February 10, 2013

Does Barnes & Noble Have Its Nook Support Together?

 I used to own a Nook Color tablet. It was not my favorite piece of technology, but the price was right and I really liked reading books and magazines on it. I purchased several pieces of software for the device and a few books. Additionally, because I was a subscriber to the print editions of Time and The New Yorker, I had free subscriptions to these magazines on my Nook. I found myself throwing away the paper magazines and reading the electronic versions.

Nook logo
I was using my Nook one day as I waited for my car to be serviced. Somehow—I never did figure out what happened—I apparently left the device in the waiting room and never saw it again. I’m sure someone picked it up and used it, as some small purchases were made using my Barnes & Noble account. It was only later, when I was in a Barnes & Noble store considering the purchase of a Nook HD+, that I was told that I could cancel my subscriptions and de-certify—I think that was the word that was used—my Nook Color. I did, in fact, buy a Nook HD+ and was delighted that I was able to load all the books and software I had purchased on the new device.

At this point, however, I hit a snag. To obtain a free magazine subscription on the Nook based on being a print subscriber, one signs up for a paid electronic subscription, which begins with a free two-week trial period. During that time, one needs to follow a link to a Web page that requests name, address, and print subscription number. I followed that procedure for both Time and The New Yorker. When I did so, however, in each case, I received this message:

Your Print Subscription Account information has already been used to activate a discount for another NOOK subscription.

Each active print subscription is entitled to receive a discount on one NOOK subscription. If you believe that your account information has been applied incorrectly to another account, please contact us at:

The prior subscriptions, of course, were those on my Nook Color, which had been cancelled. What I really wanted to do was to transfer my subscriptions from one device to another. Simple, no? Barnes & Noble must need to do this all the time.

At this point, I began working with Barnes & Noble’s Nook support people trying to resolve my problem over the telephone. This went on for a while, which led me to send the following e-mail message to bnmanagementdigital@book.com, which will stand in for a narrative of what happened next:
I am writing to you about a problem I have been trying to resolve for weeks. I have written to authorizations@barnesandnoble.com, made untold calls to Nook support, and have been repeatedly promised that my problem would be resolved within 72 hours. That last promise was made to me four days ago. I was just told that the issue is still open, which probably means that no one has paid it any serious attention yet.

Everything you need to know should be in your records associated with my account ([e-mail address 1]). I will give you a quick description of the problem, however.

I previously owned a Nook Color. My B&N account associated with that device was [e-mail address 2]. Because I am a print subscriber to both The New Yorker and Time Magazine, I had free subscriptions to those magazines on my Nook Color. Being able to read my magazine subscriptions on my Nook was my favorite use of the device. Unfortunately, my Nook Color was stolen. We cancelled the subscriptions and decertified the device.
In December, I purchased a Nook HD+ to replace my Nook Color. I was delighted that I was able to retrieve the books and applications I had purchased for my Nook Color for use on my Nook HD+. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get my free subscriptions to The New Yorker or Time Magazine. I was told by Nook support repeatedly to cancel my subscriptions and re-subscribe, which I have done repeatedly. Every time, when I tried to obtain my free subscription, I received the message (in red lettering) “Sorry. Your Print Subscription Account information has already been used to activate a discount for another Nook subscription.” (You can see a screen shot of this message at [URL removed].)

All I want to do, of course, is to transfer the subscriptions I had to my new tablet. It is clear that my Time and New Yorker subscription numbers are incorrectly flagged as being associated with an active subscription. When the subscriptions were cancelled, those flags should have been cleared.

By the way, even though I have signed up for the trial subscriptions, I am not receiving copies of either magazine on my Nook HD+. [This turned out to be an unrelated issue that was easily solved.]

It was suggested that I call the publishers to get new subscription numbers, something I did not expect the publishers to do. In fact, I did call Time. I was told that if I had a generic Android tablet or an iPad, Time could have helped me. I was also told that B&N is completely responsible for Nook subscriptions and Time had no way to make any adjustments. I assume I would have received a similar message from The New Yorker.

As if the frustration of not receiving what I am paying for were not enough, dealing with Nook support on the telephone has been maddening. For one thing, I have had to explain my plight repeatedly. Often, the details have not been understood. After speaking to a second-level support person on Saturday, I was again told that I would hear from B&N within 72 hours. When this did not happen, I called back today, asking immediately for a second-level support person, as I was told I should do. Trying to get past the person who answered my call was a bit like trying to get a visa to visit the U.S. from Yemen. I gave my e-mail address; then I was asked for my mailing address. When I was asked for the last four digits of my Social Security number, I had had enough and insisted about being put through. The person I then talked to put me on hold. After five minutes or so, the call was disconnected. I called back, went through the same sort of gatekeeping, and was finally told that the matter was still under consideration, and there was no higher-level person I could talk to. I was, however, given your e-mail address.

I really don’t care about your fixing your defective subscription software. Work on that later. All I want now is my free subscriptions to my magazines. Work around the software and give me my subscriptions. An apology would also be appreciated.

Failing resolution of my problem, I plan to write about my experience on my blog and elsewhere and perhaps request a refund for my Nook HD+. As a computer consultant, I am frequently asked about computer hardware. Perhaps you might be able imagine what I am inclined to say about buying a Nook.

Please, please, end my frustration and resolve my problem quickly.

Thanks for your help.

Best regards,
Lionel Deimel
One might have thought that such a letter would light a fire under someone who could fix the problem.Wrong! Several more weeks of frustrating telephone calls were in my future. I spoke to second-level support people and supervisors of second-level support people. No one could personally resolve the issue or tell me how to do so.

Several aspects of Nook support were particularly irritating. More than once, my call was placed on hold and was disconnected before anyone got back to me. When I tried to give my telephone number on a subsequent call so I could be called back if I got disconnected—this is common practice in many tech support shops—I was told that the Nook support people cannot make outside calls. When I tried to illustrate my problem with a screen shot, I was told that Nook support people cannot view external Web sites, either. Twice, after being told the standard tale that Barnes & Noble would get back to me within 72 hours, I received this e-mail  from bnmanagementdigital@book.com:
Dear Lionel Deimel,

Thank you for contacting us. 

We are happy to work with you, and your reference number for today’s contact is Service Request # [number removed].

Based on our discussion and the action we agreed upon, we feel that this issue was resolved.  However, if you feel that you need further assistance, we invite you to chat with one of our agents by clicking on this link:

Our Chat Team is available Monday through Friday 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM ET, Saturday and Sunday 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM ET.  If you do decide to get in touch with us, just make sure you have your Service Request Number handy for the fastest service.  
We also encourage you to use our Chat Team for any assistance you may require in the future.

Your satisfaction is our #1 priority and we look forward to your next visit!

[various signatures]
A couple of thing are notable about these messages. First, except for the greeting, the messages are complete boilerplate. They declare: “Based on our discussion and the action we agreed upon, we feel that this issue was resolved.” The messages don’t identify the issue or the resolution. Moreover, “we” didn’t agree on anything. Nothing was different following these messages; I still didn’t have my free subscriptions. I didn’t seriously believe that using chat, rather than a telephone, would be any more helpful, but, whenever I followed the link for Nook chat, I received various error messages. (Give it a try yourself.)

Twice, a second-level Nook support person promised resolution, which seemingly had to come from software people. One of these offered me a $10 gift card for my trouble. I appreciated the gift card, but the problem remained unsolved. Finally, someone else promised a resolution in 72 hours. Four or five days later, I had received no e-mail from Barnes & Noble, but, when I tried to sign up for my free subscriptions, I actually got them. By this time, I had disputed the charges on my credit card bill for my paid Barnes & Noble subscriptions. That matter has not yet been resolved.

I cannot believe that I am the only person to have lost a Nook and wanted to transfer subscriptions to a new device. Barnes & Noble, however, seems to have had no clue as to how to handle such an issue. I am unimpressed.

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