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“Because I am valuable”

Apr 15, 2013   //   by David   //   Blog, Business  //  2 Comments

Kind of an odd title for a posting but I will make the connection soon.

This weekend my son asked about buying a book so, of course, I went online to Amazon and checked to see if they had what he was looking for and it’s price. Turns out he had already done his own research and wanted to go to the bookstore. He assured me that they had it in stock and the price was the same as Amazon. Since it doesn’t hurt for me to get outside once in a while and realizing that he wanted the book now, I agreed.

Off to Chapters we go. Arriving there I can sense his excitement at the prospect of finding the book among the thousands in the store. A quick bit of searching and he’s got it. Looking at the back he comments “That’s not the price they showed online.” My first comment was “Are you sure it was the Canadian price you saw?” “Yes, I checked” he says.

We proceed to the in store computer to look up the book and see what price they have listed. Sure enough it’s the higher price. He asks for my phone and checks their website. It’s the lower price. Hmmm. To the cash we go armed with this information.

It was a very short line and the clerk was pleasant as we approached. So I comment that my son noticed a difference between their in store price and the online one he had original found. I politely ask if they honour the price listed on their website. What followed was what I can only imagine was a well-rehearsed statement. “No, we don’t…because I am valuable.”

I’m pretty sure he saw me blink in disbelief (my son did and comment on it to me later). He continued “The store, the books in stock, the people, the extras, shipping, all cost money so we have to charge more for the store experience.” To which I respond “More that your own online store?” “Yes, but if you use your discount card online you can save an additional 5%.”

Really? In an age where businesses struggle to keep customers coming in to their physical store and almost everyone is price matching their competition, you now want me to go home and order from you online. Thanks, but no thanks. If I’m going to do that, I’ll just order from Amazon.

While I appreciate that the clerk has likely had this question a hundred times, I can’t help but wonder why businesses continue to hold on to the false belief that the customer will pay for the “experience”. I’m pretty sure the staff at many of the closing Barnes & Noble stores also felt they were valuable.

Yes, some people pay much more for their morning coffee at one chain versus another but they will argue that the product is different and it’s not just the experience. However, if you were to go to that same coffee shop, would you expect to pay more at the cash than at the drive thru? Would you want to see the drive thru price then be told the in shop price is higher? Not exactly the same thing, I know.

So, is Chapters trying to get people to stop coming into their store? Maybe. Would it be cheaper for them to only sell online? Definitely. Can they compete with the likes of Amazon? Who knows.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


  • It’s unbelievable how short-sighted people can be. If they are going to run off a litany of why the book costs more in-store, can you not tell the employee how expensive the gas that it took to drive to their store is, how valuable YOUR time is and how incredibly STUPID they sound? Sounds like Chapters will be going the way of Borders and B&N…and they’ll blame someone else.

  • Seems like the thing for them to do would be to honor the website price – not make a point of saying you can get it cheaper on our website, but if a customer asks for that price, then give it to them. That seems the least they could do. I guess the better overall approach would be to have the same price online and in the store. Then I could say, well, it costs a little more, but I can go get it right now. As it is now, especially with the experience you told about, I feel like I was given a bait and switch deal.

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