Up to 40% means pandemonium

First, I love books (as evidenced by this blog). Second, I’m bordering on dirt poor. So, hearing that Borders is going out of business and will be liquidating their stores fills me with conflicting feelings. On the one hand, I hate seeing Borders go out of business. I enjoy the place, I get great deals for their free membership,and they are damn near everywhere. On the other hand, store liquidations means discounts. And, by the end of it, big discounts.

So the girlfriend and I made a point of going to the nearest Borders over the weekend to see what was going on, only to find the parking lot plastered with cars and 40% signs in the window. The first thought for both of us was, “This is happening quick.”

But once we got inside the store, we realized it wasn’t happening that fast, and that the 40% thing was only on select merchandise (magazines and cards). So, we were a bit disappointed, hoping to walk in and grab pretty solid discounts on some of the things we’ve looked at in the past and decided was overpriced and not worth our cash. After all, $20 for a paperback sounds kinda high, but take 40% off that thing and we’ll grab a couple of different books and end up paying $30 on our visit instead.

But seeing the discount being a bit more limited than we expected from the parking lot and the signs, we didn’t get much (I got a couple of lit mags). But other people were walking out with crazy amounts of books, and just because they were saving maybe $2.50 off the cover price.

At which point my girlfriend and I shared another WTF moment. Why are these people going nuts for a fairly mediocre sale? After all, I got much larger discounts in my email from Borders every single week. Which essentially guaranteed that I would be willing to at least step into a Borders every week and do my damned well best to find something to blow my money on. But these books were a whopping 10% off (unless you got them from the animal section,  which was 20% off). The only other time I had seen Borders (or nearly any other store) so busy is around Christmas when shoppers flood the stores in a near panic as they try to avert ruining the holidays for their loved ones with crappy gifts.

I had to wonder where these people were a week ago, or  a month ago, or a year ago, when Borders could have really used this sort of business? Would lopping 10% off the cover price once in awhile have pulled these people out of the woodwork to spend like sailors on leave?

And I, more of a true clearance shopper I guess, could only look on in disgust at my apparently more amateurish brethren. 10% isn’t enough to make me bat an eye, let alone consider opening my wallet. But here was a store full of people going batshit for it. And not just sort of batshit, but having to shift the line from going straight out from their roped off area, to doubling back on itself like a coiled snake batshit.

Maybe Borders should have tried this sooner. Throw up a bunch of 40% off signs, which are only applicable to a couple of sections, give everything else a much more modest discount, and see if the herd would stampede through the door.  Instead of constantly remodeling stores that didn’t need to be remodeled, or revamping their stocking systems, what they really needed was a good sale. Because, as we witness from every clearance sale, every store liquidation, every holiday free-for-all, people are willing to buy anything if they believe they are getting a good deal on it. I know I’m happy with my copy of the Paris Review. The William Gibson interview is fantastic.

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