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Customer Discussions > Textbook forum

Sketchy textbook transaction on Marketplace

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Showing 1-25 of 37 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 12, 2010 8:21:24 PM PST
stinhoutx says:
This semester I thought I'd save a couple of bucks on a $120 textbook and purchase a "like new" textbook for $65 from a Marketplace vendor. It shipped quickly, but that is where the positive experience ended.

The book I received was not the same book advertised. The Amazon listing is for a single volume 1272-page book. Though the cover has the same ISBN, what I received is the second-volume of a bound photocopy reproduction of the book which starts at Chapter 16. You could argue it is a semi-profession reproduction but the text on pages is still splotchy like they did not have enough toner in the high speed printer.

I contacted the seller to arrange return shipping and a full refund for this "materially different" item, and to their credit, they responded relatively quickly. But, yet again, the positive experience stopped there.

"We are very sorry to hear that an item left our facility as the wrong book. Our shipping dept. will be reprimanded for not checking this item more thoroughly.
Unfortunately we do not have any more of this title to send you another
copy. Please do put this item back in the original package and write "return to sender". This way we will be charged for the return rather than you. Please DO NOT go to your local PO to drop this off. They are unaware of our contract with our local PO and will most likely try to charge you. Please simply put this back in your mail box. We will initiate a refund when this arrives. You will receive an email notification at the time of initiation.
We again are very sorry for causing this situation.

Thank you,
Customer Service Support"

To me that is a red flag. Having sold items online before, as I understand it, the USPS does not allow a buyer to mark a package as return to sender once it has been opened. And then, even if there is a "local arrangement" to be billed for returned items, how does one get it past the carrier picking it up or the Post Office accepting the shipment? Others have mentioned possible mail fraud in doing so. If the seller truly had a arrangement they should include a return shipping label. Also, this method would not provide a trackable trail and proof of delivery.

I replied that this was not a viable option since it was the responsibility of the accepting carrier/PO to confirm postage was paid on the return. I let the seller know that I wanted to get a concession to cover return shipping and signature confirmation so I could return the book, then to process the full refund once they receive the package. My request was refused as it was not an option.

"I am sorry that your PO will not follow the policy of our PO; which is to charge us for all returns.We have never had an issue with a buyer being told "no" by their PO before.
The only option left is to please simply put this in a USPS priority box and mail it back to
[address removed]
We will refund you the shipping you paid. Thank You"

Another red flag? I am first told "DO NOT go to your local PO to drop this off. They are unaware of our contract with our local PO and will most likely try to charge you", then the next note says "We have never had an issue with a buyer being told "no" by their PO before."

The seller has a lot of positive reviews for the volume they have, but the negative reviews are worrisome, where they would not refund all of the shipping. The seller gets very defensive as well in the feedback. I am opting to ask Amazon to help out since I don't want the seller to turn this around on me. As it stands, I have a book that is likely prohibited for sale on, and once I send it back the seller can say whatever he or she wants about it. What a pain!

Has anyone else had a bad experience with books/textbooks like this?

Posted on Jan 13, 2010 1:11:34 PM PST
Sheba Dixon says:
I have luckily never had an experience like that. But it does sound sketchy to say the least. I would contact Amazon about this problem and see what they can do. Especially since it was their venue that made you deal with this seller in the first place. Besides, $65 for a photocopy book is just wrong, and I thought illegal, especially if you sell it for a profit.

Posted on Jan 13, 2010 1:42:22 PM PST
Tara says:
If you contact amazon, they will most likely give you a full refund if you claim the product was not as described, amazon is very good about stuff like that. you dont have to go throught the seller to get a refund, amazon has there own rules for people that sell on there site and ultimately it is up to amazon

Posted on Jan 21, 2010 7:04:13 PM PST
Stin - First of all, I'd be interested in knowing who the seller is, since I buy textbooks every semester through Amazon and I wouldn't want to have to deal with what you've dealt with. Second of all, I hope you update this discussion when you hear back from Amazon (assuming you make contact with them to resolve the issue) to see how they handled it. I hope you're able to get a copy of the book you need soon!

Posted on Jan 22, 2010 7:45:00 AM PST
J. Woods says:
Some of these books are legit (seemingly), but they are printed really, really cheaply for use outside the US market. I think people import them to re-sell. The accounting book that just showed up was an "Eastern Economy Edition".

Amazon should consider changing their policies to reflect this. The ISBN matches, but you get a softcover, BS ugly monochrome book with Bible-thin wafer pages.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 22, 2010 8:41:32 AM PST
stinhoutx says:
Amazon states they expect to make a final decision in the A-to-z Guarantee claim on the 26th. I haven't really heard any more beyond that.

I am not sure what to make of the seller. Rather than concede to pay the return shipping up front they rather let Amazon make the decision for them. What little selling I did on Amazon it seemed like getting an A-to-z claim was something to avoid at nearly all costs.

Seller: "To whom it may concern at Amazon
We are terribly sorry to see any continued issue. Somehow this book was listed; when it should not have been. We are very sorry that we shipping a partial volume to this buyer.
We are unable to send this buyer a preprinted label; because the shipping system we use does not offer this method. They only offer a label for the exact ship day. We asked this buyer to please refuse the package because we have an account with our PO where they charge us for every return. This way they use the same tracking number that we used to ship it to them; so we can track the return.
This buyer was hessitant about returning this way; because they worried we were breaking rules. So we then asked him to please return it to us via priority mail; and that we would refund him the return shipping.
We also offered him a free upgraded shipping on his next order with us; if he chose us again.
We do not need you to receive the damaged item as he offers; because we agree that the wrong item shipped to him. We simply wanted him to return the item.
We agree that he diserves a refund; but we would simply the book returned (we will pay the return). We are sorry that he submitted a claim and that we were unable to fix this without you being contacted. Please let us know how this can be resolved now that a claim was opened?"

I did give the seller the benefit of the doubt one more time in the course of filing the claim and contacted their USPS PO to find out about the "arrangement." Of course, the supervisor there reiterated what I had understood and verified elsewhere. When I pointed this out in my response to the rebuttal, the seller said that maybe only the billing department knows about it. At least they are consistent in the one story. :-)

My response:
"Greetings, Amazon.

Giving the seller the benefit of the doubt, I called the Monmouth Junction Post Office, listed on the shipping label as ZIP 08852, at 10:15 AM Central time on 1/13/2010 and asked if they have any arrangements with shippers to allow a buyer to return an opened package without paying return postage. The clerk asked me to hold to have one of the supervisors speak with me. The gentleman at the Post Office made it clear that an opened package must be presented for return postage once opened. He also pointed out that any package over 13 ounces should be taken to the Post Office. This package weighs in at about 40 oz. These are their rules. The seller is encouraged to provide further evidence to the contrary which would dispute this information and support the seller's claims.

The seller cannot ask me to refuse a package that I had to open to inspect.

I presented the option to the seller to issue a concession for the amount of return shipping with signature confirmation, even providing the link to the Amazon documentation on how to do it and discussion as to when it is appropriate to do so. The seller also has the option to go to the USPS website to purchase a prepaid label and save the file as a PDF to send by e-mail. I can ship the package the same day using that date as long as it is done early enough in the day. As a very small scale seller, these are things I know, and things which a large seller should get familiar with as options in their operations.

Based on the few negative feedback comments the seller has, there is a recurring theme of not fully refunding shipping, however I do not know the full details of these situations. The seller has refuted most every negative feedback with comments about unreasonable buyers who are trying to cheat the seller.

I was never offered free upgraded shipping on my next order in the e-mail responses I have received thus far. I am not seeking any such offer. At this point I would not consider any future business with this seller, and this significantly impacts my willingness to do business with any other Marketplace Sellers.

I do not find my request to be issued a concession to cover return shipping to be unreasonable given the circumstances if the seller does not have the capacity to provide a prepaid, trackable, with signature confirmation, return label.

I understand that the seller is sorry they made the mistake of shipping an incomplete version of an incorrectly listed Amazon item. I understand that they sell a lot of books and may not have been aware that this is not an original textbook, whether a problem in the shipping department, the inventory team, or the buyer sourcing the books. The trouble is the very fact that I did receive this obvious copy skews my perception of the legitimacy of the entire transaction. The contradictions in the e-mail responses do not serve to improve that perception.

To the seller's credit the item was shipped and arrived quickly and they responded to my e-mail in a timely manner. If the seller had carried out the steps as I requested I would have neither felt it necessary to open a claim nor make any further points regarding the item's questionable nature.

I have already lost time due to handling this and have since purchased the correct item from directly at the new book price. Whatever savings I might have realized are long since gone. I am not comfortable investing any more of my money, shipping or otherwise, for resolution of this transaction without assurance from that I will be fully reimbursed for all funds. "

A bit pedantic am I here?

Seller:"I am sorry to hear that the supervisor at our local PO gave you incomplete direction. We do have an account with them. Perhaps the billing dept is the one aware of this. I am not sure who handles the account; but I am 100% honest when I tell you we have one for this reason..
Please just keep the book, This has become such a troublesome issue and we do not want to inconvenience any further.
Thank You"

So, here I sit, waiting for Amazon's ruling on the matter. It's amazing they have so many sales and positive reviews that they were unable to resolve this in the manner I requested. If the naming is consistent, they also sell on eBay and Abes Books. I am not certain about calling them out here, but the name rhymes with "look-point".

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 22, 2010 8:49:58 AM PST
stinhoutx says:
Amazon has a policy that prohibits selling International Editions of text books.

This book is a notch below the few IE books I have seen. Although, the reason it was made in two volumes is because the paper used was thicker than what the textbook used. Just the second volume is almost as thick as the genuine full text. Later, I'll post pictures of both on the product page for comparison.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 22, 2010 2:00:07 PM PST
Your "pedantry" in the interests of clarity and precision make these posts a real pleasure to read. Intelligent, well crafted use of the English language, combined with attention to spelling and grammar is not only gives me hope.

Thank You

Posted on Jan 25, 2010 2:59:51 PM PST
stinhoutx says:
I added photos comparing the two books to the product page.

Database Systems: An Application Oriented Approach, Compete Version (2nd Edition)

I know some folks would probably have been happy with the copy for use as a textbook given the "savings". Despite the issues, legal or otherwise, associated with that keep in mind they only sent half the book, which means I paid more for the copy, per page, than the genuine, new textbook. :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 26, 2010 8:06:16 AM PST
tlm550 says:
You should take all paperwork, including copies of the e-mails that you've received from this criminal, to your local post office (or the larger one in your area) so they can have the Postmaster General or the District officer investigate this matter IMMEDIATELY. The USPS will NOT tolerate this type of fraud.
This is your best option at this point.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 26, 2010 11:19:41 AM PST
Yes! I can't say the description for the book I received was wrong because there wasn't much of a description. It had the title of the book and that it was in "good" condition. I knew the book was a "custom" edition for a community college, but had been told (not by the seller) that "custom edition" basically means that it has a paper rather than hard back. The book I received started on chapter 12! The class I am taking focuses on chapters 1-8. Not very helpful. Also, I ordered early, gave the seller a good review because it arrived quickly and in good condition, but then didn't really look at the book until several weeks later when I actually needed it. I think it's a too late for me to try to return it. In my case I think this mess is mostly my fault for not asking the seller any questions. So I guess my advice to anyone buying used books is to ask the seller lots of questions!

Posted on Jan 26, 2010 12:30:28 PM PST
I purchases this version through Amazon, not realizing I would be receiving the complete text, unbound and three-hole punched. I spent 78$ on a copy of a book with no binding? Not only that, but I paid 12$ extra for two-day shipping and received it a week later. Now I am not only behind in class, but I have a terrible version of the text and no time to return it. I do not recommend buying this product or buying through Amazon.

Posted on Jan 26, 2010 1:37:37 PM PST
stinhoutx says:
@RA If you ordered the book from an Amazon Marketplace Reseller, you are likely cover by the A-to-z Guarantee. If the reseller will not work with you, you may still have that option, if within 75 days.

@Erin Purchasing through Amazon is not the same as purchasing from Amazon. See my comment about the A-to-z Guarantee for Marketplace orders. I am now very reluctant to buy things, especially books, from a Marketplace Reseller, even having been a Marketplace Reseller myself, but will still shop with Amazon directly.

Also, I received the note last night from Amazon that they honored my A-to-z claim.

Posted on Jan 27, 2010 9:47:54 PM PST
MJ23447 says:
I have a similar problem. I bought a text from a seller with just a couple of reviews. I thought I;d take a chance. Anyway, it is the strangest textbook I have come across because the cover looks completely legit and it is bound reasonably well. But every page inside is a photocopy. It does appear to have every page...

I wrote the seller to ask if s/he was aware of this. I'm not even sure how to handle it because I need the book and this is something I have never encountered in a very very long history of buying textbooks online.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2010 10:22:35 PM PST
Not only should you contact Amazon, but if they sent an illegal copy of the book to you (photocopied) and they mailed it, they have committed mail fraud. Contact the post office immediately. I would also contact your local Division of Consumer Protection and file a complaint as well. I am sure these people are perpetrating a scam.

It is illegal to photocopy a book and this is what they did. I would not return the book yet, until the post office and others have a chance to see it. If you mail it back and then file a complaint they may claim they did not send a photocopied book. Take pictures and document all coorespondence. I am sorry you got stuck like this.

I once bought a cookbook from Salems_Lot on Amazon and they packaged it with religious propaganda. There are strange people out there. Be careful.

Posted on Jan 28, 2010 9:23:32 AM PST
stinhoutx says:
You can look at the pictures I added to the book product page (link above) to see samples. From the outside, it looked like a real paperback version of the book. If you look closely, though, you can see the color cover is a high-resolution scan. All of the pages inside are photocopies (splotchy images). It is a rather high quality copy vs what you might imagine someone doing on the library copy machine. What I gather happens is these outfits have printing and binding equipment, scan the whole book in a high speed scanner or obtain a PDF version of the text, and run off a couple hundred paper bound copies for resale as used. Some folks don't mind the quality difference as long as they are saving money over a genuine book and time over doing the copying themselves. I was in a class last semester and one of the graduate student was asking around right in class to borrow a book so she could make a copy of it. I just don't have that kind of time, and if I can't get an acceptable condition used book, I will buy a new one from Amazon.

I thought about taking it to the next level with the Post Office in my situation, primarily because of the "return to sender" stuff I described. I guess issues of the book itself that would justify it, too. But, Amazon didn't seem to want to be any more involved beyond issuing the refund as they did not ask for the book. Also, I figure the seller has my physical address and e-mail address and if they are already involved in dubious activity, they may not be above some form of retaliation. Cop out? I don't plan to chase down the burly Harley rider that cuts me off at the stop sign, either. :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 29, 2010 8:45:16 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 3, 2010 12:18:25 PM PST
Although I have yet to receive a "sketchy" used textbook, my husband and I have on three separate occasions had poor experiences with Amazon Marketplace in regards to receiving the text. On three separate occasions, we never received the textbooks we ordered, not one of these sellers would refund our money without going through Amazon using up part of our 5 total A-Z guarantee claims per each of us. One of the sellers I purchased a text that never arrived sent me bogus shipping information, promised to expedite a new item that never arrived, and so I had to purchase the item at full price through my school instead. When I alerted Amazon to the issue and pointed out the fact that this seller had a trend of treating customers in this manner around the time I had purchased my item, the seller appeared to have been removed from Amazon Marketplace. I hope your future purchases are much smoother. I also sell textbooks through Amazon Marketplace but I am very quick to send items out and I am also pretty meticulous about ensuring that the description accurately reflects the condition of each text and that the correct edition is offered for sale.

Posted on Feb 1, 2010 4:59:07 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 21, 2010 1:07:08 PM PST
CDaniels says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 9, 2010 10:51:47 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 9, 2010 10:52:17 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2010 2:02:45 PM PST
C. Smart says:
I had a variant on your experience. What finally worked in resolving the matter was asking my credit card company for help -- they did a "charge back."

Good luck in resolving this.


Posted on Feb 18, 2010 3:21:31 PM PST
Nikki says:
I have had mostly bad experiences with Amazon Marketplace too. The books are rarely as described, usually a much older edition or in poor condition after being described as new. I gave one seller negative feedback and he refused to give me a refund unless I removed the feedback first. That is totally against Amazon's policies. I didn't remove the feedback, I thought other people should be warned.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 18, 2010 6:16:38 PM PST
stinhoutx says:
I learned never to remove feedback until the item is resolved, as a buyer or a seller. Also, make sure you leave the feedback you want when you do because you cannot revise it or repost after removing it.

Thankfully, Amazon's A-to-z gives us some protection, but you only get five claims.

Posted on Feb 21, 2010 1:35:53 PM PST
CDaniels says:
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Posted on Feb 21, 2010 1:57:09 PM PST
Garscadden says:
If you still have the dodgy copy, maybe think about sending a (real) mail to the publisher and CC the people who sent you the photocopy. Losing the cash from the sale is one thing, being stomped by the publisher for ripping them off is another... Ultimately, you would probably be doing the right thing this way (stopping the seller from passing off other dodgy copies).

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 21, 2010 8:07:09 PM PST
stinhoutx says:
No, I do not work for a textbook publisher.

Do you work for a sketchy book copier-reseller?

And overreacting? Not only was I sent a crap product, it was not even a *complete* crap product. If one went so far as to argue on a per-page-price-paid, I paid more than the rip-off price of the University School Bookstore.

I fail to see the contribution in your cut and paste from Wikipedia. First-sale doctrine does not apply to piratical goods.
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Discussion in:  Textbook forum
Participants:  26
Total posts:  37
Initial post:  Jan 12, 2010
Latest post:  Mar 28, 2010

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