Brick & Mortar vs. Online Bookstores

Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble is competing with it self. Last week I went to my local Barnes & Noble to pick up a few CDs with a gift card I’d received for my birthday (Somehow I can’t bring myself to buy books with those gift cards, as goofy as that sounds. A new book would use up the entire card, and I tend to justify used books whether it’s my birthday or not. CDs, on the other hand, I can rarely justify, so birthday money often goes to them).

I had $25 to spend and wanted several CDs. I’d probably have to settle for two, but it shouldn’t be that hard. Here’s what I found at the real live Barnes & Noble:

  • X&Y by Coldplay – $15.99 (Even worse, this was their sale price; I’ve seen it for $11.99 or less at tons of places)
  • From Under the Corktree by Fall Out Boy – $16.99 ($9.99 at other stores)
  • Out of Nothing by Embrace – $14.99 (a little harder to find, so I have little to compare it to, but this price actually seemed fair.

So I went to to see what I could see:

  • X&Y by Coldplay – $11.99
  • From Under the Corktree by Fall Out Boy – $9.99
  • Out of Nothing by Embrace – $13.98

Of course I still had to cover shipping. But Barnes & Noble has a deal where if you spend $25 or more you get free shipping. With Coldplay and Fall Out Boy, I wasn’t quite to $25. So I tacked on The Portrait of a Young Man as an Artist by James Joyce for $2.50. It was enough to put me into the free shipping range, while paying for shipping would have cost $4 or more. Add to that my 10% Barnes and Noble membership discount and I spent under $25 for two CDs, a book and free shipping.

Try that in the real store. I guess ordering online denies you instant gratification (I had to wait a week) and you have to deal with goofy UPS deliveries.

I can’t imagine why it works to gouge consumers in the real store, but give them great deals online. Perhaps they make a few bucks on the ad inserts that came with my package, and perhaps the brick & mortar stores just have higher overhead, but you’d think they could reconcile their prices. After all, it’s all Barnes & Noble.

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