Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Stupid Things That Bug Me #3

Bookstore Discount Cards

Before I begin, let me assure you that I understand why bookstores offer discount cards in the manner they do. I just don't like it. I'd rather whine about it. Feel free to refrain from injecting logic into the conversation.

Years ago, I had a Waldenbooks in my neighborhood. I was something of a regular and every time I went to the counter, they'd give me the hard sell on getting one of their discount cards. For a long time, I was resistant, nearly to the point of belligerence. The deal was that you'd buy the card for $10.00 and start saving 10% today! Well, no, not really. If I was buying, say, $30.00 worth of books that day, what I was saving would be $3.00 off the price of the card. I was still giving them $37.00 for my $30.00 worth of books. My attitude (which I manfully kept to myself), was, 'Hey, if you want to give me a discount, fine. Give me the card for free and then track my purchases with your mighty databanks and then start giving me a discount after I've spent $100.00.' That shouldn't be too hard.

Eventually, I knuckled under and bought the damned thing. My neighborhood Waldenbooks closed shop 3 months later. I don't remember if I ever fully recouped the price of the card.

Now, I have a Barnes & Noble in my neighborhood. (Actually its only in my neighborhood if you consider a 1/2 hour walk or a 15 minute bus ride in the neighborhood.) But it is the closest bookstore, so I go there. They have the same deal that Waldenbooks used to have except that now, I think, its $25.00 for the card and I'm not sure what the discount is. I have resisted!

I did accept the Border's discount card because they give it to you for free! It turns out that its a useless piece of shit. Regardless of what you spend, you get...wait for it...no discount at all. What you do get is a coupon. The coupons are always different. Once it was a coupon for a discount on your next order from flowers.com. Once it was a coupon for a discount off of list price for any hardcover purchase made at a Border's outlet (not good on Borders.com). The one thing these lovely coupons have in common is that they all expire in 15-20 days. So, thanks Borders. In exchange for spending money in your store, you'll offer me a discount if I buy more books before I've had a chance to finish the books I bought today!

I'll remind you that appeals to logic in this thread will be met with a serious FOOMing from the Gas Grill of Retribution. You've been warned!


Tom said...

No logical arguement here. I'm with you 100%. I, too, did the Borders thing because it was free. It gets me e-mail that I don't want and can't use. I tried to unsubscribe, but it won't let me because I have to log in, and I don't have the password. Yes, there are ways around this, but I found a better way. Borders is now on my spam list. (middle finger goes up, pointed in Border's direction)

John the Scientist said...

Speaking as a marketing professional, from what I can see, most of these things are Class A Goat Ropes (thanks to Janiece for reminding me of that bit of slang from my days at the DoD).

They are badly managed from a "collecting informtiaton to predict consumer behavior" point of view, and they piss off the customers.

This goes for grocery store discount cards, too. The grocery stores in my area don't ask for ID, so I use a zip code in the worst part of town to throw off their demographers.

Anonymous said...

I hate the discount card. Everyone has one. It is annoying. I thought a good idea would be to come up with a generic discount card you could link all of your discount cards to. That way you only have to haul around one card. Go online, link your "Petco" card, and bingo, cheap dog food!

Eric said...

Logic? Logic's on your side, my friend. The last time I was in a B&N and they tried to foist a membership off on me, I did a quick calculation and realized I'd have to spend $250 in the store to break even. And yeah, I'll probably spend that much on books in a year, but most of that'll be through QPB or Amazon--I don't mind dating Barnes And Noble, but I'm not interested in marriage, y'know. I'm not a one bookstrore kinda guy, the rooster's gotta check out all the coops, know what I mean?

Janiece said...

I'm so confused. I thought John was a P-Chemist. Now he says he's a marketing puke.

Speaking of Class A Goat Ropes...


Nathan said...


I was totally there with you until you went all barnyard.

Tania said...

My father uses my Borders card (our Waldenbooks closed) because he wants to be helpful. I live 400 miles away from the closest Borders and the coupons are stupid.

Nathan - I'm putting together a blog post just for you. Stay tuned.

Nathan said...


Michelle badgers Shawn to take his meds.

I badger you to keep the blog fresh.

Tania said...

Three posts in two days. How's that? And the latest one - just for you.

My favorite on the list is probably the very last one involving fish stuffed in mattresses.

John the Scientist said...

Janiece - I hold both a Ph.D. and an MBA. It's a wonder my head doesn't explode from the matter / anti-matter interaction between the respective neurons.

Random Michelle K said...

Y'know, I could have sworn I replied to this post this morning.

I think that I told Nathan to reply, "I have no interest in paying you money to track my spending" plus some other comment that I am *sure* was incredibly witty.

Stupid computers.

Nathan said...

They don't even track my spending worth a damn. I get emails recommending stuff I'd never buy.


And sure. Blame your computer.:)

John the Scientist said...

Nathan - That's becuase they're not doing Amazon-like recommendaitons, they get paid by publishers to shill stuff via the card, so they're making money twice if you buy it.

Their marketing department needs a swift kick in the ass. You don't irritate you own customers to advertise for one of your suppliers.

Random Michelle K said...


You want that I should blame you instead?

Nathan said...

Michelle left a comment this morning

but I eated it.

Random Michelle K said...


My cookies are far more delicious than my comments.

Mmmm! Double chocolate cookies! Mmmm!

PixelFish said...

Actually, Borders changed their policy sometime last year, I think. All I know is I spent a year racking up discounts, and I basically got 200 dollars worth of free books at the end of 2006 when I did my Xmas shopping. It was awesome. And then shortly after that, it switched to, you have to spend X amount in a month to get five dollars off, and you have to use that five dollars by such and such date or it would disappear. Then they switched to coupons. Bah to them.