Why Did Barnes & Noble Push Up My Membership Renewal Date By 2 Weeks?

barnes_and_nopeWilliam is a Barnes & Noble member, which entitles him to discounts in the physical store and free shipping on the Barnes & Noble website. He renews this membership every year, when it expires. That’s at the end of the year. Or so he thought.

He forwarded us this e-mail he received from B&N recently, which warned him that his membership is expiring in a month…instead of at the end of the year, in six weeks. Wait, what? He didn’t want to let his membership lapse, but he didn’t want to go renewing his membership before its time.

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He found some old receipts around the house from purchases at the Barnes & Noble store at his local mall. You guessed it, the expiration date on the receipt was December 31, as it should be.

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He notes that clerks used to encourage him to renew his card during shopping trips at the end of the year, but he would resist. “I’ve always told them that I [get] gift cards for Barnes & Noble and redeem them right after Christmas and renew my membership at that time,” he explained to Consumerist. “I’m sure some people don’t renew their cards until the first purchase they make after the card has expired.” That makes sense. Why renew if you don’t shop there?

Encouraging people to renew is one thing, but why were they fudging his membership expiration date? William had his own theory. He has a background in accounting and auditing, and moving a renewal date up so it isn’t as close to the end of the calendar year and the end of the all-important holiday shopping season makes him suspicious. “Is this an attempt to induce people to renew earlier than necessary in order to inflate revenues?” he asks. Membership isn’t very expensive, but $25 is $25.

We checked in with Barnes & Noble to find out what was going on. Of course, they wouldn’t tell us if were fudging the dates on every membership in order to artificially inflate revenue, but we find their actual explanation more plausible: a system error.

“This was caused by a system error,” a company spokeswoman told Consumerist. “We are reaching out to the customer to apologize.”

The membership is one item at Barnes & Noble that costs the same online and in brick-and-mortar stores. So that’s something.

UPDATE: Barnes & Noble did contact William to apologize, and offered him a six-month membership extension or a $25 gift card. He declined both. “My primary interest was in them identifying the cause of the problems, and following up to insure that it did not effect other customers,” he told us.

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  1. CommonC3nts says:

    Ah, so that guy from zelda 2 is now working as administrator of their database changing dates for them whenever they want.

  2. MrOldtimer says:

    Norton Antivirus starts telling you to renew 45 days before it is due. If you renew early, your 1 year starts on the day you renew, not the day your old subscription expires. Cheats you out of 45 days a year that way.

  3. maximumcap says:

    IMHO, anyone who would use Norton on their system has bigger problems than being cheated out of 45 days.

  4. Kakolukia says:

    I don’t get the choice to refuse their offer of the extension or the gift card. The extension would screw up his renewal date but B&N is a large company that would hardly notice, much less hold it against him for taking them up on their offer for the gift card. He left free money on the table and gained nothing in return. Even if he did it to not seem greedy, he still deserved something for bringing it to their attention (or if you’re a cynic, calling them on their trick) and the time he put into it.

    • SingleMaltGeek says:

      I think the OP really didn’t care so much about the 15 days in and of themselves, but wanted B&N to acknowledge and fix the problem. They weren’t offering to do that, they were trying to get him to shut up and go away. By refusing the compensation, he’s probably trying to send a message that the problem isn’t solved. (Or maybe I’m just projecting here. :) )

  5. evogel says:

    They did that to me a couple of years ago with auto renew online. I didn’t want it and thought I had time to cancel it. I made them cancel my membership. I think it was 30 days early. It was for my concences. This was done on purpose.

  6. PhillyDom says:

    The error is that someone caught on to their system of cheating people out of part of their memberships. If nobody had complained, they’d have gotten away with it.