Ripoff Waterstones

Actually, the subject line only really works if you are Jonathon Ross.

Anyway, I didn’t mention in my earlier post that my book-buying started in Waterstones. I came across it in the hour before we had lunch, and I thought I would see what their SF shelves were like.

Actually, they were pretty good, and I could see a number of books I hadn’t heard of before that might be interesting. Spurred on by the “3 for 2” displays all around the store, I ended up selecting 6 books. Only to be charged for 6 books at the till.

The cashier was embarassed and apologetic as she pointed out that below the big “3 for 2” display banners and shelf decals was a tiny line of type saying words to the effect of “stickered items only”. She admitted it caused no end of complaints, but was down to head office.

“Would you like to speak to a manager?” she asked.

“Will it make any difference?” I replied. She admitted it wouldn’t so I took my purchases and made my way to the door. Then I stopped and walked back.

“I’m sorry, but I really do feel strongly about this. I know it’s not your fault, but the displays are deliberately deceptive. I’d like my money back, please”.

Which is why I left Cambridge with 6 less science fiction books than I would have. The really annoying thing is that it occurred to me afterwards, that I could have used my phone to scan the barcodes of the books, so I could order them from Amazon. I can’t recall the details of any of them, now, other than “oh, that looks good!”


  1. January 22, 2011

    We almost got caught like that on the talking books at Christmas. Ma-in-Law is now legally blind and can’t read print anymore, hence the request for talking books.

    Big signs saying “3 for 2” on the talking books display but NO STICKERS on anything. I assumed that it meant everything on the display. No, I was informed. It only applies to stickered items. Of which there weren’t any.

    It’s a bit like me saying “All elephants free!” and then pointing out that I don’t actually have any elephants.

    I agree with your “Grrrr”. I want to support High Street book shopping, but really, Waterstones is doing everything it can to make me go to Amazon.

  2. January 22, 2011

    We’ve always assumed that if the item isn’t stickered it isn’t part of the promotion. In Annie’s case, if there weren’t any stickered items on the shelves with the sign on them then the sign shouldn’t have been there, and they were at fault for not taking it down.

    On the upside, we have on a couple of occasions had non-stickered items knocked off–whether this is because Jan has a nice face, or because the assistant was feeling well-disposed towards people at the time, I don’t know. Our Waterstones still remembers when it was Ottakar’s, I think, or is aware that it’s fighting a long defeat in the face of Amazon and the like.

    • chris
      January 22, 2011

      We’ve always assumed that if the item isn’t stickered it isn’t part of the promotion.
      Normally I would agree. But – in the SF section – there were actually very few stickered items, but every shelf in that section had a full-width strip saying “3 for 2”. The few stickered items were faced forward, while the non-stickered items were spine-out, so it looked like they had just stickered those books on full display. Also, at least one book was only partly stickered – i.e. stickers on 2 copies, not stickered on a 3rd. So it really did look to me like it was the whole section, if not the shop (the shelf strips were elsewhere as well).

  3. January 23, 2011

    It might not have made a difference to you on the occasion in question, but if the manager gets called out to address a customer over something like that, there’s a decent chace it will then get mentioned to the area manager. If enough people in enough stores in the area do that, then the word gets back to the promotions department, quite possibly in the form of a “why aren’t you following the Trading Standards guidelines?”-type bollocking. Local managers and staff with concerns about such things, OTOH, tend not to be taken notice of unless they can cite actual instances of customers complaining.

    Better still, of course, is to write to their head office.

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