Here’s a postscript to that story I posted the other day about Barnes & Noble stealing my very first e-book: they ended up giving it back to me after all.
One of the criticisms I’d taken in the comments to my prior post, here and elsewhere, was that I didn’t bother phoning Barnes & Noble’s tech support line, when they might possibly have been able to clear the matter up. There’s a simple reason for that—I really really hate, with a burning passion, talking to tech support on the phone. This is why I always use email or chat support when it’s available.
I’d already given B&N’s chat tech support a chance, and he hadn’t been willing or able to do a damned thing—which he should have been able to do just as readily as someone could have over the phone. Every time I’ve ever used Amazon’s chat support, they fixed my issue on the first try, including the time my Kindle simply wouldn’t update at all.
I didn’t want to call Barnes & Noble because I didn’t relish the idea of spending minutes waiting on hold, then trying to make my situation understood to some low-paid phone bank drone who might not even speak English as his first language, probably wouldn’t believe me that I was trying to get back a book I’d bought in 1998, and I doubted would even have the power to resolve my issue if he did. I’ve worked phone tech support myself, for a contractor to Best Buy, and I basically had no power to resolve much of anything beyond telling people how to make sure their TV wasn’t working. I didn’t feel like talking to another me and ending up with both of us more frustrated if he couldn’t fix my issue.
Of course, those are just my preconceptions. B&N phone support could have been perfectly fine. But given that, as I’d said, I’d backed up the book externally when I’d originally bought it, I didn’t feel like putting myself through that level of aggravation for such a small reward. I’d given Barnes & Noble support the one shot it deserved, the company had blown it, and I was done with it. But it was still a good chance to make a point about the obnoxiousness of DRM and how badly-run the Nook e-books division was.
But then, yesterday afternoon, my phone rang, and it turned out to be a Barnes & Noble support representative named Stephanie. She apologized for the poor experience I’d had with chat support, said she’d swapped the original edition of A Fire Upon the Deep back in, and asked me to check my Nook shelf to make sure. I did, and there it was.
I can’t say I was entirely surprised—I had actually been curious whether Barnes & Noble would hear about my poor experience with their chat support and feel the need to get in touch. If they didn’t, then there was no hope for them. But as it turns out, they did, and cleared it right up—without me having to wait on hold, or talk to some first-tier phone bank drone who couldn’t do anything.
So, whatever else I can say about Barnes & Noble—that its stores have lost their direction, it won’t even price-match itself, its e-book files and application are obnoxiously locked down even beyond what Amazon does with its DRMed titles, and it’s not doing a very good job of competing with Amazon on either the paper or electronic fronts—at least its customer service department is willing to go the extra mile. Good for them.
Now if only the rest of the company could take a cue from that department’s attitude and fix some of its other problems.