March 12, 2006

Conflicting Signals

A few weeks back, I posted about a recent trip to the Concord Pike Borders here in Wilmington:

[A friend of mine had gone to buy a Koran] and when we met back up he told me how at first he and a store clerk couldn't find the Koran. After a minute, the clerk remembered that, "That's right, the Koran's not supposed to be on the floor." And sure enough, the Korans had been moved from where section directory listed them near general Islamic Studies on a bottom shelf to a top shelf that -- perhaps appropriately -- cut the Judiaism section in two.

I had wondered at the time why the Korans got such special treatment when there were some Christian Bibles on the bottom shelf and the Jewish Bibles were right where they were supposed to be. On February 19, I wrote Borders Customer Care inquiring if this was a storewide policy, and on the morning of February 23 received the following response (sorry for the delayed update, by the way -- traveling for work combined with general laziness once I was home got in the way posting):

Thank you for contacting Borders Customer Care with your concerns about the categorization of this title.

I wanted to reply to you once again in reference to your question concerning the shelving of the Koran. [Ed. note: I don't know what this person meant by "once again" -- I've never contacted Borders Customer Care about anything else in my life.] We did check with the GM of the store and the policy for our stores are that we don't shelve anything above the Koran as a show of respect. This is a store wide policy through Borders. If you have any further questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact Linda at the store or ourselves.

I hope that this information is helpful. Thank you for taking an interest in our stores and sending us your feedback.

It wasn't even a general, "We try to keep all religious holy books (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc.) as close to the top shelf out of respect," but an admission of special treatment for the Koran. Dhimmitude comes to book superstores. It was kind of what I figured anyway, but I appreciated their honesty.

Which was why I was surprised when I got a second response from another Borders customer relations representative that afternoon:

[. . .] The location of the Korans at the Wilmington, DE store is not a Borders chain-wide policy. After contacting the store and speaking with Linda the Sales Manager, I learned that the Korans were temporarily moved as the staff was in the process of solving shelf space issues in that area of the store. The Sales Manager assured me that there was every intention to put the Korans back in their proper place and apologized for not having the project completed before customers needed to reference the Islamic Studies section. I was assured that the Korans would be moved back to their proper location immediately.

Again, thank you for taking the time to bring this matter to our attention. If there is anything else we can do for you, please let us know.

These contradictory responses are strange given that both messages stated they had contacted the Concord Pike store (indeed, both mention the same person, "Linda"). Also strange is that the messages don't reference one another. The second message, for instance, doesn't present itself as a correction of the first. Both were meant to be the final answer to my question, and neither appears aware that someone else was answering me.

So, just a case of one department not knowing what the other is doing or some poorly-managed CYA by Borders given the irritation Americans are beginning to feel about having to walk on eggshells whenever Muslim sensitivities are involved? I'm inclined to believe the former, but only because I think Borders (kind of like the MSM during the cartoon intifada, I guess) would be proud about being so culturally sensitive. Still, I've sent a follow-up to Borders with these emails attached asking for a more definitive statement and an explaination for the confused responses. I'll try to be more timely posting any response I receive.

Posted by JakeM at March 12, 2006 02:51 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

The emails make more sense in reverse chronological order, especially if you remove the word "back" (possibly as a miscommunication) from the second one. At that point, they no longer conflict, and the "once again" makes more sense.

Are the Korans still on the top shelf?

Posted by: The Unabrewer at March 12, 2006 11:54 PM

But why would you pay for a Koran when you can get a really nice one for free from the Saudis?

Posted by: Jeff the Baptist at March 13, 2006 01:36 PM

'Brewer: I swung by to check last night -- the Korans are still on the top shelf. At this point, it seems that the first message was probably the more honest declaration of Borders's policy.

Posted by: Jake at March 13, 2006 05:33 PM

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