Need someone to lead product management at your software company? I create software for people that create software and I'm looking for my next opportunity. Check out my resume and get in touch.

Open letter to Barnes & Noble

Freshness Warning
This blog post is over 21 years old. It's possible that the information you read below isn't current and the links no longer work.

I received an email from Barnes & Noble today that was advertising some newly released books. I generally opt out of marketing email whenever I provide my email address to a site, but sometimes I slip up and end up subscribed. So my first thought was that this is what happened with BN. The fact that it’s been years since I signed up and this is the first message I received seems a little odd to me. I followed the lengthy unsubscribe instructions only to find out that I’m not subscribed to their mailing list.

I sent them this email:

First off, thanks for the easy, uncomplicated unsubscribe process. (That was sarcasm).

Your email states, "To unsubscribe or change your options in receiving messages like this one, please visit, log in to your account, select 'Name, Password, and Communication Preferences,' and follow the instructions." That’s an awful lot of steps. If you make it easier for people to leave your lists, you’ll have a higher quality list. Right now, there’s a lot of people receiving this email that don’t really want it, but since they find the unsubscribe process cumbersome, they figure it’s easier to just delete the email when it comes in. And you wonder why your open and conversion rates are so low on the email.

It would be a lot easier if you simply said, "To unsubscribe or change your email preferences, visit" You know the url for the email subscriptions, why not just give it in the email instead of a list of instructions on how to navigate to that page?

But enough unsolicited, free advice. The main reason I’m writing is because you sent this email despite the fact that my email preferences specifically say I don’t want to receive marketing email from you. That’s not very nice.

Maybe you sent it to me by mistake. I can understand that mistakes can happen. Perhaps your list software had a hiccup and ignored the email preferences when it sent the email. Maybe someone clicked the wrong button. Fine, I can understand that.

What I can’t understand is why it’s been more than an hour since the email was sent and you haven’t sent any sort of apology. I’d imagine that you know by now that something went wrong. You violated your customers' trust and sent them an email after they told you not to. Now you need to regain that trust. You need to own up to the mistake and perhaps offer something extra to your customers to make up for it. If you were to send out a short email to those that received your first message by mistake and apologize, offering a coupon for free shipping or 10% off, you would turn your customer service blunder into a success. Everyone would be happy. But instead you are apparently choosing to pretend that it didn’t happen at all. So you are getting letters like this one.

By the way, this letter is also being posted on my Web site at In the interest of fairness, I’ll post your response (if any) there as well, unless you ask me not to.

Thanks for taking the time to read this,

Adam Kalsey,
Kalsey Consulting Group

suspect post
October 6, 2006 1:14 PM

Hmm, former_bn_employee's post from September 25, 2006 3:55 PM sounds alot like a form gripe where "B and N" was inserted into the text. Why would there be "grease pits" in a bookstore? Perhaps this was originally a McDonalds complaint?

December 24, 2006 9:00 PM

"Grease pits" in a bookstore belong to the cafe in the bookstore.

perhaps a form complaint...
January 18, 2007 3:09 PM

Even in a Barnes and Noble that has a cafe, they do not sell any product that requires being fried before serving. They have a microwave, an oven, and a sandwich press. None of which have a grease trap that needs cleaning.

February 6, 2007 5:28 PM

I'm a Canadian Costumer whose books have been mysteriously lost in the mail. Barnes & Noble has charged me for books I have not received and they claim it's my responsibility to find them in the mail because I'm from Canada. So now I get to do their job for free? As if this large corporation doesn't scam enough money from people already...they've already taken $200 from me and I am a first and last time costumer. Cheers

Carone Brown
April 6, 2007 10:50 AM

I alsol have worked for a BN - however, it was a college bookstore. We were once independently owned, then BN took over, yada, yada, yada. In the 4.5 years I had worked at the bookstore - full-time- through its transitional change, 3.5 out of the 4 years, I had a wonderful customer service review. I got along well with all employees, all the customers, and headed up book rush (training, monitoring, working overtime, etc). - A lot of trust was on me, seeing I was a main cashier, along with 2 other full-time cashiers. When BN took over, most of my perks were taken away - including my dignity. At my yearly review, I was takejn into a room with the managers of the bookstore and my supervisor, and all they had were negative complaints - how I didn't get along well with others, I was rude to the customers, I didn't wear my ID all the time, and a few other remarks. This made me so irate, I started crying during my review - and I left the meeting with the intent to write a letter to corporate to tell them of how I was hassled. Management was trying to rid full-time employees as it was, seeing it's cheaper to have part-timers. And , I must add, that three of the managers of the bookstore when it was independently owned, left as soon as BN took over and created their own bookstore - now there would be competition! - and have thrived better than the college BN! After I wrote my letters to corporate (all registered mail, and to every big-wig I could find), BN responded very non-chalantly saying that I didn't talk with the managers enough about it, so they wouldn't do anything about it. I have all my letters if anyone would like to see them. I HATED working there afterwards - a fun experience it USED to be, then it simply went downhill for all employees. I have since quit BN, and I even worked for the competition (which BN HATED) along with some other employees who quit BN. This is the BN college bookstore in Pullman, WA (Washington State University) which had made my life miserable as an employee.

April 26, 2007 12:20 PM

First off, yes Barnes & Noble has grease traps in there cafe. Cakes, scones, sandwiches all produce grease. Being a current employee of the bookstore, I know this for a fact. Secondly everything you've heard about how bad B&N is, is 100% true. The management is completely inept, the leads and cashiers all hate their jobs, and as a result are ungodly rude to customers. I would advise everyone to stay as far away from this bookstore as you can. Worse than the incompetance of the staff, is the racism of the staff. My store is in a bad neighborhood, and the floor staff assume every black person in the store is stealing. If you think shopping there is bad, try working there.

April 28, 2007 4:43 PM

I'm through with Barnes & Noble as of today. I was shopping there with my wife this afternoon, and I found a book I had been meaning to pick up, Umberto Eco's "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana." The book was priced at $15 on the back, but on the front cover it had a sale sticker with a price of $8.78. There was another copy without the sticker, but I picked up the one with the sticker, of course, figuring they were both on sale at the same price, but the sticker would prevent the cashier from ringing it up at the wrong price. I picked up another Eco book, also $15, but not on sale, and took the two books my wife was carrying and made for the checkout counter with an armload of books. While ringing up my stuff, the cashier, a young female appeared puzzled by the sticker on the front. I thought to myself: "Uh-oh, here we go." Obviously new on the job, she asked the more senior cashier next to her (a middle-aged male) what the deal was with the sticker, and said that it wasn't ringing up at that price. The fellow looked at it and said, "That doesn't look like one of ours," and gave me a quick glance as if to try to gauge my character and determine if I looked like the kind of person who would stick a phony price sticker on a book to save a few bucks. I am not. He smiled apologetically and said, "I think I need to get the manager," and said that he was sorry for the holdup. He made a quick call to the floor manager to ask her to come up front. The manager came none too quickly, as we were waiting there for her for several minutes. Luckily, the checkout line was not busy and there was only one other customer who the gentleman checkout clerk serviced while I waited for the manager. Eventually, the manager sauntered over, a thin older lady (and when I say "older" I mean "than dirt"), her wrinkled, prunelike visage a warning to the young: "This is what a lifetime of retail looks like." She examined the sticker and said dryly, "This isn't our sticker." I replied, "Well, it's in your store." She snapped back, "I *know* it's in our store, but the sticker isn't one of ours. I don't know how it got there." I was going to reply, "Well, an employee from your store either placed it on your shelf or allowed it to be placed there, because it wasn't me," but before I could say anything she quickly snapped, "You don't have to buy it; you can put the book back or you can buy it at the full price." I said very calmly, "I'm not buying anything," and said to my wife, "Come on, let's go." I walked out the door without a word of apology (or any word at all, for that matter) from the manager or sales staff. Now, of course I wasn't upset about the money. If the book had been priced at $15 I would have gladly paid that for it. I just consider it extremely poor customer service for the manager to waste my time and her time over a few dollars. In my lifetime I've bought several items that were mis-marked at a lower price than they were supposed to have been. On each occasion the manager or salesperson caught the mistake but made the decision to sell the item at the price marked. You know why? Because it's good customer service. I've been a good customer and spent a good deal of money at Barnes & Noble stores, and this one in particular. I realize that the manager was trying to protect the interests of the store and prevent loss, but how is it benefiting the store to lose both a sale and a customer at the same time? P.S. The happy ending to this story is that the dried-up old prune of a floor manager actually did me a favor. Some resellers sell the book in question for as low as 15 cents plus shipping in like-new condition, so I just bought it there. I try to support my local retailers, but considering that B&N aren't exactly known for good prices, I don't think I'll set foot in one of their brick & mortars ever again.

Debra Springsteen
December 23, 2007 8:06 AM

Barnes and Noble offers free shipping just like Amazon LOL! If even one of your items is out of stock, they hold shipping until all items are in stock. That means that Christmas presents ordered on December 15 won't be shipped until March 28, and you can't cancel the order. You need to wait to receive everything snd then ship it back to them! What a joke. Amazon will ship everything as it comes in even with Super Saving Shipping!

January 9, 2008 1:59 AM

Last Sunday I found a great offer 'After Holiday Warehouse Clearance Sale! up to 90% off' at [url=""]Barnes&[/url] store through site.......!

January 23, 2008 6:48 PM

Debbie... of course you can get your items shipped seperately. I do it all the time. And you absolutely can cancel the order.

Worried about the future
June 6, 2008 8:26 PM

I currently work at an institutionally owned bookstore and I think we're about to be leased to Barnes and Noble. I'd really like to hear from those that have been or are currently in this situation. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Ticked Reader
September 25, 2008 5:21 PM

My wife gave $100 in B&N gift cards(They told her that $50 was the largest denomination available.) I go to the store once a week to meet friend for coffee and conversation and usually buy a book while there. I chose to use the cards one at a time using up one before using the other. The last time there I used up my st card so I paid $6 on the new card. when I looked at the sales slip there was only $28 left on it! Seems the chage a fee of $1.50 "service charge" per month on each card, That figures to a whopping 36% per year!! I'm not gouing there any more after I use up the remainder on the card which will be reduced by $1.50 by then. Amazon's the way to go. I refuse to be a customer to thieves.

October 7, 2008 6:59 PM

As for the previous comment- Barnes & Noble does not charge a "service charge" on gift cards. MANY years ago - maybe 5 or 6 years ago - they charged a fee. It proved to be extremely unpopular, so they stopped doing it - in fact, they reimbursed all the cards that had fees charged to them. On the back of the gift card you may see fine print stating that B&N is ALLOWED to charge this fee, but the official, written policy is that these fees are not charged, and will NEVER be charged. EVER. And I gotta laugh at the "grease traps". There are NO grease traps. Period. The poster above who claims to work for B&N & said that the "cakes, scones, and sandwiches all produce grease" is flat-out WRONG. First of all, the cakes are all "thaw and serve" - there's absolutely no cooking involved. The scones & sandwiches arrive frozen, and are baked directly on a cookie sheet. No grease. I really wonder if any of the posters above actually work for B&N.

December 30, 2008 10:02 PM

To D.P.: I wonder if YOU work at B&N, at my cafe we do have a compartment in the floor under the 3-bay sink that allows for settlement of unwanted "stuff" that might clog the drains from the sinks, this compartment is not much different from a grease trap, or perhaps even is one... think about all that fatty whipping cream, and frapp. mix going down the drain. The compartment at my cafe is cleaned out by a contractor once a year (probably should be more frequent), and it smells up most of the store when it is cleaned. So, anyway be a little more careful pouncing on others.

Jason E. Lee
June 21, 2009 8:03 PM

New laptop $750.00 Double latte at local Wi-Fi espresso bar $5.50 Plugging your new book wherever possible... SHAMELESS

These are the last 15 comments. Read all 20 comments here.

This discussion has been closed.

Recently Written

Great prodct managers own the outcomes (May 14)
Being a product manager means never having to say, "that's not my job."
Too Big To Fail (Apr 9)
When a company piles resources on a new product idea, it doesn't have room to fail. That keeps it from succeeding.
Go small (Apr 4)
The strengths of a large organization are the opposite of what makes innovation work. Starting something new requires that you start with a small team.
Start with a Belief (Apr 1)
You can't use data to build products unless you start with a hypothesis.
Mastery doesn’t come from perfect planning (Dec 21)
In a ceramics class, one group focused on a single perfect dish, while another made many with no quality focus. The result? A lesson in the value of practice over perfection.
The Dark Side of Input Metrics (Nov 27)
Using input metrics in the wrong way can cause unexpected behaviors, stifled creativity, and micromanagement.
Reframe How You Think About Users of your Internal Platform (Nov 13)
Changing from "Customers" to "Partners" will give you a better perspective on internal product development.
Measuring Feature success (Oct 17)
You're building features to solve problems. If you don't know what success looks like, how did you decide on that feature at all?


What I'm Reading


Adam Kalsey

+1 916 600 2497


Public Key

© 1999-2024 Adam Kalsey.