$27.99. Wait, that can’t be right.
I’m standing in the middle of my local Barnes and Noble. I’ve shopped at this chain for years, but now that I’m working on an advertising campaign for class, I’m looking at this store through new eyes. This is a place that is on the verge of being made extinct, like Waldenbooks and Borders before it. This is a place that’s taking shots from all angles, from Amazon, to Apple, to even Google. This is a place on borrowed time, and yet, here I stand, being asked to pay full list price for a book that’s literally half the price not only on Amazon, but on their own website as well. I go search for a bookseller.
“Um, is this price right? It stays $27.99 here, but I know it’s cheaper on your website.” I show him the webpage from my phone.
“Let me check.” The clerk studies his screen for a second, then focuses his gaze on me. “Yep, it’s $27.99.” Sensing my hesitation, he quickly adds, “But if you’re a BN member, you’ll save 20%, which will take five dollars off. And you have a 15% coupon, so that will knock it down-“
“Do you price match?” I interrupt. “I mean, I know you don’t match Amazon.com, but will you match Target? I think it was on sale for twenty dollars over there.”
“No, we don’t pricematch Amazon. Or Target.”
“Well,” I prodded, fully knowing the answer, “will you match your online price?”
The clerk sighs, probably because he knows how absurd his answer is about to be. “No, I can’t match the price, but I can order it online here for you, and ship it to your house, and that will guarantee you the $15.55 price.”
I blinked. “So, I can order this book online, then put down the book I HAVE IN MY HANDS RIGHT NOW, walk out of the store, and wait for the book to come to my house?” I should note, at this point, that I had a couple of other items in my hand. I was fully prepared to walk out of that store spending far over the $30 list price of this book in other merchandise.
The clerk simply says, “Yes, but you’ll get free ground shipping.”
I pull up the Amazon app on my phone. “But if I’m going to do that, why wouldn’t I order it from Amazon.com, where it’s cheaper, and I get free two-day shipping?”
“Well, you’ll get free shipping with us too…” He starts, but he quietly fades. He knows he’s got nothing left to offer.
“That’s alright,” I said. “I’ll probably just order it from Amazon. Can you put these back for me?” I leave the $30 book and the other $30 worth of merchandise on the counter, and I walk out.
So to recap, here are my options, if I’m looking to purchase this book:
1. Pay full list price at Barnes and Noble. ($27.99)
2. Order the book from BN.com ($15.55 +shipping)
4. Order the book from Amazon ($14.91 +free shipping)
5. Buy the eBook (Kindle, Nook, and iBooks; $14.99)
I could order the Kindle version AND the hardcover version from Amazon for what Barnes and Noble expected me to pay for just the hardcover book! And honestly, I’ll probably wind up doing just that just for the convenience. So, in reality, they likely lost TWO sales from me.
I’ve been shopping at Barnes and Noble for as long as I can remember. I’ve been a loyal card-carrying, $25-a-year dues-paying Barnes and Noble Member for years. I spend hours every month browsing the bookshelves to find something that might catch my eye, and hours digging through the magazine stacks to pick up hundreds of dollars in design magazines every year.
But I think I’m done. My dollars have been slowly migrating to Amazon over the years, but this experience tells me there’s really no point to going into the store anymore, and if I’m going to buy online, there’s no reason to go to BN.com, because I can find everything I need at Amazon.
It’s not that BN wouldn’t match their online price-most retailers don’t-but at least Best Buy gives you the option of going through the charade of buying “online” in the store and doing “In-Store Pickup”. But the absurdity of ordering a book online, and then putting said book back on the shelf and going home to wait for it shows a level of incompetence that I just can’t stomach-or support anymore. That’s just bad business.
We’ve been struggling for seven weeks in this Creature class to find a truth about Barnes and Noble that would get people back in the stores, to get people to care about shopping at Barnes and Noble over Amazon. To have this amazingly incompetent shopping experience while I’m trying to show why the in-store experience is worth a damn, is extremely frustrating.
I’m starting to wonder if our class is fighting a fight that Barnes and Noble can’t win-and worse, I’m starting to wonder if they even want to.