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Book Depository rant (again...)

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Chatterbox
Bibliophile
Location: New York

Book Depository rant (again...)

Postby Chatterbox » Tue November 24th, 2009, 2:50 pm

I have finally had it with BD and won't be ordering from them again. Looking back over my order history with them, I have now had nine items in the last six months that they couldn't or wouldn't deliver at the price they promised, within a reasonable time frame of my order/publication date (four to six weeks).

In five cases, they have unilaterally cancelled my order or pre-order for a book, telling me that they are out of stock. Alas, I looked on their site only to find out the same book (identical ISBN) is indeed available -- but at a significantly higher price. Or else that I could order it from Book Depository via Amazon.co.uk, at a price only a pound or two higher -- but one that would require me to pay a 7 pound shipping fee on top of that. In all cases, the ISBNs were identical, telling me that either BD was (a) not being frank with me about having the book or (b) offering to sell books to others that it knew it didn't have. It smells to me like a bait and switch -- here, pre-order the book with us for $10 (or whatever). Then, when the book becomes available, whooops, sorry, we can't have it because we don't have it in stock and might not have it for a long time. But on their website, the identical ISBN is available for $22 (with free postage) or on Amazon.co.uk for $18 (plus postage.)

In the other four cases, the items were ones that I ultimately cancelled, for very similar reasons. This week, I noticed that two books on my Sept. 30 order had long been available. One was published Sept 30, the other Oct. 10. Both were listed as unavailable at the price I had ordered at (one was temporarily out of stock, the other not yet published.) And yet the same ISBN on the BD site showed the books as available (at higher prices) and both were being offered for sale by BD via Amazon.co.uk.

I've only been ordering from BD since March, but this has now affected 18% of my orders from them. Looking back over my order history with Amazon, despite the rather exorbitant shipping costs, I can see that on not a single occasion in the last three years has Amazon.co.uk cancelled an order on me, or have I had to cancel an order with them. On several occasions, the price has changed for a book -- but on every occasion, it has been in my favor and I have received a credit on my account. (It also helps that Amazon e-mails me -- like most online vendors of any kind now do -- to tell me when an item has shipped. BD doesn't, and has declined to provide that information when specifically requested.) (I have a much more limited experience with Aphrohead, but none of this has occurred with them -- I also get e-mails informing me of shipments.)

I know a lot of people here deal with BD and have had good experiences. I'm simply so fed up that I wanted to at least let other customers know of my experience, and of the fact that BD has not, on any of the occasions that I've contacted them politely to draw their attention to these facts, done anything by way of an apology. They refund my money, and simply state that the price at which they provide products may change, and they may not be able to make a book available at the advertised price. To me, that is deceptive marketing, however. Enabling people to enter into a contract to purchase a book at one price and unilaterally changing the terms of that contract so frequently isn't the sign of a vendor that is interested in good customer service, IMO.

gyrehead
Reader

Postby gyrehead » Tue November 24th, 2009, 5:22 pm

I've had similar frustrations. And I have rather rattled their cage on occasion in a rather snotty manner. They do have a bad tendency to hold the cash. Way too much disingenuous shuffling of the "out of stock" bait and switch. Thing is, I still get the books if I am patient. So far. I do have some outstanding titles that I'm bidding my time on but the difference in price makes it worth the gamble to me.

I do still make a habit of only pre-ordering items with cover images. And I really pay attention to the dual releases in hardcover and trade. Amazon.uk is pretty good at getting their hands on the import issues. BD on the other hand seems to just 'borrow' the amazon entries but either does not have the resources or the inclination to get the import copies and fulfill the orders. For awhile it looked like Amazon.com was going to try to edge BD out by carrying UK books in the trade import format. But I see they don't seem to do that anymore.

I've never actually had an order cancelled by BD, though. And that is my biggest complaint and is the closest irritation to making me stop using them (sadly their prices on the orders I've received keep me coming back at this point) as you have. It infuriates me that they sit on my money knowing damn well they are not getting a book in. Instead I have to cancel my order. A procedure they still refuse to make easy or even anything but obtuse; still no "cancel order" button on the order history page even though they have a bunch of worthless bells and whistles on the site that clearly illustrates it is not the "way" that is impossible on their part, but the "will". Wonder why that is? [/sarcasm].

I'm mercenary enough that I hope they stay in business long enough until Amazon (com and UK) get their act together so they offer UK editions at a more affordable shipping rate or direct availability in the US -- BD, even before the launch of the US .com site had an arm in the US that sold through amazon's marketplace (and I too noticed that the sold out sign gets thrown up on the cheap pre-orders and yet somehow still stays up at Amazon's marketplace at a slight cut below the Amazon price).

I've also noticed that the UK BD site is no longer the great bargain it was compared to the US site. Which seems rather odd as the whole free shipping worldwide should have the same books for the same price. The Guernsey tax haven corporate address alone has my nose twitching a bit. And I still wonder if I am servicing some sort of money laudering scheme as the free shipping thing just does not work economically on the scale they are practicing. Add in the strong bait and switch methods and the deliberate vagueness on how to get your money back in more than one regard and I have made a point of only pre-ordering books on the eve or so of their release. It would not shock me in the slightest to find that the whole house of cards collapses and a borrowing from Peter to pay Paul methodology comes to light.

Sigh. In the mean time they still have me at that free shipping; no customs worries and 54% pre-order discount. You are a stronger individual than I am.

User avatar
Divia
Bibliomaniac
Location: Always Cloudy, Central New York

Postby Divia » Tue November 24th, 2009, 6:31 pm

I bought one book from them because it was the only book I could ever find. I think my knickers would be in a knot too. I can understand why you would be ditching them.

Sorry about your experiences.
News, views, and reviews on books and graphic novels for young adult.
http://yabookmarks.blogspot.com/

Chatterbox
Bibliophile
Location: New York

Postby Chatterbox » Wed November 25th, 2009, 12:42 am

Yes, Gyrehead, since my first order problem I've been very careful about what edition and ensuring that it is the right one, that it matches data elsewhere. Alas...

I'm wondering now if they don't really place orders and decide on what price they'll sell until they have pre-sold a certain number. So, if they only get 8 orders for a book, they just don't bother, or will only sell it at a much higher price. Maybe their margins are just so slim that they need major bulk in order to compensate??

Anyway, it's academic. The amount of agita is far in excess of any savings. I'll just group my Amazon orders together, to minimize per book shipping costs. At least I know I'll get them & that Amazon won't play games with me. Maybe I'll try Aphrohead more, although they don't seem to have as large a list.

User avatar
Ariadne
Bibliophile
Location: At the foothills of Mt. Level

Postby Ariadne » Wed November 25th, 2009, 2:13 am

Just curious. Are these books from mainstream publishers that they're cancelling or are they more of the specialist academic type? Or both? So far I've been lucky. Nothing's been cancelled yet (watch it go and happen tomorrow, though). I have about 15 books (historical novels) on preorder at the moment, and about 10 other preorders have arrived so far, from a variety of publishers - large mainstream ones to library pubs like Severn House. The latter of which I doubt they had very large preorders for, but I could be wrong. BD emails me to let me know when my preordered book has arrived in their warehouse but not when it actually ships (a couple days later). This is on the US site.

When the ISBNs are the same, it does seem like a bait-and-switch to me - which is definitely unfair to the customer.

Chatterbox
Bibliophile
Location: New York

Postby Chatterbox » Wed November 25th, 2009, 2:43 am

These are books from mainstream publishers. In the most recent case, David Roberts's new book (a mystery series), "Sweet Sorrows", and a new Bernie Gunther mystery from Phillip Kerr. I've already ordered the latter from Amazon. The former will have to wait until the refunds go through.

Yes, I'm very careful now about ISBNs and formats.

User avatar
Amanda
Compulsive Reader
Location: Sydney, Australia

Postby Amanda » Wed November 25th, 2009, 3:30 am

I have only had this happen once with BD. And it was just a month or so ago. I pre-ordered Richard III by Josephine Wilkerson (paperback), at a big saving. At around the release time, they emailed me cancelling the order, I checked a few days later (maybe a week) and it was in stock, at a higher price.

Meanwhile another book I have on pre-order had its publication date shifted back by a few months. An email about that would have been nice too......

Over all I love BD. Anyway...I think I just bought the Richard III book as it was so cheap! Its not like I don't have other books about him that I haven't read yet...... :o

gyrehead
Reader

Postby gyrehead » Wed November 25th, 2009, 4:00 am

"Ariadne" wrote:Just curious. Are these books from mainstream publishers that they're cancelling or are they more of the specialist academic type? Or both? So far I've been lucky. Nothing's been cancelled yet (watch it go and happen tomorrow, though). I have about 15 books (historical novels) on preorder at the moment, and about 10 other preorders have arrived so far, from a variety of publishers - large mainstream ones to library pubs like Severn House. The latter of which I doubt they had very large preorders for, but I could be wrong. BD emails me to let me know when my preordered book has arrived in their warehouse but not when it actually ships (a couple days later). This is on the US site.

When the ISBNs are the same, it does seem like a bait-and-switch to me - which is definitely unfair to the customer.


Almost all of mine are from large maintream publishers or at least their imprints.

My question about the cancelled books is whether the books were single orders or part of an overall order that was otherwise fulfilled. I have a theory that the single order books are more likely the ones they cancel. Still a huge bait and switch. In fact it is a bit worse as it punishes someone who might be ordering the same amount of stuff but on a singular basis (especially as they ship all their orders to me seperately. I have not had a single order shipment contain more than a single book even when I get five or six books all ordered and shipped together.

User avatar
Ariadne
Bibliophile
Location: At the foothills of Mt. Level

Postby Ariadne » Wed November 25th, 2009, 4:48 am

Hmm, interesting if it is single-order or smaller-order books getting cancelled. I just went through my order history since I always order in quantities of 5-6 at a time. Over the past 2 1/2 years I've ordered 50+ books, with no cancellations...

However, I see that one of my preorders no longer has title information -- there's only an ISBN whose link goes nowhere. It was the mass market pb of Shirley McKay's Hue and Cry, which isn't in BD anymore. It had had a cover attached to it at the time. I bet I'll get a cancellation notice on that one.

User avatar
EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Wed November 25th, 2009, 2:01 pm

Chatterbox and Gyrehead, I mentioned your concerns on Twitter this morning and was almost immediately tweeted back by Kieron Smith of the Book Depository, asking what the problem was. I told him and he asked if I would post his reply on TBD's behalf to the forum. I'm totally neutral on this, just passing on the info.



Dear All



I’m sorry to see that some of you haven’t had the great experience we’d want you to with The Book Depository. We introduced pre-orders for the first time earlier this year and it could do with some finessing.

Our prices are dynamically calculated depending upon the general price in the market (and the sort of dicount we expect from a publisher), for pre-orders this differs and many are set at a more standard rate, say a flat 20% off, as we often don’t know the price to us.

We make a point of only advertising books for sale that we know we can get hold of (as much as humanly possible).

Recently we had an issue with a couple of our suppliers where they were showing stock available on new titles, we would then order them (for pre-orders in the system) and then they subsequently cancelled the order saying the books hadn’t reached release date. Consequenly our systems cancelled the order to the customer.

The website seeing the books as ‘available’ then chose a ‘market price’ – sometimes which would be higher, sometimes lower than the pre-order price in question. This was certainly not intended to be a ‘bait and switch’ situation.

I’m pleased to say that we took immediate action on this as it meant we were cancelling orders for no good reason, often days before release, and our suppliers are now only letting us know when titles are available for delivery to us and then onwards to the customer. So this should no longer happen.

We do have further work to do on pre-orders, such as only settling funds when the books are available, and I very much hope this can be completed in the next few months.

All the very best and apologies again



Kieron

MD The Book Depository
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Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

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