Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Fate of the Amazon 12

Today FedEx delivered the rest of the twelve books I ordered from Amazon: an order of eleven books, plus one they added to the shipment from another order. Out of the first box of three books that arrived yesterday, one was sent back and the other two, while not in perfect "new" condition, I kept anyway.

Buying books from Amazon is a compromise. They don't seem to understand that collectibles should get better treatment than commodities. I don't really care how they ship my 24 oz. bags of protein supplement, or the bags of guinea pig food we order. But books are keepsakes, investments, items with an intrinsic value that verges into an emotional connection for some people. These people, like myself, collect books. Amazon, as a bookseller, has completely given up trying to deliver a quality product.

Let's look at the nine books that arrived today. Five are going back. They have to. If they sold them to me for a dollar I might keep a couple of them but otherwise, no way. The George Washington book: dust jacket rolled up and ripped from the bottom an inch or so upwards. The Jacques Futrelle book: squashed out of shape so that the bottom edge of the front cover is lower than the bottom corner of the back cover. Both The Glorious War and The Memory Key have damage to the bottom edges of the dust jacket, the bottoms of the spines are bent inwards, and Memory Key has damage to the cardboard of the rear board. Augustus looks like the front cover plus the first hundred pages have been folded over, permanently damaging the book.

Out of the four I'm keeping, NOT ONE of them is without damage. Butcher's Crossing is scoffed and scraped, there are strange splotches of discoloration all over The Stranger, and Pulphead and Consider the Lobster look like they've been browsed as shelf copies at a book store.

Final tally: six are being kept, with varying degrees of satisfaction, six are being sent back with hopes for a better result.

Conclusion: Amazon is really incapable of providing the book lover or collector with a quality buying experience and it comes down to the handling and the packaging of the people who do the shipping. The boots on the ground, as it were, are trampling ones.

Now I have to box up the returns, affix the proper labels, and drive into town to Staples, the local UPS pick-up point. This is all part of buying books from Amazon: returning books to Amazon. The days when I used to look forward to a book's arrival are gone, replaced by vague hope and diminished expectations. Given my interaction with their customer support, this isn't likely to change ever, unless enough other customers rise up and complain, too. It doesn't mean you're being crusty, it means you're trying to help.

If you have stories like mine, and I can't be unique, please by all means share them with Amazon. They're easy to talk to. They just don't solve anything.


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