Thursday, March 14, 2013

Us Versus the Man, Round 3

The saga continues...

Round 3: Amy and Brian go to Barnes & Noble

Note that I'm not calling this "Amy and Brian versus Barnes & Noble," because the store isn't really the adversary in this case. In fact, if you were analyzing the central conflict of this story for an English class, you'd have to conclude that it's an internal one: Amy and Brian versus Amy and Brian.

You see, a while back, we were given a gift card to Barnes & Noble. We were very pleased with this, since we both love books and hanging out at bookstores...yet in the months that have passed since we got the card, we've spent only $11 of the $25 that was on it. We've been in and out of various Barnes & Noble stores repeatedly in that time, but we've usually come out again with nothing. It may seem strange that two book lovers could go into a huge bookstore, carrying a card with $14 in credit that can be spent only at that store, and not find anything they want to spend it on—but it makes more sense if you remember that the two book lovers are also cheapskates, and consider what books (and DVDs, and the other goodies sold at Barnes & Noble) tend to cost these days.

For an example, here's how our most recent trip went:

First, I browsed through the economics section near the front. I found a few books that looked interesting, including one with the intriguing title More Sex is Safer Sex—but I thought I recalled having seen that one before at our local library, and there was obviously no point in buying it if I could just borrow it. Brian, meanwhile, scouted out the crossword puzzle section on my behalf, but he reported that there were no collections of cryptic crosswords (my preferred kind) that I hadn't done already.

Then we came across the DVDs of the second season of "A Game of Thrones," priced at $60. Now, this was an item we were already planning to buy (since we're hooked on the series and obviously too cheap to pay for HBO); we just hadn't gotten around to ordering it yet. So that should have been the perfect way to use up our remaining store credit, right? Except that even with our $14 credit, the DVDs would still cost us $46 out of pocket—and we thought they would probably be less than that on Amazon.com.

We also browsed through the board game section. We saw a couple of games that looked intriguing, including one H.P. Lovecraft-Inspired mystery game called Elder Sign—but never having played it before, or even seen a review of it, we couldn't be sure whether it was really worth the money. One game that we'd definitely have been willing to pay the price for was the expansion set for Pandemic, but they only had the original game—and as Brian noted, if we were going to buy a game like that from a store, he'd prefer to support our local comic/game shop.

As a last resort, we decided to check the shelves for the latest Dresden Files novel, Cold Days. It was there, but only in hardcover for $26. So even with our store credit, we'd have to pay $12. Checking the price of a paperback in the same section, we found it was only $10, so by waiting a few more months for the paperback version, we could save $16. So at least we do now know of a way that we can use up most of our remaining store credit—eventually. But that day, we still walked out of the store bookless.

Round 3 Winner: Amazon.com, where we placed our order for the "Game of Thrones" DVDs as soon as we got home. They were only $35, so we did in fact pay less, which means that you could say we won this round as well—but it's certainly no skin off Barnes & Noble's nose, since they've already been paid $25 for the gift card and, thus far, have only had to shell out $11 worth of merchandise in exchange. In fact, the longer we hold onto this card without using it, the better it is for them, since their prices will only go up as we wait. (At least I did confirm that the card itself won't expire; we'd feel like double idiots if we let the money go to waste entirely because we never found anything that was a good enough deal to spend it on.)

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