Sunday, January 11, 2009

Barnes & Noble loses to Amazon, every time

So. There's this book that just came out and it may or may not feature some pictures that I took (the author saw them here - just scroll down to see the photo albums). The author asked permission to use them, but I suppose that doesn't necessarily mean she actually did. In any case, the book is finally out now and I wanted to see a copy to look for the pictures.

I don't know why I even tried to give Barnes & Noble a chance. I guess it was because I wasn't sure I wanted to buy the book, so by calling the physical store and ordering it in to arrive there, I could look at it and then still decide not to buy it.

I did call it in, a few weeks ago, and although they were supposed to call me when it arrived, they never did. I finally called them this morning and they said it was there, just waiting for me. Strike one.

So I packed up Miriam (Magdalena was sleeping at home while Jeremy worked in the den) and drove to the Barnes & Noble way the heck across town in this stupid city without a useful freeway and it took forever. The whole way there, Miriam kept asking me to interpret the lyrics of the song we were listening to, on repeat, by her request. I tried to explain to her that it was just a song, and it was by Guster, and sometimes I don't understand what, exactly, they're singing about, but the message just wasn't getting through to her.

Anyway, we made it to Barnes & Noble and went straight to the cash register to pick up the book. We waited in line for a few minutes and when it was my turn, they handed me the book. I took it and walked away so I could find somewhere to peruse it at my leisure, perhaps while Miriam played with the trains in the children's section.

As soon as I left the desk, however, I realized that they'd given me the wrong book. The author was correct, but the book was a totally different one. Strike two.

So I got back in line (strike three), and when it was my turn (again), I explained to the cashier what the problem was. She told me to go to customer service. When I asked where that was, she said, with a hint of snark in her voice, "It's right over there, under the big lighted sign that says, 'Customer Service.'" Strike four, for pure insouciance. Meanwhile, Miriam was wondering about those trains I promised she could play with.

The customer service lady perkily walked me through my options, which comprised:

1. Re-ordering the book into the store.
2. Purchasing the book and having it shipped to my home, except they wouldn't charge me shipping to make up for their incompetence.
3. Calling the other store to see if they had it in stock.

I opted for #3, and after a long time on hold, they said they didn't have it. This, despite the fact that the computer said they did. Whatever. Strike five.

I ended up just re-ordering the book into the store, and I'll tell you why. Even with Barnes & Noble not charging me shipping, it was still going to cost almost 50% more than it would on Amazon.com. Strike six.

Which brings me to the title of this post. Why do we even bother with brick and mortar bookstores anymore, when online service, selection, price, and efficiency are superior in every way? The only exception I can think of is if we're doing our best to patronize local, independent bookstores, in which case I will leave your worthy motives alone. Barnes & Noble or Borders, on the other hand, may die a little inside each time customers turn to Amazon.com to fill their book-purchasing needs, but I die a little inside each time I am subjected to crappy service without sufficient reparation being offered to me.

If Miriam hadn't been so darn focused on those trains, I would have mentioned to the customer service lady the magic words - Amazon.com - and I would like to believe that she would have tried a little harder to make up for Barnes & Noble's mistake. Maybe I'm just hard to please, but free shipping just wasn't going to do it for me, especially since I was avoiding paying shipping in the first place by having the book ordered into the store.

My negative experience was compounded by the fact that Miriam didn't get to play with the trains anyway since there were already a few non-sharey kids there with parents who didn't seem to care.

The moral of the story, which I will repeat for Google's benefit, is: Barnes & Noble customer service was not helpful, and I wish I would have bought the book on Amazon.com.

9 comments:

Jeremy Palmer said...

I just sent a link to this post to Barnes & Noble. Let's see how noble they are!

Katie said...

I feel your pain. Why is it so hard to get any kind of customer service these days? I posted on a similar topic today. Reading your blog has gotten me all riled up again. I wish there there was more we could do to change things.

ck said...

Hey Bridget, i am curious to know what Guster song Miriam was trying to get you to interpret.

Bridget said...

"Woke up todaaaaaaaaay, to everything graaaaaaaaaay. And all that I saaaaaaaw, just kept going oooooooon and oooooooon."

I love that song, but I found it difficult to explain to Miriam.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Bookstores have always been magical places to me. I could spend hours perusing shelves and flipping through or even reading random books. But now I do that only in Powell's (aren't we lucky to have the biggest bookstore west of the Mississippi just a few miles away). Formula bookstores aren't near as interesting as independents.

Jeanerbee said...

Bridge, call me I want to get together! I can't email for whatever reason from my dad's computer - grr... but I called your cell so hopefully you can get my number from the voicemail =).

Britney said...

When you finally get your hands on that book, be sure to let us know if and which of your photos were featured.

PS- I'm also anticipating a post on HBO's John Adams. :)

JackJen said...

P.S. I haven't SEEN Waltz with Bashir, but with your background and interests, I was curious to get your opinion.

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