Barnes & Noble Makes Another Bonehead Move (You Can’t Fix Stupid)

Consider this to be your FAIR WARNING: I’m a grump when I’m tired or when I’m frustrated by something stupid that’s out of my control but affects me negatively…and today I’m both.

I’ve been sitting at the hospital for the last four days with my father (who is close to turning 95) as he undergoes another series of tests to find out why he is suddenly feeling so weak and generally awful. He was carried to the ER by ambulance at four a.m. on Thursday morning and we still don’t have any answers although I’ve told doctors and nurses at least three times that he probably has bronchitis again. I’m starting to believe that the doctors want to do all the other tests first because they are just now starting to “confirm” that he probably has bronchitis, after all. Strange how that worked out…and it only took four days in which his condition slowly worsened.

So that takes care of the tired part (and a good bit of the frustration part). Now for the rest of the frustration part:

I took a break this morning to grab a quick sandwich outside the hospital and to make a run over to the Barnes & Noble store nearby because I needed a new book to help keep my mind occupied. I walked around the store for about ten minutes before it struck me that something about the store layout was very different from what I’ve grown used to over a number of years shopping there. And then, I figured it out. All of the shelves in each of the different sections of the store that had been dedicated to “New Books” in each of the various genres were just gone. I was so disoriented that I actually walked the entire store to see if this plague of stupidity had struck the whole place – it had.

I wandered back up to the front of the store where I cornered one of the booksellers and asked what in the world the store manager was thinking because now readers like me had no easy way to distinguish new books from each section’s back-catalogue. She said, “Oh, we are just trying to keep our customers happy. Corporate required us to do this because customers kept requesting it.” So now I’m thinking (but not saying out loud), “Are you really that stupid? What idiot in the corporate office came up with this crap…and if you can identify him, his butt needs to be fired today, Sunday or not.”

So now, according to this clerk, if you go inside a Barnes & Noble store (sadly, pretty much the lone surviving big box book store in this country nowadays) and want to know what’s new in fiction, or mysteries, or science fiction, or biography…too damn bad. Just look at every book in the alphabetically-filed section and you might figure it out…or maybe you want. THEY DON’T CARE.

So Barnes & Noble, in another example of how incompetent its management is, has turned its brick and mortar stores into the same mess that online book shopping is: if you don’t already know now that a particular title exists, you are not very likely to stumble upon it in the store or on the store website.

I’m done ranting now. See, I told you I was grumpy. I always get that way when someone reminds me that you just “can’t fix stupid” people. They will forever remain stupid, something that Barnes and Noble management reminds me of over and over again. How long this chain survives is anyone’s guess, but I’ve just shortened my own guess by a few years.

8 thoughts on “Barnes & Noble Makes Another Bonehead Move (You Can’t Fix Stupid)

  1. We don’t have Barnes & Noble here in Australia but thankfully we have a smattering of independent books shops & I stick to them. Sorry to hear about your Dad. Hope he picks up quickly. A few times I’ve made a good guess about what was wrong with my kids when they’ve been sick – once it was my little girl who had atypical pneumonia. I was correct about the pneumonia but I’ve been out of nursing for a long time & didn’t feel confident enough to say what I thought. I think sometimes medical staff rely too much on testing & don’t develop good observation skills.

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    • I agree about the tests. Everyone is so litigation-happy these days that I believe doctors and hospitals use expensive tests as a way to preemptively defend themselves. Sad thing is that he’s been hospitalized for four days and is in worse condition today than he was yesterday.

      We do have some indie bookstores in Houston that are good, but they are 30 miles away from me and I have to B&N stores within ten miles (in opposite directions from my house) so I have come to depend on that chain for browsing. No more, looks like, will that be the case.

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  2. Double frustration! I’m so sorry about your dad but glad at least they are finally diagnosing and can treat him. But to have that on your shoulders and then go to your escape (the book store) and find frustration — that’s just too much. I am going to check out our B&N and see if they have done that there. Makes no sense at all. Even if “customers” couldn’t find new releases (derp) you just put copies in both the alpha shelves and the “new” end cap or whatever. It’s just like a library. Marketing 101. Hang in there on both fronts — hopefully BOTH will get better soon.

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    • Thanks, Kristine. They just taken more chest x-rays so maybe they are ready now to start working on the real problem.

      As for B&N, I’ll be interested in hearing what you find out since the person I spoke to blamed it on “corporate” and denied that it was a local decision. I don’t think it will ever get fixed, though, either way. The stupid thing is that the amount of shelf space is exactly as before and the books shelved probably did not change…why make it harder to distinguish new books? That really hurst debut novelists, IMO, and is just stupid as hell.

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  3. I hope your father is doing better very soon.

    The Barnes and Nobles out here in California are actually pretty good, not as good as the indie stores I like most are, but they are able to cater to the locality. The one by Travis Air Force base has a very big Christian fiction section for example. All of them have pretty good “New in Paperback” sections and specials tables. For me it’s the table selections that make a good bookstore. I’m not that concerned with what’s new, but I love a store that can select a table full of books with titles that strike my interest.

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    • So the West Coast B&Ns haven’t done away with the New Book shelving? I’m starting to think that the bookseller I spoke with was trying to protect a dumb decision by her own manager…if the manager has that much authority. I think those shelves are particularly important for debut novelists and for nonfiction titles I’ve never heard were being published. They do still have big center-aisle displays of new books but they are so near the door that browsing them at leisure is next to impossible without blocking the aisle and getting trampled. I would think that publishers would be pretty unhappy with the decision, too, since so many of them neglect their back catalogues in favor of the new stuff.

      Thanks for the kind wishes about my father…one day at a time, but I’m hoping he comes back strong again this time.

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  4. Hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but the California B&N’s are indeed doing away with New Book shelving, at least in our vicinity. I was in 2 weeks ago and wandered around the entire store twice, assuming that they must have relocated the new book section, not done away with it entirely. When I finally tracked down a clerk, I was told that this was indeed the way it was now going to be, although he did not say that it was a corporate decision. I will say that the clerk seemed as frustrated by the change as the dumbfounded customers listening in on our conversation. I filed a complaint with the manager on duty, now that I’m aware that it is a corporate decision, I’m going to make my dissatisfaction/rage known at a higher level.

    Hopefully by the time you read this your dad will be doing much better. Positive thoughts and energy for you both being sent your way.

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    • It really does sound as if this is a corporate-wide decision, stupid and irritating as it might be. I used to go into B&N at least five or six times a month – and always bought something – to see what new stuff was on the shelves there. Now it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack…a game I don’t intend to play. B&N may as well shut down the brick and mortar stores now and just maintain an online presence like everyone else. I don’t care anymore.

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