Barnes & Noble Canceled My Order, Doubled Price

Beth ordered two copies of a gift set from Barnes & Noble, only to see the order canceled and the price hiked from $11.14 to $22.50 on a different listing of the same item.

She writes:

On the 5th of Oct, I placed an order for 2 copies of the Night Before Christmas Gift Box. The total price was $11.14 with free shipping. Here is a link to that product (now priced at $22.50).

I received 2 emails that day. The first to confirm my order and the second said “Your Order [XXXXXXX] Is Scheduled To Ship.”

Today, the 13th, I received an email stating that my order had been canceled because “we weren’t able to fulfill some or all of the items in your order”.

I looked online and found the exact same book, listed under a different ISBN number. It has the exact same reviews as the first listing. This one is priced at $22.50.

I called customer service and was told that my order was canceled because the warehouse did not have the book in stock. When I told the CS rep that they had the same book under a different ISBN number and a higher price, she told me that they were out of stock for that item too. She also acknowledged that they were indeed the exact same product. Then I asked why I was able to add the higher priced item to my cart although it was supposedly OOS. She said that anyone who orders that book will get a cancellation and that she sent a note to the warehouse for them to list it as out of stock.

She could not provide me with an answer as to why it took over a week for me to receive a cancellation after I received a “your order is scheduled to ship” email.

I asked if I could purchase the books at the higher cost and when they arrived, have B&N adjust the price to my original purchase price. She said they would have to “call it in”. I said, “but you are the CS rep, wouldn’t you be the one to adjust the price?” She stated that they would have to send in a request to the Order Specialist Department to ask for a price adjustment. But there is no guarantee that my original purchase price would be honored.

I have a feeling that B&N simply didn’t want to honor such a low price and they canceled my (and several others’) order then listed the book under a different ISBN number and higher price. I find it hard to believe that this higher priced item is OOS but I don’t want to order it just to see if she was telling the truth.

It’s almost as thought Barnes & Noble is trying to steer Beth into its store to make a purchase and give up on buying online. Too bad she says she’ll probably never do business with the bookseller again.


Edit Your Comment

  1. TuxthePenguin says:

    Not to blame the OP… but just thinking in very, very simplified database design…

    If the sales price is tied to the ISBN, and the website was listing the wrong ISBN for that book, then the sales price would be wrong (ie, someone designing the website screwed up).

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      How is poor website designing the OP’s fault exactly? And why exactly is that a customer’s concern anyway?

      • TuxthePenguin says:

        Because if the price is due to an error, you cannot force the merchant to honor that preorder. So if there was an error because of poor website design (or database mismatch) then the OP is complaining over nto getting a “steal” – literally.

        • amuro98 says:

          Sorry, but no. If she ordered product X for $Y, and the order was accepted, then the website must BY LAW honor that order. There have been numerous examples of a website mistakenly posting a ridiculously price by misplacing a decimal point, and tried to renege on customer orders. The local AG was not amused…

          Furthermore, the OP’s order got all the way into shipping, so there’s really NO reason for B&N to have canceled her order, and is not trying to play the bait&switch game.

          OP needs to file a complaint with the BBB and her state’s AG. Then go to Amazon. At least when Amazon makes a pricing mistake, they honor the order.

          • TuxthePenguin says:

            You’re wrong. One of the basic tenants of contract law is that if there is a material error – ie, price substantially lower than it should be because of a typo – then the contract can be voided.

            If the error was because of this (actually, it seemed to be a limited offer and she was too low on the list to get it due to limited quantity), then they can cancel the sale. Period.

          • George4478 says:

            >>Sorry, but no. If she ordered product X for $Y, and the order was accepted, then the website must BY LAW honor that order.

            This is not a universal truth as you depict it. Contract laws vary widely across jurisdictions. Website terms and conditions regarding typos, product stock, order modification/cancellation, etc come into play. State law on unilateral mistakes differ from place to place.

            ‘must BY LAW honor’? No, that’s a myth as old as retail.

      • GildaKorn says:

        It’s not the OP’s fault. But the money was refunded or not billed, thus the transaction is wholly cancelled. Matter resolved.

    • SG-Cleve says:

      Quantity on hand would be tied to each ISBN too, so they could show one as out of stock and one in stock.

    • Naame says:

      B&N’s position seems clear:

      “I called customer service and was told that my order was canceled because the warehouse did not have the book in stock. When I told the CS rep that they had the same book under a different ISBN number and a higher price, she told me that they were out of stock for that item too. “

      The cancellation was due to the item being out of stock which has nothing to do with any web design error. When that happens, those who order items still get that item at the price as advertised. They just have to wait longer. B&N also said nothing about any “while supplies last” conditions.

  2. dulcinea47 says:

    I work in a library cataloging department. If the ISBN is different (legitimately different, not by mistake) it’s not the exact same item. It might be *nearly* identical, but it’s not the same. Not that this necessarily makes the price difference okay, but it might explain it.

    • NORMLgirl says:

      You have a valid point. But why then did the CS rep acknowledge that they were the exact same item?

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Well, the B&N page specified two ISBNs, the 9 digit one and the 13 digit one. Maybe the OP was talking about one ISBN while the CSR was referring to the other. The items are the same, but have two ISBNs.

      • Caged Wisdom says:

        90% of CS reps will tell the customer exactly what they want to hear in a case like this. Because you can agree with the irate customer and get them off your phone in two minutes, or you can try to educate the customer and spend ten minutes. Unfortunately, the ethical, responsible, reasonable choice is the one that’s going to cost the rep their hold time for the day, and thus is almost never the path they choose. I say this having been a customer service rep for years and dealing with the frustration of working with people who would tell the customer anything to keep the handle time down.

      • tonberryqueen says:

        Sometimes, for all intents and purposes, the items really are the exact same item (in terms of contents and whatnot), but have different barcodes.

        I used to work in a CD/DVD store, and sometimes there would be two copies of what appeared to be exactly the same DVD (covers appeared identical, same discs, same features), with two different prices. The barcodes were different, and list prices for those barcodes were different. So, they were technically the same exact item, and technically two different items.

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    What the OP didn’t say was that this is a bargain bin item. If you follow the OP’s link, it clearly says:

    “Note: This is a bargain book and quantities are limited. Bargain books are new but may have slight markings from the publisher and/or stickers showing their discounted price.”

    It’s not even for sale on Amazon anymore. And btw, I totally read that as “Nightmare Before Christmas.”

    It looks to me like the set completely sold out and because it’s bargain bin, it’s essentially been discontinued. The system has to catch up with inventory, and it’ll take a little time, but the entire entry will disappear off the site if it’s determined that there are absolutely no copies left to sell.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Whoa. I had to go back whern you pointed that out. I saw Nightmare Before Christmas, too. I love that movie.

  4. danmac says:

    It looks like the publisher republishes the book almost every year and gives it a new ISBN number. The book that the OP tried to purchase is the 2007 edition and she was pointed toward the 2010 version.

    My theory: the $11.14 was the old “clearance” price for the 2007 edition that had been floating around on B&N’s website. Because that was sold out, they redirected the OP to the 2010 edition, which is priced regularly.

    • 99 1/2 Days says:

      Former bookstore worker agrees with everything you said. The edition she wanted was remaindered it seems. Doesn’t mean the book won’t get reissued later at a regular price, which looks like what happened here.

  5. blinky says:

    Um, the isbn is printed in the book. They can’t just go and change it to raise the price.

  6. cyberpenguin says:

    I’ve had the same thing happen with Amazon. I preordered a card game at $15 since everywhere else had preorders at $20.

    About 3 months later the publisher announced a price increase to $30, but everyone that had preorder price guarantees honored them, including Amazon.

    Then, when the game was released everyone that preordered at $15 had the ISBN changed to a $10 expansion for the game (and the price lowered).

    Amazon listed the game at $35 and shipped out all the expansions. Of course, the expansion isn’t very useful without the base game.

  7. knightracer says:

    This was also listed on many bargain websites, so it sold out pretty quickly.

  8. NORMLgirl says:

    They should not have sent a “Your order is scheduled to ship” email then wait 8 days to send a “your order is canceled” email.

  9. Jane_Gage says:

    I once bought a book from them for 30 at their brick and mortar for college. I beelined it over there. The following day the price had tripled. Price gouging meets the impending sub-prime education crisis.

  10. Doofer says:

    Ignorance is no excuse for complaining. No bookstore retailer has any control over ISBNs. They cannot reassign a book to another number. Only the publisher has that control. Different ISBN means different product. On the other hand, it is bad policy to assume a customer wants to switch to a different product at a different price, whether or not they are very similar.

  11. will_butler says:

    Barnes and Noble screwed up the last three orders I placed with them really badly. I haven’t used them since. Nice brick and mortar shops, but their online business is absolutely worthless.

  12. sixseeds says:

    Please stop staying “ISBN number.” ISBN = International Standard Book Number, so just saying ISBN is sufficient.

  13. TVGenius says:

    B&N did something similar with one of my textbook orders this semester. I had found that their online store was the cheapest place to buy the book I needed (even cheaper than the B&N bookstore on our campus) and this book was not available to rent anywhere, or available used as it was a new edition. I preordered and was given an expected ship date. I even got an update email the day it was supposed to ship saying my order was now processing. Then about three days later, it was canceled, and I noticed the book had relisted at the exact same price the college store was selling at.

  14. sopmodm14 says:

    if you place an order that isn’t available at the time, it should be back ordered, not canceled…or at least give the customer the choice to cancel or not.

    if that happened to me, i’d right back to put my order on backorder.

  15. ajlei says:

    Bargain stock and general stock in a bookstore are totally different. I think people think that bargain books just come from the shelves, which isn’t true. Bargain is bought separately from general stock, and often will have a different ISBN for a seemingly identical product. Sorry, OP.

  16. kromelizard says:

    Different ISBN means different item. Out of stock indefinitely means never to be had again. The story here is essentially this.

  17. Clyde Barrow says:

    From this website, this has happened quite a few times and it makes me wonder if there is a legal loophole that companies take advantage of for its online services. Obviously they gain nothing by screwing over the customer, but they do this just the same. To me to be able to cancel a legal obligation ‘just because’ is out of the ordinary, but then, this is American business.

  18. Michaela says:

    All this taught me was that many people need to learn how online purchasing at many large sites operates and how ISBNs work…. :/

  19. Conformist138 says:

    No story here. One book (the cheaper version) is listed as “bargain” due to some defect. The blemished books sold out, so now people who want copies gotta pay full price for the (supposedly) flawless copies.

    Like when I bought my leather hardbound copy of the entire “Hitchhiker’s Guide” series with gold-edged “bible pages”. I got a crazy good deal since the spine (listing the book titles) referred to Zaphod as “Zaphood”. Or when I bought my nice dishes for half price because the outer box was damaged. On the internet, it’s just less obvious than when you see damaged items discounted in stores.

    The biggest fail here is that B&N doesn’t seem to highlight this in a way that makes it clear- The OP, the CSR, and Ben all seemingly missed this little bit of info (though it is stated right on the discounted product’s page, there’s just no flashing lights or arrows).

  20. xamarshahx says:

    i bought a dvd once, they cancelled the order hiked the price saying the price was a mistake. The price wasn’t anything overly cheap, it was close to what Amazon had. It just reminded me why not to shop there and just stick with Amazon. No wonder their stores are shutting down.

  21. dush says:

    If something is out of stock why wouldn’t you just ship it when it becomes in stock rather than cancelling the order altogether?