Borders Declared Bankruptcy, Now What?

Last week, I posted about the troubles that Borders bookstores were facing.  There were a lot of bad decisions and bad luck that led to their troubles, and the timing of my article was uncanny as they declared bankruptcy just a little more than a week later.

They filed Chapter 11 and as part of their reorganization, announced that they’ll be closing around 200 stores.

Quite honestly, Borders has made such a little impact in my life over the past few days that, when my wife pointed out that the store near us would be staying open, my response was ‘What store?’  There’s a Borders store about a mile and a half from our house, it’s next to the Pet Smart that I visit all the time, yet I completely drew a blank that the store existed.

A reader passed along some information that I thought I’d share with you.  She’s friends with a lawyer who has been following the Borders situation for quite some time.  The lawyer wrote:

This is a chapter 11 and theoretically Borders will emerge as a company.  For the time being they are honoring gift cards.  The statement in the story about being unable to do a “pre-packaged” bankruptcy is significant.  I think it’s quite likely that Borders will either be taken over by another company, or go into a chapter 7 liquidation and disappear.  In the latter case, it’s unlikely that gift cards would still be honored from the date it switches to a chapter 7 (although that would probably be months away).  If it were taken over by another company, gift cards might be honored for a period of time.  I would use any remaining gift cards immediately.

It’s all just speculation but it’s probably a safe bet either way to spend any outstanding gift cards you have as bankruptcy is always a hazy situation and there’s always some that lose out.  To make sure that’s not you, I’d plan on getting some shopping done soon to make sure that you don’t eventually lose out.  Especially if your nearest store is one that’s on the chopping block.

What do you think?  Is the Borders name destined to go away for good?

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Free Bike Repair Bliss

I haven’t been riding my bike too much this summer and that has bummed me out.  We didn’t even take them down last year, because Little Boy Beagle was just a newborn, and things were crazy enough without having to worry about the bikes.

This year, we took them down, but mine was cursed with a problem with it changing gears by itself, which is extremely annoying to say the least.  I kept putting off and putting off taking it to a bike place, mostly because I dreaded paying the bill.

We’re going on a trip for our anniversary next month where we’ve gone in the past and bikes are a must-have for us.  I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer, so last week I toted the bike off to the repair shop.  I had e-mailed them and described my problem, and they had given me a ‘ballpark’ quote of around $80.  So, knowing that things usually cost more, I was figuring on dropping at least a hundred smackers for this repair.

I wheeled it in and explained the problem.  The guy working the repair area placed it on a bike stand, took a look at things, said the chain, wheels, brakes, and frame all looked good.  When I told him what was going on with the gears, he looked at it from behind, said ‘Oh, yeah, this things right here (the derailleur) is a little bit out of alignment and that’ll do that.’  He pulled out a tool, make a quick adjustment, and said ‘that should do the trick’.

I asked how much it would cost, figuring he’d at least charge me $20 or whatever.  He waved it off.  I joked with him that I was going to go ride around the parking lot and how confident was he that I wouldn’t be coming back in?  He was pretty confident.

Well, I rode it around the parking lot and a couple of surrounding streets, putting it through the test of changing gears, and he was right, I didn’t go back in.

I was happy as can be about the money I saved.  For the record, I did walk out spending $15 for a new kickstand, which also needed replacing.

While I had been waiting, the customer before me had an issue with a tire, and the same repair guy made quick work, and again, let the customer leave with ‘no charge’. I wondered how they could do that but it occurred to me that it’s a great practice.  Why?

  • It didn’t take long – Both repairs he did while I was in the shop took less than five minutes.  Even a handful of these per day is not taking a huge amount of time out of his work.
  • There wasn’t a lot of other work – Because most repair work happens earlier in the season, there wasn’t a long queue of bikes in the back that did need a lot of repairs that I was taking his time away from.  And, most importantly….
  • They created a future (paying)  customer– After getting a simple repair job done for free, customers will most likely go back even for repairs that they have to pay for.  Plus, when it’s time to replace a bike, I’m sure they’ll get some sales from the goodwill that they created.  All in all, the little bit of time pays for itself from money that they can potentially make down the road.

So, I was very happy from my experience.  I saved money and found a place that appears trustworthy that is now at the top of my list for future repairs and sales.

The only bummer in the story is that I didn’t think to do this sooner, and missed out on a good portion of being able to ride my bike during the summer months

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Five Steps For Entrepreneurial Success

I’ve never had the guts to go for it on my own in terms of running a business.  I have enjoyed working, at different points in my working life, for a couple of different solo business owners, so I found the list of five steps for success, as presented in Business Insider by self-made billionaire Richard Branson, very interesting:

1. Hire passionate, excellent people.
2. Never forget that your employees make your business.
3. Don’t concentrate on mistakes — focus on praising great things, instead.
4. Have fun.
5. Don’t be afraid to just go for it.

Here’s my take on each:
  1. I’ve seen this work.  I worked at an IT company where my boss hired people that enjoyed what they were doing and were willing to go above and beyond.  In addition, he looked for people with a willingness to learn and who didn’t have fear about getting involved in new things.  This paid off and allowed the company to adapt and thrive, especially around the Y2K craze.
  2. With the same company, this led to great success and also almost shut the place down.  For the first few years I worked there, the owner treated us all very well and made sure we were treated like family.  After Y2K passed and things slowed down, a lot of changes and cuts were made.  This ended up driving away many of the top performers (myself included).  Eventually, the owner realized the error of his ways in moving away from the ’employees first’ mantra, and even apologized for losing sight.  He’s since stabilized the business now that he’s back on track.
  3. Everybody makes mistakes.  It happens.  I worked for years for a family member who had a retail shop.  He would often take chances on new product lines, ordering before they hit the market.  Some took off.  Others flopped.  With the flops, he was always willing to cut his losses and move on to the next thing.
  4. The atmosphere of both entrepreneurial companies that I worked for were both fun and energetic.  Both encouraged people to get to know each other, to work together, and to have fun along with doing the job.
  5. I admire both of the owners that I’ve had the opportunity to work for.  As I said, I haven’t been able to take this step and now that I’ve got a family to support, it may never happen.  I’m OK with that, but for those who have the itch, I firmly believe that just ‘going for it’ is the right thing to do!
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Is 7-11 Full Of (Cold) Air?

It’s summertime and that means that it’s time to enjoy frozen treats of all kinds.
One of my favorite summertime treats has always been the Slurpee, which is an icon and one of the things that instantly comes to mind whenever anybody mentions the 7-11 convenience stores.
However, experiences over the recent years have made me question whether 7-11 is full of cold air.
Let me explain.
If you’re unfamiliar with how the Slurpee works, you take a cup, put the domed lid on and fill it through the hole in the top. This ensures that you get a full cup.
What I noticed, a few times that I recently went, was that although I filled the cup to the top of the dome, that it was significantly lower by the time I paid and got out to my car.
Yes, of course I take a few sips while in the store, but was I really sucking enough down to where it was below the level of the plastic dome? It didn’t seem possible.
So, I tried a little experiment and didn’t take any sips to watch what happened to the level. Got my Slurpee, stood in line, paid, and went out to the car.
Took a look, and…..almost to the bottom of the dome!
What gives?
Well, after thinking things through, I determined that the Slurpee machines were most likely adding a bit of extra ingredients to our frozen treats:
Air.
If they add a bit of extra air, it fills the cup with less product, which can probably add up to quite a bit of less product used when you consider the millions of Slurpees purchased every year.
Still, air is free so why I am paying for it?
After I figured out their trick, I would actually fill my cup, do a quick lap around the store, and then add a bit more to fil up the cup after the air settled out. Only then would I add my straw and start drinking (so that I didn’t add any of my germs to the machine).
This is one alternative, but I found another that I like even better:
Get a ‘Speedy’.
If you’re lucky enough to have Speedway gas stations near you, you’ll find that they most likely have a frozen drink machine. They can’t call them Slurpees, but they do the same thing.
There’s a few reason I like them better:
First, they don’t add air. When we first discovered that they had the frozen drink machine and tried one out, my wife and I filled them up and did out quick lap around the store. When we went to fill up the cups, we discovered that we didn’t have to! There was barely any settling. This told me that Speedway is giving you what you pay for!
Second, they’re cheaper! The frugal shopper in me noticed right away that their prices are generally 10 to 25 cents less. Granted, this difference won’t make me rich, but the way I see it, I’m getting a better product and for less money. I think shoppers should give their business to the stores that provide this distinction whether it be for expensive items like TVs or cheap items like frozen treats.
Bonus: Speedway is running a summer special for the second straight year (that I’ve noticed anyway), at least in the Michigan area. All fountain drinks and frozen drinks are 89 cents, regardless of the size! So, the price difference is even greater during these summer months when a frozen treat is especially rewarding.
Oh, and in case you didn’t figure out from my opening sentence in this section, my wife and I have dubbed the frozen drinks from Speedway as the ‘Speedy’. Though maybe not as catchy and iconic as the Slurpee, I venture to say that you won’t be disappointed should you have the opportunity to try one.
Happy frozen drink hunting!

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