Barnes & Noble: Burning Bridges

burning bridges.jpg

Well, Barnes & Noble (B&N) is getting pulled off my Christmas Card list.  It all started with a simple phone call.  By simple, I do mean the soul shattering betrayal type.  Okay, maybe that’s a bit much.

First some backstory.

flash back.pngFLASHBACK…Flashback…flashback, to about two months ago.  My various family members, all who live hundreds of miles away, send me a stack of B&N gifts cards for my birthday.  Score!  They know I dabble in the arcane art of word-crafting and enjoy a good portal into another world.

Now normally I frequent the smaller, “mom-and-pop,” bookstores.  Because, screw the corporation man!   Not really.  I just prefer smaller spaces, shelves packed to the gills, and the scent of worn dusty books.  I like older texts.  You find all kinds of cool stuff in them.  Doodles, highlighter marks, snippets of paper, or even a handwritten note gifting the book to whoever tossed it aside under the cover.

Regardless of my normal habits, I had some $100 dollars of gifts cards to use, so off I went to B&N.

barnes-and-noble-inside.jpgB&N was just how I remembered it.  Clean.  Tidy.  Sterile.  Everything sorted and in it’s place.  Instead of the scent of old books, the air was heavy with whatever cleaner they used on the carpets combined with the latest caramel-frapa-whipa-latte-vento the attached coffee shop was pouring.

It’s not that I dislike B&N.  I appreciate any place that promotes the sale of books.  If you love B&N, that’s awesome.  For me, it’s just not an adventure.  There are hunters and there are gatherers when it comes to finding books – I prefer the hunt.  B&N is the supermarket meat section.  Everything is prepackaged and perfect.  I want to get dirty.  I want to roam the jungle with a knife in my hand wearing nothing but leaves and a smile as I stalk my prey.


sleeping.jpgI moved to the non-fiction writing section.  There might as well been a dotted line on the ground leading me there.  I looked through, snagged a few selections, and then wandered around a bit.  There were two people sleeping in blue cushioned chairs next to the magazine section.  One of them, an older man, was snoring loudly.  I understood exactly how he felt.  Convinced I had exhausted my limited patience, and daddy free time, I headed over to the checkout counter.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a B&N, but they employ the airport security checkpoint method of herding paying customers.  You have to wander through a nylon-strap partitioned maze to get to the counter.  Which was amusing, because I was the only person checking out at the time.

TSA_LINES_001905820611.jpgOnce I emerged from the labyrinth (now older and wiser, having learned an important lesson about life, and more importantly about myself), the lady behind the counter greeted me, asked me if I found everything okay, and inquired if I was interested in pre-ordering the upcoming Harry Potter book.  My wife LOVES the series (I enjoy reading them too), so I agreed.  Of course I then had to get a B&N card, fill out some paperwork (like I was getting a home loan instead of a book), and viola – book is pre-ordered.  I left with my chin up knowing I had fulfilled my husbandly duties.

flash backFLASH FORWARD…Forward…forward, to last night.

I am sitting in my sanctuary expelling evil from my body (going to the bathroom).  My phone rings, I ignore it, and ding – a voicemail.  I open it and it’s someone from B&N letting my know my book was available for pickup today.  Awesome sauce!  However, a little late in the evening for the heads-up.

They are holding it for me.

Thanks B&N, you’re the best.

There is a high demand for the book.

Really, you don’t say?  Thought that was common knowledge.  Good thing I pre-ordered it!

And if I don’t show up by the 3rd (two days from receiving the message) they will sell it to the floor.

Wait.  What?

We understand this is an inconvenience, but to provide the book in a timely manner to customers we must release pre-ordered copies after three days of the books release.

So what you are telling me is your mega-store didn’t stock enough copies so you are going to resell the book I already purchased?

Have a great day.

Have a great day?  No, no, no B&N – we are now enemies you and I.

And that is the story of how B&N got removed from my Christmas list.  They were added to a different list.  My shit list (sorry for the vulgarity, but hey, I’m a Sailor).

Shady Salesman.jpgThis exchange is exactly the reason why I feel so disconnected from society sometimes.  I can’t go anywhere to buy something without someone trying to get me to sign up for a card, join an email list, or some other nonsense.  My money isn’t enough.  They have to try to sell me something else.  Then when I bite, something like this happens.

When it comes down to it, I’ll get the book today.  I’ll take time out of my schedule, strap Thor down, and wander over to get the book I already bought before they sell it out from under me.  Heather will be happy.  I’ll be happy as a result.

As for Barnes & Noble – they won’t miss me.  The store will remain how I remember it.  Clean.  Tidy.  Sterile.  Devoid of adventure and absent another customer.

small bookstore.jpgNot really a writing tip today.  More of a life tip.  A while back I wrote a blog post about print being dead, here.  In it, I talked about the misconception that bookstores were dying out.  The truth is, small bookstores are on the rise.  They are run by people passionate about writing.  Places where an indie author can wander in with a box of books, and get them up on the shelves.

If this new experience taught me anything, it’s that I should have never left my local book haunt and wandered into the sterile convenience of B&N.  Never trade adventure for easy passage.  Never worship in a temple where the worshipers are asleep and snoring loudly.

We will kick it back off with writing tips tomorrow.  Until then, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

31 responses

  1. Totally empathize with you. I had a similar experience with a small used bookstore, where I had several hundred dollars worth of gift cards and was told I could not use them on any book the store ordered for me. Huh? Say what? I’m not joking. They said the gift cards could only be used on books in stock. No special orders allowed — even if it was for other used books from other stores in their chain. All of which would have been fine IF the card had been advertised as such. Since it wasn’t and they have now changed the terms, I won’t be buying gift cards from them anymore. So I guess the term buyer beware is always in play.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That must of been awful. Is it too much to ask for a little transparency in business these days?

      There was a time when you would go somewhere, but something, and people were genuinely happy for your patronage. But these days, it’s really all about the sale at a lot of places. It’s not really about repeat customers or building a relationship. They replaced customer service and good practices with plastic gift cards.

      I guess we need to keep our heads on a swivel! Thanks for swinging by and reading, and also for sharing in the struggle with me.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Pingback: Where Do You Buy Your Books? – El's Reading Room…

  3. So good! I’m navigating the rough waters of switching to local stores for everything – not just books! Sometimes it feels like I’m drowning in a sea of blue (or green) aprons. (Do B&N employees wear aprons? It’s been so long since I’ve noticed…)

    Liked by 3 people

    • To be honest, I’m not sure if they do wear aprons. I know just what you mean though. Whoever makes aprons must be rolling in money – because every big box store, restaurant, coffee shop, and other miscellaneous shop feels they are essential. It does make it easier to spot employees, but sheesh, can’t they wear viking helmets or something? I would respect the opinion of a man/women wearing a horned helmet…

      The only apron I’m wearing is to save my skin from exploding bacon grease when I make delicious breakfast for the family!

      Thanks for swinging by and reading today, and good luck fighting off the army of aprons!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Well, I haven’t had that experience because I don’t like gift cards. I always tell my friends to get me something from their heart and it better not be gift cards. Well, unless its gift cards to restaurants because well restaurants need to accept them and can’t pull crap like on what it can be used on.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I see where you are coming from with the gift sentiment. But the gift cards are kind of a necessity sometimes (at least in our case).

      My wife is in the military so we move every few years, and we maybe see our families once a year if we are lucky. It’s hard enough to stay in touch, so I’m always grateful to just be remembered.

      I will take a page from your book though. If they ask me what I want, I will say, “You can get me gift cards if it’s easier for you, just not for B&N.”

      Thanks for swinging in today and reading.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hehe yeah, not just for Barnes and Noble. ^_^

        Mom got a Target gift card for her birthday. The lady who got her Target gift card said that she would have gotten her American Express gift card but you can’t put certain amounts on them anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I was a big Borders fan, but sadly that ship set sail long ago…
    We live in a town just about 40 minutes outside of Nashville Tn and they have some outstanding book stores, My favorite is “Book Man Book woman” Give it a look see, the best kind of dusty hidden nook and cranny book store around. I love it, feels like you’re in a hidden archive!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sorry to hear about your B&N situation. Forget them. Next time you preordered a book or something, why not try Amazon? I preordered the new Harry Potter book before its publication date. I just got it today!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s mostly because of the gift cards I received, I wouldn’t have went absent them. I need to let everyone know not to go with B&N when it comes to gift cards for me. I use Amazon for specific books much like you. However, I like the used bookstores for finding random gems. The hidden dusty treasures!

      Thanks for swinging by and enjoy reading the new book 🙂


  7. See, here in the UK we’ve got Waterstones. But at least in Waterstones it feels like the staff really love their books, and each store is unique.
    Got to agree though, second hand and independent bookshops are the way forward.

    Liked by 2 people

    • One of these days I’m going to visit the UK. I’ve been pretty much everywhere else in the world, but haven’t got to travel in Europe. I’ll make it happen one day.

      As for Waterstones, that doesn’t sound too bad honestly. I don’t think I’m at war with big bookstores really, just mine in particular. Like I mentioned in my post, any place that sells print is gold in my eyes. Some places just glitter a little more brightly to me.

      Thanks for swinging in – if I ever make it to the UK I will check out Waterstones for sure (selfie opportunity for the blog).


      • Absolutely. It is a chain, but its got enough variety. And its got new book smell… who needs drugs when there’s a new book to be read?

        Liked by 1 person

    • I ended going there tonight (I just got back) and picked up the book. The lady told me it was a good thing I pre-ordered because they only had 11 copies left in the store (all pre-orders). I resisted the urge to go into crazy mode and smiled.

      The only means of verification she used to ensure my identity was to ask me my name. This is sad, because our names were printed in giant block letters on the spine of the books for everyone to see. Mine included. I again resisted the urge to flip out.

      She closed out the transaction by asking me if I wanted a B&N Master Card. A blood vessel popped in my eye – but still – I didn’t flip out.

      You would think if you are a juggernaut bookstore like B&N you would order enough books for your customers. Especially a book you know is going to sell like hotcakes.

      Anyways, I have the book now. Life can continue at a normal pace.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Barnes & Noble: Burning Bridges – Idriss Publishing House

  9. I’d like to help you with your problem. Would you like help? Okay! Just provide me with your cell phone number, credit card information and the soul of your first born child, and I will make sure to provide you a small box in which to lodge your complaints. Upon making your complaint, I will then ignore you completely (best case scenario) or (worst case) use that exact complaint to annoy you and make you realize the worst thing you could ever do is think my major corporation has any interest in actual customer service.
    -every corporation ever.

    Seriously. I miss little bookstores. They’re out there. I just wish there was one nearby me. What I love about them is the idea (actual suspicion) that the own has read every book he’s selling, and is just looking to talk to other like-minded people about great books. A minor ambition of my own for when I’m 93, and not quite spry enough to teach anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahaha! Love the commentary. It’s funny – because it’s true. Sadly so.

      As for the bookstore, by the time we are that age, there will be holodeck libraries and everyone will have their own TARDIS. Which is fine, because we will be the last bastion of light for the printed word! Many an adventurer will come to us to solve life’s many riddles. Oh yes, I can’t let you open a bookstore solo. I just hope I don’t break my hip using my jetpack walker to get to the shop everyday.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The upselling was the thing that bothered me most when I briefly (not briefly enough) worked at B&N. It was very corporate and we were cajoled, bullied and threatened (rather, encouraged to meet a quota) of memberships sold to customers. BN is bigger than most bookshops and for a long time I thought this was the normal business model required to keep a company as sprawling as BN afloat. I’ve since begun working at Blackwells (I think the second largest chain bookstore in UK after Waterstones) and realized this is not actually the case. We have no membership scheme (and it’s honestly a nicer place to work. The atmosphere is more relaxed and peon booksellers don’t feel pressure to be constantly working, i.e. tidying shelves and stocking when not helping customers) and we’re doing quite well, and this makes me even more baffled at BN’s rather unfeeling, cutthroat way of dealing with both customers and employees (I’m tempted to ascribe this to differences in US/UK styles of capitalism but I think this would be an enormous generalization). Anyway cheers for the fun read!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing some insight from inside the belly of the beast. I’m glad you escaped and have found happier times at Blackwells. It’s hardly surprising many of these bookstore behemoths are going extinct. Happy employees usually make for happy customers, it’s a recipe for success that has worked for ages.

      Regardless, my wife loved the book so I guess it wasn’t a total loss. Thanks for reading and leaving some thoughts!


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