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Posts Tagged ‘Christian Book Distributors’

How christianbook.com Mismanages Canadian Credits

Canadian consumers who purchase from christianbook.com generally enjoy a high level of customer service and support. But their system breaks down when they need to reverse a Canadian credit card purchase. Let me explain with an example. (The purchase is hypothetical, but the exchange rates are correct for the dates given.)

On October 1st “John” purchases a Bible. It’s a clearance item, with real leather, regular $199.99 on sale for only $99.99. He’s thrilled about his purchase.

He’s charged $99.99 + 25% flat rate shipping + 5% tax at an exchange rate of 1.30966. for a total of $171.88.

So far so good, right?

Something goes horribly wrong. The Bible arrives but it looks like it was run over by a truck in the warehouse. Or something similar. He phones right away only to be told that the Bible is no longer carried by Christian Book or by their supplier. Not realizing what is about to happen, John agrees to have his VISA or MasterCard credited while he considers a different Bible.

Not such a great plan, John, as you’re about to see.

On October 12th, John’s payment card is credited, but this time he’s not buying US currency, but he’s selling US currency, so the credit is processed at 1.20982.

He does get 13% tax credited however. He was only charged 5%, but he doesn’t realize this extra “blessing” at the time, and it’s just as well, because things are about to go south.

He is given $99.99 + 13% at 1.20966 for a total of $136.68.

That’s $35.20 less.

Do you see what’s missing? The $25 US flat rate shipping charge…

…As a Canadian bookseller, christianbook.com is my competitor. I have no reason to help them succeed, but believing that we’re all brothers and sisters united in purpose, I do, at least once every three weeks, notify them of database errors and the like.

With this situation I’ve reached out to them repeatedly by phone and by email and they just don’t get it. If you’re going to sell to Canada, you should have dedicated people responsible for sales to Canada, and you should make that person accessible. They don’t.

Also, remember that in the example, “John” got back an extra 8%. (This is based on several true stories, and I have received documentation.) That shows that their system is not airtight when it comes to how they process orders for Canada.

What should have happened?

They should have been aware that “John” was going to take a hit in the process — the exchange rate difference alone is about $13 — and told him to select another product or offered him an online store credit.

This has been the system at Christian Book for a long time, and I’ve experienced it myself, going back as many as ten years.

They have no intention of fixing it.

Consumers Buying in the U.S. Can Lose 8-10% on Adjustments

Transaction adjustments don’t work in Canadian customers’ favour. With shipping issues, there can be a loss of up to 36% or more.

It doesn’t matter how friendly and willing customer service staff are when there’s a problem, nor does it matter if they remember to credit you any flat-rate shipping charge you paid. The fact remains that if a Canadian consumer is having their credit card credited as opposed to receiving a credit note from the store, they are taking a hit of anywhere from 8-10%, even if they respond just a few days after they were first charged.

The reason is simply, buying U.S. money on your credit card has an entirely different rate than selling U.S. money, which is essentially what happens when you’re getting a correction applied to your VISA or MasterCard. That’s how the foreign exchange market works, and the differences are far greater than the 2.5% the bank is charging for the transaction itself.

Here’s an example:

Last month “Joe” bought some merchandise from Christian Book Distributors. (CBD) Something was damaged or missing, so he called their customer service people, who quickly agreed to credit his account.

Right there, something is wrong. CBD charges Canadians a flat rate shipping charge of 25% (or 20% if the order is over $200). Did Joe get his shipping charge back? He’s not sure, so he checks online. No luck. CBD only posts order history, not accounting history; and unlike those of us in the business who are accustomed to getting actual printed credit notes for bookkeeping purposes, the company issues no paper copies of credits. His credit is in Canadian dollars and the more he stares at it, the less he can remember about what happened that day.

Beyond that, Joe bought the books that day at an exchange rate of 1.3490 but he was only getting credited at a rate of 1.2636 a difference of 8.5%, because of the aforementioned difference in rates depending if you’re buying or selling. If the dollar had been more active in this period, he would lose more. We figured that rapidly calling in the shortage or damage could still result in a difference of closer to 10%, perhaps even 11.5% on some days the dollar has been more volatile.

So Joe knows he’s out 8.5%, but he’s not sure about the 25%. That might be a combined hit of 35.6% when you multiply the two factors together. Really, Joe should insist that CBD issue a credit note that he can apply on a future purchase (assuming he’s not one of the many who never remember to use their electronic credits.) But the CBD customer service is so very friendly, and talking so fast, that the subject of shipping and variable exchange rates never comes up.

On a $20 (US) Bible that didn’t ship or came defective, he’s now out $7.12 CDN, but he thinks that his account was credited to his satisfaction, because he doesn’t read his credit card statement closely, and he especially doesn’t examine the exchange rates on transactions. On a $40 Bible, the amount could be closer to $15.

Buy from a local Christian bookstore and you just don’t have these issues. More Canadians need to be made aware of the potential for things to awry, even when friendly staff south of the border seem to be quickly cooperating with requests for adjustments.

CBD Discontinues Carrying The Koran

September 18, 2011 1 comment

I was in the middle of posting something from Phil Johnson at Pyromaniacs at Christianity 201 today, when I came across this little tempest I didn’t realize was brewing.  CBD was carrying The Koran apparently, and with all the “Chrislam” sensitivities currently happening — making Rick Warren suddenly a hot topic once again — I guess things heated up too much.  I personally don’t have it in my store, nor do we have The Book of Mormon, but I do have the paperback version of The Catechism of the Catholic Church for much the same reason CBD was carrying the Koran. Their market is a gazillion times larger than mine, so they can afford to be more adventurous, I suppose.

The full article is reproduced here, or you can read it at Pyromaniacs.

 I  didn’t have a major problem with CBD selling copies of the Koran. Christians need to know what’s in it. If we’re going to respond to Islam, we must to deal with the Koran from a position of knowledge, not ignorance.

I bought my copies (one English and another interlinear) from Barnes and Noble years ago. I would rather have given the profit to a Christian company.

Presumably, it’s all a moot point now, because CBD have apparently pulled the Koran from their catalogue rather than face an outpouring of wrath from the mavens of online discernment.

Well, OK. I can understand why some might see the Koran in their catalogue and raise an eyebrow, but a moment’s thought (or a simple e-mail query to CBD before blogging about it) might have eased everyone’s concerns. If CBD had an agenda to erase the distinction between Christianity and Islam—or even if they had gone soft on universalism—I’d be up in arms. But I really don’t think that’s what was behind this little controversy.

~Phil Johnson

“before blogging about it” link added (not in original text)

STL Provides Exclusive Distribution on 150+ Imprints

This week I had a second meeting with Terry Draughon, Vice President of Christian Market Sales for STL Distribution, who was doing a sweep of Canadian stores in my area.    He said that Canadians have responded well to the service the company offers and the numbers of us using the company is growing.   Ironically, he also said that parent company Biblica is looking to sell STL because it is the only division of their larger portfolio which, with the closure of the UK division, is not international.    Maybe they should take another look at their Canadian sales!

What I gained from this particular meeting concerned their publisher services department; companies for whom STL provides exclusive order fulfillment.   In other words, these are publishers — some small, some medium-sized — who choose not to do their own warehousing, and STL handles credit, shipping and returns.

Counting the names on the list he gave me, that group of publisheres is now over 150 imprints, representing over 130 different companies.

U.S. accounts receive a 45% discount on most publisher services items with international accounts receiving an additional discount.   Furthermore, the company tracks all the bestsellers among the publisher services sector of the company on a separate online chart, which is frequently updated.

My prediction:  Some time in the next twelve months a larger or more recognized publisher or two will decide that this is the way to go; in order to streamline costs and focus on product development and marketing.

STL Rewrites The Print-on-Demand Playbook

Never underestimate Glenn Bailey.

This is the kind of person you want coaching the team when the score is tied and it’s the last quarter.   Someone willing to do something unexpected and shake up the game

In this news story from Christian Retailing (not even on the STL website news page yet) Glenn looked at the delay-factor on print-on-demand titles and announced same day shipping beginning early in 2011.

The CR story reads, in part:

The service will result from a three-way initiative involving the Elizabethton, Tenn.-based distributor, printer Dickinson Press and technology firm Snowfall Press.

“This ground-breaking alliance will change the landscape of Christian book publishing and distribution markets,” said STLD President Glenn Bailey in a statement announcing the move. “The alliance enables us to provide same day turn-around of orders–even for out-of-print books–and will give authors and publishers access to a broader range of distribution channels than were previously available.”

Expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2011, the service will give retailers access to thousands of digitally stored titles available for immediate printing-one at a time, if desired. Orders received by 1 p.m. can be shipped the same day.

Continue reading at Christian Retailing…


Footnote:  I go out of my way not to overlap on CR stories, since most of the people reading this also read the twice-weekly CR e-mail updates.   However, I consider this to be a groundbreaking story that will represent significant benefits both for individual retailers and STL.

UPDATE:  Be sure to check out the story on this blog, posted Sunday, August 8th, concerning the IN STORE print-on-demand Expresso Book Machine that has been operating in Blackwell’s in the UK since April.   Books are ready in as little as five minutes.   Click here.

CBD Add Niche-Market Reformed Boutique

It looks familiar, right? Look a little closer.

If the people at online/mail-order Christian book retailer CBD (Christian Book Distributors) were paying attention to the recent Tim Challies poll — and I’ll bet the rent that they were — they realized they are not as big a player in the Reformed/Calvinist book market as they would like to be.    This is a crowd that increasingly prefers to buy from their own.

While the Challies.com survey revealed that just under 50% had made an online purchase from CBD in the past two years, only 8.8% considered the company their “most often” choice; with Westminster Books scoring 9.7% and Monergism garnering 6.6%.   Of course, the commanding lead was held by Am*z*n, with a whopping 69.6%.

So it’s not surprising at all that we see the launch of CBD-Reformed (tag line:  Serving the Needs of the Reformed Community).  The company is hoping to win back customers at a time when the Reformed book-buying market clearly outstrips the former market-leader, the Charismatic market.

Does this distinction matter?   Time will tell.   As the screenshot shows, there’s no attempt to disguise the fact that this is simply a boutique within the same old CBD.   They’ve simply isolated certain titles, authors and publishers within the existing framework; and in fact, one’s order cart transfers back and forth between the Reformed site and the main site.

What does all this say to brick and mortar retailers?

A Christian bookstore trying to be all things to all people may have a Charismatic or Renewal section; there may be a Roman Catholic section; but I’m willing to bet many have never considered a Reformed or Calvinist section.   Reformed publishers greatly dominate our industry already, with Eerdman’s, Baker, P&R, and even Zondervan owing their beginnings to Reformed roots.   (Elsewhere however, Zondervan rated a low 20% on the question of publisher credibility.  With stats like that you could assume some Reformers have come to despise the company, and sure enough, asked in the reverse, the company got a 64.6 ranking for “low credibility” nearly double that of Nelson at 32.6%.)

But perhaps there is a need for a Reformed section in our stores given the current climate.    What then does that say, if you walk into a store that has Catholic, Charismatic and Reformed sections?   Shouldn’t the Christian bookstore be a melting pot, where divisions disappear, and books are classified solely on their distinctions as prayer, devotional, family, commentaries, fiction, etc.?

Or I suppose you could segregate some inventory and just call it the “Crossway” section.