Warning – Barnes & Noble Lies

Some month back I bought myself a Kindle from Amazon.  Two things happened almost instantaneously:

  1. I became a complete “convert” (I always maintained that I preferred real paper books but now I really do prefer electronic books)
  2. I discovered that one e-book reader is really not enough (it’s annoying when someone else read the same book you’re reading – but it’s even more annoying when someone take your entire book collection)

Because of this I did briefly consider buying a second Kindle.  However, the Nook Color was released a short while after I bought my first Kindle, and while I am quite convinced the e-ink display is better on the eye, the fact that you can “root” the Nook and get at least some tablet functionality, did appeal to me.  I therefore decided to get a Nook Color too.

I entered an order on Jan. 11.  By the time I entered the order they promised 2-3 days shipping and quite right, by the time I had finalized the order, Barnes and Noble’s site stated that it would be shipping on Jan. 14.  Great!

Friday 14. passed and my Nook still hadn’t shipped from Barnes and Noble.  Monday 17. they finally updated their order status and it now said it would ship on Fri. 21 instead.  Not so great.

Seriously, these days, running a massive logistic such as the one Barnes and Noble must be running, it shouldn’t be that bloody hard to predict correctly.  They know exactly what they got in stock, they know exactly how many outstanding orders they’ve got, they know exactly what shipments they are expecting, they know exactly how quick they can shovel the parcels out of their warehouse – it can NOT be that hard to predict when they are going to ship.  Anyway – one week delay wasn’t too bad, so I just waited it out.

On Thursday 20. the order status suddenly changed.  They still listed 21 as the shipping date, but there was a note that they were experiencing delays and unless I click a button saying I still wanted the Nook, they would automatically cancel my order.  Quite frankly I had already noticed their delay and since the expected shipping date was still listed as 21 (which was exactly 1 week late compared to their original promise) I did click the button saying I still wanted my Nook.

On Friday 21. I rechecked the order status and now it looked like this:

Excuse me – February 20 – WTF!  IF they actually manage to do that and this is not just another idle lie, that means they are expecting 6 weeks instead of the 3-4 days they originally promised.

I am completely and utterly flabbergasted by this approach!  I can understand delays.  Perhaps they received a batch that didn’t live up to their expectations, perhaps a truck crashed, perhaps a ship sunk.  Those are all understandable.  What I do NOT understand is why Barnes & Noble make promises they have no intention of keeping.  When their web-site state 2-3 days I as a customer expect that they have enough devices in stock and the moment I enter my order, their computer flag one of those as mine and it’s merely a matter of getting it pushed out of the door.  But I am obviously wrong – very very wrong.  When Barnes & Noble say 2-3 days it obviously only means they will try to do that but if they can’t they’ll just keep changing the promise.

If this was a one-off I guess that would be understandable too.  However, if I were dumb enough to make a new order, this is what Barnes & Noble now promise:

Ships in 2 weeks.  Sorry guys – how the hell can you promise potential new customers that you will ship in 2 weeks, while at the same time you got existing customers waiting 6 weeks?  That is mind boggling stupid and quite offensive.

On their support page, they got a neat link listing the “Top 10 Reasons to do Business with Barnes & Noble”.  Number 6 is:

This must be an example of the fact you can get surveys to state whatever you want them to state.  Let us dig into that a bit!  The footnote reads:

Number one rating in customer satisfaction in the entire e-commerce category of 200 companies, according to the 2007 American Customer Satisfaction Index of the University of Michigan.

I found that here and it looks like this:

Excuse me?  How can they claim to be number one?  I would say that they consistently rate worse than for example Amazon – NOT anywhere near number one.

I don’t know what it is they take pride in – lying?  Number 9 is:

Yes guys – the world’s most advanced eReader would be a reason to do business with you.  That is – it would be a reason if it was available.  But clearly it is not.

I’ve had my Kindle for 3-4 month now and I love it.  When I ordered it (or anything else for that matter) from Amazon, they have always – without exception – shipped exactly when they promised to ship.  I had a suspicion that I would like the Nook Color even more than I like my Kindle, but unfortunately Barnes & Noble went out of their way to piss me off the moment they received my credit card details.

Let me give Barnes & Noble a bit of free advice:

  1. If you don’t know when you can deliver, then write that on your shopping site. Then I can make a qualified decision if I can be bothered doing business with you or take my business elsewhere. Lying only serves to piss your customers off.
  2. If you have no intention of supporting your customers, then don’t put an e-mail address on your web-site. Writing a reply with a link to the web-site is patronising and idiotic. Hint: I already know the bloody URL – that is where I found the e-mail address in the first place.
  3. If you don’t hire enough staff to pick up the phone, don’t bother putting a phone number on your web-site. Letting your customers wait for 45 minutes (or even worse – hang up on them according ot quite a lot of posts on the facebook page) again only serves to piss off people.
  4. If you don’t have the competence to sell things on-line, make a deal with someone who do know how to do this – amazon.com springs to mind.

I wrote an email to their support and posted a link to this blog on their official facebook page and I will update this post with any reply – that is if they ever reply.

Update Jan. 23. 2011

Just received the following email from Nook Support:

Dear Valued Customer,

We received your recent email and apologize that we have not responded.
We are experiencing unusually high email volume, and want to assure you
that your concerns are always very important to us.

We invite you to have a look at our Help Desk by clicking on this link:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/help/help.asp

We?ve worked hard to include answers to many of our customer?s questions
right here, so the solution you are looking for may be right there.

If you have a question about the status of your order, please check the
information we provide on your online account.  If you placed an order
without an online account, just click on the drop down menu under My
Account in the upper right corner of our website.  Complete the
information on the left side of the screen and click on View Order.  As
always, you can rely on the information sent to you in your shipping
confirmation email, which also includes a link to track delivery.

If you still need our help, we are available by phone from 8:00 AM to
11:00 PM Monday-Friday and 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays,
EST.   Call us at 1-800-THE-BOOK (843-2665), international customers can
reach us at 201-559-3882.   Please note that due to high call volume,
you may experience a delay in reaching a Customer Service
Representative. 

Thanks again for your patience and loyalty during this busy time.

Sincerely,

Barnes & Noble
http://www.bn.com

This electronic mail message contains information that (a) is or
may be CONFIDENTIAL, PROPRIETARY IN NATURE, OR OTHERWISE
PROTECTED
BY LAW FROM DISCLOSURE, and (b) is intended only for the use of
the
addressee(s) named herein.  If you are not an intended recipient,
please contact the sender immediately and take the steps
necessary
to delete the message completely from your computer system.

Not Intended as a Substitute for a Writing: Notwithstanding the
Uniform Electronic Transaction Act or any other law of similar
effect, absent an express statement to the contrary, this e-mail
message, its contents, and any attachments hereto are not
intended
to represent an offer or acceptance to enter into a contract and
are not otherwise intended to bind this sender,
barnesandnoble.com
llc, barnesandnoble.com inc. or any other person or entity.

Notice:

  1. They spend just about the same covering their ass legally as they do answering
  2. The answer got absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with my request – nor does it show any hint that they actually bothered to read my email

I suspect they claim that this email is confidential because it is downright embarrassing, but I don’t give a hooth.   This level of support is so poor and inadequate I think anybody who even remotely consider purchasing anything from Barnes & Noble deserve to be warned beforehand.

I can also add that Barnes & Noble have started sending me lots of email ads  even though I have never opted in to that.  I am getting increasingly convinced that Barnes & Noble represents the worst example I have ever seen of incompetence and lack of business ethics.

There is a very very good reason why Amazon had a net profit of 902 million US$ in 2009 while Barnes & Noble had a net profit of 75 million – and I am actually surprised they had a profit at all.  They most certainly do not deserve it.

After receiving the email, I went to check my order status and woe and behold:

They actually cancelled my order even though I clearly stated earlier that they should not cancel the order even if I should have. Let me repeat – I did NOT cancel this order – Barnes & Noble cancelled it themselves!!! Ah well – guess I’ll just get some standard Android tablet.

As a final attempt to get their attention, I did send the following email to Barnes & Noble’s director of investor relations. After all, the top management aught to be somewhat concerned since the Barnes & Noble shares haven’t exactly been doing pretty over the past 5 years:

I doubt I will hear back from them, but if I hear anything I will post it here.

Dear Mr. Milevoj,

First let me apologize for sending this email directly to you. Unfortunately your direct email was the only one available on Barnes & Noble’s web-site, and well – poor service is definitely something that will concern shareholders, so I trust that you will manage to forward this email to whoever appropriate.

About 3 weeks ago I got curious about the Nook Color device and without doing any research whatsoever I just went to Barnes & Noble web-site and ordered one. To cut a very long and very sad story short, I have described the whole experience in detail here:

http://larsrants.blogspot.com/2011/01/warning-barnes-and-noble-lies.html

I have since done quite a lot of on-line research on the topic of Barnes & Noble customer care and the scale of complaints are quite massive. I don’t know if you got any staff directly assigned to deal with for example your own facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/barnesandnoble) but if not I urge you to take a quick look at the Discussion forum on that page. There are quite a lot of people out there who feel quite cheated by Barnes & Noble and these days these complaints show up quite readily on Google.

Lars Boegild Thomsen

If I hear any reply from them I will post it here.

Update Feb. 01 2011:

Just to prove a point I tried to order a new Nook – after Barnes & Noble cancelled my original order and here’s the result:

That’s right – the original order from Jan. 11 (the one that B&N cancelled) had an expected shipping date of Feb. 21, while the new order is expected to ship on Feb. 15. Not that I trust B&N to actually try to keep their promises.

Update Feb. 2, 2011

It has not really got anything to do with B&N as such, but just before I placed this last order, I also ordered an electronic gadget from Amazon. The Amazon order shipped 6 hours (!!!) – I am not shitting 6 hours after I placed the order.