Monday, March 12, 2007

An Open Letter To A Barnes and Noble Customer/Thief

This is an open letter to a person whose identity I will never know.

Dear Mystery Barnes & Noble Customer Whose Identity Is Unknown To Me,

Last fall, to prepare for our upcoming homeschooling academic year I shopped at the local Barnes & Noble store for some books and workbooks. I am the customer who purchased the Language Arts Workbook which you had returned. However, at the time of my purchase I didn’t realize that you had once purchased the book, used some of it, removed some of the pages and then returned it. When I purchased the workbook, it looked brand new. It was well-cared for while in your possession. I will give you credit for that.

When I got home I placed your workbook on my bookshelf until my son finished up the workbook he was currently working on.

Two weeks ago I pulled out the “brand new” workbook and immediately realized that Lessons 1 and 2 were carefully torn out along the perforated edges. We flipped through the book quickly and everything seemed alright, no pages were written on. I assumed you had done the first two lessons then returned the book with just those missing. I thought perhaps the workbook was too simple for your child and you returned it. Since the first two lessons were easy concepts to start the book off with, I decided to keep the book, use it as is and to not bring it back to the store. I was annoyed about your dishonesty but I let it go pretty easily.

However imagine my surprise today when we realized that Lessons 11 and 12 were also missing. This prompted us to look at every single page.

I am not quite sure why you had your child skip around the book in this manner, using and removing the pages also for Lessons 25, 31, 35, 41, and 68.

I just need to vent that it was pretty dishonest of you to buy a workbook which cost $7.95 full retail (pretty darned cheap if you ask me), to remove select lessons then to return it to get your money back. I am sure you really liked getting your $8 back. You knew you were ripping off Barnes & Noble, don’t pretend you didn’t know it. But did you think of the customer who would then buy that same workbook? Or did you only think of yourself? Did you think that Barnes & Noble would discard your returned book, or did you realize they would resell it? Can it be that you were laughing at the sucker who would end up buying it (us). Could it actually be that you find that funny?

Well what you did is called stealing (retail theft, specifically, return fraud) and it is dishonest, pure and simple.

And I’m not laughing. Instead I am trying to explain to my child why someone would actually do this, because he did ask me that question today. He noted how carefully you ripped the pages out along the perforation, how you obviously planned out and executed your retail theft. I am proud that he recognized that what you did was stealing, which he knows is both illegal and also a sin.

So my nine year old son and I would like to say:

Shame on you!

And perhaps I should also thank you, for showing my son a real-life example of stealing by a consumer. It certainly provided a good teachable moment for our family today.

More Information About This Type of Crime
The proper term for this crime is called “return fraud” and it is one form of “retail theft”. You can read more about return fraud in this article on the site.

Here is a quote from that article:

“The survey reports that an astonishing 95.2% of retailers have experienced this most popular form of return fraud in the past year. While many retailers are tightening policies, some at the expense of customer service, the retail industry will still lose $9.6 billion in return fraud.”

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Carrie said...

How irritating! It always amazes me that people can be this dishonest. I bought a handwriting workbook off of Ebay a couple years ago that was advertised as new, but had the first 25 pages cut out. When I notified the seller, she accused me of lying and posted negative comments on my user name! People are crazy.

Carrie K.

Baz said...

I understand your frustration, but as a former Barnes and Noble floor lead I can tell you from first hand experience that Barnes and Noble has themselves engaged in many dishonest, fraud like practices that have resulted in a backlash of angry customers seeking revenge over the years. I will give you a few examples: two days after September 11th, 2001 all staff at my particular B&N store were ordered to cover the price tags of any book relating to the twin towers, New York, Al-Qaeda, terrorism etc. and mark up those books 100% over the original cover price. It was opportunistic and disgusting and resulted in many furious customers returning to the store demanding their money back after they removed the stickers covering up the original price.
On another occasion upper management offered store employees “used/damaged” magazines for 50% of the original price provided we understood that the magazines were missing their front covers. This was of course illegal as magazines with their covers ripped off are issues that didn’t sell from the previous month, the store rips the covers off and mails them back to the distributor for a refund and we are then required to dispose of the magazines (you wouldn’t believe how many magazines and books are thrown away in this manner). But in selling some of them to store employees B&E stood to make a little extra profit and no one would be the wiser since it was so unlikely a store employee would be a whistle blower as we’d be fired or at the very least transferred if we said anything to anyone. There were other instances of fraud like behavior that I witnessed during my 2 years with the company, needless to say I no longer work for Barnes and Noble.
I’m not suggesting my store’s internal behavior or indeed the behavior of the customer who engaged in retail fraud is justified. I am merely putting in perspective that large corporate entities like B&N want to cut corners at all costs just like everyone else, legally or illegally they do what they have to in order to stay afloat. We are all very fortunate to live in a society where we have the time and luxury of creating things like morals and standards, and we are all so quick to cast stones at those who appear to transgress against our own ethics. Yet it is amazing how quickly morals, standards, and ethics can change depending on the swing of the pendulum. …and how hastily justifications for decisions transform depending on our own current economic well being; perhaps you should tell your 9 year old son about that as well.