When a book order goes wrong: problems with Abebooks and Reuseabook

I think most of us have used Abebooks as a valuable way to get hold of second-hand literature.  And it is truly valuable.  I well remember hunting bookshops for Tertullians in the 80s, unable to find even ordinary books.

But Abebooks is not Amazon, and if things go even slightly wrong, the marvellous customer service of Amazon is not there.  I bought the wrong book by accident from a dealer called “Reuseabook”, of Stroud in the UK.  This dealer did something dodgy.  They – or their computer system – instantly marked the book as “shipped” as soon as I ordered, thereby preventing me cancelling it online, as I tried to do within 120 seconds of placing it. They then ignored my email requesting cancellation, preferring to force me to receive the book.

In fairness Reuseabook did make a return fairly painless.  All I had to do was circle their address on the packet and mark it “RTS” – return to sender.  But it seemed very odd, to be forced to receive a book that I never wanted.

Anyway I complained about this to Abebooks, the day after my mis-order.  To my surprise, Abebooks customer service ignored every line of my complaint, which was that this was sharp practice by the dealer.  Instead they advised me that they were “just a portal”, and forwarded my complaint to the dealer, as if it was a request for cancellation.  They also stated that I was only entitled to refuse the book if the dealer agreed, which is legally not the case.

In effect Abebooks take no responsibility for the fair dealing of the dealers on their site.  Which is quite a policy, and very nasty.  What if the book had cost real money? (It was only a few bucks, in fact)

I’ve learned a couple of lessons here.

Firstly, we are all accustomed to Amazon’s excellent customer service.  Amazon created online shopping, pretty much, because of that customer service.  So it comes as a shock when we find that a site as important as Abebooks has customer service which is rubbish.  I suggest that we give preference to Amazon, when buying second-hand.

Secondly, if we do use Abebooks, let’s make sure that we use a credit card.  Long ago I discovered that eBay had rubbish customer service, but that my credit card company would sort the cheaters out just fine.  We need to do the same with Abebooks.  I shall also try not to do business with Reuseabook, if I can get the same book elsewhere.  Nobody needs people who turn a mistake into a drama.


4 thoughts on “When a book order goes wrong: problems with Abebooks and Reuseabook

  1. Perhaps Reuseabook programmatically buys shipping for your book via an API call when the purchase is made? That would at least make their marking the book immediately as “shipped” reasonable.

    I do this when I sell a book. Although if a customer reached out to me I would just cancel the order and request a shipping refund from my API service (even though that involves some rigmarole). Better a happy almost customer than an irate one.

  2. This poor customer service is disappointing and worth pointing out. However I would strongly disagree that Amazon should be favoured. Customer service is important but is not everything; I would suggest that their documented harsh, unhealthy, undemocratic employment practices, taking over most other commercial sites and virtually creating a monopoly, (They took over Abe Books in 2008), being headed by the richest man on earth, and avoiding tax far outweigh any good customer service. Spare a thought for people at the other end of the process forced to run about all day just so we can have our stuff really quickly, and in unsafe conditions at this time of pandemic.

  3. ABEBooks are terrible. Used to be a good company but no more. The vendor, Newleaf Books in Wichita, Kansas never replied when my book ended up sitting for a month in Kansas City post office after traveling to Tucson and never finding my house. The book seller refused to do anything to correct the situation. They said once they dropped it off at USPS I had to pay whether I got the book or not.

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