I don’t usually use this blog for rage posts, but I’ve never felt so helpless and impotent than when dealing with Barnes & Noble’s fine customer service department. The problem I had was something that, to be honest, should be inconceivable. If you’re in the business of managing your customers’ data, it would seem like a faux pas to chuck it out the window.
I already had a B&N account and their Android app lets you read EPUB files, so I was using the Nook app to make notes on a draft of my new novel. I spent a few weeks re-reading it and marking it up with my corrections. Then today, because I must have gone insane, I signed in to the app so I could read the books I’d bought previously. The next time I opened the app, all my notes and highlights had been obliterated. There was no warning, no notifications, just an ebook with clean, crisp, virginal pages devoid of the notes I had spent the last few weeks laboring over.
I jumped on my computer to contact B&N to figure out if there was anything I could do to recover the notes — sign out, find a .Trash folder on the OS, whatever. For a start you go to their website and the only way to get in touch with a human being is the online chat. There is no phone number or email address for customer support. I do like the speed of these chat windows, but sometimes you actually want to talk to a human being, such as when the online chat repeatedly logs you out before you even get a response from the support rep. On the third try, “Katherine” (if that is her real name) finally responded before the chat timed out.
The TL;DR version is, “You fucked up by showing customer loyalty. Your work is gone. You might as well have built a bonfire and thrown your whole tablet into the blazing inferno.” Of course I wanted to shout at someone or demand some kind of restitution — I would even have been satisfied with a bug report in a public bug tracker. I didn’t do any of those things, though. Being stuck in those chat windows with an obsequious but unhelpful support rep envelopes you in a fog of helplessness.
I don’t even know if I’m the only person this has happened to. It looks like some other poor sap (or as B&N likes to call us, customers) lost all his notes during an upgrade, but that was some time ago now. If you’re at all inclined to use the Nook app for taking notes on what you’re reading, you should write down all your notes on paper, cram them into the u-bend of your toilet, take a massive dump on them, and flush. At least then you’ll have had the pleasure of taking a shit.
For anyone masochistic enough to want to experience Barnes & Noble customer support by proxy, here are my chat logs with “Katherine”:
Katherine: Thank you for contacting Barnes and Noble Digital Chat Support. My name is Katherine, how may I help you? [21:27:25 EST]
St John: This chat window keeps timing out before I can get a response.
St John: (for starters)
St John: The actual problem I have is with my Nook app for Android. I had some notes and highlights on some local books. Then I signed in to the app with my account and all the notes got wiped.
Katherine: I understand that your notes disappeared on the NOOK Reading Application. I can only imagine how eager you must be to correct this problem and I am sorry to know that this has happened to you. I will be glad to provide you with details regarding this. [21:29:03 EST]
St John: Thanks. Is there any way to get them back? I could sign out, but I don’t want to do anything to make it worse.
Katherine: St John, I regret to inform you that there’s no way for you to recover the notes and highlights as they are device specific. [21:30:40 EST]
St John: The device hasn’t changed, though.
St John: I’m not talking about syncing notes between devices, just not erasing the notes on this device.
Katherine: Once it’s been erased, there’s now way to retrieve it. I profusely apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you. [21:31:26 EST]
Katherine: Your comments and suggestions are an integral part of this continuing effort to provide quality content. As part of my commitment in serving you, I will channel this request to the appropriate department to be taken a look at. [21:32:31 EST]
St John: Is there anywhere on the device where the notes could be recovered, like a .trash folder or something? I have shell access to the OS.
Katherine: None. [21:34:13 EST]
St John: Okay.
Yes, there I am, showing all the backbone of a limp celery in the face of mind-blowing finality from Barnes & Noble. Seriously, B&N, fuck you too — with a rusty tractor.