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Old 02-22-2010, 10:45 AM   #1
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Why I'll never give another penny to Waterstones

I have bought many - and I mean many - books and ebooks from Waterstones.
I have also bought two readers from them. I have been a Waterstones cardholder for years. I have now decided that Waterstones is not going to see another penny from me.

Many of the ebooks I bought from them were full of little errors- no news there, we have all found OCR mistakes and other little strange things in purchased ebooks. It is a disgrace, but it is not rare, and it is not exactly the retailers' fault. I never complained, though I admit I probably should have.

Then on the start of January I bought a book that took place in France, so had a lot of frech words in it. All the accented characters were completely garbled, both on ADE on my PC and on my reader. I took a very descriptive screenshot and sent it to waterstones. (For the record, I'm not being picky, though I have every right to be. Everyone that saw that screenshot could not believe a book could be sold in that condition. It was unreadable.) I asked them very politely to either provide me with a good copy of the book or with a refund.

5 days later, I get a very generic response that thanked me for my email and assured me that they have forwarded my details to the "relevant department for investigation", whatever that means. They would contact me as soon as they had an answer from that department. In the email there was also a lovely phrase: "I do apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused as it is not our intention to inconvenience our customers and we always strive to offer a better level of service.". Right.

A week later, there is no other feedback from them. I write an email to the person signing the above email, very politely stating that I have received a number of advertisments and promotions from them in my inbox, but no answer to my problem. Again reminding them that I would be satisfied with either an error-free copy of the book or a refund.

Ten days after that, and having been completely ignored, I write to them again to ask them to please stop sending me promotional material, because if their customer service is what I have seen up to now, I'm not interested in anything they have to offer. I make a point to remind them that my last email of 10 days before has gone unanswered.

5 days later, I get the same generic email about forwarding my request to the relevant department, and the same statement of them not wanting to inconvenience their customers. Another person signs the email. The promotional emails have not stopped of course. I unsubscribe myself.

My tone in the reply is still polite but noticeably angrier. I ask what this mythical relevant department might be. If it was a paper book I could have taken it back, shown it to a clerk, and got my money back. But it seems that with an ebook there's nothing you can do if it's faulty. No customer rights. It is now one month from my initial complaint by the way. Why they can't just refund my money I cannot begin to understand.

I get a speedy response to this angrier and more resolute email, right the next day. Maybe the fact that I said that I had informed several of my friends about my dissatisfaction had something to do with it. The email is again signed by a different person still. It was speedier, but again said nothing useful at all. My query was sent to the relevant department, and they had chased up that department and should hear from them shortly.

And that was 20 days ago, almost two months now after my initial complaint. I have not bothered to write them again. I have nothing else to say. They have lost a good customer. That's all.

This is not about the quality of ebooks, which is of course a major but different problem. It is about the rights of someone buying an ebook. Not only is the ebook not entirely ours, because of DRM, but it also cannot be returned, at least to this specific retailer (I know amazon behaves quite differently in this respect). So the customer loses in about every respect. Enough is enough.
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Old 02-22-2010, 11:23 AM   #2
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That's very poor. I've not had my reader long enough to see such problems yet, but it makes me wary of buying from them. Did you post a review of the book on their website to warn others of the formatting? Might be an idea.
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Old 02-22-2010, 11:43 AM   #3
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I've thought about it, but I hesitate because I wouldn't want to hurt the author. It's not his fault that the publishers don't know how to produce a working epub, or that waterstones has no idea about customer service. But maybe I will, because it's true that potential buyers need to know.
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Old 02-22-2010, 11:47 AM   #4
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The only thing that seems to produce any useful response from Waterstones totally useless customer service is to direct your complaint through your credit card provider - I know, I've done it and it works.
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Old 02-22-2010, 11:55 AM   #5
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Hear, hear. People are too reluctant to go through the credit card company when they can't get a resolution from the retailer. You have more than enough evidence that you attempted to resolve the problem with them. Dispute the charge with the CC company for a faulty product. That will most certainly get Waterstone's attention. If everyone did this, these idiotic formatting issues would disappear overnight.
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Old 02-22-2010, 11:57 AM   #6
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Terrible service to lose a customer and risk having your company bad-mouthed just for the sake of refunding one ebook!!!

Companies like this are very short-sighted indeed. There's a reason why Amazon do so well and that is partly due to their brilliant customer service.
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Old 02-22-2010, 12:05 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by omk3 View Post
I've thought about it, but I hesitate because I wouldn't want to hurt the author. It's not his fault that the publishers don't know how to produce a working epub, or that waterstones has no idea about customer service. But maybe I will, because it's true that potential buyers need to know.
Do it and whilst you're at it, email the author to let them know.

Tell people to not buy the ebook version and point them to the print version instead. The author will lose more in the long run if customers buy the book and have a similar experience to you.

Whilst the author may not be able to do anything directly, they can at least nag their publisher that sales are been lost and reputation tarnished.
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Old 02-22-2010, 12:08 PM   #8
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I sympathize with your problem, but I honestly think you're "cutting off your nose to spite your face" if you don't shop at Waterstones again. They are the best bookshop chain in the UK by a massive margin. You're only hurting yourself by "boycotting" them.
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Old 02-22-2010, 12:18 PM   #9
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I sympathize with your problem, but I honestly think you're "cutting off your nose to spite your face" if you don't shop at Waterstones again. They are the best bookshop chain in the UK by a massive margin. You're only hurting yourself by "boycotting" them.
Why did you put boycotting inside quotes? It reads as though you're trying to mock omk3 for thinking it will matter to them.. But this can't be, since you're a moderator here, right?

Nobody has to go to a retailer. If retailers don't want to learn, why bother? Just make it clear why you're leaving, get another of those imbecilic "I'm sorry to hear that" generic replies that are created by an auto-reply bot, and move on to better pastures.

Last edited by zerospinboson; 02-22-2010 at 12:26 PM.
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Old 02-22-2010, 12:24 PM   #10
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Are you able to leave reviews at Waterstones to at least warn other potential buyers about the formatting of this ebook?

If it were me, I would write a formal letter of complaint and forget about sending emails. Emails get ignored by many companies. I have never had a written letter of complaint ignored.

I can only sympathise with your shoddy treatment.
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Old 02-22-2010, 12:28 PM   #11
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Why did you put boycotting inside quotes? It reads as though you're trying to mock omk3, for thinking it will matter to them..
For the same reason you put it in italics, probably - for emphasis. I have every sympathy for omk3's viewpoint, as I stated.
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Old 02-22-2010, 12:31 PM   #12
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I sympathize with your problem, but I honestly think you're "cutting off your nose to spite your face" if you don't shop at Waterstones again. They are the best bookshop chain in the UK by a massive margin. You're only hurting yourself by "boycotting" them.
Actually I disagree. WH Smith are better and (slightly) cheaper, though god knows, there's not much to be said for either!
Oh, for a decent competitor!!!
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Old 02-22-2010, 12:34 PM   #13
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Actually I disagree. WH Smith are better and (slightly) cheaper, though god knows, there's not much to be said for either!
Oh, for a decent competitor!!!
Just to clarify, I was referring to "physical" shops. Waterstones have a superb branch in Manchester, where I work; Smiths these days is awful for books (at least my local branches are).

I can't compare their eBook stores, since I've never used either (other than to get my free copy of "The Lost Symbol" which was given away with my Sony PRS-600, bought at Waterstones).
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Old 02-22-2010, 12:43 PM   #14
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In the end, I took your advice and did write a review. Other people need to know. I took care to mention I was not commenting on the content of the book, but on the quality of the ebook.

Harry, it is not really about *my* problem. I just wanted to inform other people about what kind of service they can expect if they run into problems. And I want to boycott Waterstones, because if I don't, it's like I don't really care what their customer service is. My money is the only thing they care about, so it's what they won't get. Simple as that.

Zerospinboson, move on to better pastures is exactly what I did. There certainly are good enough alternatives out there.
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Old 02-22-2010, 12:45 PM   #15
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Harry, it is not really about *my* problem. I just wanted to inform other people about what kind of service they can expect if they run into problems. And I want to boycott Waterstones, because if I don't, it's like I don't really care what their customer service is. My money is the only thing they care about, so it's what they won't get. Simple as that.
Absolutely your choice to do so, of course.
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