Borders Rewards Plus: an echo of old times

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Borders is the only physical book store I go to. When I just moved to the US I did believe in mantra “physical books are expensive”. A trip to “the” book store under the banner of Barnes and Nobles pretty much confirmed that — easy reading in Science Fiction was selling for “recommended price”. And members of special paid program were getting a whopping 10% off (that was a sarcasm) which, after quite cheap books in Russian stores was quite shocking.

And then I discovered and pretty much gave up on physical book shopping — it’s a long process, to dig up something in store, it’s more difficult to find something new, you have no idea if this or that book is interesting and you pay through the nose. The only plus is you can buy a coffee. In a book store. Or flip through pages.

But then I had another revelation — not all bookstores are as snobbish price-wise as B&N. Borders has great Rewards program that pretty much always sends 30+% off coupons, so price difference between Amazon and Borders comes down to a somewhat more manageable buck or two (and a sales tax). Plus once in a while I get those Border bucks.

But marketing departments wouldn’t exist if they didn’t make extra effort to kill off good things and “improve” what is already good into something mediocre or worse. Now Borders is doing this giant push to sell everyone into “Borders Rewards Plus” — kinda like a regular rewards program, but, pretty much like B&N they want to charge for it. It’s not that expensive, just $20 a year, but it’s pretty much worthless.

For now, Plus offers 40% Off Hardcover Bestsellers, and 10-20% off other stuff, except if you use the emailed coupons you already get 30% off for free. So, I guess the response rate has been not quite stellar.

This week I saw a poll asking if you would join this rewards program if it were to offer a full price-match, including online pricing. While that is an interesting idea, I don’t think it will make much difference.

For people who don’t want to pay extra-inflated list price, there will always be “regular” free coupons. For those who do want an price, there’s always Because local store has to charge sales tax. And I never thought books deserved any urgency. Unlike food, you can wait a day to get a book.

And that $20? Why, I’ll just buy an extra book this year.

2 Responses to “Borders Rewards Plus: an echo of old times”

  1. Erin

    Actually, though, that 10% off is on TOP of the coupons, though. It does add up if you spend enough in a year. So it’s not as worthless as you’re making it out to be, at least.

    • Max Smolev

      Yes, you’re right, I’ve re-read their fineprint and it does say that 10% is on top of anything else (“special orders, shipping, gift cards, coupon books, newspapers, magazines, comics, audiobook downloads, music downloads, vinyl LPs, software, textbook rentals, used merchandise, video games, all electronics, including eReaders, certain eBooks (see the Details section on the applicable eBook product page on to determine if excluded), and certain other items. 10% off the purchase price online also excludes posters, arts and crafts, and scrapbooking items. 10% discounts are taken after all other discounts are applied, including Borders Bucks. See terms and conditions for complete details.”). So for $20 a year they’ll essentially pay the sales tax for you, and give a tiny bit extra.

      I suppose the biggest question is, if someone buys so many books, is there really a need to buy it in store. I always thought that in-store purchases are either very special occasions, or the opposite, an impulse purchase hence neither of which would happen very frequently. The program makes sense for those who’d buy books there anyways, but I am not sure it would be useful for enticing someone to switch away from Amazon.

      Of course the final question is, when they introduce Amazon price matching, would extra 10% off still apply. Different stores have different policies, though mostly if you get a price match most policies state you get the difference refunded (or that and 10% of that difference as “compensation”). If Borders’ price is less than Amazon and 10% is taken off of top, the Plus program will be quite attractive.


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