Friday, November 20, 2009

B&N = Fail

Today, I went shopped at Barnes & Noble. Nowadays, brick and mortar bookstores are pretty thin on the ground. Borders only has two locations in the city that I know about. There's the world-famous Strand, but they only do used books (and is a bitch to navigate). There are a few mom-and-pop booksellers. So when I want a book, my option is pretty much B&N. This isn't so bad, because they usually have a good selection of books. It's at the checkout that B&N fails. And fails big.

It's the book club. "Would you like to join the book club? You save 10 percent on every purchase," the clerk helpfully offers. Sounds good. "It's $25 a year," he adds. You can hear the tires squeal at that point. No dude, I don't want to spend $25 for your club. Let me count the ways.

First, if I'm going to spend $25 of my hard-earned cash, I would prefer to buy a pile of books. Spending $25 in order to save a buck fifty on my purchase just seems counter-intuitive. Even if I end up spending thousands of dollars, and saving hundreds, over the course of the year, I'm just annoyed that I have to pay for the priviledge.

Second, in this day and age, it just seems silly to pay for this service. I can go to Amazon and get books at a ridiculous discount. If you're competing with a web retailer, which B&N essentially is, it doesn't make much sense to charge for a discount I can get for free automatically. Admittedly, B&N has costs Amazon doesn't -- the aforementioned brick and mortar locations. Okay. I'll accept this...

...Until I realize that the drug store chain CVS gave my this nifty red card that offers me a discount on my purchases. Cost to me? Zero. Hmmm. That must be an anomaly.... No, wait; Best Buy also gave me a nifty blue card that gives me a discount, also at zero cost to me. Now, again admittedly, the way these cards work is that I get a discount (or coupons) based on how many times I use the card. Which is every time I go to these stores. Certainly, B&N could switch to this kind of model.

The best deal was Virgin Megastores. They gave me this silver card that saved me money every time I shopped. In fact, I would ONLY shop at the Virgin Megastore for DVDs, video games, and music. I loved that place. Some days, the little coupon printer would chatter out discount after discount after discount. I bought my Xbox 360 there, and with their VIP program I basically got a free game out of the deal. It's a wonder, and a shame, that they went out of business. Because that place was always packed.

So it's not like B&N has to go with the whole "charge for a discount" model. In fact, given the competition and existing alternate discount programs, the Barnes & Noble membership card sucks. It smacks of corporate stupid-headedness (oh, and greed). Just give me the stupid card, already.

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