Barnes & Noble Limited Receipt Policy Won't Go National Until October?

A Barnes & Noble insider tell us the new policy limiting returns to 14 days with receipts won’t go in effect nationally until October, according to CEO Steve Riggio’s internal blog.. The policy is currently in testing in New York, New Jersey, California, and Virginia. “The point is to eliminate “customers” who empty their bookshelves of books they’ve owned for years and get store credit. The company line is “to bring our policy in line with other national retailers,” the insider tells The Consumerist. However, “the ability to “extend” the policy beyond the 14 days will be up to the compassion of the store/manager you encounter.” Looks like all you non-VA-CA-NY-NJ shysters have until October to ply your fiendish book return schemes.


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  1. SOhp101 says:

    I’ve always wondered why I love Border’s more than B&N, and these like this remind me.

  2. SOhp101 says:


  3. UpsetPanda says:

    I have a few books I’ve bought as impulse purchases…when I go, “I have to have these!” and months later, when they’re still sitting unread, I go “how the heck do I get rid of these?” and yes, I’m wondering if I can return them. But generally, I don’t, because I know I bought them because I wanted them at the time, and it’s my own fault for giving in to impulse. So, I take the hit and either post it on FreeCycle if I’m lazy, or I try to sell it on Amazon.

  4. acwnh says:

    FWIW, I got one of those notices last week at a B&N in CA, so they are also “testing” the new policy here as well.

  5. Canerican says:

    I bought some books for school a while back and was shocked when BN took them back. I was so broke and selling my unused books saved me.

  6. GOKOR says:

    I don’t see what the big deal is, why should a store have to take a hit because some jerk wants to return his used stuff? Essentially renting it.

  7. exkon says:


    I have to agree, it’s not really that big of hassle to have receipt for a return. Especially for a book. Just stick it in the book when you get home.

    14 days does seem a little short, maybe they’ll extend to 30 days?

  8. UpsetPanda says:

    @GOKOR: Some people whose stories I can understand, like Canerican’s, but some people really just try to rip off the company, either by buying books from a used bookstore or somewhere other than BN and then “returning” them to BN for profit. Regardless of discount, a lot of books at BN sell for full price, so a lot of people make money off these scams by targeting software books, finance books, etc. Bestsellers are generally comparable price at every big box bookseller, but scammers would avoid them in the long run because even after the book is in paperback, the hardback will sell at bargain bin rates.

  9. UpsetPanda says:

    @exkon: The problem is still people buying the book, reading it, sending it back. The library is free, BN isn’t, why should people treat BN as a library?

  10. MARTHA__JONES says:

    @exkon: To me, as a BN member 14 days seems excessively short.

  11. Sherryness says:

    OFF TOPIC: But this reminds me of a joke by Mitch Hedberg, “I was flipping through a magazine at a news stand and the guy behind the counter said, ‘This is not a library’ – so I said, “Ok! I’LL TALK LOUDER, THEN!’ “

  12. sleze69 says:

    @SOhp101: So which kind of bookstore shopper are you? Do you take it from the shelf and try to return it OR do you buy a book cheaper somewhere else and return in at B&N for a higher refund?

    There is no reason for people to not have a record of their purchase. If you lose the receipt, the store (ANY store) can look it up by your credit card. If it was a gift, have the balls to ask the giver for the receipt if you want to return it.

    If you paid with cash AND lost the receipt, you’re SOL.

  13. renegadebarista says:


    Borders is getting ready to change their policy too. Part of what is causing this is publishers are tightening down on what returns they will take from retailers. Part of the publishers change of heart is due to Borders and B&N’s liberal return policy, and part of it is due to chains like Hastings sending in books they have bought from customers as used.

  14. MyCokesBiggerThanYours says:

    Policy sounds reasonable and fair.

  15. StevieD says:


    If you lose the receipt, the store (ANY store) can look it up by your credit card.

    Courtesy of the tin-foil-beanie-brigade and their security concerns the merchants capacity to lookup your card is quite limited.

  16. ExtraCelestial says:

    There were signs posted at my local B&N in Maryland as well.

  17. LAArt says:

    Manhattan Beach, California – got one of these as well. I’m surprised the policy is not 30 days.

  18. chiieddy says:

    Again, I’d like to point out the wonder swapping site for those who have old books and want to bypass the bookstore.

  19. UpsetPanda says:

    I see the point behind paperbackswap, and it’s a nice tool for some people, like if you don’t have a decent library, for instance. There’s also paperspine, which is like netflix for books. It eliminates the clutter of amassing books when you just don’t have space.

  20. quail says:

    People who abuse the system make it rough for regular folks like me. In bringing their return policy ‘in-line’ with other retailers is code that B&N is getting boned too. Now when a gift comes without a receipt I have no choice but to keep it or put it up for sale on eBay.

  21. mcmg says:

    Having worked at BN, I was always so infuriated when I had to let people return books that were obviously read. It’s a bookstore, not a library. Some people really bought books, read them, and returned them. We couldn’t turn them away, even though we knew what was going on. Also, as a customer, I wouldn’t want to spend money on a new book, that is really a used book. If i wanted a used book I wouldn’t have gone to BN.

  22. barty says:

    @sleze69: The ability for a retailer to look up a transaction by a credit card or debit card number is far more limited than you would think due to security issues. Stores which obtain your name and address (Micro Center, Advance Auto, Auto Zone, Radio Shack, etc) can usually look up past purchases as long as its at the same store within about 60-90 days. A reasonable manager should allow someone to present a statement if no other record of the sale exists. In my past retail experience, if someone misplaced a receipt but could come up with a credit card statement or canceled check, I had no problem offering a refund based on that information.

    Unfortunately its the people who abuse the policies who cause these companies to clamp down on returns. Restocking fees were almost totally caused by people “renting” TVs, other electronics or big ticket items for certain events or for a specific purpose then returning it when they were finished with it. When I worked for Radio Shack (which still has no restocking fees) we almost never sold a radar detector. Probably 80-90% of them were returned shortly after someone returned from a trip or reached their destination. If they were returned to another store, often they were returned with the packaging completely disheveled, which made it impossible to sell as new.

    As far as books are concerned, after I’m done reading it, I either pass it on to someone else or get credit for it at the local used bookstore. I’ve never tried to pass off a many months old book to a new bookseller for a refund. I have a friend that once worked for a local Borders and she stated that they did have a problem with people returning used/old books for refunds because of their liberal return policy.

  23. ChrisC1234 says:

    I’ve never understood where more stores don’t adopt procedures like Dillards. For those who have never shopped at Dillards, when you purchase anything, they affix a barcode sticker to the clothing tag, and scan it during the purchase. The yellow barcode sticker is the “proof of purchase”. If you need to return something, all you need is to make sure that the yellow barcode sticker is still on the product. They scan the barcode and immediately know how much was actually paid for the product, and can then get a refund / giftcard / exchange. No receipt is ever required. It’s real easy because you don’t have to ever worry about gift receipts if its a gift.

  24. Hambriq says:

    Does anyone who works for B+N or Borders know if they repackage and resell the returned books as “new”?

    I know at a certain high end housewares store that I used to work at, we would repackage kitchen appliances (coffee makers, toasters, etc.) that people had returned and resell them. We were supposed to check them to see if they were used or not; most people didn’t.

    We got in a bundle of trouble once for selling a returned pizza stone (in a box) that no one had noticed was covered in old pizza funk.

  25. marqlet says:

    I work at a BN in VA, and we have started using the new register tape with the new policy, and according to our policy, the new 14 day return policy will begin March 3. Although, that might have changed since I worked on Sunday.

  26. parallelogram says:

    @Hambriq: If we accept the book as a return, it’s supposed to be in saleable condition. So yes, at every B&N I’ve worked at, we do resell the returned books.
    My store now is instating the 14-day policy starting March 3. People are already arguing with me. It’s a pain – but it’s going to be so nice to not-accept the completely illegitimate returns, finally.

  27. WhoMee says:

    Sorry to say the policy has been announced at the Calabasas California Store going into effect as of March 3rd. The CEO needs to check with his people.

  28. WhoMee says:

    I have one problem with the policy change, over the last few months, I have bought 2 books (printed in China)that fell apart at the binding after just 3 months. According to this policy I am SOL.

  29. UpsetPanda says:

    @WhoMee: What does the fact that the books were printed in China have anything to do with the books themselves? A lot of books are printed in China.

  30. StevieD says:


    There is a difference between return for credit and return for replacement. Give it a try.

  31. DigitalMariner says:

    It’s my understanding as a B&N employee that defective items (books missing pages, cracked CDs or DVDs, etc…) would still be exchangeable for the identical item if it is legitimately defective that is not the customer’s fault. As for books that are returned, every store I’ve worked at has tried to maintain a level of service only allowing books in what appears to be “unread condition”. And they would then be reshelved :( If we did take back something that was in less than new condition it would be returned or put in a box with other damaged merch.

  32. FoxintheSnow says:

    Bookseller here. Yes, people return obviously used books that we cannot resell. Yes, people STEAL books and then return them for store credit. Big, fat, expensive books. It’s a shame that there are people who take advantage of the current policy, but I see it every day.

    Save your receipt. If it’s a gift, ask for a gift receipt. And be nice to the help :)

  33. renegadebarista says:

    Borders, and Hastings do put books returned by customers out on the shelf as new if they are in good condition. If it is a book that they are already overstocked on they typically return it to the publisher or distributor.

  34. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @renegadebarista: Amazon FTW. I always get brand new books, and on the two occasions they were damaged in shipping because they were packed loose in a box (couple years ago), I got them replaced with no obligation to send the damaged ones back.

    Not that Amazon doesn’t have their moments as well… but I haven’t bothered with B&N in more than a year, and probably won’t ever, now.

  35. SOhp101 says:

    @sleze69: Neither.

    @renegadebarista: That’s too bad, but I’ve gotten much better service at Border’s in general. Nearly all books I’ve purchased from there I’ve kept, but the peace of mind is nice.

  36. gingerCE says:

    I don’t know if BN can do a return via a credit/debit card lookup. I do know they cannot do a return based on a BN member discount card lookup–but if anyone from BN is reading this, I’d recommend that. That way returns could be easier for members and it might get more people interested in buying a membership.

  37. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Solution? If this is a problem for you: Don’t. Shop. There.

    I’ve returned a book once because I was in a hurry when I bought it, and didn’t realize I already had it (I buy a lot of anthologies). No problem (but not at B&N).

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  39. HOP says:

    i don’t blame ’em…..14 days is ample time to retrurn most anything

  40. sethom says:

    Reminds me of George Costanza…don’t take the book in the bathroom, you might not be able to return it at all. I guess you’ll still have 14 days to take it in the bathroom.

  41. Kounji says:

    There are a few things here. I think personally you know whether or not you want a book, or if its the right one you’re looking for within 14 days. Retail Companies I think are starting to see their bottom line get smashed from issuing all these returns due to lower profit margins for their stores. Now that the economy isn’t doing so well, they’re all starting to tighten the belt. I’ve worked retail for a few years, and I can tell you I’ve seen so many people bring all sorts of items back to a store to see how much they can get in store credit. Returning all your junk you didn’t use is like a pastime for people, but treating your local retailer like coinstar is detrimental to the retailer and its customers. I’m not butt hurt at all.

    That being said, I hope that during the holidays they extend all returns until the week after christmas.

  42. GOKOR says:

    @exkon: I see nothing wrong with 14 days as a return policy for a book. 30 days would just make it much easier to read the book and return it.

    @barty: Radio Shack only asks for name and address if you return something or are getting a service plan (not counting certain services that will not allow a sale without getting a person’s info). That is unless the store manager is a tight ass and requires the name and address personally. Radio Shack doesn’t require it, they just make the option available for employees to use, which no one does.

  43. JiminyChristmas says:

    How about this:

    A person goes to B&N and buys someone a Christmas present. If this person is anything like my Mom they will be doing this in mid-November because all the shopping must be done before Thanksgiving.

    Come Christmas Day, six weeks later, I unwrap Mom’s gift to find something I have no interest in reading. So, no return, no exchange? Lame.

  44. Mary says:

    You know, working a at a bookstore for six years, you’d think I’d sympathize with them and talk about all those horrible customers abusing the returns policy.

    Sorry, I don’t buy it. We had a handfull of those people, and they’ll just find a new scam to run. All this is going to do is make me buy less books than ever before. Which, I guess, is very good for my bottom line. But not theirs.

    The liberal returns policy sold books. Just like the 100% satisfaction guarantee helped sell amazing amounts of overpriced lotion when I worked at Bath and Body Works. Sure, people abuse it, but I bet if you ran the numbers the sales you make because of the policy probably balance it out.

  45. wildness says:

    @StevieD: Not anymore with this policy – California stores (and possibly others as well) had already done away with return for credit – they would mail the credit to you – but you could still do a return for replacement where they do a single transaction that includes the return and the purchase.

    I have to admit, I abused the B&N system myself a few times. I would buy something that looked good and few months (occasionally years) later didn’t anymore (stress: these were unread – or specifically UNUSED) so I would return them to B&N and get something I did want.

    The jig is up and the party is over.

  46. Anonymous says:

    My problem is that this is essentially saying “Screw you!” to anyone who got a gift that they got a double of or is not something they wanted. I have family members who every year buy me things way out of left field, and I have always brought them back to BN for store credit, and then often paid extra on top of the store credit for things that I actually wanted. They’re the ones losing out here because MOST people aren’t trying to rip them off!

    I’m saying this as a former BN employee, too. I worked there for 5 years and many customers said they chose us over Borders for our friendliness and our return policy.

  47. Anonymous says:

    Sonaliflute: If you worked for Barnes and Noble for so long then you should know the frustrations of having to take back returns to customers with no receipt having no proof that it was even bought at Barnes and Noble. If it was a gift, re gift the book or maybe you should tell whoever bought you the gift to give gift receipts. Gift Receipts are nothing new and virtually every retailer gives them out.