I buy a lot of books. Too many, my dear husband would say. I love each and every one of them. I am a godsend to second hand booksellers and those who sell new books, buying several a hundred a year through bricks and mortar bookshops and on line. I care about the condition of my books as much as content. Most booksellers I know are kind, knowledgeable and operate with the highest professional standards and integrity, whether they are selling on line or more traditionally.
Many of those booksellers sell through Amazon.co.uk’s marketplace, where I have long been a stalwart customer. But here’s the thing. I hate fulfilled by Amazon. I have just spent my entire morning removing labels and their sticky residue from books supplied via Amazon marketplace from sellers using “fulfilled by Amazon” and I’m really irritated. I don’t mind spending a bit of time and money restoring and repairing old books, but if I buy a book described as “new” or “as new” I expect it, I require it, to be exactly that. If I’m buying a pre-loved or pre-read book, I expect all the faults to be disclosed in the description. I do not expect to have to spend 15 minutes gently dredging a pointless label in smelly, dangerous chemicals trying to remove labels without damaging the book cover. Sellers, if you cannot supply a book in new condition, do not describe it as such. If you are going to add an imperfection through your selling processes, disclose it in the description. Of course, sellers may not know that Amazon apply inappropriate labels to their books (although I suggest that a bookseller who doesn’t take the care to investigate the condition in which their book will be delivered isn’t among those who I described earlier as meeting the highest standards of professionalism and integrity). As a former (and soon to be again I hope) second hand bookseller, I know just how tight margins are and how important repeat customers can be. I also know it pays to take care of your customers and supply books in the promised condition. Booksellers should be demanding that Amazon does not deliberately and routinely damage and devalue their stock.
So here’s my gentle message to those booksellers who do use fulfilled by Amazon. The next time I receive a book described as ‘new’, or ‘as new’ through fulfilled by Amazon with a label that doesn’t peel away easily, that leaves a sticky, dirt-gathering residue, or where removal by peeling damages the jacket or cover, the seller will be receiving a return. And as the return will be because the goods were not as described, the seller will bear the costs of that return as well as the refund. If that doesn’t work, I will just stop buying from ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ sellers (who are fortunately marked as such on Amazon). As a book buyer, I am tired of shoddy standards in on-line book-selling, tired of being treated as second-rate customer. And as the booksellers’ friend, I am telling you that you do yourself, your customers and your industry no favours by offering sub-standard service.