Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Bookstores: Rating the Monopolists

Location: Center City Philadelphia.
Stores Examined: BARNES & NOBLE on Walnut Street; BORDERS on Broad and Chestnut.

1.) DOOR GUARDS.
The daytime door guard at BORDERS looks to be a friendly guy. He stands unobtrusively for hours on end and lets people be on their way. His expression is inscrutable. It could mean, "I'm studying this store carefully" or it could mean "I'm standing here sleeping." He seldom says anything.

The BARNES & NOBLE door guards are a mixed lot, the cast always changing, despite or because of the fact they're oppressivley friendly. Presumably if they don't say "Hi" and "Bye" to each and every person passing through the door they're fired. The best of them is a young woman who actually IS friendly; enjoys holding the door for gentry with babies and for doddering old people. (Today's UpdikeMailerBellow famous writers would be okay shopping at the place.) Meanwhile, the BORDERS guy stands stoically immovably pretending he's with the FBI.

Advantage: BORDERS.

2.) CAFES.
The BARNES & NOBLE people are constantly selling, or interrogating: "Would you like a muffin or sandwich or dessert with that today? Can I ring up the stack of books and magazines in your hands right now for you today?"-- and look at you as if you're a criminal if you don't comply.

At the BORDERS meanwhile they know you're there to read the books and magazines for hours and spill coffee over them not to buy them, all they're going to get out of you is the coffee and maybe a blueberry buckle cake so they leave you be.

Advantage: BORDERS.

3.) SALES CLERKS.

BARNES & NOBLE has the better-looking sales girls.

Advantage: BARNES & NOBLE.

Final Tally: BORDERS 2, B & N 1.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lovely bit of fluff, Karl. Consider submitting it to McSweeney's.

Adam Hardin said...

I go to used bookstores to buy books. I like the dusty attic feel of them. I like a good worn binding.
I like the dark lighting in them. I like the unpainted walls. I like books stacked on the ground next to the shelves. Every used book store has its own character, and its own feel. I like talking with the used bookstore owners. I like going in there and the used bookstore owner knows my name, and says, I just got in some more books you might like. I like buying five books for the price of one at the large chains. Its just the right place for writers and readers.

Everything that the big chains do is glaring lights and glossy and utterly vacuous employees who think Alice Sebold is a good writer. Week old Brownies for four dollars. Over-priced coffee. Pretenious people sitting around the cafe, talking. Children running about. Babies crying. Everything is wrong in the Big Stores.

King said...

To Anonymous: Anyone can write fluff, as I'm sure you know.

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