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Mar 3, 2008 12:12 PM

If you're buying a cookbook as a gift, don't go to Barnes and Nobles


Hello. I just wanted to warn everybody of my terrible experience trying to return two cookbooks I received as a gift. I received these books a week ago with the gift receipt. I went to B&N, spent about an hour browsing and found a couple of other books (which were worth more than the books I was returning) that I would have liked to have instead. When I went to exchange these books, the sales clerk told me that he could no do so because it was over two weeks since the books were purchased (she purchased them in December but didn't give them to me until last week). They were incredibly firm about it and would not issue any credit, refund or exchange. They said that this strict rule went into effect yesterday. I asked to speak with the manager who told me the same exact response. I emphasized that I didn't even receive the book until last week and the book was purchased under the old rules. However, they wouldn't budge. I called the corporate office and spoke to a woman who essentially told me the same thing.

So unless you're absolutely sure your recipient wants that book, don't purchase at B&N for their incredibly strict return policy. I now have three copies of the same book.

  1. Good to know.

    I recommend Amazon...although you have to be careful with the 'sellers' at Amazon.

    3 Replies
    1. re: dolores

      I buy used books every month from sellers on Amazon and have very rarely had a problem. I also avoid buying anything from people with less than 97% positive ratings. Those 1 or 2 times I have had a problem, and the seller wasn't responsive, I just made it clear that I was going to file a claim against them with Amazon if I didn't get satisfaction from the seller and they have responded. I would never have been able to afford my vast personal library of cooking, baking (and knitting) books if it weren't for Amazon sellers.

      1. re: flourgirl

        I agee. It's not appropriate for gift giving, but for my own collection I buy nearly all my cookbooks from the Amazon "used" listings. I find they're nearly always in much better condition than described, often indistinguishable from brand new. I recently bought Carole Walter's "Great Cookies" for less than half price only because the author had autographed it for someone. That is says "For Sylvie" on the title page doesn't bother me in the least. And if the book is any good, it's going to be full of stains in no time anyway.

        1. re: JoanN

          Yes, same here. I never buy second hand books for gift giving (unless of course it is an out of print book that I know would make the recipient very happy. :)) I also sell a lot of books on Amazon which in turn help pay for my new (read "used") acquisitions.

          Then there are those cookbooks that just never seem to drop low enough in price to buy secondhand (or I don't feel like waiting for years) so I also buy a lot of cookbooks on ecookbooks as Amazon rarely has books 40% off anymore.

    2. I sympathize with the situation, but Barnes and Noble advertised their new policy a fair bit. It follows on Target shifting their policy to something similar. I take it as a response to gaming of permissive return policies.

      I do hope no one was rude to you about it, but to hold the line on the policy seems fair to me.

      Amazon has a 30 day return policy, by the way, but it's also a hard line.

      7 Replies
      1. re: ccbweb

        Is this a cookbook specific return policy? I wonder if they worry about people photocopying recipes and then returning the book.

        1. re: MMRuth

          Nope, it's a store wide, company wide policy for all purchases.

          1. re: MMRuth

            I don't know if it's a cookbook specific policy. It is sad that people would buy a cookbook, make photocopies and then return it. That's why libraries exist.

            A lot of people buy gifts ahead of time. This policy would certainly discourage people from buying gifts through B&N as their recipients may not have enough time to return them. I feel that this new policy is extremely short-sighted.

            To ccweb -- the corporate office did say they were advertising this for a while. However, as I was the recipient of a gift, I didn't purchase the books and didn't receive them until it was too late. Guess my gift-giver didn't see the notices. I'll definitely not be going to Barnes and Nobles at all -- it will be amazon only from now on.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              I'm a big fan of Amazon and order from them a lot. Their return policy is 30 days, so you get a couple extra weeks but in your current situation it'd have done nothing to help you.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                I used to work at a B&N, and I think they're probably tightening their return policy because their customers have basically had free reign for years. We weren't allowed to restrict a customer from doing pretty much anything, even if we saw them dog-earing pages and returning on a daily basis to continue reading their book, or spilling coffee on a magazine. I think their excessively liberal customer service policy was an attempt to create a welcoming atmosphere, but it must have come back to haunt them at some point. Unfortunately, they seem to be fighting it with a ridiculous return policy.

                <I don't know if it's a cookbook specific policy. It is sad that people would buy a cookbook, make photocopies and then return it. That's why libraries exist.>

                Yep, people did this and much worse. I remember when someone wanted to photocopy part of a magazine in the store and I informed him that we did not have a photocopier. He responded that he didn't want to shell out for the magazine, but he vitally needed this one article for some sort of research project. When I suggested that the public library down the road would likely have the magazine and also offered copy machines he looked at me like I was crazy. I also sometimes helped customers who assumed that I was some sort of librarian and marveled that we lacked a card catalog.

                1. re: rweater

                  I still fail to understand how a 14 day, with store receipt return policy is "ridiculous." You're not locked into your purchase the day you make it; you have time to go home and come to the realization that you already have it or to flip through it and decide you don't like it, what-have-you.

                  1. re: ccbweb

                    If it's a gift, it's extremely unfair to have a 14-day only return policy. Gifts are often bought in advance, and then sent to the recipient. That alone can take two weeks, depending on what's being sent and how it's being sent (book rate/media mail is much slower). So the recipient is SOL should they attempt to return something that is not to their liking or a duplicate of something they already have.

          2. I also highly recommend Amazon. If you shop on line a lot I also recommend their Prime membership. For about $80 a year you get free 2nd day shipping (on things sold by Amazon and sometimes from other sellers) and you can ship to multiple addresses. I send gifts to friends all the time. I've generally found that when I take tax and shipping into account I get as good a, if not a better, deal from Amazon.

            It's very easy to return things to Amazon when they are the seller.

            I buy almost all books and DVD's from them. I've also found some grocery and household items I purchase on a regular basis. My UPS guy knows when I'm getting my case of toilet paper and it really amuses him. :)

            1. I bought a book there about two weeks ago (not cookbook) and they told me when I paid that the return policy was changing, which I appreciated.

              1 Reply
              1. re: swms122456

                interesting. i bought several hundred dollars' worth of books & CD's there yesterday [yes, i'm compulsive about books &music], and no one uttered a word about the new policy. i respect the company's choice to make such a change, but they should at least make sure your all the employees are passing the message along to the consumer.

                i have an amazon prime membership, and while it's convenient and often cheaper, there's just nothing like being in a bookstore surrounded by all those shelves of undiscovered treasures just waiting for you to rifle through them. i had no intention of buying a cookbook yesterday, but i stil managed to kill nearly an hour perusing the selections :)

              2. I'm sorry about your B&N experience, and I hope you can re-gift your duplicate copies. I take it as another plug for supporting your locally owned bookseller, if your community still has one. The ones near me go the extra mile on customer service, especially where gifts are concerned.