Preface: It's the day of a cozy gathering in honor of a friend's birthday, scheduled for 6 p.m. His birthday wish is Hasbro's (NYSE:HAS) Trivial Pursuit, Book Lovers' Edition. How hard can it be to find a board game? (Famous last words.)

2:00 p.m.: I head for a local Borders (NYSE:BGP), thinking any bookseller worth its salt should sell this game.

2:15 p.m.: I arrive at Borders. Locate Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit, as well as some other kinds of Trivial Pursuit. But not Book Lovers' Trivial Pursuit. Ask associate at the help desk whether they have it. She takes me back to Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit.

2:40 p.m.: I realize this might be an "exclusive" arrangement with Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS). When I ask where the closest Barnes & Noble is, the associate looks like she wants to leap across the counter and throttle me, but she responds tersely, "Seven Corners." Hmm. How the heck do I get there from here?

2:45 p.m.: I get into my car, dial 411 on my cell, and ask for Barnes & Noble in Seven Corners, Va. The operator responds that there's no such thing as Seven Corners. (Yep, here in the Commonwealth, areas have nicknames.)

2:47 p.m.: The correct Barnes & Noble is identified. "Do you have Book Lovers' Trivial Pursuit?" Sales associate: "How do you spell 'pursuit'?" It turns out the only Barnes & Noble in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., that carries it is the store in Clarendon, Va. Hmm. How the heck do I get there from here?

3:00 p.m.: Call the Clarendon store. "Hi, I'm at Baileys Crossroads, could I get directions to where you're located from here?" Associate: "Can you hold?"

3:10 p.m.: [Muzak.] I long for (NASDAQ:AMZN) or driving directions using Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Local product, but I am after all still sitting in my car in the Borders parking lot. Associate: "Can you keep holding? We're really, really busy here."

3:20 p.m.: [Muzak.] Associate: "Hi, we're still really, really busy, and I can't find anyone to help you. I take the subway so I don't know... "

3:30 p.m.: I call 411 to locate the number for a local Toys "R" Us (NASDAQ:TOY) and ask whether it carries the game. [Muzak.] No dice.

3:35 p.m.: I call my roommate and get rough directions that will take me into the Clarendon area from my current position.

3:45 p.m.: I start my car and realize what time it is, that I need to get ready for the party, buy some things at the grocery store, and that my car is generating a burning fume that I find more than mildly disturbing. I panic, utter some expletives, and head for home base by way of the grocery store.

4:30 p.m.: Back at home, I fire up the Barnes & Noble website (after trying Amazon first), print up a jpeg of the game to insert in the birthday card, and order the game online. I realize that opening the card will not be nearly as fun as opening a present, nor will I be able to whup anybody at Book Lovers' Trivial Pursuit that evening.

Conclusion: Granted, this timeline does provide a disturbing window into my own foibles, such as my apparent inability to buy birthday presents on time (as well as what I like to call Lazy Saturday Syndrome and some difficulty navigating the outer reaches of my own general neighborhood). However, despite my underestimation of the difficulties of buying what should have been a simple gift, the bottom line is, the customer is always right. An exclusive arrangement to distribute this game is fine and good, but in this case, Barnes & Noble almost lost the sale. I found myself wondering whether other such "exclusive arrangements" end up with shoppers unable to find the item at whichever store location is most convenient to them. Frustration can lose customers, and "exclusive" shouldn't mean "very near impossible to find."

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. She knows it's not very Foolish to buy gifts at the last minute, when one might be tempted to pay more than one should for the perfect gift, and recognizes the error of her ways.