I was surprised at how affected I was; tears came to my eyes when I walked into my local Borders and found it in a state of wreckage. I knew there was a closing sale going on, but this was like seeing a dear old uncle on skid row. The main floor was festooned with going out of business signs; a few resolute customers milled about, finding great and not so great deals; stock was strewn around, still in a state of dishevelment from the onslaught of the previous weekend.
I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch in the café. It was shut down, abandoned. Since I’d spent so many hours in the store, I often met people there for coffee and chatter. This was the safe site of many a first date; the makeshift classroom for tutoring sessions; the haven for the omnipresent computer users, complete with earphones and long-empty cups of coffee. Even more tragic was the fact that the bathrooms were also closed.
Since I was very early for our date, I decided to use my time wisely by looking for bargains. For every birthday, every Christmas, I’d received Borders Gift Cards, as had my husband. We’d accumulated quite a collection; I was saving “for our retirement.” Within a short amount of time, they’d be worthless. So, now was the hour to buy holiday gifts for family and friends. I’d asked my sister and her partner to e-mail me a list; I was determined to shop until the credits gave out—or I did. I commenced buying on a high note; I just had to pick up the notebook with Einstein sticking out his tongue ($4.99), which was obviously there to remind me not to take it all so seriously.
I started hunting through the DVDs and immediately started feeling more chipper. Lurking behind the 20 percent off sign was the first season of Thirtysomething for $4.99. Surely someone would want this! Also popped into my basket was the most romantic movie ever, Somewhere in Time, a steal at $9.99. Incidentally, if you don’t have the Somewhere in Time soundtrack on CD, get it at any price.
I wandered past the children’s section, which seemed much less changed than the rest of the establishment. Heck, that was always a mess, with kids sitting on the floor, moms sweetly reading to their offspring, merchandise scattered everywhere. Games were only 10 percent off, and there seemed to be shelves overflowing with them; so, not a big seller. My eye was caught by a charming stuffed tiger, and I got a stitch in my heart, hoping he’d find a good home.
But what to get next? The greeting cards were 40 percent off, but kind of picked over. Magazines were also 40 percent off, but everything I wanted, I already had.
But when would that be? As I checked out with the Brown Trout Labradoodles calendar ($13.99) tucked under my arm, I asked John, who’s long been my go-to guy for music. He told me “Nobody really knows; I’ve heard September. We’ve been informed that they’re emptying the warehouse, so we’ll actually be getting more merchandise in. We may receive products we haven’t seen for ten years; it should be very interesting.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the Fairfield, Ct. store has been turned into a Books Warehouse, with all the same merchandise still intact.
As I tried to figure out how to carry my “Garden” sign ($15, reduced from $30), I lamented to John the lack of bags available for customers. He held up a tiny one and said, “All we need to do is find Magic For Dummies, and we can make everything fit.” Like many other Borders employees, this was a post retirement job for John, and I asked what he’d do next. “Retire again,” he smiled, “unless something else interesting comes along.” I love this guy.
I also talked to Mary, another favorite staff member. We were standing in front of a taped up section with heavy leather chairs bearing “Not for sale” signs. How did the associates keep from getting disheartened? They’d all been working together so long, it was like a family breaking up. “We boost each other’s spirits,” she told me. “We do get down, but fortunately, not all at the same time.” A few moments later, she was comforting a distraught customer. More than once, I’d come into this store feeling gloomy, and left able to face the world again because of wonderful service and kind words from this dedicated group of booksellers. I shall miss them a lot.
Just as the dark cloud of depression and nostalgia threatened to envelope me, I caught sight of an adorable little girl with a huge smile on her face; she was hopping gleefully down the stairs. In her arms, she carried the stuffed tiger. They both seemed pleased that she had made such an excellent purchase.
Please note: Prices are subject to change.
Photos by Michall Jeffers
Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist, with a black belt in shopping. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary.