Sunday, June 30, 2019

Can't Blame Amazon Completely for Barnes & Noble's Downfall

As 2 suitors, Elliott Management and Readerlink, possibly fight over Barnes & Noble, the beleaguered bookseller, I can see why the chain is dying and the hard work cut out for its new owner.

The media always blames for B&N's misfortunes. But I found out first-hand that it's also B&N's own doing. In fact, smaller independent bookstores have seen a resurgence, despite B&N's demise.

Recently, I was looking for a Funko Pop gift online and found it at Better yet, it was 25% off according to its website. I didn't have time to have it shipped so I went to a nearby store and didn't see the need to buy online and pickup in store because I wanted to see it live first.

At the store, there were 100s of Funko Pops across 4 large display shelves, stacked at least 2 boxes deep! Of all the stores, this B&N had the most Funko Pops I've ever seen. Normally, such a large selection is great. But not today. I tried to ask a worker to help me find the one I wanted, but I had no luck in tracking someone down nearby. I eventually found it myself.

Now all I had to do was pay for it. Easy, right? Sadly, no. B&N makes it really hard to checkout when a customer is ready to actually buy!

First, I couldn't find anyone at either of the 2 Cashier stations. So I walked over to the Customer Service counter and a worker there tries to explain to me that it is "normal" for no one to be at one of the counters because the workers are on the floor. Then why is there a Cashier sign to direct customers to go there and pay if you don't expect a worker to man that station? As for the second counter, she pointed back towards the Cashier counter and said a guy was walking over there now. No apologies at all during this whole exchange and she made me feel like it was my fault for even asking her where is a cashier so I can pay.

So I walk over to the Cashier area, and they had an "Enter Here" sign pointing customers to the far right. But there was no one in line so I thought I'd walk right up to the cashier who saw us coming. He looks at me and nods his head to his left (my right), as if signaling me to follow the sign and queue the long way around to the other end of the cashier counter, only to work my way back down to if B&N ever has long lines or a stampede of customers these days.

When I finally reached the cashier, I told him that the $39.99 price on the box was higher (48% to be exact) than what I saw on their website. I showed him on my mobile phone the price on (see below). product page shopping cart - sales price ($26.99)
B&N in-store price on box ($39.99)
He said no problem. He can price match. Great! But wait, there's more! He said he could only match the $29.99 price. But online, as shown above, had another 10% off with promo code SUNSHINE. So the price before taxes was $26.99.

He said he "had no way of price matching AND applying a discount." Why is that even 2 different things in his mind? If he's going to ring up any price into the register to price match, why not entire the $26.99 amount instead of $29.99?

Frustrated by the whole experience so far, I just accepted the $29.99 price to get out of there. I can't believe how complicated their price match policy was. And it's not like I was asking him to match a COMPETITOR'S offer. This was their own website for crying out loud!

I guess it's not entirely the workers' fault for the horrible in-store experience. When business is dying, I guess B&N is not used to customers actually buying something in their stores!

TIP: If you ever see something on sale on that you must get that day, you should always buy online and pick up in store, instead of assuming you can easily walk in to buy it!

Ultimately, successful retailers today have to offer consumers a compelling reason to go into a physical store and when consumers show up, retailers have to offer helpful customer service and a consistent omni-channel experience, especially when it comes to price. Is that too much to ask?

#FAIL for Barnes & Noble.


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