How Barnes & Noble lost me as an in-store customer.

8 April 2011

I started school on Monday.  It’s been crazy and intense, but also very awesome.  And now that I’ve had almost all of my courses once, I need to go out and get my books and supplies.  I was in by no means excited to buy fancy art markers just yet.  Luckily I found a brand at Blick that’s good and only $0.89 per pen.  My books however… that’s a different story.

I only have one required book (Graphic Design: The New Basics – Ellen Lupton), but others that are very strongly recommended.  Rather than waiting on shipping and such, I decided to see if Barnes & Noble had any of the books.  Kind of surprisingly, they did.  They didn’t have the Lupton book, but they had two others that were recommended by instructors and peers.

They were each $25…  Online, at the B&N site, you can find them for about $16 each… And there’s a “request to pick up at your local store in less than 60 minutes!” button.  So I approach an employee and ask if I can cut out the internet-middleman and just show the cashier the B&N online price and get the discount.  Well, I wasn’t paying attention because I asked a going-on-break cafe employee.  But she sought out others who could help.  However, each time I got a resounding NO.

Barnes & Noble will not honor their own online price for this reason: the warehouse is big, and thus they can store lots and lots of books, and charge a smaller overhead.  Apparently when you click to reserve the book you found online at a store, you have to then pay the in-store price.  Which was a $10 difference on each book.  It’s so much cheaper to order it online even with shipping.  So that’s what I’m going to do.  But I’m going to use Amazon because I want the free shipping.  So for the price of the two books I could get in-store, I’m going to be able to get 3 books online with free shipping.

I completely get why B&N has lower online prices.  I just think it’s dumb that they won’t honor their own store’s online prices for those who’ve taken the time to find them.  And I think it’s even stupider that the online price disappears once you request the book to be picked up at your local store and you’re forced to pay the in-store price for an item you’re still buying online (just doing different “shipping”).

I love book stores.  I like to be able to actually flip through the pages and know what I’m getting myself into.  But at this point, I feel like I just want to use the book store to preview what I’ll end up buying online.  I’m not calling for a ban or saying I’m never going to buy something in-store from Barnes & Noble ever again…  I just think that if they want to stay competitive with online shopping, maybe they need to do a little more.  I mean, we all know what’s happening to Borders right now.

EDIT:
So. Hey. The major reason why the in-store price inflates is because that extra cost is going towards paying for stocking and for the store employees… Do I still think it sucks that the prices increase that much? Yeah. I do. I think the book store model needs to be revisited to keep them up-to-date with online sellers and eBooks. Times are changing and those who can’t keep up… well, like I said, look at Borders.

AGAIN:  It makes sense why the price changes, it just sort of sucks that it does. It’s the cost of using brick & mortar establishments, something we should not lose. Should the bookstore model be revisited? Yes. Was I frustrated when I wrote this post not quite 2 years ago? Yes. I still shop in bookstores, B&N included. Things will change in their own time. It’s not bait & switch.

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