books-a-million, i am terribly vexed.

Books-A-Million,

we need to have a little talk. 

You see, I used to go to Borders a lot. You remember Borders, don’t you? Yeah, it’s that book store chain whose store location you took over in West Lebanon a few years back when they went the way of the apatosaur. You kept most everything in the same place (to the point where I get this distinct “Zombie Borders” feel when I walk into your store), so it’s all familiar, and your prices are certainly not out of line. But I don’t shop there very often. 

You want to know why that is?

Because your sales goobers (under orders from above, no doubt) push that GODDAMN REWARDS PROGRAM four or five times, without fail, every time I check out at your registers.

Just on Saturday, I went to pick up a little trinket for the kids (and I do have to give you props for your well-stocked Nerd Toys section). Not only did I get pestered again at the register (I counted—the dude pushed your loyalty card four times), but while I was waiting in line before I finally got to pay, the same guy—working the one open register—went through the same ritual with every single customer before me, extending the duration of the checkout procedure by at least triple the necessary amount, despite the fact that the line was half a dozen people long. Factoring in my time, I’m paying double for my trinkets because I am forced to wait for Captain I’m-Here-All-Day-Anyway to do his little Marketing Kabuki ritual.

Nobody—and I mean nobody—likes waiting in line ten minutes to pay for $15 worth of trinkets just because your cashiers are drilled to push that GODDAMN REWARDS PROGRAM on EVERY SINGLE CUSTOMER, MULTIPLE TIMES, as if to try and get them to pony up the goddamn $25 a year just to STOP THE GODDAMN ANNOYANCE and GET THE HELL ON WITH THEIR DAY.

You want to know why I mostly buy my stuff from Amazon or the indie store down the road these days? Because it doesn’t waste my time nearly as much. I can assure you that the lack of speed and convenience has lost your store way more than just $25 a year in lost profits from sales to me alone.

Seriously—get with the program, Books-A-Million. Or, you know, apatosaur.

16 thoughts on “books-a-million, i am terribly vexed.

  1. Dude, it’s a corporation started and mostly run by an idle rich housewife from Mountain Brook, AL. This is not likely to change. At least yours is a zombie Borders, though; their new build stores we’ve historically referred to down here as Bibles-a-million.

  2. One of my employees also works a job at BAM. This is all second-hand, but this is my understanding:

    She makes minimum wage. She was promised 28 hours a week but usually gets 12 to 14. The manager to which she reports makes $9/hour. The store’s general manager makes little enough that, with two children, she qualifies for food stamps.

    BAM employees are pushed to sell the loyalty card and magazine subscriptions. They get a commission for each sale, but that’s the carrot that hides the stick: They can be fired for not meeting their quotas, and if the entire store doesn’t meet a certain quota, NOBODY gets their commission. You can imagine the social pressure exerted on someone who has turned in their two-week notice and doesn’t care about the numbers anymore.

    I’m told that the most successful employees, the ones that are given more hours, are the ones who are simply sociopaths during the pitch. The strategy that I’ve heard works best is badgering shy-looking people until they buy the upsell just to make the employee go away.

    The loyalty card ends up being a good deal if you find that you’re spending $500+ in BAM every year. The free magazines are absolutely a scam. They tell you that they’re easy to opt out of, but my employee tells of a manager demonstrating to employees “how easy” it is to opt out of the auto-renew. It took him 35 minutes on the phone in front of everyone. Whoops.

    • That, what Paul said. I’ve worked way to much retail in my life unfortunately, and that is exactly whats happening. Sears does that too. Employees make either minimum wage or commission (which isn’t much better right now), and receive a “bonus” for every Membership they “sell”, and every Credit Card signup they get. AND yup, miss out on your goal this month and get the entire store coming down on your head….

  3. “Factoring in my time, I’m paying double for my trinkets…waiting in line ten minutes to pay for $15 worth of trinkets…”

    Wow, ninety bucks an hour? You fancy writer fellers pull down the big bucks!

    Srsly though, compiling your personal info (phone numbers, address, buying habits, “rewards” cards, etc. etc.) makes these outfits a lot more in the long run than those trinkets, and that’s why trying your patience and insulting your intelligence is irrelevant to them and why the practice will continue. And it plays out on every scale:

    You just bought a new car; I know you are immune to idiotic tactics like Memorial Day Sales, Today Only Sales, and Trade-In Days where they’ll give you $5000 for anything your can push, pull, or drag onto the lot, but…how long were you at the dealership? Did they play the “manager” game before you got the real price? That’s where dragging it out and wearing you down can really cost you when you finally say, just gimme the pen and let me sign the damn thing. And you said you bought an extended warranty; they likely netted more off that than the car itself, especially if you rolled it into the financing, and it can be bought at any time before the factory bumper-to-bumper runs out, and for far less money.

    These tactics work, whether in the checkout line or in the dealership business office, it’s just a matter of matching the merchandising to the mark…but that’s capitalism.

    • I suck at negotiating, but I’m married to the most ruthless negotiator you’ll ever meet. NOBODY runs any tactics on her, and I pity the fools who try. Let’s just say the local dealership lost some good business by trying to run the salesman game on her and tag-teaming her with the manager. One of my great joys in life is to listen to her talk to people who call the house with unsolicited sales pitches or scams.

      • Ha. I married her too. If I had buy a car today I’d hand her a checkbook, swat her on the ass, and send her out the door. The only second thought I’d have was that it might be too cruel to some poor unsuspecting car salesman.

  4. I hate it too. I like Sam’s Club, but I hate the constant push to “upgrade” my membership. Lately a couple of the stores have put self checkout lanes and I can go through without seeing a cashier.

  5. I just ask them how much they will pay me to give up personal information. This usually short circuits that kind of crap.

    If it doesn’t I leave without buying.

  6. It’s the Charity Fatigue that gets to me. Before I can enter a store, I have to pass by someone soliciting money for some charity. Then I have to buy my food and be asked if I want to donate a dollar for this or that. Grocery stores, malls, even the goddam movie theatre now. Nothing, but nothing, makes me less inclined to part with my money than being pestered for it every time I wish to buy something. If I want to buy a pound of bologna I have to run a gauntlet of no less than 3 groups asking me to donate to the society for blind pansexual amish dentists or whatever.

  7. A loyalty program you have to pay for, at a bookstore?

    How the hell did they think that was ever going to work?

    “Do you have a ___ rewards card?” is annoying enough when it’s once, and it’s free

  8. For me it is the same as with every other product. If they need to push that badly, they are most likely selling crap. And I am going elsewhere, even if i have to pay more… Because the whole not being bothered, badgered or whatever also has value for me.

    (To be fair, I am unfamiliar with the chain, we do not have it over here… But the practice is, sadly, universal. From helicopter waitresses to the state owned(!) post office pushing life insurance when you want stamps.)

  9. *sigh*

    I hear ya, I do.

    Used to work at a similar corporate bookstore which Shall Not Be Named, but which also charged for its loyalty program. As the cashier in that situation, I can tell you *exactly* what was going through my mind:

    “This is stupid, no one wants this blasted card, this is a waste of my time and the customers’ time, I have a line ten people deep in front of me and NO ONE is responding to my frequent pages for additional cashiers, but I just KNOW that if I skip the freaking spiel this once, either the customer to whom I’m speaking will be a freaking mystery shopper and I’ll get written up for not offering the sodding card, or a manager/supervisor will overhear me and write me up for not offering the sodding card. Why the *deleted* can’t I just, oh, I dunno, provide good customer service, get the customers’ purchases rung up quickly and with a smile, and send them on their way? That’s all they want, and you’d think that what the CUSTOMER wants might POSSIBLY be important in retail, but our corporate overlords disagree. Hi, how are you doing today, sir? Would you like to save twenty percent on that with your Membership Card?”

  10. I used to work at a local independent book store that was taken over by BAM. I kept it at asking if they had the card so that I could enter the discount, and asking if they wanted to know about it if they said they didn’t have one. I only brought it up again if their purchase added up to where the discount added up to more than the card and saved them money overall.

    Fortunately, at the time, the local management adhered more to the ethos and work environment of an independent than BAM, so we had no pressure on the cards. Once the BAM Corporate drones finally took over I quit working there even part time (by that time I was working back room, not register, but still) and quit shopping there.