Wednesday, January 06, 2010

An Open Letter to Borders

Dear Borders:

Before I even get into the true purpose of this letter, let me state unequivocally that prior to last night (January 5, 2009), my family was a Borders family. My sister (nee Judy Cherepon) was a Borders keyholder at Reagan Airport for over a year and during that time met one Lucas Szabo, also an employee of the store. Romance blossomed amongst the stacks and they are now married with 2 babies. We love Borders books.

Or I did, until last night. I have never been so aggravated by customer service, or lack thereof, in my life. I went into the Borders in Central Park, Fredericksburg, Virginia to return some DVD’s I’d received as a Christmas present. A certain family member is a bit forgetful and had gotten me these DVD’s no fewer than 3 times, and I wanted to return them. As they were a Christmas gift, I did not have a receipt.

Judy and Lucas had been to Borders in Springfield VA several days before to return some merchandise that they had received duplicates of. They also did not have a receipt. They were told that without a receipt, they could only receive store credit and were issued it via a gift card which they could use later. They both told me it would be no problem to return my DVD’s in a similar fashion, stating that as long as Borders carries a particular item, their policy is to provide store credit.

Ok, so I get to Borders and I take my DVD’s and get in line at the cashier. When I reach the front, there is one person working and she tells me that the store will only do an exchange without a receipt and I will have to go into the store and pick out the equivalent amount in merchandise. I said, “Seriously?” and it was confirmed. So, again, please remember, these DVD’s were a Christmas present, I said, “How much are they worth?” And she wasn’t too happy about having to look it up, but there was no price tag on the set! I was told $59.99. I was like, “So you’re telling me I have to walk around and gather up $59.99 worth of materials?” “Yup. Next in line!” and she hands me back my DVD set.

Ok, I was not really happy about having to use the money immediately, particularly since I was told by two former employees that I should be able to get a gift card, but also it is typically not a problem for me to spend $60 in the book store. I am an avid reader. I run a book club, I have been featured in my local newspaper for nothing more than the fact that I read a LOT of books every year, I volunteer at the library and I blog about what I read on my own blog and at I am not a casual reader, and I buy a lot of books. I had my book club list roughly in my head, and so I set about finding one of the books, I came up with a DVD I wanted, I snooped around in the bargain bins, I even thought of a book a friend read and picked that up. Doing the math in my head (which admittedly, I’m not a math genius or anything, but I do hold a master’s degree, so I’m no slouch either), I figured I had roughly $59.99 worth of merchandise. I go back and get on line and when I finally reach the front, a new cashier tells me that he is not authorized to do an exchange, I have to wait for a manager and please go to the end of the counter. (I have since found out from my sister that this is also complete nonsense.)

So I go to the end of the counter and wait and Ron, the manager comes up, and says, “What do you want to do?” I had hand him my DVD’s and say, “I received these for Christmas, I already have them and I wanted to return them. However, I was told I could only do an exchange, so these are my exchange books.” At which point, Ron starts examining the package and says, “These didn’t come from Borders, we don’t use this kind of sticker. I don’t think I can accept these, are you sure they’re from here?”

Ok, honestly, no, I don’t seeing as I didn’t buy them, but I do know that Borders policy is to take back DVD’s if Borders sells them, and there was an entire rack of the exact same DVD behind the cashier’s station. At this point, if I hadn’t just wasted an hour of my time finding books and stuff I was willing to take in exchange, I would have walked out, but then I’d have been out the DVD’s and the books and DVD I did want, so I was determined to hang in there. So Ron decides to look the DVD up in the computer, and fortunately the cashier next to him, the first girl I spoke to, says, “We carry these, there’s a whole shelf of them right here.”

So Ron scans it and sure enough! It’s a miracle! It’s in the system! So he scans the merchandise I did choose and damn my eyes, I only picked out $54.78 worth of goods, so Ron says, “Well, I can’t issue you cash without a receipt, you will have to go buy another $4.22 worth of books.” I said, “Do you even sell anything for $4.22 in here?” and he said, “Well, how about this book? It’s the book we’re recommending this month, it’s very good!” I turn the book over and it is FIFTEEN DOLLARS! I said, “That’s fifteen dollars,” and Ron replies, “Well you can just pay the difference.” LIKE HELL I AM GIVING THIS STORE ANY MORE THAN I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO! So I was like, “No thanks” so he tells me that I can go look around and when I’m done come back and he’ll finish the transaction.

So I go to the bargain books section again and pick out a hardcover for $5.99, which was about $2.00 more than I wanted to spend and I take it back to the front, only to discover that there is exactly ONE person working now, Josh, the second clerk I spoke to. He says, “Ok, I think I can ring you up” and we go back down to the end of the counter and guess what!? No he can’t! He needs a manager’s ID! Meanwhile, a lady behind me says, “there is no one at the information desk” (a fact I can confirm because while I was attempting to find one of the books I wanted, there was NO ONE to help me find it—and by the way, the self-help section was a mess. What’s even more confusing is why Jerramy Fine’s Someday My Prince Will Come is shelved as self-help) and Josh says, and I quote, “I’m the only one working at the moment. The manager is out back taking a delivery, but I’ll have him come out as soon as I can.”

Manager? As in the manager I need to see? Right you are! Fortunately, Ron came back and swished his manager’s ID so my transaction could be completed, and I wound up paying $2.07, which didn’t thrill me, but I put it on my credit card, so I can only assume any potential profit you might have seen from that transaction was eaten up in fees to the credit card company. Then I had to sign a damned form and then, finally, mercifully, I was free to go. From the time I walked into the store to the time I left, 1 hour and 45 minutes had elapsed.

I have never been so happy to get out of a store in my life. And between an excellent local bookstore and I will not go back in there again. In fact, to prove my point, please find enclosed my Borders Rewards card. If the rumors are true and Fredericksburg is soon to get a Barnes and Noble, I will conduct most of my book-buying business there and at the other locales mentioned. It’s little wonder to me that Borders is in so much trouble.

Sincerely yours,

Susan C. Kosior, Former Borders Customer

7 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Unknown said...

I stopped shopping a Border's months ago - their children's section just gets worse and worse! I go up to the Springfield B&N if I need to buy a book!

Can I borrow the "Someday My Prince Will Come" when you are done? I'll pay you $2.07!!! LOL!!!!

Unknown said...

Actually, to be fair, Borders implemented a "no exchange without receipt" policy chain-wide over a year ago. I know, I used to work there for 17 years until I was suddenly laid off last March.

By the way, B&N has the exact same returns policy, in fact they came up with it 6 months or so before Borders did.

Main reasons? Returns abuse and theft

Not a big fan of Borders anymore, but just sayin....

Kate/Susan said...

Hi jsayers11:

I could accept that if my sister and brother-in-law hadn't done the exact same thing less than a week earlier and were handed gift cards, no questions asked, at a different store. What bothers me is how much time I wasted and the randomness of the policy.

I appreciate your input, though. And yeah, Borders sucks.

Unknown said...

As a Borders employee, I sympathize with your experience and understand your desire not to go back to that particular Borders. Lack of consistency with regards to policy is frustrating.

What is sad is that the whole thing could have been avoided with a gift receipt. Too often, I have asked a customer if he or she needs a gift receipt. They reply in the negative, and then walk over and have their purchase gift-wrapped. So yes, the store is at fault for poor service. But the customers need to take some responsibility in looking out for each other.

A gift receipt is like an umbrella: it's best to have one and not need it.

It should be noted that Barnes & Noble will accept no returns 14 days after the purchase date. With Borders, it's 30 days with the purchase receipt, 60 with the gift receipt.

I would recommend that before you try the competition and run into a stricter return policy that you try a different Borders location that might have a better handle on policy.

Lesley said...

Did you really send this letter to them? I'll be curious to see whether you get a reply and what it is if you did!

It sounds like that particular location just doesn't know what the heck it's doing or how to perform good, heck even decent, customer service. Even if they didn't want to give you a gift card, it seemed like you got dicked around quite a bit from one person to the next. I would be pretty pissed, too.

If it's the same Borders you took me to, I remember not being all that impressed with it, either. And their children's section did suck.

Did you end up getting the Jerramy Fine book?

Unknown said...

As a disgruntled Supervisor in a dying store, I apologize. FWIW Borders has always needed managers approval for returns without receipts, or at least the last 6 years. I feel sorry for customers in my store, but the pain is tenfold for the employees. Every day, another veteran bookseller stumbles off jobless into a bleak economy because they cant take the pain and shame any more. Check out borders live journal online for proof!

Talmadge said...

Sounds like they're borrowing some pages from the Circuit City and Best Buy playbooks. Hire stupid people, pay 'em peanuts, and that's what you get: monkeys!

Don't know much about Borders (is that the bookstore we visited when we came up there?), but that's not a good sign. A little digging shows they're in very bad shape and might not be around much longer.

Borders isn't that common in this part of the country, as we have Books-A-Million to compete with B&N (B-A-M is based out of Birmingham).

Just as with music, there's no beating the shade-tree indie seller.