I love Borders Bookstores. They’re a brand I’m passionate about. When I think about picking up a book, the first thing that comes to mind is taking a trip to Borders. I love to walk their aisles and browse the shelves. I love to pull the books, look at the covers and read the descriptions. I love to sit in a chair for a few minutes and flip through the pages of a book I’m going to buy while I wait for my wife to finish looking for her books. I love Borders Bookstores. Or as least, I want to love Borders.
I hate it when a visit to a Borders Bookstore turns sour, which happens more and more these days. They are not close by, so I don’t just swing out anytime I feel like it. A trip to Borders is not like a stop at the local grocery store. Its generally more of an outing, and I usually stop by on a Sunday while visiting the in-laws 40 minutes away (they live right around the corner from a Borders).
First, I’m a card-carrying member of their rewards club, but I’m not sure it does me any real good. I earn rewards for every book I purchase, but they expire faster than I seem to be able to accumulate them. Their 30-50% off deals for members are actually pretty good, but if I don’t remember to print a coupon and bring it with me, its all in vain. If they would just tie the discounts to the card! I realize that its probably very petty on my part, but I’ve actually left books unpurchased at the counter after I’ve realized that either my coupon had expired (happened once) or that I’d completely forgotten it in the printer tray (many, many times). To make matters worse, when I leave like that, I’m generally in a bad mood. Letting your customers leave your place in a bad mood is bad for business.
Second is pricing. I know, and just about EVERYONE knows, that you can get your books cheaper on Amazon.com. If all you want is the book, and can skip the rest of the experience and don’t mind waiting for it to be shipped, then you might as well buy it on Amazon. Since I enjoy the rest of the experience, I want to give my money to the store so that I can help them continue to provide the experience. However, even Borders.com’s online prices can be heavily discounted from their in-store prices. For instance, I just picked up Born to Run for $25 and the revised 4-Hour Work Week for $22 in-store. If I’d bought them from the website I’d have saved $15 between the two. I guess I realize why this is, but since I generally check the website first for availability, I see the pricing online first. When I get to the store to find out that on top of spending my own travel time and my own gas that I’m paying $10 more for a book because its on a shelf rather than in a warehouse somewhere, there’s just no way that feels good. Not only that, but Amazon still beats their on-line pricing, and offers free shipping on orders over $25.
Shopping at Borders lately has been like watching an old friend slowly die. Or maybe just become someone you don’t want to hang around with. You know the kind? You love them and the great memories and feelings keep you coming back, but every time you visit these days, you just realize that you like them less and less, and all of the sentimentality in the world isn’t going to change that. This all leaves me with the question: why am I paying extra to support an experience I no longer seem to be enjoying? I’m not ready to call it quits, but every visit moves me that much closer.