An Asian mom and her teen-aged daughter came into the store. Mom - slender with short dark hair, wearing a black sweater. Daughter, not so slender, dark hair in a messy ponytail, wearing a blue jacket with yellow stripes. They put a book on the counter in front of my register. It was a Barron's study guide for the GED test.
The daughter explained that they wanted to return it. They didn't have a receipt, but we could look it up with a credit card. She went on to explain that she didn't like the book, that it wasn't helpful for her for the test. She did a lot of the work in it, and it didn't relate at all to the test. She'd wasted so much time on this book, she wanted her return of the book to be her complaint.
I flipped through the book and indeed she had done a lot of the work. In the book. In pen. The accompanying study CD was not in the envelope on the inside back cover.
I explained that we couldn't take the book back since it had been written in and the CD was missing (actually, if the envelope is even open we can't take it back). We can take it back it the book is in saleable condition.
Mother and daughter turn to each other and start talking in what I think is Japanese. After a few minutes, the daughter tries to explain to me (again), how much time she wasted using this book, and wanted to make a point to Barron's by having us return the book to the publisher.
I told her (again), that we can't take it back in that condition, but that they could contact the publisher and make a complaint about the book if they weren't satisfied.
The daughter flipped through the book. She said she'd worked so hard to study for this test. She got another study guide that was very helpful and she'd passed the test. She was upset at all the time she'd wasted. Couldn't we return the book to Barron?
I told her that I could ask a manager, but I was pretty sure that she would say the same thing that I did. I called the manager and asked her to come help. When M. got to the register, I explained to her what they wanted to do, return the book as a way to complain to the publisher. I showed her that the book had already been used.
M. explained that we could not take the book back. We don't return books to publishers for content issues. We were sorry she wasn't happy with the book, and she suggested that they contact the publisher directly.
Mother and daughter turned to each other and have another conversation. M. and I wait patiently. The daughter sighs and walks out of the store.
The mother talked to us in broken, but fairly articulate English. She explained how hard her daughter worked to study for the test. She said that they have only been in this country for two years and that it's been hard to adjust. She said that the daughter is young, she is just a girl, she worked so hard and she wasted all that time studying using this book that didn't even relate to the test. She said she trusted our store and thought that it would be good if we could make the complaint to the publisher by sending the book back.
M. and I took turns telling her that we couldn't do that. We suggested that they write a letter with the book and send it back to them. I showed them the publisher information in the front of the book. That they could also probably find a phone number or email address online. I told them that when customers complain, publishers do listen, and hearing from consumers directly is a more effective method of protest than hearing from a store. M. said that maybe the publisher would be able to do something for them. We were sorry that they were so frustrated and that we couldn't do what they asked.
The woman thanked us and walked out of the store.
A frustrating encounter all around.
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