We shop at Barnes & Noble quite often. Mainly the one in Somerville, NJ – but also from time to time over in Springfield, NJ. There are also others, including three out in the Allentown, PA and Bethlehem, PA areas.

The primary reason we shop there is a desire to acquire books for ourselves or our kids. Practical reasons only. We like both being able to physically see the products, as well as fill an immediate “need.”

They also sell toys – which now has even greater value now that Toys R Us is gone.

Sure, we can (and often do) get books cheaper online at Amazon – especially when we know what we want.

Barnes & Noble touts their top “reputation” ranking

We noticed a big sign on the front of the store the other day… That Barnes & Noble has the #1 reputation among major retailers in America.

99.99% of people seeing this sign will not dig into what that even means.

We did.

Barnes & Noble Reputation - What is that?

It’s basically some “reputation tracking” company called the Reputation Institute. They make money hand over fist “analyzing” data for companies – in terms of a myriad of convoluted conditions. You can view the PDF report here.


Apparently these days it’s not just about value, convenience, and experience. Companies now have to publicly “stand for” something. This is likely why you see every single company mention something about charity. The “emotional” feel that many (newer) customers have is important? We’re not sure why – but these companies believe it is.

They obviously didn’t include people like us in their analysis.

Barnes & Noble is just “okay” – we wish there were better options

Bookstores have been a dying breed for the last two decades. You can blame the internet, high rents, bad management, and so on. But Barnes & Noble managed to hang on. Remember Waldenbooks? Anyway, B&N still has over 600 stores in all 50 states.

But their “reputation” to us is rather tepid.

Other than getting what we want most of the time (we also get a discount because we pay an annual fee to be a “member,”) there are a few glaring reasons we’re not all warm and fuzzy about Barnes & Noble:

  • Employees. Not sure if it’s their hiring standards or those who choose to work there. But I have to say that at each Barnes & Noble we’ve ever visited, it appears most of the employees come from the same mold. Impersonal. Helpful, sure – but almost in a condescending manner. It doesn’t appear to be a fun place to work. I just don’t get a good vibe from anyone there.
  • Antiquated checkout. Every time we go, almost no matter what time – there is a LONG, slow-moving checkout line. WHAT IS SO COMPLICATED ABOUT IT? Books have barcodes just like at the supermarket. It should be lightning quick! No. They have to peddle memberships and spend all this time blabbering with customers. I wish they had an express line for members who just want to quickly buy their books and leave. And why no self-checkout? It’s almost 2019!

There are other more subtle reasons – but in general, something is just off with the overall “vibe” of this place.

But we’ll continue shopping there until something different comes along. Reputation or not.

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NJroute22 (site admin) is an avid traveler along NJ Route 22 (and almost all of central New Jersey!) Family man, pet lover, and property owner who has a natural curiosity for everything around.

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