The Borders “Going Out of Business” sale has got me wondering what it is about those four words that encourage otherwise rational people to start making horrible purchasing decisions.
I was in our local Borders last weekend, just to see what the sale was all about. The e-mail they had sent out stated that there would be deals “up to 40% off.” Now, I’ve seen enough stores go out of business to know not to take this entirely at face value. And I was right. While there was a very select group of items on sale for 40% off, most things were marked down a mere 10%. It was enough to make me want to stand outside the store and shout, “Haven’t you ever heard of Amazon.com?” at people as they went in!
Now, if you have a Borders gift card to use, I understand why you’re there, and the markdowns don’t really matter. If you don’t use the gift card soon, you’re just out the money. That’s perfectly logical. That’s not, however, the majority of shoppers I saw there, because there was a lot of credit cards, and even some cash, being used, and there’s a logical fallacy in people charging hundred of dollars worth of stuff that they could have gotten for far cheaper, and without having to stand in a line that reaches the back of the store to boot.
It seems like a form of mob mentality, the way people shop. Drive by your local Borders, while it’s still there, and you’ll see what I mean. The parking lots are jammed–you’d think it’s Christmas. Borders is doing more business right now than they know what to do with. People are swarming the stores, and grabbing armloads of books and other items, seemingly without considering how much they’re spending, just lured in by the prospect of a good deal. They’re standing in line for what seems like an eternity–I’m not kidding when I say the line stretched from the registers at the front, all the way to the children’s section in the very back. And I’ve heard reports from other stores of even longer lines. It’s mass hysteria at its finest, all over a savings just barely greater than the tax rate.
On the flip side, perhaps other struggling stores can learn from this craze over the “everything on sale” sign. If Borders had attempted a sale like this before they went out of business, it just may have generated enough revenue to save them. Clearly, where sales are involved, consumers lose all common sense, and don’t stop to think about how much they’re spending, and how much better they could do elsewhere!