Bail Out Borders!

It’s a dark time for book lovers. Borders Books is going into bankruptcy.

Stores where I’ve spent a great deal of time, including one I visited very frequently in college, are being closed and they’re in danger of going the way of Blockbuster. It’s like saying farewell to an old friend, frankly. I don’t want Borders to go away. If not for Borders, I might have spent more time at home or trying to date girls.

End of an Era

Borders Books storefront from White Flint Mall in Rockville, Maryland.
I spent so much time at this specific Borders, and now I won't be able to drive by one day with my kids and say, "A bunch of English Majors worked there."
Borders was founded in 1971, the same year that Starbucks opened.

Imagine if Starbucks went away! Where would people go for coffee? They’d be forced to go to something like a small shop, 7-11, any restaurant, and fast food establishment or even be made to make their own coffee like savages and poor people!

After forty years, we’d be severely limited in our options for book purchasing if Borders went away for good. Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million…I struggle to think of any other options. Just as the airline industry has never truly recovered from the loss of TWA and Eastern Airlines, the book selling industry would never truly recover from the loss of Borders.

Think of what a blow it’s been to the world it was to lose Tower Records. All of those people with multiple piercings, unable to find a job willing to let them be themselves. Forced to conform to make money, just the way Fascists like it.

Even Worse

Think about all of the people who work there. Graduate students and English Majors who know so much more about what I should be reading than I do, for instance. I was always able to tell whether I was reading something worthwhile by the amount of visible disdain that some hip employee had when I purchased it. The fact that they were pursuing or had an English degree practically proved how qualified they were to judge.

Oh, the tremendous guilt when I bought something that would never make a reading list! When I had to explain I was looking for a book by Mankind, and Mankind was a professional wrestler, oh the crestfallen look of the student at the help desk.

Merry Christmas, brother, I disappointed someone getting a degree in pretentiousness!

Those employees are either out of a job, or facing unemployment, while the fat-cat owners of the chain continue to protect their assets by filing for Bankruptcy protection. I bet they could keep the chain afloat if they just gave up their outrageous salaries and benefits and shared that money with their employees. Employees who do the daily work, clean their bathrooms and deal with unenlightened customers and aren’t even unionized to fight this injustice.

Who will protest for them?

How to Save Them

And so I’m calling on our government to move quickly, and authorize more money to bail out Borders immediately. We can’t really afford to lose more jobs and more revenue generators in this economy and Borders is a piece of that puzzle. Sure, another company could buy it out and consolidate, or something gross like that. It’s entirely possible that a corporate raid, disgustingly like the robber barons used to do, could result in the blow hardly being felt in the world economy.

But those college students can’t work for office jobs. Where would they get the inspiration for their dissertation tracing the influence of War & Peace through literature, with a special focus on books chosen for Oprah’s Book Club?

I’m also calling on all of my fellow book lovers to pay whatever price they have to, and shop at Borders. I don’t care if you can find the book for 33% less at an online retailer. Go to Borders and pay more. They need your money more than some faceless corporate machine that’s still making a profit.

If we don’t act now, I worry what will happen. Just another part of the world changed for the worse. I thought we wouldn’t have to worry about major losses like this anymore, and I don’t like it.

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9 thoughts on “Bail Out Borders!

  1. People have no sense of economics. I know many people who are vocal in their disapproval of Borders closing down, citing the unemployment that’s sure to result. I know these people personally, and I know that they buy all their books online. WTF?!

    1. Yeah, sort of like I’m one of the few people I know who adamantly has always bought American cars (even when used). Yet I know plenty of people who bemoaned the death of the American car company when no one would buy one. If people aren’t buying, the company goes out of business. That’s it. If you care that deeply, buy their product.

      1. So, I’m desperately hoping that you won’t ask why I’m going through years-old blog posts of yours’ when I should be working, but here I am wondering if you are referring to me in the group you mention above. I seem to recall a heated disagreement we had over this issue.

        I seem also recall a terrible, terrible period of time I spent working to support the US auto industry by selling Pontiacs for a living. This experience very much informed my decision to only buy cars from former Axis nations moving forward.

        1. Ha. Let me address each in turn.

          1. You *should* spend free time going through old blogs of mine. They’re an unrecognized treasure.

          2. Pretty much everything is tongue in cheek. We disagreed about the bailouts, but aside from that whole contentious issue, it mainly has to do with the fact that we cite reasons to save companies we “favor” and then don’t give two hoots about ones we don’t. What made Borders’ fall less tragic than the car manufacturers’? For that matter, the loss of TWA and Eastern Airlines were a blip in the history of airline travel. Companies fail to innovate/fail econimically and get bought or sold, and the dance continues. People get spun up politically about stuff when it happens in Instance A, but not in Instance B. I suppose I could rewrite the whole thing at this point and say “Bail Out Blackberry”… 🙂

          1. Hmmm…see I just disagree with your analogies, relative to the auto industry. Borders, TWA and RIM are companies (Blackberry is a product….and you call yourself a nerd! :)) The Big Three were a U.S. industry.

            My support of the auto bailout was more practical than principled: the ripple effect of a failed American industry go much deeper and wider than that of a failed company with eager competitors here at home. It extends to dealerships, parts manufacturers, ad agencies, landscaping and janitorial staff, etc etc etc. Basically anyone who had GM as an account.

            (Now, you could construct a nearly bulletproof rebuttal that if GM – or a competitor – performed the way it is supposed to, then all those same folks would be busier, wealthier and happier, and that the flailing GM wasn’t really doing them any favors. Unfortunately, that is also hypothetical rebuttal).

            The ironic thing is that I’m not a bail-out type of guy. Honest. I even wrote a quite uppity essay for Dick Burns (…whose dick burns?) in AP American History back in 1991 chiding the entire S&L bailout for rewarding failure.

            Hell, I’m clearly not even a GM kind of guy. I couldn’t sell those cars with a clean conscience (thank heavens I was so terrible at the job anyway); my ’86 Jetta had a superior powertrain to any of them. But I do admit that I was hoping that the bailout would be the kick the pants that GM needs to make a truly innovative car for the next century. I’m actually hearing good things about a number of newer American cars these days. Not innovative…..too many disgusting lobbyists and worthless UAW lawyers working to halt any of that nonsense…..but encouraging, I guess.

            But anyway, that’s where I was coming from.

          2. RIM renamed itself Blackberry. I’m a well-informed nerd. 🙂

            As for industries, the railroads collapsed (and Amtrak was the “solution”) – or at least there was a massive contraction when a new industry arose. Modernization is the enemy of many industries, and if the American auto industry collapsed that is certainly bad in the short term (though everyone forgets Ford managed to survive without a bailout, and is doing comparatively well).

            My problem with the bailouts as they were is that they represented a political payoff, much like the S&L stuff did. While I’m no fan at all of anyone suffering, we do have short term safety nets set up specifically to help people caught in the maelstrom of corporate failure.

            Further the bailouts represent to me – and this may be a surprising thought coming from my point of view – a disturbing nationalist tendency. If we’re truly in a post-NAFTA globalist economy, we have to expect that some of our industries will collapse/contract as the marketplace is now much larger; when the Big Three ruled the country, that was because there was no way for a Japanese car company to get a foothold. Instead of trying to capitalize on a larger market, though, the Big Three just got protective of their turf like a bunch of petulant b***es.

            But that’s just my two cents. I can’t change any of it, but I can get on a soapbox and claim I know better. 🙂

  2. I’m still upset that Circuit City went out of business. It was a fun store to browse, and they always seemed to have the best deals on newly released DVDs.

  3. Well, I’ll be damned. Ten years out of tech marketing was apparently long enough for me not to notice such an utterly stupid corporate marketing decision. Yeesh. “Awesome, now we can’t make any other products!”

    Your points above all make a ton of sense. But this goes back to what I wrote above about the difference between being principled and being practical. One of the things I’ve always admired about you is your adherence to your principles. In this case, however, the reality of the short term suffering was kind of terrifying for everyone (and not at all visibly short term), and I think that all politicians knew that there would be pretty awful economic and political consequences to not stepping in. (I *think* Ford was able to secure a line of credit that the other guys couldn’t get, but I really should look that up. If so, I suppose Ford could have played it straight and eventually gobbled up the remnants of the other two, but I couldn’t even guess how long that would take — or how many Ford executives would have been car bombed in the process).

    The globalization argument is an interesting one. Of course, it also plays into my biggest gripe about globalization: the US auto crisis was part of a global auto crisis. At a certain point, everyone can end up failing together.

    (And, OK, OK, I had to look up the history of the railroad industry because I know nothing about it. Did you know Penn Central was granted a bailout in 1970 by the president and the Fed — but ultimately not by Congress? Checks and balances and all that. Simply amazing)

    1. Well, see, this is why we get along so well. I totally get where you’re coming from and you get where I’m coming from. My “hard line on principles” definitely comes from my father; and it’s not always my best aspect (even when it’s my most notable).

      The thing I think about always in terms of globalization is that this epic, tidal shift is the one that finds us just at the moment when we’re coming to grips with our mortality – I imagine (since I’m watching Downton Abbey) that it’s how Lord Grantham feels post-WWI: the changes of the world are overwhelming when you were prepared to get older in the one you already understood. Or to borrow from Star Trek VI: “If there is to be a brave new world, Captain, our generation is going to have the hardest time living in it.”

      Or at least, people like me will. I think we get caught up in the idea that change, in its very nature, is a good thing. On the whole, it is. But there are things that should be gradual or considered more carefully than they are. I think that all of our globalization issues are tied to the fact that we “tore off the band aid” instead of having a strategy.

      Either way, let’s get together for a beer sometime soon. Maybe have you on the podcast if we start talking Metal. 🙂

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