Shirley Einhorn, my mother-in-law, died two weeks ago. She was generous and smart and talented, and her death has left all of us stunned and devastated.
She was an avid reader who liked buying her favorite author’s hard-cover novels as soon as they came out. She’d also bought a Nook, and although she was comfortable with most technology, she found it clumsy and obnoxious and difficult to use; a poor imitation of the vastly superior Kindle. I tried it and agreed with her.
Going through her things, my wife found an unopened, unused Nook case and asked me to return it to Barnes & Noble.
There was no receipt in the bag, so I expected to be issued a gift card. It would probably be for their lowest sale price. Cases and accessories are usually outrageously overpriced. She probably paid forty bucks for it, and I figured I’d get a GC for half of that.
I waited in line and the first clerk I talked to said she couldn’t process returns, but the other clerk behind the counter could. I waited while that clerk’s slow-motion customer finished her purchase, then stepped up and told her why I was returning the cover.
She asked if I had the card that was used to purchase it. “No,” I said, “I have no way of knowing what card she used, or even if she used a card.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, “without a receipt or the card we can’t do anything for you.”
“Seriously? This was bought from here, and since the purchaser died, I have no way of verifying the purchase. I’d be happy with a gift card.”
“Are you willing to lose a customer, forever, over a purchase this small?”
“I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.” Then she helpfully added, “Next time be sure to save the receipt.”
I left, angry and annoyed. I won’t be back. Ever.
I didn’t shop there often – maybe three or four times a year – but now I’ll be shopping there zero times a year. Free Clue, B&N: In today’s market no retailer can afford to piss off any customer, even one who only shops there occasionally. Shopping elsewhere is easy, cheaper, and fun. You’re barely staying alive, and this is one of the reasons. You just might want to review your return policy, while you still can.