How do you handle Book Returns?

Here is a nice post offered up by one of our regulars. Paul Young from Prying1 Books. Please take a sec and check out his site when you have a second. Prying1Books

Book Return
Book Return

Back and Forth Again

I recently had a return due to my error in the listing. I had it listed as a ‘signed’ copy and it wasn’t. My error and I own up to it.

I have for listing books a template I use where I ‘fill in the blanks’ and in it I have some opposing statements where I can simply delete one of two sentences or a word that will change the statement. This way ‘Corners not bumped’ can quickly become ‘Corners bumped’.

As shown by my recent experience, ‘errors happen’ (please note how I cleaned that line up) so I’ve now changed the template to read, ‘Not Signed by Author’, so I can remove the word ‘not’ as opposed to deleting the statement as I was doing before.

I was left with a slight dilemma concerning the return. The buyer is in Germany and I’m in the United States. It was a $15.00 book. One that I enjoyed reading but decided against keeping on my personal shelf. The postage was $12.00 from the U.S. to Germany and I figured it would be a similar cost for return postage. Rather than pay for return postage I decided to let the buyer keep the book and had AbeBooks return his entire purchase price (book plus shipping) but not the return postage. I had sent him an email (the second one) telling him of my intentions, for him to keep the book, apologizing and being somewhat, but not overly, obsequious.

So now I’m out $15.00 and am wondering how many more books do I have listed with errors that could be cause for returns. Probably not many but there could be a higher dollar one. I’m already out how much time with just researching, listing, processing, packaging, post office, emails, and learning the AbeBooks return process. Perhaps knowing the ‘how to’ for the last will be useful in the future but I hope not. I will try to do a better job of comparing my book against the listing statement PRIOR to accepting the sale.

Turning from that task I check my emails and have one from BookShop Blog. Bruce had posted a new ‘Link Luv post’ and in reading that I saw below it the clickable line, “Don’t get hung up on your buying mistakes – sell and move on.”

Talk about timely!

Tom Nealon had posted this in August of 07 (Thanks Tom) and although his posting was about a different aspect of bookselling other than returns it still had some sound advice. The comments from others were spot on also. Just what I needed to hear.


Or in my current situation, “RETURN AND MOVE ON!”

Another recommended read is about corrugated mailers, great idea.

4 thoughts on “How do you handle Book Returns?”

  1. To help you be a better bookseller – this is my comment. Devote more time to a detailed description of the book you are presenting to us. Less time on “short cuts”. The web databases are increasingly filled with canned adverts which leads one to wonder if the seller has actually looked at the book or dust jacket.
    I am a collector (approximately 4000 volumes)and do not enjoy enduring the process of returns. Your listing of grievances concerning your end of the process are noted but not appreciated. I recently kept a purchase knowing none of my friends or relatives would appreciate a 13th printing of a book advertised as a First Edition, I will donate it to our Senior Center rather than bother with the hassle of the return of a $15 book. The seller goes on my ‘Do not buy’ list.

  2. It really bites to lose money on a business transaction but it serves as a valuable business lesson. At $15 it is much cheaper than a college class and I am willing to bet that it isn’t a lesson you (or anyone reading this post) will soon forget.

    I have often said that I have learned far more from deals where I have lost money than on all the profitable ones. There is something about losing money that drills things into our heads.

    Best of luck on all your future sales!

  3. Hi Carol, Thanks for your comment.

    One of my problems IS giving a detailed description of the books I list. I take too dang long to list each book. I sometimes use a magnifier to see if there is (and note in the listing) bookstore code erasures or if the boards are peeking through. At this time my book sales are a hobby I’ve acquired from my love of books and as a result the time it takes me to list a book be it $5 or $500 is sort of moot. It would not be if it were my primary source of income. For those truly making a living at book sales online there has to be shortcuts.

    One thing that bugs me, as you say, is seeing canned book listings that state, “your purchase helps world literacy” or instead simply says, “VG, may have remainder marks” as their entire description.

    As an online buyer I like to write the seller prior to purchasing a book with any questions I might have. I like to touch base for two reasons. To see if they still have the volume in inventory and to get more info regarding the condition, edition and such. As an online seller I have also sometimes contacted a prospective buyer with info not in the listing.

    Business Note Buyer, Thanks for your note. I always have the book in hand before I click to accept any sale as I did with this one but this sale (or non-sale) has indeed shown me that I need to look once again at the book and at my listing description before clicking to accept the sale. This lesson has been drilled into my head and fortunately it didn’t hurt as much as it could have.

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