Friday, March 4, 2011

I'm sorry Borders, I think it's time we started seeing other people.

**This is a rant. It's a really f*cking long rant in the form of a polite letter to corporate. I plan on sending this letter to every Borders management structure email address I can put my hands on, but I thought having it here too wouldn't hurt.**

To Whom it May Concern,

Last night I attended a book signing by Patricia Briggs at the Borders in Baileys Crossroads, Virginia. I'm unhappy to have to say that it was the worst time I've spent in a Borders, in a book store, in my entire life. In fact it was such an unpleasant experience that I feel compelled to report your manager's actions, especially in light of Borders recent store closures. I would hate for any more customers to face the same type of disrespect and mismanagement that has caused me to withdraw any further support of the chain.

From the beginning of the evening it was immediately apparent that the organizers did not have the event under control. As patrons arrived and found a seat no employees were available to hand out line numbers or colors to facilitate the later book signing. Instead almost 45 minutes later an employee stepped up the podium to say that because of the large crowd and an inadequate number of seats, the book signing would proceed by rows and then with the people standing in the back. Now while this was the first time the announcement was made to the crowd it was not the last. Three or four subsequent times one of the 2 Borders employees on hand stepped up to the microphone to make the gathering crowd aware of how everything was to be handled. Unfortunately even with these clear and concise directions as laid out by the manager herself it was not enough to prevent her from bringing chaos to her own event.

After the first two rows were call in an orderly fashion the manger, who I later found out is named Josie, called row three and then said 'Oh what the heck and the people with pink slips'. Sirs and madams, not only did this blatantly disregard every single person who'd been patiently sitting and waiting since long before the event began, it created chaos within the event itself. Instead of each row rising and lining up orderly there suddenly was a mad rush while I, and the approximately 50 or so other people sitting around me, were left to gaze around in disbelief as things officially went to hell.

After watching the droves of people who'd arrived later than myself and my compatriots I went to find a manager. I felt that the way I was currently being treated directly contradicted Borders usual commitment to the very highest levels of customer service. When I was finally able to locate a manager and obtain the name of the general store manager (who was not at the event) and after hearing my initial complaints I was met with excuses. I was told that it was an 'unexpected crowd' and that there had been a 'mishandling of the line system' for the signing - yes there had been a mishandling! They had let someone with obviously little to no experience with crowd control create a madhouse instead of a positive event for everyone.

Later, after waiting more than 2 hrs, I went to find a manager again because not only was there no clear directions for the crowd regarding getting in line, there also weren't any employees policing the line. For a crowd of that magnitude, to have any type of chance of preventing people from just stepping up the end, there has to be official presence. There has to be someone with a badge at the end to make sure that each persons time and dedication is being respected. Instead, after leaving the event area to find a manager that wouldn't interfere with the event itself, I was listened to and summarily ignored. No one showed up, no one even attempted to correct the problem.

After waiting in vain for employees to respond to my request for aid, I again left the section to find an employee. Let me be clear, at no time did I interrupt the event itself; I didn't walk up to the front, distract the manager 'controlling' the event, or hamper the ability of the author to sign books for the people in line. Instead I did everything I could to find employees and managers in different sections entirely and report my problems and frustrations in as clear and polite a way as possible. Unfortunately this was when the very worst of your manager Josie came to light. After standing with an employee and requesting a Borders presence at the back of the line, since at this point I'd been there for 3+ hours, he told me I could go the front of the line. I declined as that would be completely unfair to everyone else around me who was also waiting. As I was speaking with him though Josie and another man, who wasn't wearing a badge or really anything to distinguish him as an employee, came up to interrupt. After hearing my concerns they proceeded to explain that there weren't enough employees, that there was a concern that the attendees sitting around the top of the stairs were a fire hazard, etc. Again - excuses. Excuses that ultimately did nothing as it would have been the simplest thing in the world to send  all of the guests not standing in line or sitting in a chair downstairs. Clearing the entire top floor and removing every possible fire hazard issue. Still it was the later part of this conversation that was the most telling ofJosie and her opinions about the potential customers she was alienating: not only did she refuse to give a last name for me to use in this complaint, she claimed not to have a business card, and it was only through careful questioning did she identify herself as the 'inventory manager'. She took no responsibility for the chaos she caused and obviously felt no compunction to try and rectify her actions with the customers still waiting. And then finally after finding out her position I was told by her that if I A) didn't allow them to bring me to the front of the line, or B) sit back down, I would be escorted from the store.

Escorted out for bringing to one employee's attention the areas in which this event was being mismanaged? Josie replied that I personally had 3 employees there talking to me; not only did I specifically not request her presence as she had already proven to be unreliable, I had walked away from the area to find an employee in another section to report to, thus ensuring that I did not harm the overall event. Any claims to the contrary where just her attempts to cow me into submission. The same can said of the older gentleman with no badge that said the 'truth would be known' even with me reporting her actions.

Well let me tell you, I am not cowed or impressed. I am not going to be bullied into submission when such a horrible example of organization has been shoved in my face. I and everyone with me have the right to report their inadequacies. Their complete and total failures in organizing this event and working with their customers. Especially in light of Borders current hard times and bankruptcy troubles this is even more mind-boggling to me. Book stores and its employees are there to service the readers. To work with each of us to make sure we're happy in such a way that we can recommend the facility to others. Now, after this event, not only will I go out of my way to never patronize another Borders for the rest of my life, I will make sure that my friends and family do the same. And before you claim that I am just one person, keep in mind that there were hundreds of people at the Borders last night - hundreds who feel just as insulted and just as disrespected as I do. I've already begun to send my business elsewhere, with the Prime account I just signed up for, and I will continue to let the people I interact with socially and on a professional level aware of how the employees at the Borders in Baileys Crossroads treats its patrons.


Dana W.