Shafted by The Book Depository!

August 9, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Posted in Book Services | 112 Comments

Let me start out by saying that I waited a long time to do this.  I am a firm believer in working things out using good faith and nice manners.  It is with sorrow in my heart that I post this notice warning my readers:  Caveat Emptor – especially when shopping with an overseas bookseller that offers minimal contact information.

It started last August, when I wanted to order everything on the Booker long list to read during my honeymoon.  I ordered a few books from The Book Depository, which had a great selection and low prices.  My electronic fund transfer of $66.12 cleared the bank on 8/21/2009.  Alas, the books didn’t come when I had expected them.

1. I went online to check my order status.  Imagine my shock when I saw that the address my books were being shipped to was missing the entire line of the street address!  It’s entirely possible this was my mistake, but if it was, why did the online order form allow me to submit an incomplete address?

I contacted The Book Depository on 8/25/2009 to ask whether the address I was seeing was actually the address on the label.  Perhaps this was a security measure or something.  They wrote back on 8/26 to say that yes, the books had been sent as shown.

3. I wrote back on 9/30 to ask whether the books had been returned to sender.  They e-mailed back the same day to say, “I can confirm that the books have just been returned to us.”   (Just that very second?  I have to ask, why was I the one to initiate this exchange?  Why was it necessary in the first place, when anyone who has ever addressed an envelope could have noticed that the label  was missing some rather important information?)

4. We decided that I would like two of the books, and a refund for the remainder.  For some reason, they were unable to credit the card I had used to make my order, and asked to mail me a check.

5. The check did not arrive.

6. I wrote to the Contact Us link on the website on 11/25, and received no response.

7. On January 12, I sent an e-mail entitled Fourth Request, asking for a full refund.  I got a response to that one three days later, saying a second check would be sent.

8. The second check did not arrive either.

9. I e-mailed again on July 21 asking whether we could try again by electronic means.  I have PayPal and the money also could have been put directly into my checking account, if the original card or any other card wasn’t going to cut it.  I got no response.

10. Two weeks went by and I e-mailed again, this time to the main customer service address.  That was on Thursday afternoon.  Now it’s Monday afternoon and I haven’t received a response to that message, either.

11. The website includes no phone numbers.  I have no idea whether there is any kind of international Better Business Bureau, and I can’t afford to sic a lawyer on them.  $66.12 is a lot of money to me, but it pales in comparison to what an attorney would charge.

You can see by the dates listed above that I am hardly a Type A, impatient shouter-type.  In fact it’s so much the opposite that I’ve checked my e-mail, my spam folder, and my voicemail twice since beginning this post, in the vain hope that I’d just missed the message that would explain it all and I could avoid this embarrassing contretemps.  I don’t like obsequious waiters, would never hire a personal shopper, and aim in general for the most anonymous, efficient shopping experience possible.  This is, in 15 years of online purchasing, the only time I have ever failed to receive something, even from random sellers on eBay.

You can also see by the above that we had eleven separate issues.  If I were a customer service manager, my team would be memorizing these eleven separate points of failure and we’d probably be revising our training manual.  We can group them into categories:  Shipping QA, customer service response time, and customer satisfaction.

It grieves me to my heart’s core to think that a bookstore – the only kind of business I find truly necessary, other than the grocery store – might not be run as well as it could be.  I like to believe that people who choose to promote reading in any way are people after my own heart:  people who simply love books.  Trustworthy, reliable people.

Book Depository!  Why did you take my money?  What did you do with it?  Why won’t you give it back?

NOTE: As of today (8/11), I am working directly with the manager of The Book Depository to correct this.  I can’t wait to see my refund so I can take this post down.  It would be awfully nice if we didn’t make it to a full calendar year.

NOTE: It’s 8/30.  I received an air-mailed check for $40.27.  I e-mailed back to ask why I had not received the full amount, and was told they would check with accounting.  The last I heard anything was 8/20, so I’m not sure whether the Finance Team agrees with my version of events or thinks I have been settled with appropriately.  (This would have been the amount I should have been refunded had I received the two books from my original order that I still wanted.  And if I had, none of this would have been necessary!)

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