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Books, Culture

I’m going to miss bookstores

This is the story of how Barnes & Noble lost me as a customer (well, mostly). I have had a membership with them for a while now and I have been purchasing NOOK eBooks since 2012 (I have several hundred eBooks as well as magazines, comics, videos, and apps in my library). I have noticed over the years that the level of customer service has gone down. When I originally signed up for my membership I considered it a counter to getting Amazon Prime. Amazon offered 2 day shipping and Barnes & Noble offered 2-3 day shipping. One extra day isn’t bad so I figured it was a good tradeoff for the lower price.

A couple weeks back I received some coupons in the mail from B&N. One was for $30 off of the new NOOK Glowlight Plus. I had been considering upgrading my NOOK Simple Touch for a while so this seemed like good timing. Well I went into the store and was told that my member discount (which I normally get on the device) could not be combined with the coupon. So rather than $30 off it is actually $17 off of the price I would normally pay. I found this odd since the coupon is only for those who have a membership so for those people the device isn’t $129, but $116 every day. That was disappointing so I decided to think a bit more about the purchase (strike 1). Well I decided Monday night I would go ahead and buy one so I went online to order one (I didn’t feel like returning to the store) on Tuesday morning. Well according to the site, with my expedited 2-3 day shipping it would be to me by Monday. That’s 5 business days (a full week) from the purchase day. When I went online to chat about this with a customer service person they essentially told me I should shop somewhere else. I believe the exchange went something like:

ME: Why would I shop from B&N when it takes so much longer to get stuff?

B&N Associate: We respect your decision.

Really? I hadn’t made a decision yet. I was hoping for a remedy, their goal was obviously different (strike 2). I then called to complain about the service I had received and the person on the phone didn’t seem to understand or care that their customer service people were telling your customers to shop at Amazon. I tried to make the issue clear a number of times but she just wanted me off the phone (you can tell when someone is just trying to get to the next call). Perhaps they have some unreasonable quota of how many calls she has to take an hour, or maybe they don’t train their people to care about customers (strike 3).

And not that I need another reason but I wanted to find out something about an order I placed a year and a half or so ago and there is literally no way to find it unless I have the order number. I can only browse through the last 6 months of order history. I even tried chatting with someone and they couldn’t do it either.

Basically they don’t care about the needs of your customers. I’ll still wander in the store from time to time (though without my 10% after this May) but I won’t make an effort to buy from them like I have in the past. I stuck with B&N because I wanted brick and mortar book stores to survive. In retrospect it seems I want that more than they do. When I do buy eBooks moving forward they will be from Amazon (a new Kindle Voyage that I ordered last night at 11 PM will be at my house tomorrow). I wanted so badly to be a Barnes & Noble customer I put up with a lot of bad service. It just seems like I wanted to be their customer more than they wanted me as a customer, and that’s just not going to work for me anymore.

After typing the bulk of this I got two emails from B&N. It seems that they are completely divesting themselves from both NOOK video (if you want to keep your videos you have to sign up for a different service from some other company and transfer your purchases) and NOOK Apps (you at least don’t have to transfer those purchases to the Google Play store). Then I read online that as of the 15th of this month the only non-US NOOK store left (NOOK UK) will be shutting down. You’ll have to be a US customer to buy NOOK books. It seems like the NOOK brand, if not all of Barnes & Noble is now circling the drain. I’ve never been gladder I didn’t buy a piece of electronics than I am about not getting the new NOOK. It’s a shame too. It seems like a good piece of technology. Now I think I’ll make sure all my content is downloaded to my devices and then turn the WiFi off so that B&N won’t have access to them (and potentially shut something down).

I’m really going to miss bookstores though.

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