and a senior bookseller who works for Borders Express I say that you had an unfortunate meeting with a store and staff who have given up trying.
    And that’s really what’s killing the Borders bookstore chain. Couple indifference with bad leadership and you get a bookseller who doesn’t care if he/she sells even one book to a customer.
    The truth is your students are lucky to have a teacher who listens and then advocates for them. The fact that they are trying to read anything at all when television and internet are so accessible is proof of that.
    There is nothing wrong with the Twilight series. I know because I read it. Yes the last book gets a little crazy but that is inevitable. There is plenty of foreshadowing sprinkled throughout all the books in the series.
    As for Cirque Du Freak I’m not a fan but this is because I’ve never read it. Perhaps I should. We have plenty of it in our store and whatever we don’t we should be able to order. We offer this to EVERY customer.
    Please don’t think all bookstores and booksellers are like this. They aren’t. Personally, I love finding books for customers and enjoy chatting about them. And nothing pleases me more than seeing a relieved smile on someone’s face when that book is placed in their hands in less than a minute!

  16. First off, I read your other topics you posted also and WOW each section is organized by section then by last name of author… How hard is that? Second, why go on a huge hunt for a book? All borders stores have terminals where you can type in the name of the book then it tells you exactly where in the store it is. I will agree you might of had a bad seller but that doesn’t mean you can go on and over exaggerate / lie about problems at Borders.

    //At the Borders in my area, all the employees I met have been very kind and helpful in helping me find what I need.

  17. I am through with Borders. Going back to Barnes and Noble. A little farther, but worth it.

    I was looking for things to do today with my 3 year old and I saw that Borders was having a New Year’s eve party at certain locations. I checked the location by me (closed due to water damage), thank goodness I called first, people can’t even shop there now much less have a party. So then I searched for the Borders next closest and called the one in Littleton, CO. They said they weren’t having the party. (The website said they were at that specific store). I talked to the manager Shannon, who you could tell by tone could care less. I mentioned the website and she simply said that website is incorrect. I would have expected a reaction, like mine, oh my gosh, do you know how many people are going to be dissappointed today?? So I called their corporate customer service line to see if I could let them know to update their website. It was busy. I called the manager back and let her know what I tried and asked if she could do anything. She responded that she was sorry that they weren’t having the party. I kind of paused. Hmmm. I said, well I was wondering if you could contact your corporate office, as I tried, to see if they could get it updated. She flat out said no. She said it wouldn’t matter, it couldn’t be updated. Now in the regular every day world you could believe that but I work for a very large international company, with a website very similar to borders and it would take me about 30 seconds to find the right person and then it would take them about an hour to get notifications out and get it updated. It really is not that difficult. And the fact that she actually told me she wasn’t going to try is the bigger point. She had no reaction, no interest of even acting as if she cared. She even argued with me to say that, well the event does say ‘participating stores only’. And then I said, yes, but then when you click on the list, your store shows up. I mean, how do you manage a store and not know what content is on the site. How long have we known Dec 31 was coming??? Why not check a month, 2 weeks, a day before and make sure the content of your site is valid. Take ownership in what you do.

    Poor poor management, poor poor service.

  18. […] on July 21, 2009 by thereadingzone If you’ve been reading my blog long then you know my list of woes when it comes to Borders (my local shop, at least).   From booksellers refusing to sell specific […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: