Liquidation of our store, which had been my second home since 2006, was a strange mixture of traumatic, stressful, liberating, and cathartic. We couldn’t look up books any more, there was no way to find a specific title on the shelf, and we certainly couldn’t call another store or place any orders. We could keep things as neat and shoppable as possible. We could point you to a general section, or use our knowledge of stock prior to liquidation to let you know how likely we were to still have certain books. But, for the most part, all we could do was ring up your purchases and send you on your way.
The pictures that follow are mostly depressing. I assure you we did our best to keep things looking as good as possible, but that wasn’t a battle we were ever going to be able to win. We cared very much for our store and our books, and it was hard to see it constantly being destroyed, no matter what we tried to do to slow it down. Some pictures show how we used humor to cope, and you will also see some of the things we had always wanted to do but had the common sense not to try – until the store was closing, anyway, so what the heck.
A quick note on the timeline. The company filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday, February 16th, and announced 200 store closures, ours included. I worked on Thursday, February 17th, but we had not entered liquidation yet. The liquidator took over on Friday. From what I hear, that first Saturday was the most insane day in our store’s history. My pictures start on Sunday, February 20, the first day of liquidation that I worked. They continue through April 17th, my last day of work and the store’s last day open.
02.20.11 Vacant café
02.20.11 Closed café
02.22.11 This is how our Art section looked when I came to work in the morning. And most other sections.
02.22.11 Remember my beautiful role playing section from Part 1? This is how it looked during liquidation. There's a v-cart, like somebody had been trying to at least pick the books up off the floor but ran out of time. Also note The Last Song is on our Horror endcap. I left it.
02.22.11 A few carts of recovery. Many more where those came from.
02.22.11 I spent the first hour of my shift just picking books up off the floor and sorting them into rough piles on the table.
02.27.11 We found something amazing in the break room - a stash of Borders-branded glowsticks.
02.27.11 Colby tied a bunch of glowsticks to her belt loops. She just had that Borders glow! It was fun to see her twirl. And yes, she did replace her lanyard with a noose.
02.27.11 Oh, yeah, the noose actually worked. She would strike this pose on the book floor several times a day. One of the many reasons we love Colby!
02.28.11 "Was: Priceless (or $16.99) You pay: $1." Funny thing is, these hadn't been selling on the regular calendar $1 clearance racks. But they flew out the door with this queue line display.
03.01.11 Our kids' books flew off the shelves. By March 1, we were able to empty the back corner and close it off.
03.01.11 The rest of the empty kids' corner.
03.01.11 It's hard to say for sure, but I think the Spanish section got trashed worse than any other.
03.01.11 This was lovely to get in the mail. I didn't bother taking pictures of all the other bankruptcy letters they sent.
03.02.11 The distribution center that was closing sent us a shipment of man-sized boxes filled to the brim with overstock. (We got either 6 or 8 of these total, can't remember for sure.) This is a full one. Oh, and it was called a "gaylord." We were under some stress, so we may have made a few immature jokes about that...
03.02.11 This is a half-unpacked gaylord. Just to give you an idea of how many books were stacked inside those things, not sorted in any way.
03.02.11 We thought it was nice for them to send us somewhere to live after we all lost our jobs.
03.02.11 We all took turns getting pictures inside the box. Here's Katlyn and her trusty tape gun! Photo courtesy of Katlyn.
03.02.11 Somaiyya's turn! Photo courtesy of Katlyn.
03.02.11 Rachel is an unemployed book nerd pouting/trying not to laugh. Photo courtesy of Katlyn.
03.02.11 Possibly my favorite of the set - Cindy "will work with books!" Photo courtesy of Katlyn.
03.03.11 We combined IR and YA, which meant more empty shelves.
03.03.11 The other side of IR, empty.
03.04.11 JG risked her life to bring you an extra 5% savings. Be grateful...
03.06.11 It's the Colby discount!
03.07.11 They also sent us overstock DVDs, but only the very best titles.
03.07.11 Holiday overstock table. March is when I start my holiday shopping...
03.07.11 More holiday overstock.
03.08.11 Our restrooms were closed during liquidation, for several very good reasons. When we were able to move/consolidate Reference, we just closed off that whole back corner to customers. Didn't stop them from trying to get back there, naturally.
03.08.11 Access denied.
03.08.11 Just for good measure, we put a calendar rack up in front of the restroom entrance.
03.08.11 Language books went fast - this is all that was left when I moved Reference out of the corner.
03.08.11 One side of Reference, empty. It echoed. Those marks on the floor are where the Science cases used to be.
03.08.11 The other side of Reference, emptied out.
03.09.11 Colby wanted to make sure she still fit into a Borders bag.03.09.11 Cafe surfing was usually frowned upon, but under the circumstances...
03.11.11 I had no chance to alpha during liquidation, and it would have been pointless. But if you walked in mid-day and saw a total disaster, you should know that this is how my sections looked when we opened. (This is Mystery/genre.)
03.11.11 The other half of Mystery. Again, no alpha, but shoppable.
03.11.11 This is what Kids' looked like mid-morning. You could have literally spent all day just putting the books back in an upright position. It took me an hour to get through this mess, and by then I could have gone back to the beginning and started all over again.
03.11.11 We moved Business and Computers to the middle of the book floor, and apparently this was the easiest way to move all the discount signs over. Anyone in our district can probably guess who's under there, but I've been sworn to secrecy.
03.14.11 We created an "answer tee" that we posted in the break room with answers to the most common/annoying questions. The back said: "BE NICE - I'M LOSING MY JOB," and a sleeve read, "no givesies backsies." Cindy wore this on the floor for a while!
03.17.11 I always thought "surf board" was just a nickname, but this made me wonder if it was official. Either way, I guess it was considered proprietary for Seattle's Best, so we weren't allowed to sell it.
03.18.11 Spotted on our Sales Manager's desk. The fixture sale sticker reads: "$1.00. Rare Ethiopian Spanish Tree Fruit."
03.18.11 Somebody hired a hobbit to help out with liquidation, apparently...
03.18.11 I cried a little when I saw my beloved mass market table loaded up after it was sold. I spent countless hours covering that table with beautiful new (and semi-new, and reprinted) releases.
03.18.11 I'll admit to spending a few minutes trying to justify buying myself a v-cart.
03.18.11 This picture would have been epic if I had managed to take it early on, when our garbage was overflowing. But yes, people could and did buy our dirty, disgusting garbage cans. Hope they enjoy.
03.23.11 Taking down the "space art" from Kids' was an adventure. I'm amazed nobody was killed or maimed. MZ got very good at it, by the end!
03.23.11 Z bought us a toaster because she loved us. Then the liquidator sold it to pay off Borders' debts...
03.24.11 This giant roll of bubble wrap appeared in the sort room one day. I had all sorts of ideas for it, but managed to restrain myself.
03.25.11 Is it weird that I miss the cage? With Cher and Neko Case watching over us... Also, please note that by this point all boxes had been called into service, and our keepers were stored in classy garbage bags. Also, no more MUM overstock, just empty shelving.
03.28.11 The back wall upstairs was completely empty at this point, and most of the outer corners were blocked off as all remaining books were moved to the center or downstairs.
03.28.11 Anything left of Kids/IR/YA was moved downstairs, and this area became "fixtureland." Desks, shelving, and more was priced and moved out of the back room.
03.31.11 We were grateful to arrive in the morning and find the new discounts already posted, but it seems somebody got a little mixed up on this one.
03.31.11 MZ and the Goblet of Borders.
03.31.11 Passive aggressive? Maybe. Necessary? Very.
04.01.11 Picking up my penultimate paycheck. Not sure what the look on my face is - trepidation? Photo courtesy of Cindy.
04.06.11 I came to work the morning after my birthday to find that the liquidation fairies had left me a present - 10 days' notice.
04.06.11 IR, YA, Animals, and Lifestyles/Hobbies sections - gone.
04.06.11 That's where Art, Photography, Hobbies, DVDs, and Animals used to be. Now, blank walls.
04.06.11 Romance, Sci Fi, etc - gone. (Side note: That lower-hanging portion of ceiling there always sounded like it was going to collapse on my head, especially during severe weather. I'd hear it creaking and think, "Please don't let this be how I go.")
04.06.11 You never could find a shelf-backer when you needed one. When the shelves/cases started to clear out, though, we had enough to build an edifice where our Mystery section used to be.
04.06.11 "Adam (employee)" evidently purchased the remote to the break room TV for a cool million.
04.06.11 Cage = disappeared. Mountain of keepers in garbage bags = still there.
04.06.11 Metal shelving lining the sort room walls = disappeared. That cart is items damaged beyond all hope, I believe.
04.06.11 Metal shelving lining the other side of the sort room = also disappeared.
04.06.11 In taking apart the sort room, we found the original blueprints from when our store was first opening. That was kind of amazing.
04.06.11 This is when things started to get interesting. We had a Kobo that we could not sell, even at liquidation prices, because it was inoperable. We also could no longer return such things to the manufacturer. The result? We dissected it. This is what a Kobo looks like when you pull out the screen.
04.06.11 MZ taking a knife to the Kobo, prying the cover off so we could get a look at its innards. (That is a cart full of defective Cruz tablets, by the way. Think about that for a minute.)
04.06.11 The inside of a Kobo - what no training video ever shows you. (We have a hands-on approach to learning, what can I say.)
04.06.11 We invented a game called Sort Room Frisbee. It was hard to capture in a single cell phone picture, but here's the idea: You set up two black handcarts on opposite ends of the sort room like goal posts, then stand on one side to throw. Different point values are assigned for getting the frisbee through each section of the hand cart, with extra points for hitting the handle itself. Fine family fun!
04.07.11 The next day, we repeated the experiment with a non-functioning Velocity Micro Cruz tablet/reader. (Really, what other kind is there?)
04.07.11 Taking apart the Cruz was an interesting way to compare it to the Kobo. Very large/heavy battery, touch screen, and the ability to still turn on even when in pieces (though it couldn't do anything other than turn on, even properly assembled).
04.07.11 Our liquidator bought us ice cream, which I was happy to eat.
04.08.11 My shiny, life-affirming register balloon! We found a helium tank and a stash of mylar balloons while cleaning out the break room. My GM made a balloon and wrote on it in shiny Sharpie, "Rachel is a super-star." Then he ran up to my register, looped the balloon around my walkie, and ran away. I kept the balloon on my register all day, just in case any of my customers doubted my shiny super-stardom. (It was little gestures like this one that got us through every day, especially near the end.)
04.13.11 Someone decided the sort room needed some wall art.
04.14.11 It was almost my last day at work, so my jeans decided to protest by flagrantly disregarding corporate dress code. (We weren't allowed to wear ripped clothing at work, despite the fact that most of my clothing got ripped at work.)
04.14.11 Those fixture stickers just showed up in the strangest places, like the dashboard of my car. Not that anybody would want to buy my car, anyway.
04.15.11 Some clever person took the BORDERS BABY sign from Kids', modified it, then posted it on our GM's office door.
04.17.11 On our last day open, the second floor echoed emptily.
04.17.11 More of the empty, empty second floor.
04.17.11 Last but not least, a selection of healthy snacks that got us through the last day (and most of the days before that).