Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ode to Brand Loyalty to Borders

I'm a little bummed today because Borders filed for bankruptcy.  I am a creature of habit, and mostly I have brand loyalty, not out of an emotional connection to the brand itself, but simply because I'm lazy. With Borders, though, it's different.  I'm attached to the brand.  I have a history with Borders.  And I'm sad that the internet is wrecking it for them, even though I'm partly to blame for that, seeing as how I haven't gone into a Borders since September.

In the fall of 1993, the strip mall across the street from the big Park City Mall was rumored to be getting a Borders Book Store.  My mom had a friend in Delaware, who knew of a Borders in Newcastle, and she said they were awesome.  They had big comfy chairs, and you could read books without anyone yelling at you.  There would be lots of magazines, and even a coffee shop!  How freaking cool would that be!  I knew immediately that I needed to be a part of this entity.

I'd be like Becca, on Life Goes On, in the episodes where she worked at a used bookstore, wearing her super-cool little pixie booties and climbed up ladders to retrieve rare books while listening to jazz and drinking espresso.  I didn't even know what espresso was, but I knew I wanted some.

So for the next couple of months I watched and watched.  Every time I went to the mall, I would drive past the place where Borders was supposed to go.  I watched them put up the sign.  At that time it read simply, "Borders Book Shop."   There was none of this "Books and Music" stuff.  Just books.  Nothing fancy.

Eventually, Borders opened.

I went in, and was immediately overwhelmed.  There were so many books.  So many sections.  So many aisles.  So many chairs!  How to navigate a place like this?  And the coffee bar!  I didn't know how to order coffee, but man, was it trendy.  There were multiple roasts, and it was super-expensive, so I knew it had to be cool.  I grabbed a couple of magazines, and drank my first cup of French Vanilla, and was awake until 3am.

I asked at the customer service desk whether they were hiring.  I wanted to live in this magical place of books that smelled like hazelnut, that was for sure.  The woman told me they weren't, but I should ask at the cafe, because maybe they were there.  So I walked back over and asked Michelle if I could work there, and she let me fill out an application.  They weren't right then, but when the holidays came, they might be.

Two weeks later, Michelle calls me.  They're hiring for the holidays, and would I like to come in for an interview?  You bet your almond biscotti I would!

And thus began my almost-career as a foam-sculptor, and my love affair with vanilla lattes.  Coffee shops were still brand new then, so I would sometimes feel embarrassed charging my fellow country-bumpkins $4 for coffee and a muffin, but we were all so taken with our trendiness that mostly people didn't mind paying.  I got a 30% discount on books, and was able to borrow any book as long as I returned it in sale-able shape (which meant usually hardbacks).  I got free brewed coffee and soda, and a 50% discount on food and espresso drinks.

When I lived in England, I used to go to Borders all the time.  By this point they had music - those little listening booths where you could listen to CD's.  I was broke, but every few days I would pop into the Borders on Charing Cross Road and listen to CD's for a couple of hours after work.  The last time I was in the UK, all the Borders stores there were closed already, including the massive one in Cambridge, where I bought an Enigma CD a week before I moved back home, and listened to on repeat for a good six months.

Later, living in the US again, I would go to Borders to buy foreign papers like the Guardian, which would arrive a week late, but was still fun to look at, if only for the ads.

Other Notable Borders Moments:

- in 1996 I drove across the country on an ill-advised trip to chase an inappropriate guy I'd met on the internet.  I found myself in San Francisco with hardly any money, with no friends, and realized how stupid the whole guy-chasing scene was.  I spent most of the trip hanging out in the Borders in Pleasanton, where I displayed my pay stub and got free drinks and food.

- in 1998 I met Enya at the Borders on 57th street in NYC.

- in 1999 I had broken up with my boyfriend and was living alone in LA for the first time, totally broke.  But the bus would take me right to the Borders on Third Street across from the Beverly Center where I would listen to CDs and daydream about another inappropriate Englishman with whom I was infatuated and was getting to know on AOL Chat (damn internet).

- I spent most of 2000-2002 in the Borders on Charing Cross Road, brainstorming with my friend Stacey, in between naps, how we could start a holding company to take over the world.

- In 2002 I met Paulo Coehlo at the Borders on Oxford Street and he told me I should be a Warrior of Light with him.

- In 2003 I was getting ready to leave NYC for Nashville, and was going to have my own place for the first time in years.  I was stoked to nest.  That fall I was at the California Library Association conference in Ontario, CA.  I rented a car and drove to LA to see friends after the exhibits closed each night.  On the way back to the hotel one night, I stopped at the Borders in Claremont, along the 10, and bought a bunch of Olivia magnets for the refrigerator I would have in a month or so.

- Two years later, I bought my now-hubby a Sudoku book at that very same Borders.  By this time I was living in LA again, and we had just started dating.  He was in class in Pomona, and I was hanging out at Borders waiting for him to get done so we could grab dinner and make out.  I thought I'd be romantic and get him a math puzzle book.

- In 2007 I bought the final Harry Potter book at the midnight party in the Glendale Borders.  I went in the morning and stood in line to get my number, so I was something like number 115 (I still have the bracelet in the book) and was able to get out of there and get home to start reading by about 2am.

- On September 24 2010, the week before I got sick, and 2 weeks before I lost Baby T, we had a mother/son night out (I was 19 weeks pregnant, and feeling good for the first time in a long time).  We went to the Borders in Rancho Cucamonga and I drank hot chocolate, and looked at children's books, and even read a few of them out loud to my tummy, which was beginning to pop.  This evening was one of my favorite times in my pregnancy, and I will always remember it.  

Borders, I hope you can pull your stuff together.  I promise to visit you more, and not use the internet for everything.  When you send me good coupons, I will use them, even if it's only to buy blank Paperchase notebooks and pens.   Because I don't like the idea of life without you, and if that means that I have to spend some money buying junk I don't really need, so be it.  I buy other junk I don't need that doesn't mean nearly as much to me as you do.

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