Thursday, March 23, 2006


Last October I bought a $75 set of books from a dealer through Advanced Book Exchange, a search site where thousands of booksellers list books for sale. ABE processed the card charge, as they normally do for dealers who do not process their own charges.

A month later the set of books had not arrived. I emailed the seller. No response. It was between Thanksgiving and Xmas and I was busy, and did not notice the set had still not arrived until after Xmas. I emailed the seller again. Again, no response. So a week later I emailed the seller a third time, and cc'd ABE. ABE immediately processed a refund to my card (a "chargeback" against the seller). As a buyer that makes me comfortable buying on ABE. Wouldn't it make you comfortable if you were buying books there? Of course it would.

What happened next? The seller contacted me the next day (which was, as you will recall, just after they got a "chargeback" notice from ABE telling them ABE had deducted the money from their account), and the dealer explained that they had been "busy", and promised the book would go out the next day... two and a half months after I ordered it. It did eventually arrive and I contacted ABE and they recharged my card.

I bring this story up because the Biblio and Insider bookselling discussion lists are all aflutter with booksellers angry that ABE is about to begin processing all credit card charges themselves (instead of letting dealers who are set up to do so do it), at a slight additonal cost to the sellers. In addition, sellers are upset that when a book is not delivered, ABE will now be able to "chargeback" the money from their account, which ABE could not do when the sellers themselves charged the buyer's card. From a buyer's standpoint, the new ABE credit card processing feature is a positive thing and will probably result in increased sales, which is to the benefit of dealers.

So what's the bellyaching about?

Frankly, as a bookseller you are responsible to deliver my books safe and sound. If you do not, I want my money back. I can see no reasonable objection to such a system, and no difference between ABE doing it and the bookseller doing it, except that the new system will protect buyers from folks such as the "professional" bookseller who got "busy" and waited two months to mail a book I had already paid for. Earth to booksellers- you are retail merchants, not godamned Higher Beings. You get to live by the rules just like eveybody else does. Like it or lump it.

[note: Col.Col. has been a grumpy professional bookslogger since 1985.]


Phoebe Fay said...

Why must you insist on being sensible. Everybody knows you ain't a *real* booksnooker unless you run screaming in circles every time ABE lets a fluffer. And all this talk about the buyers' point of view. Sheesh. Everybody knows there are no real buyers. If there were actual customers to deal with, how could all the booksnookers have time to write to the lists? Doh.

Colonel Colonel said...

phebes- you are right of course. Sometimes I forget the
Credo of the Internet Bookseller-

When in danger,
when in doubt,
run in circles,
scream and shout!

Kiss your tush a fond goodbye.
Rant and scream into the sky!
And, before you turn to flee-
Blame it all on ABE!

karen said...

"I can see no reasonable objection to such a system, and no difference between ABE doing it and the bookseller doing it, except that the new system will protect buyers from folks such as the "professional" bookseller ..."

ah, Col.Col., to be fair, your example is an extreme one, and leaves out the part about an automatic refund if the book is overdue by *15 days*.

the new system will also protect buyers from folks such as: the hairbrained daughter who took the book in & forgot to tell Dad. The mailroom in the basement of the hospital that's been sitting on the package for 2 weeks down there. The Post Office branch that forgot to drop a package pick-up notice in the buyer's PO Box. And so on. The sort of thing that's ironed out all the time in dialogue with the buyer -- a dialogue that is circumvented by ABE's automatic refund without contacting the dealer.

oh well. It is what it is.