Borders' Popular Rewards Program Proves Both Too Popular And Too Rewarding

According to the Wall Street Journal, Borders rewards program is popular. Too popular. And too rewarding. In response, Borders is cutting back the benefits and introducing a new program that it describes as “now simpler than ever” and “a new program to celebrate.”

Translation: “We were losing money. Lots of money. Sorry, but the program has to go.”

This news is a bit old, but since it affects the upcoming holiday shopping season, we found it interesting.
From the WSJ:

Under the new Borders plan, each time customers reach $150 in purchases at Borders superstores or Waldenbooks stores, they will receive $5 in Borders Bucks at the beginning of the following month. They can then use that $5 until the end of that month, at which point the offer expires. Users will be contacted by email and urged to print out a $5 coupon, although those who forget will be able to use their $5 credit by presenting their Borders Rewards card in stores. Customers will be able to earn Borders Bucks online after Borders opens its own Web site next year.

The old plan, however, was much more generous.

Members were given Personal Shopping Days, which enabled those who had spent $50 in a month to apply a 10% discount on all purchases made on a specific day in the following month. Gift cards were the exception. Customers also received a credit equal to 5% of their store purchases made through Nov. 14 in a special Holiday Savings account. That credit could then be used on purchases made from Nov. 15 through Jan. 31. The only caveat was that customers had to have at least $10 in their account — which meant they had to have spent a minimum of $200 to qualify.

The reason for the change is simple, it was cutting into Borders Holiday profits. The good news is that other retailers are actually adding bonuses to their membership rewards programs, so if you liked Borders program, maybe you can find a better deal somewhere else. The WSJ article has some examples.

If you’re a current member, you were able to redeem the credit you’ve accrued through April 11.
“And Borders customers who have spent at least $200 through April 11 will qualify for the Holiday Savings Rewards; those savings will be redeemable from Nov. 15 through Jan. 31, 2008. After April 11, the Borders Bucks program will be instituted,” says the WSJ.

Borders Slashes Buyer Rewards, Cuts Discounts
[AOL Money & Finance] (Thanks, Bill!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. girlfriend 6.0 says:

    If they keep the 20% off coupons that you get weekly then I’ll stay happy.

  2. cindel says:

    I love the personal shopping day because I can buy magazines and get the percentage off. Oh well…

  3. sleze69 says:

    I hear that Borders is increasing the Chocolate Rations to 25 bars!

  4. Hawk07 says:

    Hmm…I thought bookstores would be thrilled to have regular customers considering sites like Amazon are cutting into their pie.

  5. catskyfire says:

    Not being a Border’s shopper, this doesn’t affect me directly. However, I strongly dislike that the $5 coupon expires in one month. I’d make it 6 months to a year.

  6. foghat81 says:

    Boo to them.

  7. Sucko-T says:

    None of these rewards programs can compete with the one I use. It’s known as The Library.

  8. ptkdude says:

    Be warned, they will gleefully sell your personal information to spammers. When you call them on it, they won’t give a rat’s ass.

  9. etinterrapax says:

    Huh. I always thought their current rewards program kind of sucked, and only had an advantage over BN in that it was free. It’s nearly always more convenient and less expensive for me to use Amazon. I guess someone was getting something out of it, but it wasn’t me. The rewards programs I tend to use most consistently accrue points toward cash back or gift certificates, instead of meager discounts I can get any old time somewhere else.

  10. How can I find someplace with a better rewards plan when Borders has killed off all the other bookstores in my area?

    Seriously, if you look in the yellow pages around here, Borders is all that’s left for general bookstores. Everything else is a used bookstore, or a speciality shop (mostly religious bookstores).

    If I were a cynic (Wait!– I am a cynic), I might point out that this behavior is somewhat predatory. Borders killed off the competition by offering customers perks that the other stores didn’t, then cut back on the perks.

    And that’s a complaint from somebody who didn’t even join the stupid program.

  11. amoeba says:

    what a cry babies, I should say “I am loosing my money” over super expensive [text] books. Good thing I already graduated from G.D. Anyway, I think they should be more generous to us;the clientèle, we are the ones who are keeping you on business. I need my 25% coupons!! do not want borders anymoar :-(

  12. Anitra says:

    I used to be in the Waldenbooks loyalty program (you paid a fee of about $20 and then got a percentage discount on EVERYTHING for a year) – but when Waldenbooks was bought by Borders, they discontinued the program, promising there would be “something” available in the future. I recently joined the (new version) Borders loyalty program… I don’t shop physical stores for books very often, but when I do, it will be nice to have coupons at my disposal.

  13. d0x says:

    Book stores have only recently become popular again thanks to Borders and Barnes and Noble. Why would they risk losing a loyal customer base by changing such a decent program to one that sounds like a waste of time.

    Sometimes selling away your information is worth it if the program is good but this one was just ok to begin with and now its horrible.

  14. wring says:

    it’s harry potter’s fault.

  15. dwarf74 says:

    Um, isn’t this news old? Like, really, really old? I remember them changing this a few months back. I miss my 10% off days, but the $5 off credits are okay.

  16. William Mize says:

    You’re welcome!
    I went ahead and canceled my Borders account.
    Granted, they could probably care less, but it matters to me.

    From now on, I’ll just stick with amazon because they’re still cheaper than the weekly Borders coupon. Any spur-of-the-moment or last minute purchases, I’ll hit up Barnes and Noble as a FU gesture to Borders and their untimely killing of a great program.

  17. Canadian Impostor says:

    @etinterrapax: My girlfriend works at Borders and it’s still cheaper for her to buy books at Amazon.

  18. Canadian Impostor says:

    @William Mize: You cancelled a free account? You must have way more free time than anyone I know.

  19. @dwarf74: Yes.

    This news is a bit old, but since it affects the upcoming holiday shopping season, we found it interesting.

    @strum40: You mean that place that expects you to give the books back?!?!

  20. William Mize says:

    @Canadian Impostor: I do! I have emailed you some of my free time, gratis. On the house!

  21. Buran says:

    @Michael Bauser: If you want to encourage independent bookstores, shop at independent bookstores. Money talks.

  22. justelise says:

    Between Amazon, Books-A-Million, the local used book store, and the Library I think my book needs are covered. I can’t see me dragging myself to Borders now that they’ve decided to squeeze the customers by changing their discount plan.

  23. Chicago7 says:


    YAY, strum40. I haven’t bought a book in so long, I can’t remember what it was. The advantages of having a huge amount of books is tremendous.

  24. Chicago7 says:

    Unless you are a hard right-winger, you should stay out of Books-A-Million.

  25. Mary says:

    When you say old, you mean OLD. This is such old news I’d already really forgotten about it.

    They are right that these changes were in part requested by consumers. I can’t tell you the number of times people complained to me about how complicated and confusing the old program was. I didn’t mind it, but you had to WORK for your rewards and pay attention to what you were doing. It was complicated.

    I always told customers that the difference was between coupon clippers and people who don’t want to work at getting a good deal. The program WAS much better than any out there, by far. But you had to think about it, you had to be organized, pay attention to the emails, etc.

    But customers continued to complain that it was too complicated, they didn’t want to deal with the personal shopping days, the holiday savings rewards, etc. So yes, on the surface they probably were trying to help the bottom line by cutting back on the discount that you were getting, but it was also very firmly grounded in customer complaints.

    I’m not saying I’m happy with the decision, in fact I am apparently no longer employed by Borders Group (not that they’ve told me I’m not on the payroll anymore or paid me my vacation time, but that’s another rant) but the fact is that it’s not completely about corporate greed.

    The program was bad to start with. They should have taken the Waldenbooks Preferred Reader program and just adopted it wholesale to the entire chain. THAT was a rewards card worth getting.

  26. Mary says:

    @ptkdude: Borders does NOT sell your personal information EVER and if you can prove that they did, feel free to complain because it clearly against their privacy and information policies if they did so.

    It is spelled out in plain letters that they will NOT sell your email address or personal information. I have full confidence that they do not, because doing so after they’ve made that promise would be idiotic. If you’ve signed up for some of their “partner” programs, that could be the source of the problem. But one of the main selling points that employees are told to repeat is that they would never sell your email address or personal information, ever.

    That is probably why your claims aren’t being taken seriously. Because we’ve been told over and over again that it is against corporate policy for them to do that.

    Not saying they absolutely don’t, like I said if you can prove it by all means send them a letter and file a complaint. But most people I know that have complained just had a slight increase in spam that they couldn’t trace and decided to blame Borders. Spam happens.

  27. Flynn says:

    @meiran: Oh, I tried to prove it and they laughed me off. Basically, I don’t think they willing shared it. I think they got nailed with the Storm worm, some e-mail addresses got stolen, and they tried to cover it up.

    Basically, I own my own domain, so I create custom e-mails when I sign up for crap in case they DO sign me up with spammers. A few months ago, I started getting the “greeting card” worm e-mails to the e-mail I used for Borders. When I e-mailed them letting them know they had a compromised machine, they said “Nope, it’s a coincidence. Spammers are just randomly guessing your account.”

    Which is BS. I never got any spam until AFTER I got those worm e-mails. They were the only ones who had that e-mail, and they tried to claim that spammers guessed the address, which was LAUGHABLE. I’ve actually already e-mailed Consumerist to look into it, so the fact that someone else independently posted leads me to believe one of their machines did get infected.

  28. MT says:

    As an associate of Borders, I can fully back up Meiran’s statement that Borders does not sell your information.

    Admitted, the old program was fairly rewarding, but as Meiran also said, it was complicated in terms of explaining the benefits and I would often find people being deterred by the complication of the benefits offered.

    Since the program is free, I think it’s a lot more beneficial to the casual shopper, since they still benefit from regular discounts (20% off coupon every time you shop) without having to make any real commitment. Meanwhile, Barnes and Noble has their $25 Membership program, which is great if you are habitually buying a lot of books and can benefits from discounts (that are for the most part similar or the same as some Borders discounts) but for an infrequent shopper, can be a turn-off.

    Not to spout praises about Borders, since up until recently I primarily shopped at B&N, but as most people are not building vast personal libraries for themselves, Borders’ free program is a little more beneficial (and did I say free?)

    Although the program was a great deal last year, if you were organized and knew how and when to use it.

    And.. yeah, this news is almost a year old.

  29. ElizabethD says:

    I’ve sworn off bookstores. Too much dinero. It’s my public library,, or nothing. (And I read a LOT.)

  30. synergy says:

    Yeah I was a member of that and I took advantage of it as long as possible. I knew sooner or later they’d realize how much they weren’t making and cut it. Sure enough it went belly-up sometime around March I think. I’ve not really stepped in a Borders since.

  31. synergy says:

    @meiran: Uh, I guess it would be hard for the retarded, but really it wasn’t. What’s so hard to figure out? You got a percentage back from what you buy, you got coupons every week, and at the end of the year you could buy Christmas gifts from the percentage off from the whole year. If you shopped enough you got a “Personal Day” where you could shop some more and earn more towards your holiday rewards. Boy. Tough to understand! /snark

  32. pkrieger says:

    Doesn’t Borders raise their prices so the eternal 20% coupon really only lowers the price to the “real one”? That way there is the illusion that you are getting a deal, and they get a little bonus everytime you forget to print one of those coupons out.

  33. medic78 says:

    @synergy: I took advantage of it for as long as I could too. I also haven’t been in the store since, and don’t plan on returning. The plan was really the only thing keeping me going to an actual bookstore.

  34. medic78 says:

    @Flynn: heh at first I never got any email from Borders, so I guess I was lucky. Every time I went to the store they said my email address was no good, but every time they showed me what they had listed, it was right. I only just stated getting the emails when I gave them a new address. Suddenly both emails begin receiving mail. Sounds almost like a scam to get more email addresses to me.

  35. Lin-Z [linguist on duty] says:

    The old plan was awesome, I really enjoyed it the last few years….before I got an Amazon visa and started buying everything online because I don’t even live near a Borders. =/

  36. UpsetPanda says:

    I’ve been a member of the B&N program and I like it a lot. It’s $25 a year, but their savings are pretty much worth it, by my calculations. I still go to the library every other week for a lot of things that I won’t buy, or aren’t sure I’d like to read, but for the authors I follow, I use Amazon or if I can wait but my local B&N store always has stock if I need instant gratification.

  37. MMD says:

    I don’t buy enough at Borders to ever qualify for even the lower reward amounts…I joined for the coupons for the times when I do actually go there. I always thought the structure of the original plan was totally convoluted anyway…

  38. gina227 says:

    I do appreciate those 40% off any DVD box set coupons that they e-mail me now and again. They used to actually give you 40% off the sale price, which was awesome, but now they will only give it off the regular price. It’s still a pretty good deal, though.

    Speaking of getting cheap books, have you all checked out I absolutely love that site.

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  40. Anonymous says:

    I worked at a Borders for 2 and a half years. What happened was when
    it first came out everybody saved up all these free dollars and
    redeemed only the amount they earned. The company wanted people to buy
    more than what they redeemed thus they lost money. I do think the new
    Borders Rewards program is cheap. If you buy books often it’s more
    benifical to go to Barnes & Nobles- 10% off everything. Better yet
    I go to Or just head up to my library. Anyhow, Borders
    Rewards is a ripoff and was a lot better when you *earned* $10.00 on
    the 100 not $5.00 on the 150.

  41. Johann says:

    I gave Borders my email address awhile back and they gave me a rewards card. They sent me a few offers via email. One sounded like a good deal, so I clicked on the link for the coupon and it asked me to fill out my personal contact info on their website. Uhmmmm…. I wasn’t interested.

    Now when I shop at Borders they always ask me if I have signed up with their program. I always say exactly: “I have a card, but I don’t use it anymore.” If I say just, “no,” they always want to describe the program. If I say, “yes, but I don’t have the card here,” then they ask me for a piece of personally identifying info so they can credit me for the sale. Guys, I don’t give a damn about your stupid program, ok?

    Sales pitches for programs and/or asking for personal info when you’re making a purchase: seriously — it gets annoying. I liked it better when I could just buy your stuff.

  42. XTC46 says:

    is this why the spam stopped? awesome.

  43. Mo MoDo says:

    I wondered why I wasn’t getting Personal Shopper Days anymore. It was tough to keep track of how much you spent in any given month.

  44. Mary says:

    @pkrieger: “Doesn’t Borders raise their prices so the eternal 20% coupon really only lowers the price to the “real one”?”

    You can’t raise the “internal” price of books. Book prices are set by the publisher and printed on the book jackets/covers.

    Which is why, when shopping at bookstores, you should look for deals and bargains. List price is list price when it comes to books. B&N, Borders, and Books-a-million will have the same “base” price for every book on their shelves. The only difference is the discounts and coupons. is the same as well, only they discount pretty much every book they have. But that price they’re discounting from? List price as set by the publisher. Though I have noticed Amazon listing the wrong price on their books before to make their discounts look steeper. It’s rare, but I’ve seen it happen.

    As for the emails, it is possible a machine got compromised. If they laughed you off, I’d keep going higher up in the food chain. Did you talk to a store employee or a corporate employee? I wouldn’t bother with the store level. I also wouldn’t bother with the lowest level of customer service rep on the phone line.

    If the email that you used had been hotmail, gmail, or yahoo I would have said it was likely they did just “guess” at your email to send you spam. That happens a lot with popular domains. If it was something like “borders at my domain dot com” then that does sound very fishy. I’d keep complaining.

  45. @Johann: Really? Whenever I say I don’t have a card, the clerk just says “OK” and rings up the sale. What, am I too intimidating for them to pitch me on it? Do they not want me coming back to the store? Are the clerks in my town too demoralized to care?