Monday, August 20, 2012

Losing A Customer Is An Acceptable Solution

As most of you may know, I'm a relatively easy going person. If you treat me with respect, I'll treat you the same way. Treat me like an idiot, and I'll return the same tenfold.

One of my personal pet peeves is when I'll ask someone or some entity a question and they'll either 1} answer it by reiterating a point that doesn't answer the question but should be accepted at face value because it comes from a "unimpeachable" source (i.e.; or 2} quote company policy that doesn't address any plausible/realistic scenarios that deviate from the norm.

Example of the first: I had a three day debate on whether or not making someone show a picture i.d. in order to vote is considered to be a poll tax.

Example of the second is this post.

A few weeks ago, I got B&N gift card, so that I could easily purchase e-books, thereby not running any additional debt on my credit cards. So I went to the B&N Nook store and chose three books: one for personal reading and two for contractual book review reading.

  1. The Killing Trail by Charles Gramlich
  2. The Substitute by James Hatch
  3. Death and the Journalist by J.L. Petty
So I go to the checkout screen to make my first purchase, and the first thing that pops up is a screen asking me for a credit card. Considering that I was paying for the book with a gift card, I decided to bypass the screen by clicking on the "continue" button. Seconds later that same screen pops back up. Miffed, I repeated the process a few more times and each time that same stupid screen pops up.

Annoyed, I decide to contact B&N. First by e-mail:

Auto response says they will get back to me in 12 to 24 hours.

Miffed, I decided to call:

Auto response says all lines are busy, please call back later, then I get disconnected.

Really annoyed, I give talking to a person via chat a try:

Epic fail, as the person doesn't even give me a chance to type out my complaint, so I disconnect.

Ticked, I unload on B&N's Facebook page with my complaint. I proceed to spend the next two days getting quoted chapter and verse about company/publisher policy in regards to purchasing e-books. I also spend two days not getting a question about this plausible scenario answered:

"What if I got the gift card as a present, I don't have a credit card and all I want to do is buy some e-books?"

While all of this was going on on Facebook (I can multi-task pretty well), I finally got a answer to my e-mail, which started me on my journey of being shuffled to a different customer service rep each and every time I respond.

On my second to last response, I basically told them this:

This causes a major inconvenience as I don't want to have anything
charged to my card at all. Now I'm basically stuck with a gift card that
I can't use the way it was intended to be used to begin with.

Looks like my only other option will be to buy a prepaid credit card
and buy my e-books directly from the publisher.

They responded by saying this:

Thank you for contacting us.

Based on the situation you described, we feel that the difficulties you
are experiencing would be resolved best by contacting us by phone.

We ask that you call us at 1-800-THE-BOOK (1-800-843-2665). We are
available Monday through Friday from 8AM to 11PM EST, Saturdays and
Sundays 9AM to 11PM EST. Customers outside of the United States may
contact us at 201-559-3882.

Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience this may have
caused and we look forward to hearing from you.

We look forward to your next visit.

To which I responded with this:

To be completely honest, I'm not sure how the difficulties I'm experiencing can be resolved over the telephone.

Since my e-mail was forwarded to you, let me give you brief recap:

1} I have a gift card that was given to me so that I could buy e-books that were created by my publisher to review (contractual requirement).

2} In order to buy said e-books, I have to pop in a credit card number as an identifier.

3} I don't want to charge anything on my card, so I don't want to pop in a credit card number so that I can purchase said e-books.

This is where I currently stand on the situation.

Instead of me calling you and getting bent out of shape because you won't/can't deviate from company policy while trying to resolve my situation, why don't you tell me in your very next e-mail (assuming that you'll be answering my e-mail and not passing it on to someone else), how this situation can be resolved to my satisfaction?

Sincerely, G. B. Miller

So my friends, I'm not quite sure what my next step will be. I think it will hinge on if/when B&N's customer service rep, whoever that may be, says to me about my particular predicament. Oh, and the main reason why I told them to contact me via the e-mail about a solution, is that I am completely toxic and incendiary when I'm upset and on the telephone.

The sad thing is that all I want to do is shoot some royalties to some very well deserving writers by purchasing their product and apparently I'm being treated like a yokel by a business that is a very distant number two to Amazon. I would think that they would try to hold onto each and every customer that walks through their door, be it the brick and mortar door of a store, or the virtual door of their website.


  1. My biggest peeve is the places that force you to sign in or create an account to make a purchase. Look I don't plan to buy from you again so there is no reason for me to create an account.

    Oh and I side with the people who say it is ok to ask for photo ID. Someone without means or need to get a driver's license should be able to apply for a free state ID.

  2. Wow, considering how Amazon has been kicking their ass you'd think they'd be a little more helpful. That's ridiculous, man.

  3. I thought computers were supposed to make our lives easier, LOL? Good luck, I hope you get your ebooks via the gift card!

  4. I'm such a wimp -- when things like this happen to me, I tend to just give up because I hate confrontation. :) Hopefully your tenacity will pay off!

  5. Bearman: I've had to deal with that with a few businesses that I did one shot purchases as well.

    As for the ID thing, here in CT, you can purchase a state ID for $15, which is the cost of a good thirty pack of beer or two packs of cigs.

    Charles: Incredibly ridiculous. I bought a Nook because I wanted to talk to a real person about it. Now I'm having second thoughts about having an e-reader to begin with.

    Debra: There is no such thing as an easier life with computers. I really don't mind purchasing something with a credit card, so long as it's a one shot thing. But I draw the line in having to provide it simply because they need something to identify me with.

    I probably will later on, but right now I'm just too pissed off about this entire incident to act rationally.

    Lisa: I would like to think so, but it hasn't so far. I got a response from a fourth CSR and she basically parrotted company policy, instead of offering me a viable solution.

  6. I agree with Charles. No wonder they are losing.

  7. David: It really is mind boggling.

    I mean, if you look at it from the p.o.v. of someone in the 18-24 age bracket who doesn't have a c/c and is a first time customer, how are they supposed to purchase an e-book with a gift card?

    It's not a good way to attract new customers. As a business, you have to find a way to bend the rules.

  8. Companies just shoot themselves in both feet by doing shit like this. I love how they'll send you around in circles when you try different lines of communication! Sucks moose testicles. And isn't the whole idea of a gift card - whoa! - a gift?

  9. Why do vendors want to tie up their customers with red tape?

    A few years ago I had a hard time getting a Blockbuster membership because I didn't have a driver's license for ID. They would not accept my government-issued health insurance card as ID. For the record, you have to show exactly the same proofs of citizenship and identification to get a health card as you do to get a driver's license, so the policy made absolutely no sense. I'm pretty sure I don't need to operate a motor vehicle to be able to play a DVD.

  10. Wow - that's just a mess, sounds like. I was thinking of getting one of those eReaders, too.

  11. M: The fact that I was being shuffled from person to person (I'm halfway expecting a response from a fifth CSR) did not bode well for me getting my issue resolved.

    I will make a tiny correction though. A few people suggested that I get a pre-paid card to use as an identifier, but honestly, that defeats the purpose of having a gift card to begin with.

    S.R.: Funny how businesses will not accept forms of ID's that the guv'ment will accept, as if somehow a business is more important than the guv'ment.

    Decades ago, I remember when you wrote a check, you needed a c/c to use as an identifier instead of a driver's license.

    Lynn: I'm sure an e-reader is still worth it, as e-books cost about 75% less than regular books. But the requirement that they place on purchasing the e-books is simply, IMO, couterproductive.

  12. The problem is the automation not allowing the options needed for a non-credit card purchase. I'd believe the "Identifier" input would result in possible charges too- Wondering if there's a gift card number to input?

    Just not getting to get the anawer to "How do I use a gift card online at your store?" would drive me nuts!

  13. They're violating all kinds of consumer laws with that. Cut and past your last email, detailing the whole situation, into a business letter sent to the Executive office of B & N. CC the Better business bureau, and the Attorney Generals in both your state and the executive office's state. Yes, the whole process takes 20 minutes, but you'll be surprised by how quickly they respond when they see you're serious about reporting them. And it helps future customers.

  14. Snaggle: It would drive everyone nuts. I found out Amazon is pretty much the same way (I think), as I sent them a similar e-mail asking what their policy is. I may have to go back and get clarification though.

    Devon: Thanks for stopping by to comment. I actually got the entire e-mail correspondence and I think I came closest to a resolution with the 3rd CSR. But what you suggested definitely sounds intriguing.

    The way B&N explained to me is that the publishers require a c/c as an identifier to prevent theft, piracy and improper sharing of books.

  15. your problem stems from overabundance of intelligence. You asked more than one question. Most e-mail respondents tend to answer one question...and ignore the rest.

    Oh, and also from dealing with idiots, but that you covered well. And the two may be related...

  16. Darth: Which is why I would make a horrible CSR. I don't deal with stupid, and this is a classic case of dealing with stupid.


Go on, give me your best shot. I can take it. If I couldn't, I wouldn't have created this wonderful little blog that you decided to grace with your presence today.

About that comment moderation thingy: While yes, it does say up above I can take it, I only use it to prevent the occasional miscreant from leaving thoughtless and/or clueless comments.

So remember, all of your comments are greatly appreciated and all answers will be given that personal touch that you come to expect and enjoy.

G. B. Miller

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