Working at Barnes & Noble vs. Borders

Does anyone have experience working for one, or even better, both of the behemoth booksellers? How did they compare, or how was the one you worked for? Was it a positive job experience? What was good and bad about it?

I’ve never worked there but as a consumer I have noticed the people at B&N tend to be a lot more knowledgable about books than people at Borders.

I’d check their websites to see if one offers better benefits than the other. Benefits are SO important these days.

As a consumer who has never worked at either store, I enjoy my Borders experience much more than B&N. I just like the layout and general vibe more.

And just their general stock items.

We went into Borders once looking for a lap desk for me so I could write thank you notes in bed. We went to the information desk and asked the teenaged girl working there if they had any. She gave us a VERY puzzled look, and said “Well, we really just have, like, books and stuff.”

They had lap desks near the front with their ‘impulse’ buys.

(Of course, now it’s a running joke with the two of us whenever we go into Borders - I’ll ask ElzaHub what he wants to get, and the response is ALWAYS “You know. Like, books and stuff.”. :smiley: )

However, like Kalhoun said, I like the layout and general vibe better at Borders. We don’t have a Barnes and Noble in our town, but I do go to them when I’m visiting my parents or friends, and I’ve noticed how much easier it is to find what I want in Borders. Also, the one thing that sways me more to Borders is that they have an entire separate category for their Broadway cast recordings - whereas Barnes and Noble throws their Broadway CDs right in with the movie and television soundtracks. If I’m not sure what I’m in the mood for, it’s a pain in the ass to go through the soundtracks for all of the movies and tv shows in order to find the cast recordings that are interspersed. I MUCH prefer the way Borders does it.


I worked at Borders HQ for seven years. I was a writer in their program of online email newsletters. They worked us like dogs, I have no idea if that reflects store conditions, since I was salaried. Benefits at my level were solid, they didn’t bowl you over or anything but they were good.

I do know that over those seven years, management (I mean Director level and above, not my manager) became increasingly humorless and beauracratic. For instance, right after I left they started instituting dress codes in the home office which had never, EVER been part of the experience of working there. Weak.

The dress code is only for the salaried employees. So, managers and Home Office. Everyone else needs to look presentable and not ratty. And even then, it’s only no blue jeans and no shorts.

That was just an example of an overall decline in Quality of Job during the time I worked there, I didn’t mean to imply a specific dress code for store employees. Think about it, Home office employee never see customers, the only outsiders who come in are vendors who are trying to sell us something. Who are we dressing up for?
It’s just a bullshit powertrip.

By the time I left I had permanent injuries resulting from that job (chronic tendonitis in both arms) and hadn’t had a raise in 4 years (not even COLA, post 9/11 austerity measures dontcha know) while my responsibilities tripled. I guess I’m a bit disgruntled. I’m sure its an okay place to work as far as retail jobs go.

Yeah, sorry, I should have clarified; I’m talking retail. Thanks though. :slight_smile:

I worked for Borders about seven years ago. Loved it and, according to friends at Barnes&Noble, we had better benefits. We could wear casual clothes and at B&N they had to dress up and we got more in book credits, etc. Plus we had much greater overall depth of stock than B&N did and when I got hired, they actually had you take a little test to gauge your depth of knowledge (quick, who wrote Middlemarch?). At the Borders in Austin, at least, the clerks have a lot more book knowledge than B&N.

Things I loved about it? Knowing the book stock in depth and helping customers track down stuff. I actually really liked stocking the floor and keeping up my section. (I had math&science plus genre books) Most of the employess were pretty well educated (university town) and interesting to talk to. Things I didn’t like: the occasional jerk customer, stress of lines at Christmas, the mangaer who could sometimes be a jerk. (stuff you get with all retail jobs). Oh, and there was my fight with corporate to get the fashion magazines section relabled as something other than “Women’s interests”. :rolleyes: That still bugs the hell out of me.

But, according to friends who still work there, things have changed some. Borders (as are all other bircks and mortor stores) are feeling the pinch of online retailing. So they gotten tighter and more corporate about things and they no longer test your book knowledge. If I were tyring to pick, I’d still pick Borders over B&N anyday for the more casual working conditions and greater stock selection. (more to spend your dicount on!)

Hehe. Ah, coding battles. Who hasn’t been there?

Just try getting Jennifer Crusie out of “Fiction” and into “Romance.” Such a thing simply cannot be done!

Maybe we need a support group for veterans of failed coding skirmishes. :smiley:

::rubs eyes, looks at brand new Marc Chagall calendar purchased at B&N::

It’s January 6th, Lama Pacos! Are you crazy? Couldn’t you get back to me sometime in February when the returns have dwindled and the sale tables taken down? I still have Feliz Navidad roaring through my battered head like the Polar Express.

Sorry, you asked a perfectly civilized question. I don’t know much about Borders, but my advice would be the same for either store, go there, hang out in the cafe, ask for help finding a book, see if you like the vibe of the place. Do the staff members laugh and seem friendly? Is it too quiet and uncomfortable? Are booksellers dismissive with customers, or do they really try to help? The great part of working at a bookstore is being among people talking about books. I wouldn’t want to work in a store where that wasn’t going on just about all the time. Listen for it. You should be able to get an idea about what it would be like to work there by spending an hour or two at each place during a busy time, say 7-8pm on a week night, or any weekend day.

B&N benefits are actually pretty good, though the pay isn’t, and as with any retail job, the dynamic of the store can change in an very short time. A new manager or the loss of an employee or two make you feel like you’re working in a completely different place.

Here’s a thread JoeSki started that might be helpful. My advice, post 14, is still pretty much the way I feel about working for B&N – Christmas and all.

Good luck.

I worked at a Border’s part-time about 4 years ago. For the most part, I really enjoyed the job. It was a pretty casual atmosphere, but it had the some of the same hang-ups other retail jobs do–the occasional jerk manager, etc. The pay wasn’t that great, but the discount was pretty sweet. Plus if I recall correctly there were a couple of times a year when we got 50% off everything in the store. Everyone got books or cd’s that year for Christmas. I don’t know if they still do that. Like tremorviolet I liked stocking my section (humor and games) and I also enjoyed tracking down books for customers. Back then they were pretty big on that.

The only time I really hated the job was when I got roped into wearing an Elmo costume for an event in the kid’s section. The frickin’ head was so very much bigger than me that I couldn’t see a thing and I had kids crawling all over me. By the time I finally got out of the costume I was pretty dang cranky.

I shop at B&N now, but mostly because the closest Borders is about 25 miles away and B&N is literally right next door to my apartment complex. Otherwise I’d go with Borders.

Koeeoaddi gave some great advice. Just visit both and get the general vibe. Talk to the people who work there and just get a feel for the environment.

Good luck.

I must live in a Borders/B&N anomaly…Can’t stand shopping for stuff at Borders - inattentive staff, chaotic displays, just a general mess, most of the staff has no/hardly any knowlesge with regards to not only the section they work in but books/music in general. Whereas at B&N I always can easily find what I need, the staff is courteous, helpfull and knowledgable.

My preference is Barnes & Nobles (though that’s from a shoppers experience, don’t really know benefit/working conditionwise)

Speaking of big bookstore businesses beginning with a “B,” how 'bout Brentano’s?

My guess about employee knowledge of product is that it is the luck of the draw. It’s not the name of the franchise, it’s whoever happens to be working there. At the stores I’ve worked in, some employees know a lot about books because they love books, some know a lot from working at the bookstore and paying attention, and others… are friendly and try real hard. Which is all they need to satisfy the majority of customers.

You get hired by being friendly, available to work at any time and having retail experience. In-depth knowledge of books is not high on the list of desirable new hire attributes. And as an ASM once told me, smart people who read a lot tend to want more money and get bored with the job quickly. He may have been kidding but you know.

I interviewed with Borders once, but didn’t take the job, which literally started at minimum wage, $4 and something at the time. One thing the Borders interviewer told me was that Borders was much more likely than B&N to promote from within when it came to management. B&N was apparently more likely to hire from outside someone with retail management experience. FWIW.

As a customer I much prefer B&N around here. Borders seems like a place where they retail books, not a bookstore , if you get the subtle distinction :wink: .

Brentano’s is (or was anyway) part of the Borders company. Waldenbooks is also owned by them. As I haven’t seen either in a while, Borders may have closed them down in favor of putting a larger Borders in the area where the smaller stores were. Though B. Dalton is part of the Barnes and Noble chain, and I still see those stores, so maybe that’s just the case where I live.

When I worked at Waldenbooks, I would sometimes get sent to a Brentano’s to work to pick up extra hours. I found that Brentano’s seemed to cultivate a slightly more upscale vibe (at least atmosphere-wise). Just IMHO, YMMV.

waldens and brentanos that are in a mall are now border express; they are borders mall store. borders are the stand alone store

b dalton is the b&n mall store, b&n the stand alone stores.

I’ve never heard of Brentano’s, but it sounds like the kind of place that makes a mean cappellini d’angelo.

Apply to both. In the world of retail, bookstore jobs are highly coveted. It varies by area, but unless you have ten years of exprience in bookselling, it won’t be a shoo -in type thing even for someone with an education and a good retail work record. All of my friends at some point or another have applied to work at bookstores, but none ever got the job.