Get a gift receipt.

January 9, 2009

Hey, did you know that both Borders and Barnes & Noble now require receipts for all returns, including gift exchanges? I didn’t, until my husband tried to exchange a duplicate Christmas gift this week.

This change has apparently been in effect for months, which in itself was kind of a shock. I have the customer cards for both stores. I get weekly email newsletters from each, and occasional snail-mail ads. Even though I’ve cut down a bit on purchases, it’s a rare week where I don’t buy a book or two, and half of the Christmas presents I bought this year were books. My point is that I’m a pretty regular customer at both stores, but I still hadn’t heard. I didn’t get an email notifying me of this fairly major change, even though something like that is of a lot more interest than the usual promotional stuff they send out. No clerk ever mentioned it, and you’d think that they would have been pushing gift receipts for presents (and explaining the need for them) pretty heavily during the holidays.

What seemed like the entire staff of our Barnes & Noble had a little huddle and decided to allow us to make the exchange that one time. That was really nice of them, especially because I suspect they’ve been getting a lot of grief over this change in the last couple of weeks. I worked retail for long enough that I understand some of the considerations that went into this decision. But I also understand that the average customer doesn’t care about those when they end up stuck with an extra copy of a book.

The harsher return policy may not really make much difference when I’m buying a book for myself, but it makes me a lot less likely to get books as gifts for others. Choosing a book for a friend can already be tricky. But now if you get something that just isn’t right for them, you’ll have to hope that they don’t lose that little slip or that they can make it to the store before the gift receipt expires. And now if I’m given a receipt-less copy of something I already have, then hey, too bad?

I guess I’ve always taken the ease of book exchanges for granted. But considering that many of us are being more careful about how we spend our discretionary money these days, and that buying online already seems to offer price and selection advantages, is it really the best idea to introduce less customer-friendly policies?

Just make sure you get gift receipts from now on, and spread the word to anyone likely to be buying you a book.

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2 Responses to “Get a gift receipt.”

  1. Janicu Says:

    OK, you could return something without a receipt before? I didn’t know that! Maybe B&N is protecting themselves from being swindled by people returning books that they didn’t originally get at B&N or bought used.. but I don’t know the numbers for how much they are saving/ how much swindling goes on. Now I’m glad I did get a gift receipt for my husbands gift. He wants to return it and get something else.

  2. deety Says:

    You could exchange a book that they carried for store credit if it was still in new condition. I’m not sure how much it mattered if the book was purchased there originally, because they could put it on the shelf to re-sell. This used to be the policy at a lot of stores (not just bookshops), if it was something they carried they’d exchange it. I guess that’s changing all over now.

    I bet that they were losing some money on books that were bought with coupons or discount cards but exchanged at full price by the recipient. And I’m sure they had some people trying to scam them, so they must have thought that cutting that out was worth any potential lost sales or frustrated customers.

    Heck, I’m annoyed at the change, and I barely ever need to return anything. But I’m easily annoyed at my local B&N these days, the only good thing about the location nearest me is that the staff is helpful. If it wasn’t 5 minutes away, I wouldn’t shop there.


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