Friday October 31, 2008

Barnes and Noble Customer Disservice

I am very unhappy with Barnes and Noble bookstores today. I wrote them a letter of complaint.

I spend a lot (probably too much!) annually on books, predominately at Barnes & Noble. They're convenient and I have a membership, so I get discounts. I currently have $200 in B&N gift certificates on my desk. I used credit card Rewards points to get them, choosing B&N over many alternatives.

But today, I was so unhappy that I am considering switching my book buying to Borders or Amazon.

I have always had excellent customer service at B&N. It has been obvious that customer satisfaction was important to B&N. If I was unhappy with a purchase, I returned it in salable, unread condition. I have always been satisfied with store credit.

Then I would take my store credit into the store and not only find a book I liked to replace the one I was returning, I would usually buy $20 or $40 or $60 in additional books. Every time I walked in with a book to return, I would walk out with new books purchased today. I'm the kind of customer you almost want to have return a book because it brings me into the store!

Today, however, that didn't happen. Instead, I walked out carrying only the book I had hoped to return and vowing to write this letter.

Today, B&N lost a sale. Today B&N made a customer deeply UNsatisfied.

The web site still says:

Barnes & Noble Bookstores make it easy to return an item when you are not satisfied.

But, today I discovered this is not true. Today I tried to return a book I didn't like (it took me two pages to figure that out). It's unread. The spine is not bent. The pages are not turned. It's in perfect store condition. I read less of the book at home than I might be expected to read in the store.

The problem? I no longer have the receipt. I don't save receipts. I also bought the book more than 14 days ago.

That's never mattered in the past. I've always been given store credit for the lowest (i.e. web) price. That's fine. That's fair. I'm not trying to make a profit. I just want a book I'll enjoy reading.

Today I was told: no receipt or receipt older than 14 days, no return.

Traditionally, most stores will give store credit without a receipt, certainly for an item that can be put back on the shelf and resold for full price! The fact that B&N has decided returns must be only with receipt and only within 14 days tells me that Barnes & Noble no longer cares about customer satisfaction. In a world where online bookstores are becoming ubiquitous, B&N apparently no longer cares about my business.

I don't want to hear "We apologize for any inconvenience". I don't want to hear "We changed our policy in March." I want someone to fix this. I want someone to pass this complaint up the chain to the president of Barnes & Noble.

It's just one book. It's only $8. But it's a policy decision that says "We no longer really care if you're happy with your purchase or not." And it's a policy that will lose sales (from me at least) over the long run.

Salable condition should permit store credit. There's no excuse to tell me to take my unwanted, unread book and leave, unsatisfied and angry. I'll just go somewhere else.

Update: Dec. 12, 2008

I wrote to B&N Customer service as well as writing this weblog entry. I received an email response from Mary A. in B&N Customer service in early November. She asked me for details. I responded. She asked if she could call me.

It took until today for us to connect (I don't take phone calls at Work) but I had a nice chat with Mary. We discussed the reason for the policy change (B&N doesn't want to exchange books for books they didn't sell from their store). I said I understood. Mary apologized and said she'd pass my comments along. She also told me that stores are supposed to be able to override policy on a case-by-case basis (this one didn't and she wondered why).

Mary said she'll be sending a note to the store and she's sending me a $15 B&N card as an apology. I am no longer feeling that I can't shop at B&N. That's good. After all, I have a book habit to support!

Barnes and Noble Customer Disservice ( in category Random Thoughts ) - posted at Fri, 31 Oct, 17:21 Pacific | «e»

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