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 Goodreads.com 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 Amazon.com 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.
Susan C. Kosior, Former Borders Customer
Wednesday, January 06, 2010