Once upon a time I was searching for a particular book. There was a huge imposing bookstore near my house. Rather than muck around on the Internet I’d buy from actual human beings in the real world. Mostly I wanted Instant gratification!
They had coffee, lattes, CDs, maps, gifts, magazines, chocolate, and DVDs, but not the title I wanted. I asked the reference person to look it up. Nope, definitely not in the store.
“Fine, I’ll I’ll order it” I said, reaching for my wallet.
“It’ll be two weeks.” She replied.
Sheesh. So much for instant gratification! “OK fine. Just ship it to my house and I’ll pay now.”
“We can’t ship it to your house. You’ll have to come to the store to pick it up.”
“Well there’s another way. You could order it from our on-line store, then it’ll come to your house.”
“Great! Do it!”
“I can’t. All I can do is ‘in-store’ orders. You’ve got to do it yourself.”
“You want me to put my wallet back in my pocket and go home?”
“Why? What’s wrong with our on-line store?”
“You’re telling a customer to put his wallet away and then go home to place an order from the host of every on-line store in creation? You’ve heard of Amazon.com haven’t you?”
“Well our on-line store is good too.”
“Yeah but nobody ever got rich telling customers to put away their wallets and go home.”
“I don’t make the policies.”
“Certainly. Well have a nice day.” I stuffed my wallet in my pocket and went home.
That night I placed the order with Amazon. The book was in my hand a few days later.
After that I stopped going to the bookstore in question. It had become a coffee shop with books for scenery.
Why am I mentioning this? Because their demise was already a done deal and I could tell with one single book order. The attitude and business model was a losing proposition. That encounter was about six years ago. Maybe the company could have been saved but I doubt it. At any rate it’s over now.
Update: I wrote this several days ago but planned for it to go live several days later. (WordPress calls it “scheduling” but I like to call it “ghost in the machine”.) I thought I was the only one who noticed or cared about Borders’ demise. Luckily The Ultimate Answer to Kings posted an opinion. Now I know there are two of us.
Farewell Borders; I’d miss them if they’d been a bookstore.
Update 2: Monster Hunter Nation has an admirable take on it too. Far more inside information than I had as just a customer. Hat tip to Bayou Renaissance Man. Perhaps “ghost in the machine” is Curmudgeon Speak for “scooped by everybody”?