Customer Service is a Ruthless Business

You can say many cranky things about Amazon, but when it comes to Kindle, I have never had a problem with customer service. I have a problem with a book or the device itself and I can reach a person and get a solution within a few minutes most of the time. I’ve purchased children’s books and realized they were formatted horribly – full refund and the book was removed from my account within an hour. I purchase a book accidentally – same thing. My Kindle II: Matzoh edition, which I purchased refurbished, developed a problem with repeated crashes and they sent a new one with next-day shipping. The Kindle customer service is freaking amazing considering how dominant the device has become.

Outstanding customer service online, particularly with digital books, is almost immeasurably valuable. Digital book adoption is one hurdle after another, and having a more experienced person help you, one who has the power to refund and sell you a different copy of a book or replace your malfunctioning device, can make the transition much easier.

So imagine my dismay at this email in my inbox from Melinda:

I’m writing to let you guys know about a problem with the e-version of Anne Stuart’s new book “Ruthless” at Barnes and Noble.com.  Though they have the correct cover photo, title, and book info listed (and apparently even the free sample is correct)—if you download the book, what you actually get isn’t Anne Stuart’s”Ruthless” but instead a book called “Rich, Rugged. . .Ruthless” by Jennifer Mikels. 

I received the wrong book on Aug 1 (pub date of Stuart’s “Ruthless”) via my Nook, and dutifully wrote to Customer Service, and of course haven’t heard anything back from them yet.  Certainly the problem hasn’t been fixed yet for me, and it looks to me like the problem is still afflicting new buyers at the B&N page as of today Aug 3.  Perhaps a “public service announcement” to the Romance Reading Public ought to go out about this?  Maybe Stuart’s publisher MIRA would like to know about B&N’s ham-handedness?

Thanks for letting me blow off a little steam!

Wow. Four days and still no response? That’s Not Good when you compare the alternatives.

What the heck is going on? Amazon has the correct book file, but All Romance has the wrong cover and I *believe* the correct book file (I couldn’t read the .pdb on my Mac).

But you know what? It’s Barnes & Noble’s problem to deal with, because they sold the file and are the customer’s point of access. Several days of silence isn’t dealing with it. Silence is NOT customer service. Even if the problem is with the distributor or the digital file manager or with one letter wrong in the code that arranges the purchase and download, whatever.

So while I was typing this up today, 4 August, Barnes and Noble’s response came through to Melinda:

> Dear Customer,
>
> Thank you for your email regarding ” I ordered “Ruthless” by Anne Stuart
> that was just released (author and title are correct on the BN.com
> site), and instead I received a completely different book entitled
> “Rich, Rugged, Ruthless” by Jennifer Mikels.”
>
> If you would like a refund:
>
> We ask that you call us at 1-800-THE-BOOK (1-800-843-2665) and request
> Digital Support. We are available Monday through Friday from 8AM to
> 11PM EST, Saturdays and Sundays 9AM to 11PM EST.
>
> We are aware of this problem and are working diligently to resolve it.
> Please check back often as we hope to correct this situation shortly.
>
> Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience this may have
> caused.
>
> Sincerely,
>
> Jim
> Customer Service Representative – Digital Support
> Barnes and Noble

You want to bring it and be a presence in the digital market? Bring the customer service with your noise and funk. Sending a response three days later and then asking the customer to call you back to fix a mistake you are aware of is NOT going to get it done. Please check back? Please call us?

And you are STILL SELLING THE WRONG FILE?! How do I know? I downloaded Nook software for my Mac, and bought the book. Is it Anne Stuart? Nope, sure isn’t. I got me a copy of “Rich, Rugged, and Ruthless” by Jennifer Mikels.

So despite being aware of the mismatched file, you’re still selling it. So I now have to go call you get a refund on a problem you’re aware of? Oh, no, Barnes & Noble. No, you didn’t.

If Amazon can get it done in moments, and, as a few readers have stated here in the comments this summer, a small independent digital store like All Romance can get a reader problem resolved personally, seeing Barnes & Noble’s making the customer work harder four days after they contact them about a problem is just ridiculous. That’s not going to endear them to readers. Neither is selling the incorrect book despite being aware of the problem.

So if you’re thinking of buying Ruthless for your Nook, you might want to try another option.

 

Categorized:

Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    KimberlyD says:

    I wasn’t planning on purchasing “Ruthless” but now I’ll think twice before buying any ebook from B&N. If I do encounter a problem, I want to know that whoever I’m purchasing from will try to fix it as soon as possible (and that isn’t several days later.) Thanks for the heads up, Sarah and Melinda. I hope B&N steps up their game before bad press slows or stops their ebook sales.

  2. 2
    Heather says:

    I had a similar problem with the Sony ebook store. I bought Larissa Ione’s Ecstasy Unveiled. The file was corrupt. I went through CS, did live chat, proved to them it wasn’t user error by going through numerous pointless steps, then was given a phone number to call. Hubby called it. They said give them a few days. A week later we called again because we hadn’t heard anything and the file is STILL corrupt. Finally, got a refund for more than I paid for the book and was promised the book when the file was fixed on top of that. Here we are how many months after release and is the book fixed yet? Nope. I ended up buying a print copy instead.

    Reading your praise of the Kindle CS only adds to my wanting a new Kindle, though I swore I would never buy one. Never say never, huh?

    Hope56 – I could hope for 56 years and that book file still wouldn’t be repaired.

  3. 3
    romantic@heart says:

    I can’t sing the praises of Amazon enough. I don’t have Kindle, but I order a lot of various goods from them and their customer service is GOLD. They are super fast and polite.

    I also have a Sony Reader and I have found their customer service to be excellent, too – quick and efficient.

  4. 4
    Chicklet says:

    Oh, for the fuck of shit. I was, like, three days from purchasing a Nook when 1) B&N’s board announced they may be willing to sell the chain, and 2) this entry appeared. I give up.

  5. 5
    Laurel says:

    I’ve been underwhelmed with B & N’s customer service as well. I spent three hours trying to purchase a new release from them (went to them instead of Amazon because the title was not available on Kindle yet). I kept getting a weird message that cookies were disabled in my browser (they weren’t) with instructions on how to fix it (I followed them). I finally emailed for support because the whole point was that I wanted the book RIGHT NOW! NOW, DAMMIT! I let them know that I was a Kindle user but that my husband was considering eReaders and I was pushing toward Nook since new release availability was better on B & N. A happy, rapid resolution would go a long way toward influencing our decision.

    Meanwhile, I went through another computer, got the book added to my bookshelf, and back through my computer to get it, which finally worked. Around my arse to get to my elbow, as it were.

    That was in May. Still haven’t heard from B & N.

  6. 6

    I’ve had a Kindle 2 since Feb. ‘09 and never once had an issue.  Not. Once.  (I have 150+ books on the Kindle). It’s a shame that B&N doesn’t understand that if you provide good customer service, people will be happy to be your customer!  And tell people about it. And come back to buy more books.  No wonder the company is in financial trouble.

  7. 7
    Cathy says:

    Just as a counterpoint to the B&N and Sony stories, here’s one from Amazon. I received this email last week:

    Greetings from Amazon.com.

    We’re writing about your past Kindle purchase of ‘Walking the Small Group Tightrope: Meeting the Challenges Every Group Faces’ by Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson. The version you received contained some errors that have been corrected.

    An updated version of ‘Walking the Small Group Tightrope: Meeting the Challenges Every Group Faces’ is now available. It’s important to note that when we send you the updated version, you will no longer be able to view any highlights, bookmarks, and notes made in your current version.

    If you wish to receive the updated version, please let us know via e-mail at amazonkindle-feedback @ amazon.com.

    If you prefer, you can reach us by phone directly and toll free from many countries by clicking the Contact Us option in the right-hand column of our Kindle Support pages at:

    http://www.amazon.com/kindlesupport

    We apologize for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your business with Amazon.

    Some obsevations:
    – this was a free book when I “bought” it in April. They are fixing something I didn’t even pay for!
    – I didn’t even know there was a problem, because I have been too busy reading fun stuff to open a book that might help my career [hah! I first wrote “crack open a book”. This is the first time I’ve realized that cracking sound of opening a new hardcover book doesn’t apply to eBooks.]
    – I replied to their email asking for the update and they replied to me within an hour telling me they’d sent me the new file and reminding me to make sure my Kindle networking was turned on so I’d get it
    – the new file showed up in both Kindle for PC and Kindle immediately

    I know a lot of people are not happy with Amazon over a lot of things related to eBooks, but this kind of proactive support from a big company makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

  8. 8
    Joy says:

    Nook users don’t have to buy from B&N.  Looks like Ruthless is available on the Sony e-bookstore as well.  Does anyone know if it’s the correct file, before I buy (because I have a nook and was considering buying this book)?

    On the other hand, I have purchased hundreds of books from B&N without any problems whatsoever.

    B&N customer service by email is pretty much non-existent.  90% of it is a delayed autoresponse asking you to call.  I’ve found (due to nook issues during the initial release of the product, not any e-book issue) you’re always better off calling, which is counterintuitive in this digital age.

  9. 9
    Mary says:

    Well!  That settles that. 

    I have a Kindle2 which I love (but am going to return it for a K3 since I JUST bought it) and have had the same good experience with Amazon.com’s customer service.  But I was thinking of buying either the Nook or the Sony Touch as a backup and also so I can borrow library eBooks to read.  Now it’s down to the Touch, if I even decide to get another.  I’m finding that borrowing dtBooks from the library and reading eBooks on the Kindle works just fine.

  10. 10
    SB Sarah says:

    Amazon certainly isn’t a saint by a long shot, but time and again I’ve been knocked over by my own experiences with their customer service, or from stories from other Kindle users. On one hand, your books really aren’t yours as they reside “safely” in the “cloud” at Amazon, there’s the pricing, etc etc etc … on the other hand, it couldn’t be easier to buy books, or fix problems, when you have a Kindle.

    In other related news, I have two email messages and a direct message from Harlequin (Stuart’s book is from HQN/Mira) saying, ‘Oh, no. We’re on it!’

  11. 11
    Jeannie says:

    I cannot sing the praises of my Kindle and Amazon enough. For a company that is so incredibly HUGE their customer service rocks!! I have a friend that has a Nook and she can’t always download the same books that I can get through Amazon because their “store” selection is not as good.

    I also have bought books through ARe and the first time I did I screwed up on the format I downloaded. I sent them an e-mail for help and had a response within an HOUR!! That’s right I said an HOUR!! And it went something like this – “No problem. Here you go!” *sigh* Little bit of girl-love going on there for such awesomeness that is ARe.

    Enough can’t be said about good customer service. It goes a long way in my “book”, even if I have to pay a little more.

    Oh and by the way – @chicklet “Oh, for the fuck of shit! – I freakin’ love that, I’m stealing it!!

    spam word – only25…don’t I wish.

  12. 12

    Since buying my nook in February, I’ve kept an eye on the nook forums at bn.com (for update rumors and freebies, etc) and I’ve learned a few things.

    1) B&N’s customer service sucks.

    2) The forum “regulars” are asshats who treat everybody like shit. Not surprisingly, B&N doesn’t seem to care.

    3) You HAVE to call. Email support is nonexistent.

    4) B&N’s customer service sucks.

    If/when the day comes the Kindle supports digital library books, I’m all over it.

  13. 13
    Larissa Ione says:

    Argh! This is the third instance I’ve heard of regarding the Sony file for Ecstasy Unveiled.  Heather, I’m so sorry.  I know they don’t give refunds, but will you please email me? I’d like to help make it right. My email is larissaione AT gmail.com

  14. 14
    Keishon says:

    B&N customer service as a company sucks big time but the customer service at my local B&N is awesome. Just from experience and unrelated to your topic (sorry!) if you ever have a problem with your Nook for any reason at all, take it to the store. Do not go through the company. As relating to the incorrect files, I’d dispute the charge if it was on my Amex until they got it fixed. But that’s me. Good luck.

  15. 15
    Lisa J says:

    The same thing happened to me with Saving Grace by Julie Garwood from Books on Board.  I received a copy of a book called Saving Grace by a different author.  e-mailed customer service and they got back to me right away.  Unfortunately, they had to discuss it with their distributor.  After more than a month and three follow up e-mails from me (they didn’t update me, so I kept e-mailing them), they finally gave me a store credit for the book (although I probably would have prefered a credit to my credit card).  The problem is still not resolved (I just received the credit on Friday of last week) and while I have been waiting they still listed the book for sale and as of this morning it is still on sale there.  Doesn’t make sense to me.

  16. 16
    SB Sarah says:

    Let the record show that Larissa Ione also rocks. WOOT.

    I just got an email from All Romance thanking me for alerting them to the mix-up and that they’re working on it now.

    I just don’t get how BN doesn’t see the value of customer service. Adopting digital books is already so confusing and difficult for avid readers. Customer service, especially when you buy the wrong file or accidentally click “Buy now” or have a problem, makes a HUGE ENORMOUS difference, particularly when dealing with a readership that isn’t autexec.bat-level tech savvy.

  17. 17
    SB Sarah says:

    OH, thanks, Keishon. I didn’t realize local BN stores could help more than the NOOK customer service options. Good to know!

    And oh yes, if the file isn’t right, contest that on the credit card. I’ve done that before.

  18. 18
    gwen hayes says:

    I was going to be on the Nook wagon until I ran into several horrible CS incidences with BN. I have always enjoyed their bookstores—but I don’t think they are ready for the Information Highway.

    Hugging my Kindle.

  19. 19
    Barb in Minn says:

    As I read this I was thinking, “She found a way to write to B&N?”
    And then we reach the bs of having to call.
    I recently had bad experience while attempting to buy a couple of ebooks. There was a problem with the credit card on my end. I figured no big deal – I’ll switch to a different card.
    Their system kept telling me that I had already bought the book (which had not downloaded), would not let me clear the order, would not let me enter the different CC number. The order history said “CC problem – not charged – please call 1-800…” No email or chat option. Huh? What part of “online business” isn’t clear?
    So I bought the books from Amazon that night instead.
    Called B&N the next day, told them to cancel the order – and why. A week later a received the cancellation notice via email.

    (I continue to use my iTouch, so that I’m not limited to vendor-specific stores).

  20. 20
    Lisa J says:

    Sorry for another post.

    Diesel is the best if you ever have a problem.  They get back to you immediately, follow up regularly, and resolve the issue to your satisfaction.  With agency pricing and everyone having the same prices I find myself buying more and more from them.

    AllRomace is also good at resolution and contact, too.

  21. 21
    Alex says:

    I do agree that costumer service at Amazon is great.
    I don’t buy many e-books but Amazon is my primary source of dead-tree editions because they ship internationally. Whenever I’ve contacted their costumer service, and even if it’s just to ask about a one dollar discrepancy on my bill, they answer in less than 12 hrs, usually within a couple of hours, even if I mail in the middle of the night.

    For me costumer service is invaluable, I don’t live in the US (I just visit a couple of times a year), I can’t go yell at anyone at the store, so being able to email and get answers, even outside the US, is priceless.

  22. 22
    Lillie H says:

    I own a Nook, and one of the reasons why I purchased it was because of its connection to a brick & mortar. It sounds like your email experience was reprehensible, no question about that.

    However, I have never had a problem with their live customer service. A few weeks ago, I bought several ebooks from B&N through my Nook, and had trouble opening them. At, 2am on a Saturday night, I was able to reach a live person who stayed on the phone with me for more than an hour until the problem was solved. This even included allowing me to re-download the books through the website, in case it was the software of the Nook that was causing the problem.

    I have to say that I have had exceptional service in the stores also. I think it comes down to people that like the whole experience that some people like to conduct business solely digitally. Amazon is boss at that, surely. But, B&N offers a live experience. I’m sure they could work on the email customer service, and digital support. But, what has always been missing for me with Amazon, is being able to show someone a problem, and have them help me solve it.

  23. 23
    ghn says:

    I myst be exceptionally lucky – I have only had a problem with an ebook I bought once in 10 years of electronic reading.
    It was one I bought at Fictionwise three or four years ago – issue was a corrupt file. I tried to redownload – still corrupt. So I emailed about the issue.
    I never heard back from Customer Service, but when I redownloaded the file a couple of weeks later, the problem was fixed. I still think they should have alerted me when the good file was available, though.
    That happened before Barnes and Noble bought Fictionwise – so I wonder what Customer Service is like there these days…

  24. 24
    JoAnn Ross says:

    I realize people have issues with Amazon (Bezos can be a bully), but I’ve been buying books from them from the day they opened, back when they’d send really nice travel coffee mugs to their customers every year as a thank you gift.  When I was writing category (which had a shelf life between milk and yogurt), I was also hugely grateful that they kept my backlist available to readers at a time when Borders and B&N wouldn’t even carry category romance. 

    I’ve kept coming back because their service has always been gold.  We’ve even bought a set of expensive pots and pans and a boat trailer from them, through other venders, but they carry the Amazon guarantee of service. 

    I love my original version kindle.  I did have one problem last month where, for some reason, I could download a book onto my husband’s but not mine. I went to their customer service link, clicked on the “I want someone to call now” button, and seconds later I received a phone call from a woman who fixed the problem right away.  Their customer service ranks up there with Nordstrom and Zappos, the other two places I mostly shop.

  25. 25

    I like my Nook as a device a lot, and I like its easy ability to interact with my Mac.

    But yeah, B&N’s customer service needs a whole lot of improvement. When they deployed a recent shift over to all epub format, a great number of the epub downloads for Mac computer users completely broke the reader. You could still read the books directly on your Nook or in the B&N app on Apple devices, but if you wanted to read it on your actual computer in the available client, you were hosed.

    Forum users bitched about this for weeks. Including me. I finally asked one of the forum admins to please make the powers that be re-deploy PDB format for Mac users if the client wasn’t going to properly support epub files. AND that they really needed to update the download page for the Mac client, which was claiming that it was supposed to be able to read epub files.

    Similar issue with trying to get them to post a book I wanted to buy: Book 2 of Caitlin Kittredge’s ongoing Nocturne City series. They had every other book of hers but not THAT one, and nobody could tell me why it was missing. It took several days to get it to get posted so I could actually buy the thing, and then that was only after I’d given up and bought it in print.

  26. 26
    BH says:

    I purchased “Ruthless” 2 days ago from BN and got the correct file.  Got lucky I guess.

    I’ve NEVER had a problem with B&N customer service via phone.  They’ve always rocked it.  I accidentally purchased a book via the Nook and called them and they removed it and credited my account.  I will agree that getting a hold of them via email does take a few days for a response.  I’d rather call and get it fixed right away.  I’ve had a few tech issues they solved over the phone immediately.  I’ve been happy so far.

    I have had a lot of problems with Diesel with corrupted books and books that disappeared from my bookshelf, and they have just blown me off over the issues.  Haven’t bought from them since and won’t in the future.  I had a lot of corrupted files from Fictionwise (before BN bought them), but left a sour taste in my mouth and won’t buy FW anymore since they wouldn’t even address the problems.

    Have had great service with Books on Board.  All ebooks have worked fine, and customer service is good.  Borders is good too.

    Amazon’s customer service is just as good as BN for me, via phone.  Email support takes about 3 days just like BN. 

    I would still own a Nook over a Kindle for now.  At least I have other stores I can buy from and not get locked in to Amazon.  Hopefully Amazon will do epub support one of these days so I can get a Kindle.

  27. 27
    Annie says:

    I have never had a bad CS experience with Amazon – some frustration when publishers were not releasing Kindle books to them, but no bad CS.  Most recent experience of needing to talk to them was when the latest Kim Harrison came out and my preorder was canceled because of publisher catfight and price change.  Amazon proactively credited me the difference between the preorder price and the publisher set price. 

    And like JoAnn, I was one of those early customers – I have mugs and even a fridge magnet puzzle from when they started carrying toys – and I’ve never regretted it.

    B&N – mail order has always been appalling, even when catalog was a chunk of their business, and where I live, even the stores have wretched customer service.  The booksellers not only aren’t readers, but they don’t seem to know how the store is organized, and it’s not unusual for there to be only one person on the floor.  B&N was never about the handselling, true, but it does seem like the simple math of customer money buys things and therefore indirectly pays staff salaries would’ve penetrated.  but, well, no. 

    after living in a number of towns with no independent bookstores and shopping at B&N and Borders, it’s not hard to see how and why Amazon has gotten so much market share – they earned it, yes, but B&N and Borders CS behave as though customers are an imposition.

  28. 28

    Not long after buying my Sony, I had a similar problem buying a Victoria Dahl book from Books on Board one night. Opened it up & it was another book with a similar title. I emailed BoB at something like 9pm. The next morning, I had an email with a link to the correct download AND they let me keep the other book.

    They’ve gotten 95% of my book buying money since then.

  29. 29
    Melissa W. says:

    Well, at least this makes my choice in ereaders that much easier.

    Also, Barnes and Nobel officially put themselves up for sale today. I’m not sure how this will affect the nook and customer service in general.

    http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/04/a-look-at-who-may-bid-for-barnes-and-noble/

  30. 30
    Carolyn says:

    So you can talk to a live person at Amazon also.  That’s good to know, because slowly but surely I’m getting deeper into the ebook experience until finally I bit the bullet and pre-ordered a Kindle 3.  I’m glad to know about the good CS, because what know about technology could be written on the head of a pin. :-)

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