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I beg your pardon while I rant for a moment.

 

As many of my readers are aware, I was hired to work at Borders Books and Music in September of last year. This was my first real-world job, being as it was the first post I was hired to following my college graduation. Naturally, I was thrilled when I was accepted. What kind of writer would I be if I weren’t thrilled to be hired at a bookstore? Life was good. When I was hired, however, there was one thing that bothered me. In September, Borders introduced a program called Borders Rewards Plus. For twenty dollars, a customer would get a year’s worth of additional 10% discounts. As an employee, I was given this upgrade automatically. It was great. I got great perks as an employee, and I got to work around books all the time. I loved it. Hell, the customers loved me. I helped them find books. I helped them place online orders. I wrapped their books for them. I recommended authors and titles that they might not have read. I wrote dozens of staff picks. I brought order to the manga section. I was tech support and cleaning crew and sales staff all in one. They called me “the pirate guy” because of my boots. It was a good gig.

So, back to the Plus card thing. Initially, getting customers to buy the upgrade was incredibly easy. After the Christmas season, however, things slowed down dramatically. Our ability to sell the Plus upgrades dropped drastically, but we were still expected to make a large number of upgrade sales each day that we were on the clock. Our managers maintained that it was for the good of the company, and continued to monitor our progress and remind us every thirty minutes or so as to how many upgrades we’d sold and how many more we needed to make our daily goal. At first, I truly believed in this program, but then a couple of events changed my view. In February, our company announced that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Management again told us that Plus upgrades would save the day, and that our performance had kept our store from closing in the initial shutdown of stores. Not long after this, however, it was discovered that our general manager and assistant manager were gaining bonuses for each Plus upgrade that we sold. Nothing was coming back to the associates, or even our other supervisors.

Suffice to say, I was frustrated with my company. I was not alone. I gave up on sales of Plus upgrades, because I decided that it was not worth lying to my customers just to keep my job at a failing retailer. As part of this, I began scanning my own Borders Rewards card for customers while I was working at the cash register. This got a dozen or so customers a 10% discount, and it earned a few points towards my own account. Our managers found out about this, and were less than pleased that I had been giving “undeserved discounts” to customers. I, unfortunately, failed to inform my managers that I was less than pleased that they were earning equally undeserved bonuses. As of Monday of last week, I was placed on a two-day suspension for my actions. I was asked to sign a formal statement saying that I had been giving these “undeserved discounts” and that I had benefitted from them in accumulation of points on my card, for a total of $67.58 owed in restitution. I was also told that I would be under investigation for the duration of my suspension, and that our Loss Prevention people would be determining my fate.

On Wednesday of last week, I returned to Borders to speak to my managers. I was informed that I was being terminated, signed my paperwork, and was given my final paycheck. I laughed it off, honestly, despite the crushing need for money right now, because I was finally out. I’d been debating for weeks about whether or not to quit, and now my decision has been made for me. Now I have time to visit friends and family, and look for something full time. I don’t regret doing what I did. I really don’t. I had my customers’ best interests at heart the entire time. Why should I regret doing what was best for them? There was never any reason for me to lie to them, and now I won’t have to. Plus, if anybody asks me why I “stole from Borders,” I can quote the legendary Captain Jack himself, and say “Pirate.”

Anyway, on the day they had me go in to sign my paperwork, I spotted a letter from Mike Edwards, the C.E.O. of Borders Group, Inc. It was letting us, excuse me, them, know that the one potential bidder lined up had withdrawn their bid to buy Borders. Now, less than a week later, the official announcement of liquidation has come down the line. This time, however, I’m not caught up in it, though I’ve not yet told everyone about my early release. It really doesn’t matter that much to me now. This is one pirate guy who found his lifeboat, even if I had to be kicked into it. I’m not going down with the ship. I wish the best of luck to my friends and coworkers who are remaining with the company through the liquidation process, and I hope that they find better things in their futures.

TL;DR: I’m down to one part-time job, now that Borders is closing, but I’m not going to be stuck in that place while they strip everything from the shelves. I don’t think I could bear to watch her go…

16 Comments

  1. I don’t blame you for your feelings. The way they were handling things was inappropriate and not fair to you and your coworkers. I experienced similar at B&N, though it was not nearly so devious. They pressured us to sell memberships, though to my knowledge no one got any sort of perk for doing so. They merely kept a list in the break room that showed the previous week’s sales and a congratulations message to the person who sold the most. I was a decent salesperson myself, and also loved working around all the books, to my loss, since who knows how much of my paycheck went right back to them, since I was basically paid to browse. I won’t say you were in the right, but you were doing good by your customers to give them your discount when you found out the thing was a cheat. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve gone down a job, but I’m glad you’re not upset about it. Enjoy your visits to friends and family, and don’t give up on the job search, times are hard everywhere, but you’ll find something. Good luck! Now, bring me that horizon!

    • It’s not easy, and I’m going to miss working there. I’m happy that I have my library job still, and I’m still looking, as always. In the meantime, it’s more time to write.

  2. What a cruddy situation. Glad you’re out though. Especially since they are closing all the stores. Hang in there.

    • Yeah, I think it’s far better in the long run. It gives me more time for the other projects that I’ve had on my desk for a while.

  3. Wow, I’m sorry to hear about your experience, but that was an enlightening read. Having never worked in retail, I’ve never really known what goes on behind the scenes in these type of situations. I was really sad about Borders closing, but now I feel it was somewhat deserved. I order most of my books used on Amazon now anyway…

    Good luck with finding a new job! Just look at it as more time to write. 🙂

    • I try to give my patronage to the few remaining local independent bookstores. Luckily enough, I still have a couple around here, plus one back in my home town that my family owns. As for working in retail/the view behind the scenes, it’s pretty much the same everywhere anyone shops/eats etc. I try to avoid buying things online, unless I can’t find them anywhere else. I like to be able to see/feel/smell my books before I buy them. Call me old fashioned. 😀

  4. See, I should have read this sooner. There were details I didn’t know about, and so I’ll go ahead and apologize for my rather snide disapproval when we discussed this in person.

    • Apology accepted, though not necessarily necessary. I wasn’t tremendously forthcoming about a lot of the details when I initially told you about the whole situation, and your reaction at the time was quite justified.

  5. What you did was dishonest and you deserved to be fired from your job. I am in management and personally, I wouldn’t hire you to take out the trash. It also boils down to not following directions from management. Your manager benefits when you sell the membership but if you worked hard enough to sell many, you could have gotten special recognition and have the possibility to get promoted. A different type of reward.

    Instead, getting fired, you ended up burning bridges not only with the people you worked for but others as well who know what you did.

    Here is something you can learn from. There was a person who had almost 10 years with a large company. He didn’t make his 10 year due to his disrespecting management. Here are several major instances.

    1. He drove a truck that was an eyesore and he parked it by the front door at work. He was told to park it in the back lot however, he didn’t comply with the order. He was also told to get rid of it and was told that he was paid enough money that he can afford something new.

    2. He was ordered to relocate to the East Coast including selling his house in Colorado. He was fired when he didn’t comply with the order.

    3. When he went on vacation like for 2 or 3 weeks, he refused to give contact information even though it was asked of him.

    4. His personal appearance could use a lot of improvement like getting a haircut and shave. Also his choice for clothes needed much improvement such as wearing a nice type of pants instead of blue jeans.

    5. Had a strange habit of going to a different floor to take a shit especailly the bathroom he used has very, very little usage instead of using the nearest bathroom even if it was much more busy.

    6. Further on bathroom habits, he was at one site where he dared to use the secret executive washroom which really pissed off one of the executives when he walked in and saw one of the stalls in use. The executive waited for him to leave the bathroom and reported him to his management.

    With a much tighter job market, society has raised the bar significantly on what is expected if you are to get and hold a job. The days where the job market it good and where employees have the upper hand are over.

    • Ah, the gulf between management and the little people.

      What I did was remain true to myself. I wasn’t going to lie to a customer that I sincerely cared for in order to protect my job, even if it does jeopardize my employment opportunities in the future. See, I was working in a company that had filed for bankruptcy and was weeks away from closing its doors, regardless of how many of their little cards I sold. Maybe you overlooked that little detail. I suppose that’s probably the main reason that I’m not in management, though. Deciding who to fire as the company’s going belly-up and who has to stick around to take apart shelves must be pretty tough.

      I’ll tell you a little bit more about myself, shall I? First off, I have long hair, several inches past my shoulders. The main reason behind this is not fashion or style or laziness (those of you out there with long hair will know that it’s not very easy to keep it looking good). I’m growing my hair out because I’ve lost several close friends and family members to cancer. I’ve got a classmate going through chemo right now, and he’s not even 25. I’m growing my hair out so that I can donate it to the Pink Project so that someone else can benefit from it. Second, I drive an old car. I was given this car when I turned 16, as a gift from some family friends who didn’t want it to go to someone they didn’t know. I’ve done all the maintenance on it myself, whenever possible, because I know that in this economy, I can’t afford to buy a replacement car. It’s very similar to how I put myself through college by taking out loans and working two simultaneous jobs on top of all of my classwork. Third, I’ve not taken a vacation in the last two years, since getting out of college. Or in the four years leading up to my graduation. Because I was working and studying. Fourth, I’ve never worked somewhere that even HAD an executive bathroom. My managers and fellow employees have always used the same bathrooms as the customers. I guess that some of them aren’t as full of themselves as you are. Given your attitude, I wouldn’t want to be hired to take out your trash.

      • Your independent thinking will get you in a lot of trouble in the future as you are aware. This person I remarked in my previous posting also had a sense of independent thinking that got him in a lot of trouble as well and was considered very offensive. He was also made an example of to others in the company.

        Concerning this bad economy, it is the fault of American workers such as being lazy and part of it is not doing as they are told. Even President Barack Obama remarked that American workers are lazy and need to work much harder.

        • Pardon me for thinking on my own. I’d rather be in trouble and broke the rest of my life than serve as a mindless drone. I’ve worked hard my entire life, and I have never once gotten something just because I felt I was entitled to it. I grew up in a farming family where we had to work our asses off to put food on the table. I learned at an early age that no one was going to give me something that I didn’t earn. Life doesn’t work that way for most of us.

          I’m curious as to what, exactly, a hard day’s work for someone in management actually involves, compared to the physical labor and customer service and whatnot that I do every day. Right now, I’m earning roughly a four-figure salary per year, and I’m damn happy to have that, because I know that I’ve worked for it, even though it barely pays for my student loan debt, gas, and food. I’m happy, because I don’t have to think the way that someone else tells me to think, and I can freely voice my opinions. Maybe you should take a long, hard look at your own life, and see if you’re really happy. Honestly, I wish you the best, because if you’ve got nothing better to do than complain about MY freedom, you’re probably pretty miserable.

          TL/DR: Troll harder, troll.

  6. Being in Management, a few of us have taken pleasure in ruining people’s lives but also improving them as well. It is not only the money but the power that we like. There are some people we go out of our way to make sure they trip and fall on their face. We will even hold the most minor, petty mistake against them. Just like the person mentioned. Others we will give a break to and in fact we will ignore their major mistakes. This doesn’t matter if their work is good or not but if we like the person or not. Just that simple. The person mentioned in previous post, he did nothing wrong but we disliked him from the moment we saw him transferred into our group. His work was good but he refused to toe the line.

    Being in Management has its definite perks and privileges. What I mentioned to you even though you disagree and don’t like it is a piece of friendly advice. It is reality and lofty ideals don’t survive in the real world.

    • Lofty ideals might not survive in YOUR world, but my generation is the future. People who think differently have the power to change the world for the better.

  7. Would one want to live his entire life doing what someone else told him to do? Would someone want to be a sheep waiting to be herded for the rest of his days? I know I don’t.

    I work in a place everyone knows about, and I’m sure people know already where I work, and if someone told me I had to do everything management told me, then I’d get fired too.

    There is a man I work with, who’s been working for the company for over five years now and he has been told multiple times to wear pants and a blue shirt because it is “dress code.” He told them straight up that he gets hot during the summer, and if they wanted to be responsible for him having a heat stroke, he’ll gladly wear pants and a dark shirt.

    I have my managers tell me I cannot talk to certain people during work because they are “under managements microscope” and that they are “bad people” just because they aren’t what management is looking for in an employee. So why did they hire them in the first place? Because one does not know how someone will act in a work environment. I can be doing nothing wrong, nothing out of the ordinary, and get into trouble for not doing something that I had no idea I was supposed to do. How is that my fault? It’s not, management is supposed to tell me what I’m doing, but when I don’t know what I’m doing I get into trouble. Even if I am doing something that management wants, I get into trouble anyway because of some small detail.

    I think managers abuse their power a little bit too much sometimes. What is a person to do when a manager tells them to do something that isn’t morally justifiable, or against the beliefs of that specific person? Are we to just go along with it and do nothing?

    Employees are supposed to be there for the customers. Yes, it still is a business, but the customer is the employer every time. If the customer is not satisfied, they will not come back, and that means the loss of business.

    I have a choice to get out of the menial job I’m working right now, but some people have no way out. They’re stuck on their hamster wheel, day in and day out. I frankly feel sorry for those who don’t have a choice but to go nowhere in life.

    • As I’ve said, I’m quite content to think my own thoughts. I’m sad to see that my former employer is no more, but I am happy that I don’t have to tell blatant lies to customers that I considered friends. I’ll do whatever it takes to get by on my own rather than working for someone who feels that they have the right to tell me how to think.


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  1. By Book Day | The Swords of the Ancients on 19 Jun 2013 at 11:43 pm

    […] back when I worked for Borders, I learned that new releases came out on Tuesdays. For whatever reason, your favorite […]

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