Are Your Policies Punishing Your Best Customers?

Books are my passion. I can spend hours browsing through a bookstore or library. When immersed in a good read, thoughts of food or creature comforts rarely break my concentration.

I own enough books to fill a community library and add to my collection on a regular basis. Gifts for friends and family always include books because I believe that you just can’t go wrong with a good book.

Now, if you own a bookstore, you really want customers like me. We are the ones who buy often and rarely return. You should welcome us with open arms.

So, why is Barnes & Noble discouraging me from shopping with them? The store I frequent has a Books a Million directly across the street so I won’t have to travel far to shop somewhere else.

It started innocently enough. I purchased some books and started to leave the store. The cashier called to me because she forgot to give me a paper. I said it was okay, that I didn’t want something else to recycle. She said that she had to give it to me because there was a change in their return policy.

I honestly cannot remember the last time that I returned a book. The policy change announcement was dropped in my bag and forgotten. Three weeks later, I opened the bag because I needed to wrap one of the books for a gift. There was the policy change for me to read.

It said that, “All returns must be made within 14 days of purchase and accompanied with an original sales receipt. After 14 days or without an original sales receipt, returns will not be permitted (nor permitted to exchange).”

Now I have books that I am giving as gifts without any option for exchanging them if the recipient already has a copy. It turned out okay, but it gave me something to think about before I buy next time.

It turns out that this is a national policy. It began last winter and is just now rolling out in the south. I imagine that it began with a review of their return rate and a brainstorming session about how to improve.

If there was a fraud issue, it should be resolved on an individual case-by-case basis. Tagging all customers as potential thieves is bad business. Especially when your best customers are affected.

As I mentioned above, I am a browser. I troll through the books looking for new areas of interest. Along the way, I often see something that is just right for a friend or family member. Never mind that it is January and their birthday is in March. I buy it anyway. It is an impulse thing supported with the knowledge that I could return it for a store credit if necessary. No more.

My future purchases from Barnes & Noble will be ones that I know will not need returning. Impulse shopping has been eliminated. Unfortunately, they won’t find that MY policy change reduces their returns. It only affects their sales…

Don’t make this mistake with your business. If you have an issue that needs resolving, work until you find the cause and eliminate it. Don’t make blanket policy changes without considering all of the ramifications.

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