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BBB Complaint Categories in Review: What’s Said and Done

A Description of Complaints Regarding Books-New Category

Part 2 of a 3 part report

With a multitude of publishing-related complaints growing over the last year we take a deeper look into consumer concerns that bring them to the BBB hopeful for resolution.

Complaints in the Books- New Category

bbb
Better Business Bureau

We spoke to Kelsey Owen of the BBB in Virginia to get an idea of what types of complaints were coming in from consumers in regard to the category of “Books-New”.  The following includes the category and a brief description of what made up the majority of consumer concern in that category. This is a collective example of complaints types by category.

 

 

Advertising complaints included issues such as businesses not stating that a sale was for a limited time so that when the customer ordered the book they were billed the standard price and not the advertised, discounted price.  The ad was still available to see, but the discount price was no longer available.

Sales practices fell primarily into the category of SPAM.  Customers would sign up for information on one book or genre and receive multiple emails for items they did not sign up for and had no interest in.  SPAM complaints rose in 2011. Other complaints included automatically being signed up for “Free membership” that then turned into a paid membership after a period of time and without making the customer aware of the change. Privacy issues regarding information collected and how it was used was a big concern to consumers.

You should always check the fine print before giving out your email address and personal information. You can always look for a company’s “Privacy Policy” to help determine if your information is safe. Of course anyone can promise to safeguard your information and use it in the manner you intended, but a “Privacy Policy” should be available on any company site you do business with. Here are a few examples:

We do not endorse any of the above businesses.

 

Billing complaints include being billed twice for the same book or billed the wrong amount.  Having been wrongfully billed, customers complained that the business then threatened to send them to collections regardless of how many attempts the customer has made to rectify the problem.

Delivery was a mix of physical delivery and online delivery. Physical delivery complaints often had to do with paying an expedite fee but not getting the book in an expedited manner. Readers are willing to pay extra to get a book right away, but become frustrated when there’s no apparent difference between an expedited delivery and a normal one.  Online delivery was more about formatting or having the final book sent to the customer after payment.

books
Online and in Store

Customer service complaints varied both online and off.  Complaints by young adults of being kicked out of a popular bookstore chain because the manager felt they would not purchase anything was not unusual.  One woman was upset with the same popular bookstore chain when her local bookstore manager refused to check to see if she could use a discount provided by her place of employment. Her issue was not only that he would not check, but that he was rude.  Online customer service issues included calling for help with a Nook problem and other communication issues.

Booksellers, Publishers and Book Club Memberships

Complaints were primarily against booksellers, publishers and book club memberships.  Complaints included either the business as a whole, a particular department within the business or a person representing the business. Complaints included both online and brick and mortar businesses.

The big offenders were online discount booksellers, with Discount Book Sale LLP and Direct Brand Inc. named as repeat offenders.  Discount Book Sale LLP is also named in complaints to Consumer Affairs for their practice of billing a membership fee when you order a book from them. http://www.consumeraffairs.com/online/discountbooksale.html

Barnes and Noble Responds

Popular bookseller Barnes & Noble has only received 150 complaints collectively within the last 3 years which included both the retail stores and online. The much-plagued Borders chain received only 139 total complaints over the last 3 years, perhaps a surprisingly low number given the bad press the doomed bookseller has received over as many years. Amazon.com received 1,042 complaints within the last year, but how many were specific to books was not information available to us.

Carolyn Brown, Director of Corporate Communications at Barnes & Noble had this to say when asked how BN handles customers complaints, “Providing exemplary customer service is a Barnes & Noble core value.  Customers can reach out to us by calling or emailing Barnes & Noble customer service or by visiting any of the NOOK and customer service counters in our more than 700 stores.”

According to the BBB, Barnes & Noble has a very high closing rate, meaning that they were able to resolve the majority of complaints. In three years only three complaints were not closed to the satisfaction of the customer. Given the number of transactions the large chain store does annually the numbers are considered extremely good.

BN
Barnes and Noble

Many of the Barnes & Noble complaints were in regards to the Nook, the company’s popular e-reader device. But even those complaints were handled much to the satisfaction of the customer.  Mr. Brown shared this when asked about the Nook, “A big differentiator for NOOK versus other competitive eReader and tablet products is our customer service.  We call it “The Barnes & Noble Promise.”  Between our highly trained customer service team, and our 40,000 booksellers, we can teach, demo, trouble-shoot and add value to the customer experience beyond what any other company in consumer electronics and digital media can do today.  We plan to continue to make this store education and service capability a focus, because customers are telling us it’s a big part of their decision to choose NOOK for their digital reading and tablet needs. “

 

Not All Issues Are Resolved

The BBB process allows for customers and businesses to find common ground and resolve their issues. Not all issues get resolved and not all customers are happy with the offered resolutions businesses make. The information the BBB has on businesses, issues of concern to customers and thorough logging of data regarding complaints may allow for a peak at new trends or new opportunities to improve as an industry.

Up Next

In our final report we look at how Amazon.com’s BBB record got an A+ rating, what kind of complaints fell under the Books-New category and we look at other organizations that accept complaints regarding books. Check back tomorrow for the final segment of the BBB complaints article.

 

 

Read Part 1 Here- BBB Complaints part 1

Reader Part 3 Here- BBB Complaints part 3

 

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