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September 16, 2004

The Bookstore Conspiracy Continues!

I got a comment from EvilWhiteGuy today regarding my response to people just postive that bookstores are hiding Unfit For Command from them:

Have you seen the Borders' Employee Union chatboards? Here's an excerpt:

"You guys don't actually HAVE to sell the thing!
Just "carelessly" hide the boxes, "accidentally" drop them off pallets, "forget" to stock the ones you have, and then suggest a nice Al Franken or Micheal Moore book as a substitute. Borders wants those recommends, remember?

I don't care if these Neandertals in fancy suits get mad at me, they aren't regular customers anyway. Other than "Left Behind" books, they don't read. Anything you can do to make them feel unwelcome is only fair. They are the people pushing retailers to cut costs, don't forget. And they would censor your speech, your books, your music in a heartbeat, so give them a taste of it!

Don't get mad, get even!"

Originally I defended this quote from the Union website as an emotional response from one person). I still support that idea. Individual people can come up with some really stupid thoughts. All sorts of right-wing blogs have put up this particular "Borders Union Employee" quote as proof of a conspiracy (make sure you check out all her trackbacks). Well, maybe they should have told the complete story. I went back to the Borders Union website today to pull quotes from other employee posts that completely disagree with the idea of hiding books or "forgetting" to put out the stock onhand. Instead of the website, I got this:

Dear visitors from land of blog:
Thank you for your interest in the Borders Union web site. Please be aware that it is not the policy of Borders Books, or of any of the Unions that represent its employees, to "hide" or refuse to sell a book based on political content. Borders management can be expected to take appropriate disciplinary measures if they catch employees interfering with sales.
Some people who post on our bulletin board do not work at Borders. We do not verify employment. According to IP Address records, the person who posted the "let's hide the book" message was also posting under another name, responding to the messages he posted under his first name. Under his second ID, he claimed to be a conservative who was shocked that Borders employees would not tolerate diversity of opinion. This suggests to us that this was a troll who was trying to manufacture controversy. His account(s) have been deleted. He was a new user. Other, long time users told him his ideas were bad. We are temporarily ending user registration to prevent further incidents of trolling. Accounts created on September 15th have been deactivated.
We have temporarily blocked access to a portion of the site in order to protect our webserver from crashing due to high traffic. Please be patient. The site will return in full when traffic levels ebb….
Since Borders, like many corporations, refuses to pay a Living Wage, Borders local customers have the option of speaking to an underpaid manager if they feel an underpaid floor employee is pursuing an agenda different from the sales agenda of the corporation.
Have a nice day.

Hm. Interesting (I’ll leave the Living Wage discussion for another time). I finally found the Google cache of the page via EvilWhiteGuy and was able to pull an important response:

From “Withrow”:

I really, really disagree with this point of view. Booksellers have an ethical obligation IMO to present different points of view and not get in the way of freedom of speech. What you're suggesting is a form of censorship, only worse, because you're not being up front about it.

So—I’ll give the right-wing conspiracy freaks this—there is a "conspiracy" when it comes to Unfit for Command. A couple of booksellers in bookstores might be hiding the book from you. It’s always possible. However, I maintain that there is no widespread conspiracy throughout the country regarding this book, just poor planning on the part of the publisher, or maybe some clever marketing.

Posted by Ensie at September 16, 2004 09:19 PM


Is it... or have they gotten to you too?

Posted by: Richard at September 16, 2004 11:35 PM

I never said there was a conspiracy. What I said was that it seemed, at least where I live, that the conservative books were pushed to the back of the store, while Bush-bashing books were given prominent status.

I also said that I didn't think it was a corporate policy (corporations exist to make money, why would they suppress a book), but rather the actions of the individuals working in the store (implying independence of each other and not a conspiracy). To quote myself, "Now this might not be Barnes and Noble policy, but it seems every Barnes and Noble I go into provides the same results. Perhaps this is not a corporate policy. Maybe book placement is the responsibility of each store."

It is nice that Borders has put up a notice claiming that they have a troll. However, Dan Rather has taught us over the last week that viable documenation goes a long way.

If indeed they did have a troll posting, then perhaps they should enhance their qualifications for the right to post (which I'm sure they will do after this incident).

Despite the official position of Borders corporate office, I still stand by my personal (and several dozen others') experience with both Borders and Barnes & Noble bookstores in regard to placement of conservative book titles.

Posted by: Evilwhiteguy at September 17, 2004 12:03 AM

I understand. My response is not to you alone. In reading many, many right-wing blogs I see continued ideas of "conspiracy" (involving both individual booksellers and bookstore corporations. I apologize if I liked you to a conspiracy theaory idea--I appreciate your clarification here.

Viable documentation does go a long way. What would you have them post to show proof of either a troll or a bad employee as opposed to a "conspiracy" among actual booksellers?

I didn't really want to set myself up as a defender of big bookstores chains, but it seems like I did. What I really want to stop are the attacks against bookstore employees over soemthing completely beyond their control.

Posted by: ensie at September 17, 2004 07:38 AM

Richard, No worries. I'm untouchable! I just realize that there are a few bad apples out there (or maybe just trolls on the websites). I'm so sick of reading about how I and my fellow booksellers are "Pseudo-Intellectual Dim-Wits". It's really upsetting day after day to be blamed for something we have no power over, and the name-calling is really uncalled for. Grow up people! I've seen more than one co-worker in tears after being completely worked over by some asshole. You can really tell a lot by the way people treat those in the service industry. It's shocking just how rude and downright mean people can be.

Posted by: ensie at September 17, 2004 01:53 PM

Our local Borders has it sandwiched among political books of varying viewpoints. I guess if you pick it up & think "ew!" you can pick up a copy of "Democracy Matters" instead.

Posted by: Eden at September 24, 2004 09:15 PM

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