Savvy shoppers know that there aren’t any true deals to be found at the liquidation sales of closing retailers, but most people aren’t savvy shoppers. Employees of doomed Borders stores are sharing their experiences online, and report that their stores are doing record business now that the liquidators have arrived and the garish “store closing” signs are up. Thanks to consumer confusion, business is good at the stores that aren’t closing, either. Who knew bankruptcy was so good for business?
Like most liquidation sales, Borders is starting at list price and moving slowly down. This means that prices are often higher than they were before liquidation. The deals we imagine just don’t exist.
Author Michele Lee works at a Borders store, and is blogging her experiences during the liquidation. She eloquently explained what she thinks is going on in customers’ brains:
Twenty percent is not a deep discount, as people are discovering at the register when their armful of books that they’re sure will be a deal because we’re going out of business still hit over $100. They seemed confused by this.
This, more than ebooks, more than customer loyalties and more than downward trends in reading defines the current sales culture. We are trained to flip out over a series of trigger words to the point where without those words, without that perception of a deal (but not an actual deal) people don’t spend. I can’t believe that all the people there buying today would be doing so if they literally could not afford to. They have the money now, why didn’t they have it a few months ago? Because we weren’t having a liquidation sale then.
There’s no real time to be angry at the jackal behavior anymore. Instead I’m starting to feel sorry for people who need to buy things because it’s on sale, or because they’re surrounded with trigger words. There’s nothing wrong with buying because you just want something, but we can’t be honest about it, we have to justify it with “But it’s on sale”.
Some employees are sharing their experiences anonymously on a (very unofficial) Livejournal community for Borders employees.
Wow did today suck. Customers think ALL stores are closing. Are store is staying open and we had lines that were worse tham xmas. with 2 sellers , 2 reg people and a mgr this is a friggin nightmare. I’m sorry for all you in closing stores but if it helps you, the ones that are staying open are mobbed with confused customers who think everything is on sale and get mad at you when you tell them different.
Very emotionally draining. The visual impact of the signage was jarring, even from the parking lot. Massive signs in lurid black, yellow, and orange. We were averaging 7,500- 8,000 an hour. Never seen crowds like that. Not Black Friday, not the Saturday before Christmas. Customers were mostly awful. Rude, demanding, stealing. I got there at 7:30am and feel so bad for the closing manager, because recovery is absolutely impossible. Customers were fighting over books, literally throwing them. Found books hidden in overstock, under fixtures, in the kids cubbies.
Reader Mike also sent along this photo of his local store in Florida.