Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Banned books and more

Hey, it's banned book week. Why are you reading our blog instead of celebrating your right to choose what you can read?

Oh, it's because you adore us and decided to give us a few minutes of your time to see what's going on at the shop.

That's super kind of you. Thanks! We have such great customers, you guys are too cool.

Mostly we're getting the shop prettied up. We had a couple of weeks where we got a ton of books in and we couldn't shelve them fast enough. We are almost caught up now, which is a relief.

Other than house keeping, we're all about Banned Book Week. That's the ALA's celebration of books that have been banned at some point in time. Some of them are for super silly reasons. I surely don't want to be "protected" from literature for any reason.  I have chosen to celebrate by reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. It would be a bit more fun if someone where reading it with me so I could dialog about it, but life goes on.

We also got more super awesome new books in. The new Howie Carr is now available by popular demand. We also got the George Washington biography Washington, The Night Circus and The Secret History of the MI-6.

That's it for now.

Go read banned books!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Listen to My Minion

Which is not a derogatory term, especially since she insists on being referred to as such.

I have tried to write this blog post many times.  I have started writing about my experiences at Borders, some of the wonderful people I met working there, some of the wonderful events I worked, my first day on the job, and a myriad of other Borders related tidbits.  I deleted most of that, and decided what I most wished to communicate was that a world with Borders in it, is far superior to a world without it.  Due to the lack of foresight of a select few of others, who were given a viable thriving company, and chose to mismanage it into the ground, all the while milking it for every last drop of money that could be had, we no longer have Borders.  But this isn't about laying blame either.  It's about loss.

So what I mourn for, is not the hulking behemoth that finally breathed it's last breath on September 19, 2011, but what was.  When the company believed in a preached things that it has long since lost, like the Service Profit Chain.  In case you missed it:

Profit and growth are stimulated primarily by customer loyalty. Loyalty is a direct result of customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is largely influenced by the value of services provided to customers. Value is created by satisfied, loyal, and productive employees. Employee satisfaction, in turn, results primarily from high-quality support services and policies that enable employees to deliver results to customers. The service-profit chain is also defined by a special kind of leadership that emphasizes the importance of each employee and customer (shamelessly stolen from Wikipedia, with citation below-1)

That was my Borders, and it has been dead for many years.  I can't get over the profound feeling of loss.  I left Borders three and a half years ago, and I don't feel like I have ever truly left it behind.  Some of my best friends in the world are people I met while working there, and these have been some of the defining relationships of my life.  I was introduced to some of my favorite artists, and writers by these truly magical wonderful people.  I can't help but think for one brief shining moment we made a difference in people's lives.  We introduced people to the authors and artists that made their lives better, legitimately changing people's lives for the better.  For one brief moment we lived up to the words in our mission statement:  

"To be the best-loved provider of books, music, movies, and other entertainment and informational products and services. To be the world leader in selection, service, innovation, ambiance, community involvement, and shareholder value. We recognize people to be the cornerstone of the Borders experience by building internal and external relationships, one person at a time."

So what I strive for every day, is to bring just a little bit of that magic to you, my loyal customers.  And believe you me, when it worked, it was nothing short of magic.

1. Heskett, James L., Jones, Thomas O., Loveman, Gary W., Sasser, W. Earl, and Schelsinger, Leonard A. "Putting the Service Profit Chain to Work", Harvard Business Review, (March-April 1994) 164-174

Posted by Vickie regardless of what the footer says

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dawn of a Bordersless world

My first night as a bookseller was the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I wasn't really working but my almost manager thought it would be fun for me to be able to join in with the event and meet my soon to be minions in a more casual environment. It was a zoo inside the Peabody Borders and it was wonderful. Nothing is better than kids excited for a new book. The staff was totally into too. I was terrified that I wouldn't fit in because these were good people, I wanted to be a part of what they had going on.

All the 20 somethings went to Denny's after Peter (The Big Boss, even if he thought the title lacked professionalism) deemed the store presentable enough to allow us to leave. I was invited to join said 20 somethings because they'd seen me hanging about all night and assumed I was one of the other booksellers friends. Mike (the almost manager) had, it seemed, neglected to tell the inventory team that the new supervisor was visiting.

So 15 of us show up at Denny's at 3am (which is the only time it's acceptable to be at Denny's) and all these kids where gossiping wildly about one of the only things they all had in common..... the bookstore. I learned the Phil was EVIL, Linda was causing more drama, Clem had said something insane beyond his usual insanity earlier in the day, Nate was loving his new job but the inventory team wished he'd come back and really hoped the new supervisor didn't suck (no pressure, right?) all before any one thought to ask me who I was friends with that caused me to be out with them.

"I'm the new inventory supervisor...." I replied sheepishly.

"ummm....hi. Errrr.... well... It's not that bad. Actually it's great... super great even"
"And Phil's not Evil he's ummmm...... Yeah."
"We do like Nate. He's awesome"

Things got a bit more docile after that while the booksellers interrogated me over bad coffee and worse mozzarella sticks.

So began four years of a love/hate relationship with Borders. Mostly love. Except when I in the Cafe, that was a source of many three martini nights.

Mostly I loved it. I gleefully worked all but two days between Thanksgiving and Christmas my first winter at Borders (one of them was not Thanksgiving). I loved my minions (I don't care when Peter and Heidi say. Minion is not a derogatory term when used in the sentence "my most adored minions, could you please make this pallet disappear today").

I will never have a job ever again where I can walk in at 2 o'clock on a Thursday afternoon and tell my boss "I can't come in tomorrow, I have to go to a book signing in Toronto Friday nigh, but i can be back for my shift at 6 AM on Saturday. Not a problem" and not get fired.

My inventory team ordered D20 pizzas. What, you ask, is a D20 pizza? Let me enlighten you. In order to order a D20 pizza you need to have a list of 20 toppings and a 20 sided die. You then each take a turn rolling the dice and adding the topping that corresponds to the number rolled to the order. Buffalo chicken, anchovies and extra cheese is not a pizza I would advise eating.

The Cafe was the source of my Borders dark days. Won't say much about them except that I got Carrie and Steffles and my regulars were the only reason I didn't quit my job. John (who sometimes brought brother-in-law Bob, Jay, Jason(who was actually a Jay, but I learned his name from his credit card) , Bruce, Silvia and Jane (who sometimes brought Sara) and Carrie (Red head Carrie, not barista Carrie) are the only reason I did not quit during the dark days.

When finally the dark days ended I made all the displays and tables. Despite a some what rocky start that involved a resistance to shelf talkers and a willful refusal to mark the charts (if i saw fit to put them in the upper left hand corner to begin with) I thrived. An awesome mentor turned friend might have had something to do with it, but she also taught me to take credit for my work instead of giving others credit ("when some one higher than you complements your work say "Thank you, I'm Amazing" was one days lesson).

Nikki and I made a killer team of booksellers that really exemplified what Borders was all about both initially (we had some awesome eccentrics at the end) and what the New Borders wanted which involved booksellers who were... a little more aggressive.

Every one of us wanted to make our customers happy though and we loved our jobs.

Today is the first day in forty years without Borders Books and I mourn for the place that was home away from home for four years of my life. I will miss the place where I found wonderful friends, both in the staff and the patrons. I mourn the loss of a place to share stories and music (although the open mic nights turned out more bad than good) and maybe a session or two of  Dungeons and Dragons. I will miss the book clubs, the knitting ladies, even the summer reading moms who 'don't read' so they let me pick out summer reading books for their kids because they set foot in the bookstore once a year. I worry about what Zoey is going to read now that I'm not around to help her mom pick out books for her. I really think she'd dig Eyes Like Stars, it's right up her alley.

I'm grateful, though, to have a place to keep doing what I love. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Demolition at the bookstore!

 This week at Broken In Books we broke things. Actually it was just one shelf, but that's okay. Vickie had lots of fun and we finally got the really nice bookshelves installed.

Vickie looking thoughtfully at the case. Perhaps delivering it's last rites?

 The crowbar is Fat Max. Vickie is seen here pretending to be safe by wearing her sunglasses while breaking things. I'm a fan of here geeky Harry Potter shirt.

This was my sole appearance during the process. Consulting the mysterious wire growing out of the floor. I decided to stick to writing the news letter and leave the destruction to Vickie and Erica (she's wielding the camera, so you'll never see her in the blog. You'll just have to come in all the time and see if you can catch her.)

The end results are kind of awesome. What with the moving in of the real bookshelf with the adjustable shelves which will hold art books way better than the other contraption ever dreamed of.

The (mostly) finished product! Isn't it wonderful? It looks even better with shelves and books, but I don't have a picture of that.

I was planning on writing more, but we just got 9 boxes of books in and we're running out of floor space. So... I'm going to go and do my job instead of doing the fun blogging part.