Barnes & Noble Error Leaves Gift Card Unused, Doubles Charges On Credit Card

It’s bad enough when a glitch on a retailer’s side screws up your method of payment, but Barnes & Noble took so long to investigate and respond to one customer’s emails that by the time they acknowledged they’d made a mistake, they said it was too late to do anything about it. Now the customer is left with an unused $25 gift card and a $50 charge on his credit card, twice what he’d approved at check-out.

First off, I love the site, although I’d probably do better in school if it didn’t exist.

On Monday, I ordered a dvd and a few cds from Barnes and Noble. I paid with 4 gift cards and about $25 of my own money. Tuesday morning, I checked my order status and found that one of the cards had disappeared, and my credit card had been charged an extra $25. I sent a complaint through their customer service form and got this reply on Wednesday morning:

  Dear Augie _____,

Thank you for your inquiry regarding order #********.

After review of your order we can confirm that the gift card ending with **** was used on this order. The balance should still be available on the gift card.

Visit and click on the options that appear in the upper right-hand corner to view information about your order.

We look forward to your next visit.

Customer Service Representative

This made absolutely no sense to me, so I replied with this:

  I’m confused. As of 2:00pm my order details have not changed, my credit card is still being charged an extra $25, and the gift card in question still has $25 dollars on it. If you can confirm that it was used, why is it still being ignored?

Thursday morning, I received this:

  Dear Augie _____,

Thank you for contacting

We received your e-mail requesting a change in your payment method.

Please note that your order has already been shipped and payment has been processed using the existing chosen method. Unfortunately the gift card ending in **** was not applied on this order due to some error in the system. We are unable to make a change to the payment method once the order has shipped. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.

Visit and click on the options that appear in the upper right-hand corner to view information about your order.

We look forward to your next visit.

Customer Service Representative

Here’s my reply:

  I’m sorry, but I can’t accept that. I am not requesting a change in my payment method. I am requesting the payment method that I chose when I paid, and that I was told had been accepted. I did not originally intend to spend more than what I had in gift cards. I made a choice to spend $25 of my own money, but is completely unacceptable for you to spend another $25 for me.

A few minutes later, I decided to see if I could scare them. So I sent them an email informing them that I would be sending all of our correspondences to Consumerist, which I am now doing.

I’m left wondering if there are any legal issues with them changing the payment method without my authorization. If there aren’t, is there any way for me to get my money back?

Another thing that bugs me is how each time I sent an email, they waited until the next morning to reply. They say that they can’t make any changes once the order has been shipped, but if they had simply fixed the error when they first heard from me (or would it be too much to ask to fix it on their own when it occurred?) that wouldn’t have been a problem.

One way to get your money back is to return the items you bought and request a refund, then start over. However, according to B&N’s return policy, you won’t get a refund on any shipping fees. You might want to try calling 1-800-THE-BOOK (or outside the U.S.: 201-272-3651) to see if you can reach a live human and explain the problem. It’s actually a service number for orders placed over the telephone, but it may be worth a shot.

(Photo: grilled cheese)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Wdeal says:

    initiate dispute for $25 of the $50 charged. Advise that only $25 of total was to be charged to card. Its unfortunate, but this method is probably the only approach that will compel BN to do the right thing.

  2. Michael Belisle says:

    @Wdeal: Why, this does sound like a time where a chargeback is totally warranted. (After attempting again to resolve it with B&N. I like live operators when email is a bust.)

  3. Murph1908 says:


    Do you have the original order confirmation, which indicates that only $25 was to be charged to the card? If so, this and the email of them confirming the fact that a computer error caused the gift card to do a Claude Rains should be ample proof for a chargeback.

    Dispute the $25 with the credit card company. If Barnes and Noble want their final $25, they can contact you for the gift card info again.

  4. Erik_the_Awful says:

    Second that. Call B&N as advised, and give them a cut off. How much more time are you willing to spend on this?

    Give them that amount of time on the phone/ on hold or whatever, then call the credit card company and start the charge back.

    B&N screwed up, so don’t waste too much of your time dealing with their screw up.

  5. Geekybiker says:

    Yup, dispute $25 of the charge. They aren’t allowed to charge more than authorized without explicit consent.

  6. hoot550 says:

    One thing to consider, however, is that little box you probably had to check that agreed to the terms and conditions. I’d be willing to bet there’s something in there that lets them do whatever they want, as most of those long pages of legalese say in one way or another.

  7. Hackoff says:

    How does a chargeback work? I order an OEM remote for my receiver a while back. The company said that they had it in stock (I ordered over the phone) and that it would arrive in 7-10 business days.

    15 days later no remote. I called and they said that it was on backorder and there was no ETA for the product. The person I spoke with said that it could arrive any day so I decided to wait another week. Nothing.

    I called an canceled my order. Then nearly a month later, the remote showed up and they charged my visa/check card for the $43. I called them and they claimed that they had no proof that I canceled the order and that if I wanted my money back that I would have to pay to ship the remote back to them.

    I called my bank and asked for a chargeback. They sent me a letter 15 days later saying that the return policy indicated a 30 day return policy and that I could no longer return the item, therefore I could also not get a chargeback because the order was valid? WTF!?!!

  8. ShadowFalls says:

    I’d also agree with a chargeback. You agreed to pay only a certain amount on your credit card. Without notifying you and getting approval, they instead changed the amount you originally approved. This is almost fraud in retrospect.

    Go with someone on the phone, you generally get a better response. If there is no budge, proceed with the credit card company.

  9. CaptainConsumer says:

    Go flood their toilets, go rearrange entire sections, scream FIRE in one of their locations and then simply begin siging the rest of the Ohio Players song.

  10. coan_net says:

    1. Call – sometimes talking to someone can get better results… instead of someone picking out the best template to e-mail back.

    2. If they are unable to take the charge off your credit card and use the gift card, then tell them you would like to return the whole order – also see if they will refund your shipping charges since it was their error that has led to the return. (If they can see it was their error, they may be more willing to also refund the shipping charges)…. and of course after it is all returned, try again maybe?

    … which they already admitted it was an error in their system “due to some error in the system.”

    3. If they refuse, then let them know you will be doing a charge back for the extra $25 that they illegally took out of your credit card. The deal that you made with them was for a total of $25 from the credit card.

    But as long as you don’t go into it like a screaming monkey, and discuss the issue reasonably – I would guess either #1 or #2 can be worked out without have to do #3

  11. Ausarb says:

    Perhaps you should recommend a good book to the B&N employees that you get to talk to.


  12. itsallme says:

    @Ausarb: They’ve probably already read this one.


  13. Murph1908 says:


  14. Jon Mason says:

    Serves you right for shopping at Barnes and Noble!!! LOL why would you buy a book from there??!?!?!??? I write and print all my own books on my own homemade printing press – it is just as quick as going to a bookstore and much cheaper!!


  15. Can someone remind me why anyone even bothers to go to B&N (besides for a coffee meeting)? If you want something cheap or hard to find, go Amazon. If you want something upscale (hardcover, leatherbound, collectors, etc), go with your local bookstore.

  16. mike says:

    You can “Return to Sender” the packages. Tell the UPS/USPS/FedEx that you’re refusing the packages.

  17. AugieD says:

    B&N gift cards are still quite popular in some circles (specifically, the ones I run in.)

  18. Kat@Work says:

    My favorite part? “Unfortunately the gift card ending in **** was not applied on this order due to some error in the system.”

    Some error? Give me a break – they just don’t care how they get paid – and as far as they’re concerned, they already have the money in hand for your gift card, so why bust their hump when they just made $25 extra bucks? They know you’ll be back to spend that $25 gift card.

    Do a chargeback on your cc or just refuse the packages. Take your business elsewhere and trade your gift card away on craigslist.

    @MASONRELOADED: I make my own paper so maybe I could sell your some for your awesome homemade printing press. LOL.

  19. Scuba Steve says:

    No, do not take “we can’t do anything about it” as an acceptable answer. Someone, somewhere, can do something, they just choose not to, or don’t know about it yet. Take your issue upwards. Managers, CE0s, local media, state Attorney’s offices.. etc.

  20. lizzybee says:

    @masonreloaded: Heh, you spoke right on time…

    @HRHKingFriday: For some people, Barnes and Noble *is* their local bookstore.

  21. Michael Belisle says:

    @HRHKingFriday: If people like me didn’t shop at didn’t shop at Barnes and Noble or Best Buy (Hey, they’re next door in my town), people like you wouldn’t be ask that stupid question.

  22. coan_net says:

    Why do people shop at Barnes & Noble – sounds like this person had gift cards to use.

    heck, I don’t fish or hunt – but give me a $25 gift card to a local bait shop, I’ll go buy a $25 fishing pole to throw in the back of my garage and never use.

  23. humphrmi says:

    What they said. Dispute.

    Refusing shipment is tricky with the gift cards. With a one-payment-method transaction, refusing shipment is a great option (but then you wouldn’t have this problem). The reason is, with a refused shipment, you can track the package all the way back to their warehouse, then use that as evidence for a full charge-back, which your CC company controls. With a refused shipment on a gift card, I’d bet dollars for donuts that they never get around to refunding the balance of the gift cards that did get charged.

  24. HykCraft says:

    Issue a god damn chargeback on the card. Why are people so stupid? If you issue a chargeback, they have to take it up with VISA, not you.

  25. HykCraft says:

    @HykCraft: Okay.. not particularly VISA, but who ever your cardholder is. Sorry for the confusion.

  26. odoketa says:

    @lizzybee – clearly then the answer is to leave Ann Arbor.

    Or is that borders? They’re so hard to tell apart….

    @itsallme – LOL!

  27. scoosdad says:

    @CaptainConsumer: …or take a few of their books into the rest room…..


  28. P41 says:

    original poster: when you charge back, don’t forget to include that they admitted they made an error but refused to correct it.

    @Hackoff: You deserve your own story. Tell the company return policy doesn’t apply to you because you cancelled a backordered item, you didn’t just wait for it and now you want to return it. If they won’t budge, and you have no reason for wanting the item any more, you may need to go on the attack. Be sure to look up the law requiring a chance to cancel when items are backordered.

  29. Annika-Lux says:

    They stole $25 from your credit card. Time to do a chargeback.

  30. AugieD says:

    Well, apparently something finally got to them. (Maybe it was the threat of consumerist.)

    Dear Mr. _______,

    I am in receipt of your inquiry regarding the difficulties you experienced with your recent order. On behalf of Barnes &, please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience. I am sorry to hear of your dissatisfaction, and I would like to take this opportunity to address your concerns.

    I understand you had a recent issue using your Gift Cards on our site. We strive to make our website as user-friendly as possible, and I truly regret any difficulties that you encountered. I have thoroughly researched this issue and we are taking the necessary steps to prevent this from occurring in the future. Once again we apologize for the disappointment and for frustration this may have caused.

    We have issued a credit in the amount of $25.00, to the original credit card used to place your order, and debited your Gift Card for this amount. You should expect to see the credit appear in accordance with your financial institutions practices.

    We value your patronage, and I hope that you will allow us the opportunity to continue to serve you in the future. Please do not hesitate to contact me, should you have any further questions or concerns.

    Rasheed West-Ford
    Customer Relations
    Barnes &

    I’m still waiting for any of this to show up, but it looks like the fight is over.
    Thanks to everyone for the advice.


  31. humphrmi says:

    @AugieD: Thanks for the update!

  32. yesteryear says:

    Glad to hear something good may come of this. And also that gift cards are quickly being outed as the scam they are. Here in California, one of my local state senators, Ellen Corbett (East Bay Area), recently got a bill signed into law that requires stores to give cash back for card balances under $10 (imagine having $10 left to spend at an electronics store, or an upscale clothing or shoe store – it’s useless). I know this is somewhat unrelated, but it’s helping get the message out that gift cards are shady. I think the only cards worth giving or receiving are for groceries or fuel.

    my friend received a visa gift card for christmas and was upset to find out that every time she called to check the balance, visa deducted 50 cents from her card. again, totally shady.

  33. econobiker says:

    @AugieD: Yeah, thanks for the update. I wonder if B&N took the Consumerist posting threat serious…

  34. mermaidshoes says:

    @HRHKingFriday: i bet he bothered to go to b&n because he had a gift card.

  35. ShadowArmor says:

    I was going to say either “chargeback” or just go to a B&N and make a deal with some customer who is paying with cash.

  36. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    I realize that they have corrected the error, but I would have liked to see something more than just “we corrected the error.” Perhaps “and refunded your shipping costs.” Or basically, that they had done something to acknowledge the fact that Augie had to endure a massive hassle, not of his own causation, to have a simple transaction completed. A little something more than just doing what should have been done to begin with would come closer to righting the scales.

    The credit will also (undoubtedly) be applied after payment of his card is due. For people who carry a balance, that would mean that interest would accrue. At that point, he’d be out both time and extra money. Kudos for correcting the original error, but still a customer service blackmark (a little one) in not addressing the entirety of the customer’s loss in the experience.

  37. @mermaidshoes: haha, that’s the only time i go as well- with gift card.

    And that’s kind of sad that B&N has is *the* bookstores in some small towns. I always request cash instead of gift cards, with the explanation that the money will be spent on local independant businesses. I know its tacky and all, but I think that gift cards played a huge role in shutting down local businesses and in keeping open pointless stores like B&N.

  38. HungryHippo says:

    Try contacting Terri Pucin, Vice President of Customer Experience for B&N.. try contacting her through the switchboard main number 212-633-3300. i think the email is or some format of firstname lastname Good luck! although I recall her being the biggest bitch in the world and she is supposed to lead the entire company’s customer experience but she is absolutely a horrible wench which tells a lot for the company if the person at the top is completely rude.. I think they should fire her and hire someone that understands being nice to the customer and more competent.. hopefully they will see this! Pass the word and stop big corporations like B&N from stealing from customers and not being accountable!