Consumers Speak: Barnes & Noble’s Four-Day Cancellation Delay

Reader Kat B writes:

Hello there, Consumerist. Thought I’d pass along my horrific
experience, in the spirit of holiday outrage. Ho ho ho!

Take a look at her perfectly reasonable complaint letter after the jump. The gist? waited four days before they told her that they wouldn’t be able to fulfill her order. Sort of makes it hard to get stuff by Christmas, doesn’t it?

I am writing to express my disappointment in regards to orders [number redacted] and [ditto], both placed at on December 16, 2005.

To provide some background, I have been a Barnes and Noble Member for several years. This membership has tied my loyalty to Barnes and Noble ahead of other bookstores, as it is intended to do. Whenever I need to buy books, magazines, or DVDs, I shop at or Barnes and Noble stores, because I know that I will receive a 10% discount in addition to excellent service.

My experience today has changed that perception. In spite of the encouraging emails from Amazon, and the in-store coupons that Borders sends me regularly, I felt confident placing my Christmas orders at your web site. Numerous emails throughout the month of December have reminded me that I had until December 19 to place my order and receive Free Super Saver Shipping for my gifts to arrive by Christmas, and I looked forward to shopping with you.

I placed my two orders on December 16. Today, on December 20, which is four (4) days later, I received a notification that, “Due to an unexpected delay, we are unable to ship the merchandise listed below in the time frame indicated in our previous email. We anticipate that your merchandise will be shipped within the next 1-5 business days.” This merchandise will not reach me in time for Christmas. I now must scramble, placing last minute orders on Amazon, to guarantee that my gifts will make it to their intended destinations by the Sunday holiday.

This debacle has cost me significantly, since I now must use Amazon’s expensive 2-day shipping option (and I don’t save my 10% membership rewards there). It has also caused much hassle, as I had to duplicate this Christmas shopping at other retailers.

Unless makes a significant effort to remedy this situation, your company can rest assured that I will no longer shop on your web site or in your stores. I will also allow my Member card to expire, as I see no reason to show loyalty to a company who would be so ingenuous to me.

Ideally, I would like these items Express shipped to me in order to arrive by 12/24. Another option includes making sure that these items are held in store for me to pickup between now and Christmas.

Please notify me how you plan to remedy this situation. I look forward to your response.


Edit Your Comment

  1. As an Amazon Prime member, I can assure you this problem is not relegated to Barnes & Noble.
    While I could excuse the occasional item being delayed, the frequency of this happening has increased dramatically over the past year – in fact, for me it appeared to have been triggered when I signed up for Prime.

    Actually, what bothers me most is when I receive a similar notification letter, telling me that a product has been delayed, a couple days AFTER I see the same information on my product status page. Additionally, it aggravates me to no end when Amazon tells me a product won’t be available for a couple weeks, but the item’s product page still lists the item as available for shipping within 24 hours.

    The reason neither B&N or Amazon have corrected this is, I believe, obvious: they’d rather mislead you into thinking they have the item, when they know they don’t, than have you go over to the competition.

  2. caltonia says:

    I started using BN exclusively after Amazon repeatedly delayed my orders for months on end.

    I would order something that showed shipping in 24 hours, choose the ‘free shipping’ option, then wait. More often than not, I’d buy do this when I was buying for gifts for my folks (birthday or xmas) and I’d often order their gifts months in advance of the actual date.

    I’d get a received your order notice. Then a week or so later, i’d get a note stating that it wasn’t available, but would ship within 3 weeks. Because I’d ordered early, waiting another 3 weeks was fine with me. The first time this happened, I even had several MONTHS lead time. Three weeks later, I got another notice, saying that it wasn’t available but that it would take another 3 weeks to ship. I checked the website, it said that the item was in stock, shipping in 24 hours. I cancelled.

    This was not the only time I’ve had this happen with Amazon. At least 4 times within a year-and-a-half (this was before I stopped shopping at Amazon entirely approximately 9 months ago now). After getting the delay message, I’ve cancelled and reordered (to no effect). I’ve agreed to wait (and wait and wait). In fact, I waited more than once for the same order. One order was delayed 3 weeks 3 different times! For that order, my lead time was gone, so I cancelled and ordered from B&N. B&N had it to me in two days, with the same free shipping.

    I’ve told friends about this and more than one has had this same experience. Even the most diehard Amazon fan had this experience with them just a couple of months ago when he ordered a single DVD.

    I’ve wondered whether Amazon delays the free shipping orders for people who’ve paid for shipping, but I can’t confirm it.

    All I know is that I’ll never shop Amazon again.

    Need a wishlist? Use Froogle.