Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Barnes and Noble vs. Amazon

I have nothing against the brick and mortar Barnes and Noble stores. In fact I have fond childhood memories of going to the Barnes and Noble in NYC and being in complete awe of what I believed was the biggest bookstore in the world. My parents would take me on special trips to the city to buy either books from Barnes and Noble or sheet music from Patelson's (this was way before the internet and SheetMusicPlus). Back then it was the only way to purchase books that weren't carried in the mall bookstores or sheet music beyond your intermediate player. These trips were pursuits of knowledge and art and were always held dear to me.

Now that the internet is here, I rarely step into bookstores. If I'm looking for a bestseller, I can often find it at BJ's Wholesale club at a price comparable to Amazon. I will visit Barnes and Noble or Borders occasionally, but only if I have a gift card or coupon (and often it will still cost more than Amazon). Now I could go into Barnes and Noble vs. Borders, but they are pretty comparable except in one respect, the membership (I prefer Borders because their card is free and I'm a cheapskate). In the internet realm, it has always been Amazon for me. Their prices are consistently less that BN.com even with the membership discount. I wonder why people fork over $25 per year for membership and still pay more than Amazon! Plus it costs even more to buy the books at the brick and mortar Barnes and Noble than at BN.com. It's one thing if it's a gift card, but if you're buying something with your own money? Maybe they think the books are better quality if they cost more?

This holiday season, we were deluged by Barnes and Noble gift cards (not a complaint!). We actually sat down at our friendly computer on Christmas day to shop at BN.com. Now, my gift card was for $20, less than the $25 free shipping amount, so I combined with Doug's gift card of $25 for an order just over $45. When it came to checkout, they wouldn't accept multiple gift cards online and we had to call in our payment. First of all, that is ridiculous, get some real programmers and allow this! Secondly, I had to wait several hours before the order was ready for the call in. When I could finally call in, the automated system said the cards were invalid. More programmers needed to fix this. Of course there were no operators to help me because it was Christmas day. I called the 800 number on the back of the cards to check the balances and found out the $25 card was actually $30 and now we didn't have enough on the order to cover both cards. Ack! I canceled the original order and made a new one for just over $50. Did I mention that I had to pay sales tax because it was being shipped to Massachusetts? Argh! Finally, on the next day, I called in, spoke to an operator and got the order paid for. I shop on the internet because I don't want to deal with people and don't want orders to take days to complete! I had selected expedited free shipping and when did we get our books? Two weeks later. Next time, I will take my gift card, get in my car and shop at the nearby brick and mortar Barnes and Noble in tax-free New Hampshire. BN.com is not even a consideration anymore. And when I buy gift cards for people? Borders, if they are not internet savvy.

Of course, I've had a few run-ins with Amazon as well, but I forgive them because their prices are great and their shipping usually exceed my expectations. Plus I can tack on all sorts of miscellaneous computer, video game or camera equipment to reach my $25 free shipping level. Hmm, isn't that exactly what they want me to do? What excellent brainwashing they've done!

P.S. I just noticed that this is my 7th post using "versus". I have a even more drafts coming up with that word, it must be a recurring theme for me!

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

I swore of B&N online when I ordered a book I absolutely needed, paid for overnight shipping, and then they took 4 days to package it up. I wrote them a letter of complaint which never got answered. Amazon all the way.

btw, I found you by googling Market Basket, and then got hooked by your links to fun NPR stories. I love surfing. :)