Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Never order from Abebooks

I recently had to rush order a whole mess of books for my sister, who's studying abroad and needs me to postal-relay books for some research she's doing. So, I hit the usual suspects --- Powell's, Half.com, and Amazon --- and ordered them. Powell's and Half.com orders both went off without a hitch. However, if you've shopped at Amazon lately, you'll probably have noticed that Amazon is increasingly functioning as a sort of "alternative eBay" clearinghouse, rather than a retailer in itself. Search for any dozen items on Amazon, and at least half of them will be offered by other vendors through Amazon, which acts only as an intermediary.
Most Amazon vendors have reasonable service, albeit not quite as slick as Amazon's itself. Abebooks does not. Abebooks is itself an intermediary for many independent book resellers, and the one book I ordered through Abebooks (from "Moth Y Monarch Books" in Pennsylvania) is the only one that still, two weeks after I ordered it, has not arrived, even though I ordered expedited shipping. (Curse you, Moth Y Monarch Books, and curse the horse you rode in on!) No doubt there are many perfectly good bookstores selling through Abebooks, but ordering through them is a crapshoot.
We tend to think of Amazon as a retailer, but Amazon's moving towards being strictly an intermediary and technology provider, and "outsourcing" the actual work of retailing (i.e., stocking and shipping real physical stuff to real people) to other businesses. I wonder whether this won't hurt them in the long run. Amazon's not the online retailer with the best prices, nor is a search through Amazon's catalog as comprehensive as an eBay + Froogle search. Amazon's main competitive edge is its superior service. Amazon says over and over that they "expect all sellers to maintain the same high standard of customer service that Amazon.com does", but clearly that's not true --- if it were true, then Abebooks, which consistently gets about 20% negative ratings, would have been kicked off the Amazon roster long ago.


  1. So true, most notably with the recent "Mechanical Turk" (mturk.com) that, just like the last one, is a fraud on the unsuspecting masses. Amazon gives you work, does not properly detail how to do it, and then rejects paying when it come time. But why should amazon care, they still get payed. Federal labor laws be damned.

  2. Eric, if by "Amazon gives you work" you actually mean "I agreed to do work" and if by "does not properly detail how to do it and then rejects paying" you actually mean that you elected not to refuse an unclear assignment, then you are spot on.

  3. Re MOTH Y MONARCH......

    I ordered a book from them in November and have still yet to see it. More maddening is that they have not deigned to answer any of the numerous requests for info / complaints I have sent them, including several through abebooks.

    Non-existent customer service, and no assistance from abebooks makes one an unhappy customer.


  4. I ordered a book from Moth Y Monarch back on July 16 and have finally been able to initiate a refund request with abebooks. I searched the web for anyone else who was having problems with this bookstore and came upon your blog. I submitted a complaint to the BBB about Monarch but the BBB's letters are being returned as undeliverable.

  5. I was selling books on Amazon.com. A couple people complained to Amazon about not receiving their books on time. Amazon closed my selling account, refunded customers even though the items were shipped to them, and has been holding thousands of dollars of my money for 10 months already. I reccomment people shop elsewhere, and certainly avoid selling on Amazon.com

    see http://sillytech.com/threads/1065

    for more horror stories with Amazon.com

  6. I have ordered from AbeBooks twice thus far.
    The first order went without a hitch.
    However the second didn’t fare so well.

    Desc: Ordered a book using a coupon for 10% off up to $10 on the last day (6/17/2008) for a text book I need this coming 08FA semester. I received the normal confirmation email.

    6/18/2008 I get an email that the order is canceled due to my credit card being declined. There was no attempt at contacting me to resolve the issue.

    Dear Sonny T Hung,

    We’re sorry to let you know that we weren’t able to charge your credit card for the book(s) listed below.

    There are a few possible reasons why your card might have been declined; our credit card processing service does not specify the cause. We recommend visiting your AbeBooks account to review your credit card details. If this information is correct and up-to-date, your credit card company may be able to provide further details regarding this transaction.

    To review or edit the credit card information we have on file for you, please click the following link: http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/CCManagementPL

    Again, we’re very sorry for any inconvenience. The book(s) will be restored to our inventory shortly; we do hope you’ll place your order again.

    I contacted them through their website and get the following response.

    Hello Sonny,

    Thank you for contacting AbeBooks Customer support. I’m sorry to hear that your credit card was declined for this order. When your order was placed, an email notification went to the bookseller allowing them 4 days to process the order before it expired. When the bookseller went to confirm and ship the order, indicating ‘Will Ship’, AbeBooks at this time attempted to process your credit card on June 18th. As your card at this time was declined, we sent you an email notification indicating this had happened and you can see this email within your account.

    Unfortunately, I cannot apply this discount to your declined order as it is no longer active and because the coupon has unfortunately expired. I’m really sorry that this is the case and can let you know that you will be eligible for coupon promotions in the future.


    Megan H
    AbeBooks Customer Support
    AbeBooks.com Passion for books.

    Basically they don’t give a hoot - Too bad your out of luck.
    No clarification what the exact issue was other than the order was declined because the charge cold not be processed. Of course I used that card that same day. Hm….. I wonder if someone screwed up on their end huh?

    Enough said - Basically DO NOT order anything important through them. There is NO REAL CUSTOMER CARE. Just a, ’ Sorry, you can try again next time’. you are so SOL (So Out of Luck!)

  7. I ordered a book from kayne w through Abebooks.com back in May. It is now November and I still have not received my book. I will never order anything from that site again. Its really unfair to spend your hard earned money and never get what you paid for.

  8. I have been using abebooks since long before the loathsome Amazon bought it and I consider it to be one of the few good reasons for the Internet to exist. My experiences have been uniformly satisfactory. Yes, sometimes it takes a while to get my books but it sure beats running around to many used bookstores trying to find a decent copy of a book long out of print. Most of the time I have found fine or near fine copies of books I otherwise would not have been able to buy at all, at very reasonable prices. Example: a copy of Ito's "The Issei" from a bookseller in Chicago for $180. Good quality copies currently available on abebooks range from $225 to $6,000!