Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2009 Issue

Anatomy of a Transaction Gone Bad


I send copies of this letter to Ms. Jones, Mr. Smith (who also removes his feedback) to Amazon, and to Viper Books. My letter to Viper is collegial. Although he posted his negative feedback almost immediately, surely he understands that we did what we were supposed to do and that the delay was beyond our control.

What we get back is what I would call a pretty imperious letter (I love it when these are signed "regards" when they are anything but), and no change in the feedback. And nothing asked.

I write back a second time. Collegiality isn't working, so I point out the practicalities. Negative feedback reflects poorly on us and deters future customers. Even though he received his book, I offer him a full refund, including the shipping, in exchange for removing his feedback.

I get back another imperious note, no mention of our offer, no change in feedback. In the meantime, Amazon reverses its decision, and fully reinstates our account. But the feedback remains.

I finally realize that Viper is actually enjoying our exchanges for some reason, even though there is no profit to him. There is no reason for the feedback to be there other than to elicit comment from me and digressions from him, so I stop writing. While we are waiting for the feedback to disappear over time, we lose a lot of money in sales and there is nothing we can do about it.

So, here are some lessons learned. During the holiday season it may be worthwhile to contact foreign customers immediately and ask them if they want express mail services to ensure delivery before a certain date. It is important for them to know from where you are shipping (in our case, Massachusetts) and approximately how long delivery will take. It is also important for them to know that unless they choose some other shipping method you cannot guarantee delivery within 2 weeks of the Christmas holidays.

If you are using a third-party carrier, as we have, send a copy of the UPS tracking number immediately to the customer. This will reiterate the fact that you have sent the package promptly. Even though they can only track it to the distribution center, it still shows that it left your hands in a timely manner.

Finally, if you are selling on Amazon.uk (or any other Amazon site) watch your feedback constantly and respond to it immediately. If a problem occurs get documentation immediately, as we did, from your carrier, and send it to everyone concerned.

And remember that every now and then you will be doing business with someone who is irrational -- or even mindlessly vindictive -- like "Viper". Deal with it as well as you can, and then let it go. Don't take it personally. There are plenty of other wonderful customers out there who will appreciate what you do. Supporting the life of the mind is surely a cause worth working for.

=================================== Renée Magriel Roberts can be reached at renee@roses-books.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MADISON THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION. $12,000 - $18,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MONROE PRESIDENTIAL SERVICE SOUP BOWL. $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A FRANKLIN PIERCE BRUSHED SILK TOP HAT. $10,000 - $15,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: LINCOLN ENDORSEMENT: "I AM ALWAYS FOR THE MAN WHO WISHES TO WORK." $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A RUTHERFORD B. HAYES CIVIL WAR-ERA TRAVEL DESK. $4,000 - $6,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT'S FINAL PRESIDENTIAL AUTOMOBILE FLAG. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: GARFIELD LS AS PRESIDENT ALLUDING TO THE "STAR-ROUTE" SCANDAL: "REGRETTING THE EMBARRASSMENTS WHICH THE EVENT HAS CAUSED US BOTH." $25,000 - $35,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: AN 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL WILLIAM MCKINLEY INAGURATION POCKETWATCH. $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL MOTORCADE FLAG. $80,000 - $120,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S LAST DAY: OFFICIAL SCHEDULE ANNOTATED BY SPECIAL ASSISTANT DAVE POWERS WITH A MINUTE-BY-MINUTE DETAIL OF THE DAY'S ACTIONS. $40,000 - $60,000
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: KUPKA, Frantisek (1871-1957) - Quatre histoires de blanc et noir. Paris: Marcel Baque, 1926. €5.000-€8.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: VASI, Giuseppe Agostino (1710-1782) - Raccolta delle più belle vedute antiche, e moderne di Roma disegnate ed incise secondo lo stato presente. Rome: A. Vasi, 1786. €4.000-€6.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: SALAMANCA, Antonio (1478-1562) - [First map depicting the bay of Naples]. [Rome: 1538]. €3.000-€5.000

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