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Why Brick and Mortar Stores Still Matter

A Nook Tablet on DisplayA year ago I purchased, and eventually returned, two Barnes & Noble Nook Colors. One was purchased by me for my wife, and the other was purchase by my wife for me. I wrote a review about my experiences with the Nook Color on `thewsreviews. In the end I returned both units because they were unsatisfactory for any purpose, especially as a e-book reader.

A year later and Barnes & Noble produced a more advanced device called the Nook Tablet. I had absolutely no intention of purchasing the Tablet based on my experiences with the earlier Nook Color. But my wife and I started reading very positive reviews of the Tablet which led us to purchase it for each other for Christmas.

The Tablet has proven to be everything the Color wasn't, but a review of the Tablet isn't the purpose of this post. Rather, it's what my wife and I experienced as customers at our local Barnes & Noble earlier this evening. Our customer experience was all positive, but very complicated. Here's a bit of an account of what happened.
  • Along with my Tablet I was given a small $25 gift card. I unwrapped it Christmas and had it in my possession  for several days. Then I lost it. I was able to walk into our local Barnes & Noble and have a replacement released.
  • I had purchased an adjustable reading stand for my wife to use with her Tablet. It broke and we returned it without any issues. We elected not to get a replacement.
  • We found out that Barnes & Noble was giving a $25 dollar discount to new members when they purchased the Nook Tablet, if those members signed up or renewed after June 2011. We didn't know about the discount until we stopped by the store today. The problem is that we renewed our membership in April. The store's manager had already put in place a policy that allowed all to benefit from the discount. The assistant manager knew of this local policy and gave us our discount.

Nook Accessories

The entire time we were dealing with the assistant manager she was professional, friendly, and courteous. She worked very hard for us, especially while trying to issue me a replacement gift card. All of this didn't amount to much money, but it was the way it was handled that was the most satisfying. Not once during our visit to the Barnes & Noble store did we feel like were were burdensome to the staff, especially the assistant manager. We were a customer and the assistant manager was going to make sure we were satisfied.

In the end we were completely satisfied, which just goes to heighten our overall satisfaction with the Nook Tablet. I'm sure that there are many who would say that they can find equivalent customer service from on-line stores. But as good as an on-line store can be, there is nothing that will ever exceed the satisfaction of excellent face-to-face customer service, the kind you will find in a local store such as Barnes & Noble.

I grow concerned that our "penny wise, but pound foolish" drive towards on-line bargains is killing a key aspect of the shopping experience. At the very least it puts local branches of national chains at risk of closure, along with the loss of local jobs, good quality jobs. Local stores staffed with helpful and knowledgeable people are, and will always be, a vital aspect of an overall successful merchant presence. Apple understands this well, which is why Apple has so many Apple Stores (and yes, I've been in a few of those as well).

As I said I'll be writing a new personal review of the Tablet on `thewsreviews. But I didn't want to wait until then to write about the genuinely positive shopping experience I and my wife had at our local Barnes & Noble.


  1. Sadly, B&N is not doing too well, even with Borders having gone out of business, B&N is still struggling for some odd reason, even though all the B&N bookstores in my part of the world seem to be doing very good business indeed. But looks can be deceiving....

    But I guess things are so bad an B&N that they are seriously considering spinning off the Nook business entirely, after spending millions to develop it. Here's a link to the story at Reuters:

    Barnes & Noble may split off Nook, cuts forecast


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