Like millions of Barnes & Noble customers, I awoke this morning to a new B&N coupon in my email – this one touting that I can get up to 50% off at checkout! I am getting close to finishing my current book on the nook reader on my iPad, so I figured I would see what great new ebook I could add to the family library. I mean, after all, the coupon has the nook featured prominently in the upper right corner, and lists ebooks along with DVDs and music and so on along the menu.
But before I start shopping I decide to check out the ‘DETAILS’ link right below the SHOP BN.COM button. Here are all of the ‘details’:
*Personal Online Coupon Offer Details:
To qualify for offer: (i) you must have received an email communicating the offer directly from Barnes & Noble, and (ii) you must also make your purchase online at BN.COM using the email address to which the offer was sent. Orders made from other email addresses will not qualify for this offer. This coupon can only be redeemed by email recipient and is only valid once per customer, per billing address.
This coupon is valid from August 26th 2010 to August 30th 2010 at 2:59 a.m. Eastern Time.
This coupon entitles you to one of the following discounts: 15%, 20%, 30% or 50% off the 1 eligible item in your order. The discount will be applied to the most expensive eligible item in the order – not the entire purchase – and will be deducted after all other eligible discounts are applied.
To see which discount offer you qualify for, simply add item(s) to your shopping cart and enter your unique coupon code at checkout. No purchase is required. You may choose to abandon your transaction after seeing your discount and before paying.
Additional Rules Governing Use of this Coupon: This coupon is (i) not redeemable for cash or cash equivalents (including Gift Cards and online Gift Certificates); (ii) not valid on past purchases; (iii) not eligible for purchases of the following products and services: Barnes & Noble Memberships, Gift Cards, Gift Certificates, shipping or handling expenses, gift-wrapping, textbooks, digital content (including but not limited to digital books, textbooks, magazines, and periodicals), NOOK”! and related accessories, other hardware and electronics, software, products available for pre-order, products from the Rosetta Stone Series, or products marked as not eligible for “coupons or promotional discounts;” (iv) not valid on purchases made from third parties accessible from the BN.COM website (e.g., used books, PC and video games, etc.); (v) may not be combined with any other coupon or discount promotion; and (vi) may not be combined with the Educator program discount. This offer is subject to change or discontinuation without notice; we will, however, honor properly placed orders with valid methods of payment with sufficient funds placed prior to such change or discontinuation. BN.COM is not responsible for typographical or pictorial errors. This coupon is not valid at Barnes & Noble retail bookstores or Barnes & Noble College Bookstores. Void where prohibited by law.
So as I have highlighted, ebooks and anything nook related are specifically excluded. In fact, as you can see in the surrounding text the details also exclude textbooks, and gift cards. In other words, they display a menu bar showing a number of items, and then exclude HALF of those items. The other thing that annoyed me was that the exclusions were not displayed on the coupon, nor in the main features of the coupon details, but in the ‘other details’ – which amounts to the ‘fine print’. Up to that point there is no way a reasonable person should assume that the new ebook they wanted would be excluded.
But as Carly Z keeps telling us, the Agency Model has done pretty much nothing positive in the way of providing value to customers: pricing models have drifted upwards in some cases and down in others, but the solid $9.99 Amazon pricing from 2009 is gone. Coupons, Micro-Pay, Sales, and so on? Gone.
Of course, this situation is only half the fault of the Agency Model – the way the B&N coupon was laid out and the way the details were worded seem specifically set up to make customers think that this is all-inclusive and get them to go shopping, hoping that they will have their shopping choices already decided before they realize they get no discount.
While I am sure that there is a report on someone’s desk explaining how this is all a good idea, all I know is that as a Barnes & Noble customer with a desire for a new book, the slap in the face from the experience lost B&N a sale of *anything* to me this time around.