Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2005 Issue

Some Feedback on Feedback

Feedback for an eBay seller


by Renée Magriel Roberts

Internet bookselling may be the wave of the future, but before engaging in the practice, read this notice: WARNING: You can get Internet bookselling heartburn on a regular basis by selling on a site (eBay or Amazon, for example) that offers optional and permanent customer feedback.

What's the problem with feedback? On the surface, it seems very reasonable. Amazon itself is a major player that prides itself on its A-to-Z guarantee. They are understandably concerned that negative reactions to vendors operating under their "umbrella" might affect their credibility in the marketplace. For this reason, it seems to them that it's a good idea to allow customers to leave a feedback rating and comments that are attached to a seller's every listing and are also available at their Z-shop. After all, many of these shops do not identify the individuals or companies who actually run them, have no physical location, and are available only by email. Unlike a bricks-and-mortar store, which will quickly lose business if it doesn't provide good service based on word-of-mouth, an Internet store may have many, many unique customers, who do not know each other.

On Amazon, buyers have 90 days to leave feedback and 60 days to remove it. Amazon will not delete feedback, even if any issues have been resolved, even if they are requested to delete it by the customer, and even if no transaction occurred (i.e. the book was out of stock, the order was cancelled, and the customer fully refunded). Any customer who buys a book --whether it is $1.00 or $1,000-- is entitled to leave feedback, and all feedback is equally weighted. Feedback entries remain posted for one year on a seller's account.

Here's a recent example of feedback gone wrong. A customer in Hawaii orders a book to be shipped via surface mail to save on priority mail charges. Surface mail to Hawaii takes about two months to arrive from the East coast. After a month, the customer gets anxious about her book, tries to call the seller and misdials the telephone, getting somebody who does not answer her in English. Instead of re-checking the telephone number, or using the US mail, or trying to email the seller, the customer posts negative feedback, citing a lack of communication from the seller, and including a comment about someone not speaking English. She leaves the negative feedback on the Amazon site for two months, until her book arrives, then removes it.

There is no way to compensate the seller for lost revenue during the time in which this negative feedback was prominently posted right where he is selling. Similarly, it is not uncommon to get negative feedback from foreign buyers whose books are too large for Global Priority Mail and who do not read their email frequently enough to see notices on approximate shipping times.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: RARE AUTOGRAPH OF AMERICAN NAVAL HERO CAPTAIN JAMES MUGFORD. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A SIGNED HART CRANE BROOKLYN BRIDGE POSTCARD TO EDWARD DAHLBERG. $600 - $800
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A STOCK CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY THE "QUEEN OF WALL STREET," HETTY GREEN. $700 - $900
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, first hardback edition, 1997. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, July 18: Binding.- Lucian of Samosata Opuscula Erasmo Roterodamo interprete, first Aldine edition, Venice, Heirs of Aldus Manutius and A, 1516. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bacon (Sir Francis). De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum Libri IX, Pierre Gassendi's copy gifted him by Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, Paris, Typis Petri Mettayer, 1624. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: Shakespeare (William). The First Part of Henry the Fourth, with the Life and Death of Henry, Sirnamed Hot-Spurre…, Printed by Isaac Jaggard, and Ed. Blount, 1623. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Darwin (Charles). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, third edition, presentation inscription 'From the Author' in a secretary's hand, John Murray, 1861. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Teague (Violet). Geraldine Rede. Night Fall in the Ti-Tree, first edition, Melbourne, Sign of the Rabbit, 1905; and another. £10,000 to £15,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: India.- Primrose (Gen. James Maurice). Collection of 24 original drawings from his time in India with the 43rd Regiment of Foot, circa 1855 to 1864. £10,000 to £15,000.
    Forum, July 18: Manet (Édouard). Trente Eaux-fortes originales, the complete portfolio, Paris, A. Stroelin, 1905. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bible, English. [The Holy Bible], first edition of the King James Bible, the Great 'He' Bible, [Robert Barker], [1611]. £6,000 to £8,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: America.- Mathews (Alfred E.) Pencil Sketches of Montana, first edition, New York, Published by the Author, 1868. £6,000 to £8,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bawden (Edward). Original dust-jacket artwork for 'The Outsider' by Albert Camus, [c.1946]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    Forum, July 18: World.- Fries (Laurent). Tabula Nova Totius Orbis, woodcut map, [c.1541]. £3,000 to £5,000.
  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.

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