Barnesandnoble.com's slogan, placed at the top of its homepage, states: "If we don't have your book nobody does."
The definitive message drew the ire of the American Booksellers Association, which filed a complaint against Barnesandnoble.com last December with the Better Business Bureau's National Advertising Division.
The complaint alleged that the slogan is inaccurate, and cited research to back up the claim. The ABA said that it could not find 44 of 100 selected titles on Barnesandnoble.com, about half of which they found on other Web sites.
In a decision announced on June 25, the BBB's National Advertising Division sided with the American Booksellers Association.
Despite the ruling, Barnesandnoble.com is still using the slogan, which riles ABA chairman Richard Howorth.
"It's a pretty serious matter and I'm disappointed that Barnesandnoble.com doesn't see it as such."
As part of the decision, the National Advertising Division asked Barnesandnoble.com to change its slogan to make it clear that other booksellers might have books that the company doesn't carry. But the NAD is not a regulatory agency and cannot force Barnesandnoble.com to comply with the decision.
At most, the organization can refer the matter to the Federal Trade Commission, said Nicholas Vianna, advertising review specialist at the NAD. Vianna, who wrote the decision, said the organization expects companies to make changes as soon as they can. He added that a Web site "can be changed very quickly and should be."
Barnesandnoble.com has stated that it disagrees with the decision but plans to modify its slogan this fall, having met the goal of advertising its large selection to customers. Company spokesman Ben Boyd said the company would not appeal the decision because it had decided before the ruling to discontinue using the slogan.
Despite the ruling, he said, the slogan will remain on the Web site for the next several months.
"We're going to phase it out," he said.