Shipping Large sets of books – Protecting your self, your books and your customer
A few years ago I got an order for a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica 1910 / 1911 edition. This was a nice set of books. An employee and I wrapped the books two at a time in Kraft paper and put the books into 75-pound test boxes I had obtained from Staples. The books were well wrapped and we padded the sides so that the books would not shift. The boxes were sealed securely with 2” wide shipping tape. I had no doubt that the packages would arrive in good shape at their destination. About 2 weeks after I shipped the books I got e-mail from the customer stating that he had not received his books and instead had received empty boxes that were crushed and mangled.
I sent the books with delivery confirmation and it was easy to track the shipment on the USPS web site. The tracking information showed that the books had arrived at their destination on (I am doing this from memory) on day in early September and had immediately been delivered. I wondered how this could occur. I did some investigating and found that the book had been shipped to a US Embassy on the Texas / Mexico border. Apparently the books had been delivered to the Post Office and immediately placed into the mail hoppers provided by the Embassy. Several days later the Embassy mailroom delivered the empty boxes to my customer.
This set was the “Handy Edition” of the Encyclopaedia and the books were regular sized 8” x 10” or so books, not the large edition of the Encyclopaedia. I think I had sold them for around $300.00. The books had sold on Amazon and I shipped the books for $3.99. I called the postal facility where the books were delivered and was told that it was their normal policy to label any boxes that were damaged in transit with stickers indicating that they had been so damaged. I asked the customer to provide me with photographs of the empty boxes. No stickers were seen on the boxes indicating that the Postal Service had damaged the boxes of books.
The workers at the Post Office told me that this facility received thousands of pieces of mail a day and many boxes and that these boxes would not have received any particular notice. I contacted Amazon customer service and was told that as long as I had delivery confirmation showing that the boxes were delivered that I would NOT be liable for the lost books as it appeared that the books were lost after the facility had received the books and before the customer was delivered empty boxes. I informed the customer of this fact and advised the customer to file an Amazon A to Z claim to see if Amazon would reimburse him for the loss of the books.
Amazon reversed its course and told me that I was responsible for reimbursing the customer for the cost of the books. I ended up losing $300 or so dollars and the set of books. The customer left negative feedback on Amazon to which I responded that in all of my years of book selling I had never received a complaint about poor packaging and that the only thing that had changed was this customer and his work place. Prior to this negative feedback I had 100% positive feedback for the year. His negative feedback stuck out like a sore thumb!
I learned a few things from this incident. I had not gotten insurance on the shipment and now I routinely insure any book shipped that is priced over $100.00. I refuse to ship large sets of books to corporate mail addresses. I certainly will not knowingly again ship a large set of books to an Embassy. I also learned that you couldn’t always trust the opinion of Amazon seller support. In this particular instance seller support told me that since this set of books was shipped to a postal facility that promptly placed the books into a corporate mail hopper that I had in fact “delivered” the books and was not responsible for the loss of the books. The final result was that I ended up being responsible for the A to Z claim and ended up losing my books and my money.
In a future article I will outline steps that can be taken when shipping large sets of books that will minimize your changes of having an incident like the one I had.