I am a Tolkien fan. I’m sure that surprises absolutely no one who reads this blog. Accordingly, from time to time, I drop a little money on (surprise!) Tolkien books. Some of them are a little pricier than your average hardcover book due to being more of a niche market thing.
I managed to find by accident one such book: The History of the Hobbit by John D. Rateliff. I was excited. I have never even heard of this book before, but it’s nearly 1000 pages long, hardcover, and features the complete text of the original unpublished manuscript. Do I even need to spell this out any further why I’m excited? Of course not. I can tell you’re excited now too. It’s ok. I totally understand.
On Amazon, I found the book via a third party seller: SpeedyHen. I’ve had pretty good luck over the years with third party sellers, and in the event something falls through, that’s what the Amazon A-Z Guarantee is supposedly all about. It’s a guarantee, after all. By definition, that’s what it means, that I am guaranteed to be happy or get a refund. So they take my money, I get the book.
It arrived yesterday, and to my surprise, the box is pristine. That in itself almost never happens. Gives me hope! Inside, the book itself is in good condition, but the dust jacket is a bit torn and crumpled across the bottom front cover. The book is, as I say, a little expensive, and this is unacceptable because clearly it was in this condition before it went inside the box. I’m a collector as much as I am a reader. I wouldn’t buy a book in this condition in the store, and I certainly won’t accept such from an online retailer. I emailed them and requested an exchange for a new one or a refund so I could buy another one elsewhere.
The reply I got first said that they needed photos of the damaged book “for training purposes” before they could process a refund. What? If a bookseller has to train someone how to pack books, they’ve got bigger problems than this order. And I tell them so. They can take all the photos they want once they send me a return label with a tracking number and issue a refund.
The second reply reveals that the first response was a lie. Gee, go figure. They tell me it is their policy to require photos so they can decide IF they want to issue the refund. In other words, if it’s too damaged, we can’t resell it, so you’re screwed, not us. No… this is unethical. More than that, if they get away with this, this just means they’ll keep doing this to other people. That’s even more unethical.
I called Amazon directly, and after dealing with their rather limited customer service rep who refused to actually listen to a word I was saying and opted to treat me like a child, I bumped up the ladder to a supervisor. At first the supervisor was uncooperative as well, but I can be… persuasive and persistent when I’m pissed off. Long story short, being a Prime member in good standing for 15 years has its privileges. After waiting on hold for far too long, they ultimately issued me a refund and told me to keep the book, stressing that this is a one-time thing they’ll do for me. So be it. I’m certainly grateful. This isn’t the first time I’ve been screwed by 3rd party sellers who can’t properly treat Tolkien books, so lesson learned. No more 3rd party sellers, and no more ordering Tolkien books from anyone other than the official Tolkien shop. They are a little more expensive still (a lot more in some cases), but at least they appreciate the concept of a book experience.
So… I have now ordered a second copy from the Tolkien Shop. Once it comes in (it’ll be a few days to send across the pond) and has been verified as being a pristine copy that’s worth the money I paid (I’m confident because this is how I ultimately got a good copy of The History of Middle-Earth box set), then I will post a photo of the first book I received and another giveaway contest like I did last time with the original first edition of The Hobbit. My circles of stupid will be someone else’s gain. As I say, it’s only the dust jacket that’s damaged, but I’m picky enough to bitch about it. I figure someone here might like a free copy of The History of the Hobbit just because.
More as this develops.