Less or More?

Borders on Broadway and Division Street in Saratoga Springs, NY

Borders Books in Saratoga Springs, New York is closing. Centrally poised in a large corner storefront on Broadway, this store has been a part of the community for years now. While I am a supporter of small businesses and believe in patronizing the  locally owned and operated shops, the closing of this corporate store still upsets me. Could it be that my feelings are in part due the fact that Borders is a book store, and that it’s closing is a sign that the book is going the way of the dodo? Working as a book editor for the better part of the last decade I can honestly say, maybe. But truth be told, I don’t think it is. (Nor do I personally think that the book will ever be totally extinct–not in the foreseeable future anyway.)

What bothers me about this store closing is that I don’t think it had to happen, at least not yet. I was in the store last week and in speaking with some of the employees, they estimate that they will be open for a few months still, while selling the inventory. The “Store Closing” sign went up a few days ago and the store has been busy since with patrons taking advantage of the first of the sales. Right now most items are discounted 20 percent.

Shopping basket filled to the brim at Borders Saratoga closing sale.

Now, I like a sale as much as the next person, and a sale on books is a serious temptation to me. What bothers me about the big draw this closing sale at Borders is receiving is that I see customers walking out with multiple shopping bags bulging with books and I think to myself  “What? You didn’t want to read any of those books last week, last month?” Why, suddenly, do customers have a hundred dollars or more to drop on books? Not to mention the fact that 20 percent is not a huge discount; it’s not like they were practically giving the books away or anything. Twenty percent is an average discount and there are always books on sale at that rate. I wonder what  if these sale customers had shopped more regularly at Borders over the last year–more visits, fewer purchases–then maybe it wouldn’t have to close.Instead, people wait, and scavenge, leaving tables close to bare only a couple of days  into the sale. (And by the way, what is it about a sale that makes it acceptable to leave complete disarray in one’s wake? Just curious.)

It’s likely that this happens with most store closings, but that doesn’t make me feel any better. Is it that we don’t appreciate something until we’ve lost it? Or is it that we just don’t want anything unless we can buy it in large quantities? The danger of saving up all your shopping for sales is that the excitement of the good deal can often lead to the purchase of unwanted or unneeded items. Maybe something that we should strive for in our spending habits in general is spending more often, but more modestly. I know, this is the United States, land of excess. But when the excess is misguided and the end result is a loss of a place like Borders, which has served as book store, gift store, meeting place, reading room, and venue for community and literary events, I think that less is probably worth more.

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