Employee: Borders Is Making Us Push Loyalty Cards That May Be Worthless If Company Declares Bankruptcy

Borders has struggled to pay publishers and may be facing bankruptcy. As a result, one employee is alleging the bookseller is getting desperate, ordering employees to encourage customers to buy loyalty cards that could lose all value if the company files Chapter 11.

This tip comes from a reader who is employed at Borders:

I am a Borders Books employee. I have been employed as a bookseller for 3.5 years. I am extremely concerned by the recent behavior of our corporate officers. The past few years haven’t been pleasant for Borders employees. We have lived with constant threats from upper management, pressure to sell various nicknacks, and of course, the infamous “make book” fiasco from 2009. (We were forced to sell specific books to each customer and many, many lost their jobs over this.)

Now, with bankruptcy (possibly) looming, we are being told to focus solely on our new Borders Rewards Plus program. Again, we are living with threats of losing our jobs, having our hours cut,etc.,etc. if we do not sell these memberships. Most of us are not comfortable selling these cards because we are unsure if Borders will be around in 6 months. Management has not said one word to any employee about our financial situation. Whatever the motivation for pushing these cards on customers, it seems unethical.

We (had) a very active forum on livejournal.com/iworkatborders (the site has since been taken down). One bookseller noted that her district manager is forcing each person who has worked on the register to call her each hour to report how many Borders Plus cards they had sold. This is just one example. The push to sell these cards is disturbing. Are they trying sell enough of these cards to make payroll? None of us understand it. We just want it to stop.

The employees that actually work on the front lines, in the store, have been through a lot already. We have had enough. We don’t want to be a part of some scheme to provide a golden parachute for our executives. Please put this Borders Rewards Plus scam out there for the public to see. We can’t do it ourselves.

When reached by Consumerist, a rep for Borders didn’t comment directly on this employee’s allegations — although she acknowledged Borders is still selling the loyalty cards — but did say, “It’s business as usual at our stores and we are selling and redeeming gift cards. Beyond that, as we have said publicly, we are working with lenders on refinancing.”

Previously: Borders Meets With Publishers Instead Of Paying Them

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. BfloAnonChick says:

    Um, Rewards Plus is not the same thing as a gift card. Yes, a customer pays for it, and yes, it will be worthless if the company goes out of business. But the statement from the employee says nothing about gift cards. Only the Rewards Plus discount program.

    • tbiscuit360 says:

      Look at the byline.

    • nbs2 says:

      Additionally, I suspect that the end result will be similar to what we’ve seen at some other major duopolies – the rewards program will be meaningless, but BN will accept Borders gift cards (if I remember right, the bankrupt would sell the gift card db to the continuing store, which would accept the card to build marketshare in the wake of the vacuum).

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      Additionally, if the company filed chapter 11 I don’t think anyone would lose anything since the company would continue to operate.

  2. KevinQ says:

    The tipster’s email seems to be less about gift card, and more about the Border’s Rewards Plus cards, their new Barnes-and-Noble-like reward membership.

    They’re still asking you to pay for something you might not make money back on, but that’s always true about fee-based rewards programs, anyways. But the tipster doesn’t mention pushing credit cards.

    K

  3. Maximus Pectoralis says:

    So are they gift cards or reward cards? Either way it sounds rather suspicious…

  4. Jerkamie says:

    I think they should be more worried about finding a new job then what junk their supposed to sell.

    • SabreDC says:

      Agreed. If this person is concerned with getting hours cut or losing their job if they don’t upsell, why are they uncomfortable pushing the cards? If the company isn’t around in 6 months to make the cards worthless, this person won’t have a job anyway.

      So, OP, why not do your part and push the rewards program so maybe Borders can turn a profit and stay open (thus, keeping you employed)?

      • Hoot says:

        Because she doesn’t feel comfortable pushing the cards if Borders is going to go belly-up anyway. She has an ethical problem with says “Yes, you’ll have this membership for a year,” when it is likely that they will not. She hypothesizes that the push is to cushion the downfall for executives, something she is also uncomfortable with.

        • Kibit says:

          I agree. It is an ethics issue. She and her co-workers do not feel right about selling rewards cards that quite possibly will have no value in 6 months.
          I think its great that they feel this way and are trying to let their customers know.

          About 6 months ago a yoga studio opened in a shopping center near me. I was surprised because there are a lot of yoga studios in my town, but it was nice to have one so close.

          A couple of weeks ago I went to the studio to take a class and they were now closed. I talked to a friend about it and she was pissed because she had just bought a monthly pass on the first of the month and now it was closed on the fifth of the month. They took her money even though they knew they were having difficulties. Thankfully she was able to do a chargeback, but there were a few customers that had paid in cash and even in trade for goods and services and they didn’t get anything.

          If your company is having issues you shouldn’t be pushing any type of paid membership or gift card. Once you close or file Chapter 11 then the consumer holding the card is screwed.
          Not cool!

          • SabreDC says:

            “Once you close or file Chapter 11 then the consumer holding the card is screwed.”

            That’s a misconception. Many brick-and-mortar stores file Chapter 11 and their online presence is either bought or operates as a separate company (e.g. Circuit City, KB Toys) and plenty of them simply operate under the restructured organization or return to normal operations after emerging from protections (e.g. Arena Football League, Bally Fitness, Eddie Bauer, Filene’s Basement, Linens ‘n Things, Chrysler, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Phoenix Coyotes, Chicago Cubs, Western Digital, etc.)

            • ChuckECheese says:

              No it’s not a misconception. When businesses go BK, the people holding prepaid memberships and cards are at the end of the line to get paid, and they usually get nothing. People deserve to get no less than 100% of what they were told they were going to get when they pay for something, not a bunch of exclusions and disclaimers. Anything less is at the least, skeevy. And as the OP here says, she has a strong feeling that Borders is trying to commit fraud by collecting $$ from customers for a service that they have no intention of being open long enough to honor.

        • SabreDC says:

          But she is preventing Borders from gaining revenue which will lessen their chances of going belly up to begin with. She’s not a lawyer and has no inside knowledge of what will happen to the rewards cards. If the company is bought out by B&N or something, they may honor the rewards cards. She is taking action based on what she thinks will happen, which may not be what will happen.

          It’s like those pharmacists that refuse to dispense birth control. Both the pharmacists and this woman are employed by choice and can leave anytime if they have problems performing their jobs.

          • Hoot says:

            I don’t think she has a problem with the cards themselves. I mean, she’s worked there and I’m sure pushed them for years. The problem is that now, with the financial difficulties and the improbable future that the company has, the push to upsell has crossed into almost rabid selling frenzy to scrimp the last little bit of cash out of a customer.

            • FrugalFreak says:

              this is an ethical vs profit problem, some always see the profit and be danged with ethics. This thinking is why we as a nation are screwed up.

              • SabreDC says:

                Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m an ethical person. If it was strictly a black and white “ethics vs. profit” thing, I’d take ethics hands down. But this isn’t black and white. If she received a memo saying that the company was closing on June 1, then I would do the same things she’s doing. But she is making her ethical decisions based strictly on rumor and speculation.

                Even if Borders goes under today there is a very good chance that their online presence, which accepts Borders Rewards Plus for discounts on books and free shipping would still be available.

                The BRP program also stipulates that Borders can discontinue the program at any time. Why doesn’t she have concerns about that? Even if Borders was guaranteed to be open for another year, where are her ethics with pushing a card that can be discontinued tomorrow? Also, BRP can be cancelled for a full refund of the membership fee within 30 days. Also, according to the terms and conditions of the BRP program, if Borders decides to discontinue the program for any reason, the T&C specifically say that they will provide a pro-rated refund of membership fees.

                I do not see how this is an actual ethical issue. It’s simply a perceived dilemma on her part because she doesn’t have all the facts and is speculation about what might happen.

                • ChuckECheese says:

                  This is very similar to the arguments I hear whenever anybody tries to discuss medical decision making, for instance, when patients decide to bone up on medical things in order to be better consumers of medical goods and services. The argument is, “You don’t have enough knowledge or information, because you’re not a doctor.” But in this case, it’s “… because you’re not a Borders upper-level manager.”

                  Her years of work for Borders, her conversations with other employees, her consumption of media and her research online and possibly elsewhere, has provided her with enough information to know that it is very unlikely that B can honor these extended commitments.

                  She is also suspicious at the timing: Why is it only now, when things are quite bad financially, is Borders pushing the sale of these memberships? She understands the business model enough to know that Borders is getting cash in, and paying very little out, when people buy these rewards cards – it’s money in Border’s accounts.

                  She is smart enough to realize that any money Borders can make selling these programs isn’t enough to keep the business afloat, and will probably be diverted elsewhere, such as to providing cash payments to executives, and the people purchasing rewards cards will get little or nothing back in exchange for their money. This bears repeating – the money gained from pushing these rewards cards isn’t enough to save the business, so she’s suspicious about the timing of the sales push.

                  She is also intelligent enough to understand that this is the crooked way of American business these days – upper management goes on a financial bender, finds ways to screw over customers, grabs the money, nukes the business and runs with the cash. (See the banking/housing crisis or Enron for more of this business model).

                  Your problem is that you think that people are less intelligent than they are. Nobody ever has perfect knowledge, but it is also usually false to claim that somebody doesn’t have knowledge because of their status, whether that is as a patient, or as a front-line employee. You are also a Paternalist – that is, you think that we should all just shut up and do as we’re told whenever Daddy/a boss tells you to do something. Your ostensible but in reality insincere excuse is that you don’t have enough knowledge to make your own decisions, but this is really just a front of denial for the fact that you don’t like to disobey Daddy, and so you can remain swaddled in cuddly swaths of feigned ignorance while you do his evil bidding.

                  You have this philosophy because you are holding out for a reward if you are obedient. This woman is smarter than you because she realizes that even if she does what she’s told, she and her customers will not be Borders Rewards Plus-ed, but instead, totally screwed over. America desperately needs a return to strong ethical standards, or we are really and truly doomed. Don’t feel bad about being a paternalist – America is full of them.

        • wellfleet says:

          She is a bookseller, so very line-level. While it is public information that the company is in trouble, she has no idea when or even if the company will file for bankruptcy. In the meantime, she is harming the company by not selling its loyalty card and essentially not doing her job. I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but she has zero insight into what’s truly happening with the company because she isn’t privy to high-level info. She is selling out of her own pocket. This has nothing to do with ethics because she isn’t working from a set of facts. Besides, what if a customer is planning on buying lots of books in the next 2-3 months and the membership would be a great thing for the customer?
          If I were her manager and knew she was refusing to perform her duties, I’d have a chat with her, then let her go if she didn’t change her behavior.

  5. Tim says:

    Everyone should do an equivalent of a bank run on Borders: one day, everyone redeem your gift cards. I wonder if it would work …

    In other news, this employee should probably get out of there if s/he is so concerned.

    • qwickone says:

      gift cards are carried as a liability on the balance sheet (Revenues in excess of billings), so this would be a good thing, since it reduces liabilities.

      • whgt says:

        But extra cash from selling the reward/gift cards also will be used to reduce liabilities.

        • Bsamm09 says:

          The same liability. Sale of gift card debits cash and credits unearned revenue. Buy something and you debit unearned revenue and credit revenue from sales. And do you inventory/Cogs and probably an allowance account for estimating unused cards.

          • Portlandia says:

            this could effect cash flow though. If all your sales for a few weeks were only gift cards, or had higher than normal gift card purchases you could impair a cash strapped company.

      • Tim says:

        It sounds like Borders wants employees to sell gift cards as a way of giving Borders a loan. Borders gets $50 now and gives John a card saying he can get merchandise later. Borders bets on the fact that John won’t redeem that card immediately, so Borders can some flexibility with the funds. They have to pay it back eventually (in merchandise), but probably not immediately.

        In a bank run, everybody withdraws their money at the same time. The bank took the deposits also as a form of a loan. They take money from customers and spend or invest it in other places, knowing that they’ll probably have to pay it back at some point, but not immediately. If they have to pay it all back immediately, they’d be in trouble. Same with Borders; I bet if they had to pay back all their gift cards immediately, they’d be in (more) trouble.

    • danic512 says:

      In other other news, people tend to need a job to afford things like food and shelter. Leaving may not be an option.

  6. NeverLetMeDown says:

    So, he’s annoyed that the company is trying to get its employees to sell highly profitable products. My heart goes out to him.

    • hymie! says:

      It’s one thing to sell “highly profitable” items. It’s quite another thing to sell a “loyalty card” when the customer base has a real concern that the company will stay around long enough to be loyal to it.

  7. tbiscuit360 says:

    I don’t see how this is news. Every store that has a rewards program pushes it on you- Barnes and Noble tries to get you to pay $25 for their program as well.

  8. Red_Eye says:

    Its a sound policy, using the gift cards you are effectively Loaning Borders money. Just pray they can pay it back when you want to use it.

  9. Commenter24 says:

    One of the first things that retail debtor’s in Chapter 11 cases ask for is permission to continue certain “customer loyalty programs” and to honor gift cards and the like. The cards/reward program will be useless if the company liquidates, but if it reorganizes purchasers/participants won’t even notice.

  10. Skellbasher says:

    Dear Phil,

    Gift cards are not Rewards Program Memberships.

    Signed,

    The English Language

    • Portlandia says:

      Don’t bash Phil, he’s saint and you will be disemvoweled.

    • PhantomPumpkin says:

      Dear English Language,

      The end of the article is referring to Borders and their response, in no way shape or form is it insinuating Loyalty cards and Gift cards are the same thing. Borders was questioned about it, and they side stepped the question.

      Sincerely,

      The American English Language

      • Skellbasher says:

        Dear Phantom Pumpkin,

        The article title was stealth edited from it’s original form. It initially discussed gift cards in the title and first paragraph.

  11. Dover says:

    I was starting to think that Phil was not real, Meg and Ben just made him up to troll us. Then, his posts started improving and I forgot about it. But now I’m starting to get suspicious again.

  12. seamer says:

    Barnes and Noble are doing the same thing; cutting hours, threaten staff, high goals even compared to a store’s location.

    As an example, my wife’s store has been cut from 1200 manhours/month to barely 600. Sales have remained at the same high level as they always were, and Nook sales are the “saving grace” of an employee’s history. I know some employees who will buy a Nook at their store and then take it to another B+N to return it; the sale registers at the original store (good) but the return registers at the sucker store (bad).

    It has to stop somewhere.

    • f14d_tomcat@hotmail.com says:

      Maybe if the stores sold products for the same price as their website, people would actually use the store. Why would I get a book for 2x the price as it costs from the same retailers website? Sure, the shipping time and cost may factor in a bit, but how many people really need the item quick when they can wait a week and save?

    • tmbggirl says:

      As someone who has worked in retail, each store I worked in ALWAYS cut hours shortly after the new year. Sales figures typically dictate that you need more employees during the Nov/Dec holiday season.

    • jackofnight says:

      I hate threats, lucky my store doesn’t do it. They say sell more for more hours but no one will be fired or we will get bad marks on our record if we don’t sell.

      I don’t sell cards well but I’m good at customer service so they are very happy with how I work.

  13. Virginia Consumer says:

    As posters have noted, it seems to be about the rewards card, not gift cards. It will be difficult to use the rewards cards, however, unlike gift cards, they should still be honored in a bankruptcy situation I would think since they are just a discount card. That is something I would think the creditors would want continued.

    Chapter 11 is a re-organization. Some stored will close, but not all. Probably those ones tied up in leases that are not making much money. The ones doing brisk business will be fine. So it really depends on the location.

    My wife has been very happy with her rewards card. Not sure if she has gotten her monies worth or not at this point. She likes to shop there and combines it with her teacher discount. As for the rewards card it’s almost like printing money for businesses. They get the income from the card at no cost 100% margin. Then people come back and BUY MORE STUFF. It’s a win win for the store. I would have to say that with the reward card and teacher discount it’s probably the cheapest place for us to get books right now. We even buy a lot of our home school books there since they usually have them in stock and at a good price with the discounts.

    • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

      Tell your wife to go to the built in cafe regularly if she drinks coffee outside the house. If she doesn’t it’s not really a savings, but if she does, she could probably at least recoup the card cost in six months, give or take.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      The only savior here is that even if you lose all the store locations in your area, the borders card will probably be able to be used online, provided the company is still in business. So if you don’t have a location nearby and cannot redeem rewards you could likely redeem your rewards for merchandise online.

      I think when media play closed they told customers that the cards could still be used at certain suncoast stores, however there were never any suncoast stores for miles and miles here and online shopping wasn’t as popular then so the cards weren’t valid anywhere online. This effectively left customers holding a worthless piece of plastic that they paid for (unless you were a frequent traveler or were able to access a suncoast store in another state, but locally you were screwed!).

  14. ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

    I have this card, because I’m a frequent buyer of books in B&Ms (I find that online savings go out the window after S&H, because I usually need the books ASAP.) I’ve actually gotten my money back by now, so I’m less concerned about whether these cards will continue to be honored.

    This is my concern: The Borders I go to is situated near the site of what used to be Circuit City in a very busy part of the city. If Borders goes out of business that’s two major business that go kaput leaving a very empty shopping center in what should be a high traffic area. This is yet another sign of a bad economy and frankly that bothers me more that a rewards program going awry.

    • ophmarketing says:

      Circuit City and Borders going under aren’t signs of a bad economy—they’re signs of bad business management.

  15. Outrun1986 says:

    I learned my lesson when media play went out of business and people paid for their rewards card and once the store packed up the card was no longer valid and you were stuck with a worthless piece of plastic that you paid for especially if you didn’t have enough rewards to redeem for something. This is bad especially if you were making extra purchases at media play that you otherwise would not have made to get rewards. Thankfully I never paid for the card.

    I would also think that once the liquidators took over the rewards card would become invalid.

    NEVER pay for a rewards program, unless you really think you will get something out of it fairly quickly.

    I don’t have a borders card but if you have a card and it earns you points or the equivalent like most rewards programs do then how on earth are they supposed to honor those points once the liquidator takes over or when the store closes?

    As many others have stated a gift card is not the same as a rewards card, a gift card has money on it that you or someone else originally paid for, and a rewards card usually doesn’t have money on it.

    However the cost of a companies rewards program is usually built into the product they are selling or their business model so no matter what, even if you are getting free stuff out of it you are probably paying for that rewards program in some way.

    When Gamecrazy went out of business they were also pushing the $20 MVP membership cards like crazy to the customers, seems if a store is aggressively pushing a rewards card you have to pay for that is a sign that the company might be in trouble soon.

  16. heyhowareyou says:

    Damn, I just bought one of those cards – don’t know what it’ll do, but all the cashiers that day looked so desperate ….

  17. mbd says:

    Apparently our “associate editor” can not tell the difference between a gift card and a paid “rewards” discount program, or he can’t read, as the OP make no reference to gift cards. I expect better from a blog owned by Consumer Reports, and I am not shy about letting Consumer Reports know directly.

    As to the rewards plus program, I never will pay a store money just for the privilege of spending money in their store. Especially when the discount just brings the price down to what Amazon sells for every day.

  18. Big Mama Pain says:

    The make book “fiasco”???? This is nothing new, neither is pushing rewards cards or add-ons. Borders is restructuring its finances so that it can BUY BARNES AND NOBLE, something that has been reported in the media for months now-why does this continue to go unnoticed by Consumerist?

    • tmbggirl says:

      It has probably “gone unnoticed” by the Consumerist due to the fact that Borders is the one trying to restructure debt and meeting with its creditors instead of paying them. Possibly also because B&N reported its best holiday sales season in about 10 years. And because there doesn’t seem to be a Circuit City-style deathwatch on Barnes.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Attempting to buy Barnes & Noble would require millions and millions of dollars that have been offered by only its major shareholder and his hedge fund – that’s it. It would be a ridiculous risk, and Barnes & Noble would not want to risk its entire operation by agreeing to sell to a failing company. When you’re hemorrhaging money, you start cutting costs – you don’t start acquiring more debt.

        • danic512 says:

          Unless that money is used to buy something that is profitable enough to take care of the outstanding debt.

    • Chaosium says:

      “Borders is restructuring its finances so that it can BUY BARNES AND NOBLE, something that has been reported in the media for months now-why does this continue to go unnoticed by Consumerist?”

      Because it’s not happening in any conceivable world? Certainly not this dimension’s Earth, at least.

      If you’re privy to some “private” knowledge, feel free to spill, otherwise you’re horribly misinformed, and I hope you aren’t just trying to pump their stock price up.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Please cite one credible report in the media that Borders is considering a play for Barnes and Noble. One.

  19. whereismyrobot says:

    That’s weird. When I worked at Borders most of the employees were pretty sure it was going to go under. That was in 2001.

    I think Borders is one of those places that makes everyone think they are about to lose their jobs at all time to increase work output.

  20. ophmarketing says:

    “We (had) a very active forum on livejournal.com/iworkatborders (the site has since been taken down).”

    Someone might want to let the OP know that the site is still up, s/he just had the wrong URL:
    http://community.livejournal.com/iworkatborders

  21. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    I don’t remember the last time I went into Borders. They annoyed the heck out of me by opting me into Borders Rewards Perks despite the fact that I’d previously chosen NOT to enroll, then gave me the runaround, saying I had to cancel my membership, the one I hadn’t signed up for. In the midst of all that, they stopped sending me the regular Borders Rewards email coupons. The only local store’s music department was a joke (Depeche Mode’s 3 CD collection of singles, entitled “Singles 86-98″ could be found in the singles section.) They almost never had any book I wanted and if I was stupid enough to ask for it, they always wanted me to order it. Hello, if I’m in your store, I want it NOW, and I’m willing to pay full price. If I want to order it and wait a week, I know how to use Amazon.

    /rant

    OP really ought to consider a job search. Why wait for the inevitable?

  22. Kibit says:

    This should be interesting. If Borders and B&N become one. I wonder if they will close one of the two stores (Borders and B&N) that are less than a third of a mile from each other?
    That would suck. One huge, empty building that is either less than 6 months old (B&N) or less than 3 years old. (Borders)
    Borders still has a huge empty space less than two miles down the street. Its been vacant for almost 4 years. Ugh!

  23. jason in boston says:

    Rewards Plus is $20 / year. I was going to bash Phil, but he is 50% correct. You at least pay for the Plus program.

  24. ned4spd8874 says:

    Crap! I didn’t think about that! I got my newphew a gift card to Borders for Christmas!

  25. JulesNoctambule says:

    There used to be a local chain of spas in my city that closed rather abruptly (as in, employees arrived in the morning to open, only to find the doors padlocked) and they were selling gift certificates and packages up to the day before. The owners never bothered to inform staff that they were closing, hoping to squeeze as much as they could from customers to help deal with their massive debt. A lot of other spas honoured those gift certificates, but I don’t know what happened to the people who lost out by buying package deals and I do wonder what recourse those people have.

  26. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    I told my wife after the last story here. She had a drawer full of Borders gift cards worth hundreds as she uses them for gifts. She spent them all immediately. Just grabbed the kids and went on a spree! Thanks for the heads up.

  27. VeritasNoir says:

    The LJ community is still up: http://community.livejournal.com/iworkatborders/

  28. nakkypoo says:

    Are Consumerist editors capable of writing accurate headlines?

  29. JANSCHOLL says:

    I refuse to buy a rewards card. I can get far better deals elsewhere, including Costco (which I easily make my 50 buck membership back in one visit) and even Costco tries to upsell you to the higher membership . When I pointed out to Barnes and Noble cashier that I would have to buy a bazillion dollars worth of books to get the reward fee back, he acted like he couldn’t do the math. Not worth it. And yes, BN is in trouble too. I sold half my stock before the year’s end and I am selling the other at a set price that is triggered. I didn’t want to liquidate my retirement funds but a stinker is a stinker. When BN spun off GameStop, that was keeping the stock inflated some and balancing the books for them. I wish them well, but I won’t be shopping at any of them again.

    • s0s has a chewy nougat center says:

      Well technically, $250 is not “a bazillion dollars.” I have a membership and it’s absolutely worth it to me, because I spend quite a bit more than $250 annually there, a lot of it on graphic design industry magazines and so on. So between the 10% off most purchases (and higher for other things) and the relatively frequent 15%-25% off coupons, I come out ahead.

      My Amazon Prime membership is worth it, too, given how often I’ll need something on short notice. And I pay for an annual membership to Sally Beauty Supply, because I come out ahead there as well. Pretty sure all my others are freebies, though.

      Of course, YMMV. I have saved WAY more with my paid-for B&N membership than I ever did with that crappy, old, free Borders one. And it’s stuff I was already buying anyway, so no, it’s not that I feel obligated to shop there more because I’ve bought into a program.

    • FaustianSlip says:

      I won’t pay for a B&N or Border’s card (though I’ve been a Border’s Rewards member for ages, before this pay option came in, and found it to be a decent program with really good coupons occasionally), but I do have Amazon Prime, and it’s more than saved me my initial outlay in free two-day or inexpensive one-day shipping. That said, given that I own a Nook, I would consider shelling out for the B&N coupon program if their coupons include discounts on ebooks. I haven’t heard one way or the other about this, though, and haven’t gone out of my way to investigate.

      I do have the pay discount club thing at GameStop, but again, I buy enough used games there that fifteen percent off has saved me the cost of the membership (about fifteen bucks a year, I think), and I get a magazine subscription with that, as well, so it’s not a bad deal. I don’t necessarily have an issue with discount programs like this that require you to pay to join, but you have to know your spending habits really well in order to evaluate whether there will really be a net benefit to your joining. With the B&N one, if you buy a lot of books, you could potentially make up the cost of membership in a month or two with the use of a couple of good coupons.

  30. Rena says:

    “One bookseller noted that her district manager is forcing each person who has worked on the register to call her each hour to report how many Borders Plus cards they had sold.”

    As someone who dislikes the idea of being pressured to sell useless junk to people who don’t want it about as much as I dislike talking on the phone (especially scripted calls like this), I’d probably have left right there. Especially if I suspect the company’s going under anyway…

  31. JohnManley says:
  32. WickedCrispy says:

    The only reason anyone has to upsell in a retail minimum wage dump like Borders, Best Buy, or Gamestop is because some manager, (not the employee) gets a bonus. I turn down all upsells for this principle alone.

    • Papa Bear says:

      Actually, many upsells like this are spiffed so that the selling sales person is rewarded for the sale. I have sold thousands of them in the form of road hazard protection and “life of the tire” balance packages all to my wallets satisfaction. We even had discount programs which could be sold and salesperson received a $3 spiff per package. Considering that all it took was a question and 10 minutes of paper work, I sold as many as possible.

    • Erika'sPowerMinute says:

      In my experience, as the person below me notes, the clerk gets a little bonus thrown their way. Ages ago I worked at a department store and we got $2 on our paychecks for each new store card account opened. One woman had a great technique with 20 year old guys: lean down low and use arms to create ample cleavage while she proffered the form. She always had like twenty credit apps on her checks : )

  33. Papa Bear says:

    Anybody ever figure that Borders execs are living up to their fiduciary duties and doing everything they can to prevent the bankruptcy and to improve the company’s assets. Not only is it their obligation to the corporation and its stockholders, but it’s an obligation to its employees. Also, it is a consideration in a bankruptcy. So, this just seems to be case of someone being asked to do a job he doesn’t want to do. If the complainer put as much effort into his job as he did complaining, maybe he could help to save his job!

  34. brinks says:

    Rewards cards that you have to pay for are a huge source of income for retailers. While I don’t agree that it seems highly unethical to push something that might not even be usable soon, it sounds like it’s a last-ditch effort to pump some money into the stores in an attempt to save them.

    Stuff like this is par for the course in retail. Department stores will push their high interest credit cards on you. Electronics retailers will push their extended warranties on you. Most of us in retail have something that we HAVE to push on customers and are jobs are threatened if we’re not successful at it. While the case for Borders is a little different since they might not even BE here soon, it’s really not THAT different than anything else other retailers are shoving down your throat.*

    *not that it excuses this, BTW

  35. ogsoleysol says:

    Seriously, either fire Phil or check his work. He is almost single-handedly destroying your brand.

  36. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Shame on them. No wonder they are going bankrupt. I will never set foot in a Borders again. Ever. Trying to shaft customers is wrong.

  37. hdhrant says:

    If a Borders employee tries to get you to buy their gift cards, the correct response is, “Sorry, I just spent all my extra money on Blockbuster gift cards.”

  38. Brent says:

    Thanks for this article. And thanks to the whistle blower employee who stepped forward to complain about this.

  39. Starrion says:

    We got some nice books for my son at Borders last night.

    Remaining Borders Gift card balance: $0

  40. retailriter says:

    Every store is pushing these Rewards cards down your throat. I got sick of pushing them at my last job and it was one reason I quit. I am also sick of being offered them every freakin’ place you go now, even though I sympathize with the poor cashiers. I understand the intense pressure they are under to meet their “quotas” on these. It makes for a hostile work environment.

    I never find the “rewards” are worth the cost of giving them my personal information so they can Spam me and junk mail me to death. Thanks, I’ll Pass.

    If these board of directors had to come into the store and push these on customers, it would come to a screeching halt.

    • wellfleet says:

      Too bad. The Eddie Bauer loyalty card is free, and the rewards are excellent. Granted we spend a lot of money there, but I’ve received well over $200 worth of gift certificates for stuff I would buy anyway. They send me their catalogue and the occasional e-mail. So what?

  41. libwitch says:

    I worked for Borders for 7 years, and no one in my district ever lost their job over the “make book” promotion. Which was, yes, an incredibly stupid promotion.

    The push to sell the cards is simple: if people have to pay for a discount card, then people feel more compelled to shop there to “earn” their discount. Its a fairly simple concept, and it is pretty well backup by market research. Its why the preferred readers card worked for years for Waldenbooks (before BGI dumped the card), and its why the BN card works.

  42. anonkthxbye says:

    I quit shopping at Borders once I started receiving all manner of non-Borders spam emails to the email address I created specifically for the Borders Rewards account I had, despite Borders stated policy of not sharing/selling that information.

    I think they’re pushing these accounts because the user database, including purchasing history, will be something they’ll be able to sell if they go out of business.

  43. crackalacker says:

    They charged me for one last week and for got to mention that they cost $20. I went back in and had them refund the charge, I won’t be going back. The woman that sold me even said that it didn’t “really” cost anything because I saved money, $9.85.

  44. Sparty999 says:

    At what point did people stop having pride in the company they work for? Even if you hate it there, check your attitude at the door and support the company. If you choose otherwise, go find something else that you CAN be passionate about.

    If the average employee is this much of a whiner, good luck to any former Border’s employee finding work.

  45. ogsoleysol says:

    Now Consumerist (or Phil) is bordering on dishonest. The last paragraph was clearly edited to cover up Phil’s lack of understanding regarding the original tip; yet it obscures the fact that Phil (or “Consumerist”) likely asked “a rep for Borders” about gift cards.

  46. PNW GIRL says:

    1. EVERY January-Border’s is going out of business. They’re still there. Chapter 11 isn’t going to close them down like we all think. Publishers and B&N actually need Borders to remain open.
    2. The BR+ is actually a good program for any Border’s Gold member since they are spending so much many anyways might as well save some.
    3.This site has a lot of whiny people who complain about the dumbest things, even when it’s self inflicted, they try to deflect towards someone/somebody else.

  47. PNW GIRL says:

    I think you misunderstood what she was trying to tell you. If you are a frequent customer that is a Gold Member already then you spend well over 150.00 a year. You save 10% on your purchases and that in itself pays for the card while you continue to save money.

    Dang I only had to have someone tell me that once and I understood fine.

    You weren’t understanding what she was saying by the way she was saying it I guess. Why didn’t you just look down at the mat they have at EVERY register OR notice that your purchase was 20.00 more than what you were buying?

    It’s more your fault than Borders that you’re not very observant and don’t listen correctly.

  48. ljean says:

    My college-age daughter is employed by Borders and has been harrassed, threatened with loss of her job, and had her hours cut drastically (from 20 hrs/wk to approx 5 hours every week or two). The one day that she might get hours, she is always put on “info” and not on the register, so does not have an opportunity to “push” the Rewards Plus card. The constant pressure by the managers to hard sell these cards puts enormous stress on these employees, particularly the younger ones, who are extremely vulnerable. Shame on Borders for their sleazy tactics! In the past I have spent hundreds of dollars at Borders; for the past several months – not a dime! Go Amazon!