A textbook lesson on how NOT to treat customers.
Everyone knew that the Barnes & Noble nook (yes, they irritatingly spell it with an e.e. cummings-style lower case “n”) eReader would be popular. EPUB, eReader and native PDF support, memory expansion, Wi-Fi , the ability to share books among friends, the touch sensitive dual screen; all genuinely well thought out features that added to the buying frenzy, to say nothing of the claims of it being a “Kindle-killer” ( I think there’s some validity to that too, though I think it’s more of a spur to Amazon to improve their product than a death knell).
And, much like the Kindle in previous years, the delivery dates for a nook have been moving farther and farther away from the order dates. Originally claimed to be shipping on November 30 for everyone that pre ordered a unit, that date slowly advanced through December and on into January (current orders are supposedly shipping on January 11) creating, among other things, one hell of a secondary nook market on eBay.
All of which is fine, I suppose, and understandable with a new consumer electronic launch. What’s gotten more than a few customers pissed off, though, is the email that arrived in early purchasers’ inboxes yesterday.
You were smart to order your nook early for 2 reasons:
Reason 1 – You’ll be one of the first to have one. Your nook is shipping soon and we expect to have it to you by December 9th. As an added bonus, we’ve upgraded you to overnight shipping!
Reason 2 – To thank you for being one of the first proud nook owners, we’re giving you a $10 Barnes&Noble.com Online Gift Certificate.
Now personally, I don’t think it’s that big a deal that there are delays; I don’t think it means (like some conspiracy theorists do) that the nook will never ship, and I don’t think they should have to drop their pants to make it up to early adopters. But I do think they handled it pretty poorly, and wonder one thing: faced with a 10-day shipping delay to thousands of people that pre-ordered a nook, who’s the genius at B&N that not only decided to let them know about the delay on the day it was supposed to ship, but phrased the letter like they’d won the lottery? No explanation or apology, and you can only find information on their web site if you hit their eReading blog. Even there, you’ll find no mention of whether or not people original scheduled for shipment later in the month, but in time for Christmas, are going to be delayed by 10 days or not.
The end result for Barnes & Noble has been to take what up to this point has been good press, huge demand, and a fan base of people wanting some competition to the Kindle, and exchange it for a bunch of irritated early adopters and rumors of a disaster. Which can still be reversed, if someone in their PR department has the intelligence to simply post a clear explanation on their site. Something along these lines would do: “We’re sorry, but due to fill-in-the-blank, nook shipments originally scheduled for November 30 will be delayed until fill-in-the-blank. Shipments scheduled for later in the month will/ will not be delayed. Rest assured that we expect no further delays, and new purchases should ship on or about the estimated shipping date on the site.” Is that really so tough?
Two final thoughts on this whole saga: David Coursey at PC World published on online piece, just this morning, about how the nook is worth waiting for. Hmm – lucky Barnes & Noble vis-à-vis timing there, no? But better than that, and far more amusing, was yesterday afternoon, when you could hear a huge collective “oh shit” from the people that had sold their nooks (with a guarantee of a November 30th shipment) on eBay for upwards of $600 as they realized they wouldn’t be able to ship it to the buyer as promised, and would have to return the money they’d probably already spent on porn sites.