Dangers of buying horological books

Discussion in 'Horological Books' started by Ansomnia, Dec 22, 2009.

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  1. Ansomnia

    Ansomnia Registered User

    Sep 11, 2005
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    I noticed prices at major international auctions have been hitting new, at times highly questionable highs. So rather than to join in the frenzy, I've taken some time off and limited my horological collecting to books.

    Unfortunately, book collecting just like clock and watch collecting, is at times prone to the same sort of bad behaviour as from some clock and watch sellers. While there may be no "fake" or "married" books, some booksellers will try to misrepresent books that would otherwise be deemed in unsellable condition.

    One recent case in point was an order for 2 hardcover books from a Dutch book dealer, Interbook International in Schiedam, Holland. They have a fancy web store front and specialize in art reference books that sometimes include clock and watch titles. My order included a new book and a used one. The 2.5 kg. (5.5 lb.) "priority shipping" cost me a hefty 36 EURO (approx. USD 51).

    When the shipment finally arrived, 3 weeks later, the new book was as advertised but the used book was worthless because it was in such ratty condition. The dust cover was ripped in many places and all the pages had long ago separated from the spine.

    My emails and phone calls were met with pathetic excuses like ...

    "I don't speak English well, call again next week when the other person is here",

    "I cannot make decisions about refunds" or

    "I did not see the book when it was shipped, someone else packed it".

    They made no attempts to offer an immediate refund or store credit and told me to ship it back using the cheapest method and to wait till they looked at the book before deciding what to do. I sent them photos of the book and the original unopened package but they tell me they are counting inventory and will not have time to read my email. This is despite their having a fancy computerized online store front.

    It would cost me about USD 20 to ship the book back by the cheapest method and it will take at least 2 months to reach this Dutch bookseller. In essence, the book has already cost me USD 72 with shipping and they wanted me to repackage it, spend another USD 20 and wait 2 more months after my having already waited a month for the useless book. The salvage value of this book is in my opinion, USD 5 at best. It's something you might find in a bargains bin.

    The worst part of this is that they never even acknowledged or apologized for the sad shape of the book. This unfriendly and impolite treatment is something I simply did not expect from Dutch merchants.

    Needless to say, I will never buy anything from Interbook again.


    Michael
     
  2. Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

    Fortunat Mueller-Maerki National Library Chair
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    #2 Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Dec 22, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2009
    Buying anything through the internet is fought with potential peril unless you really know and trust the merchant. That goes for clocks, watches and BOOKS as well.


    And while many countries had low (subsidized) postage rates for books very few do nowadays, and the cost fore all international shipping has gone through the roof.

    It is not unusual that now the international postage is half the cost of a book or more, and it is becoming a serious element when deciding to buy (or not to buy ) a book.

    You should be carefull to allways enquire before you pay what the full cast of shipping will be, as it is NOT unusual that many merchants charge more than the actual shipping costs (true for domestic USA shippments as well).

    Used books present their own perils, few are pristine, you can never ask to many or to specific questions on condition before you commit to buy.

    The same goes for warrenties and returns , don't ASSUME you may return something if that is not specifically stated by the seller. And if postage is high in relation to value returns may be impractical or uneconomical.

    Buyer beware.
     
  3. Scottie-TX

    Scottie-TX Registered User
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    How much did you pay for the used book?
     
  4. Ansomnia

    Ansomnia Registered User

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    #4 Ansomnia, Dec 23, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2009
    Scottie, I paid way too much at 39.95 EURO + shipping. And this actually brings up two others dangers about buying books from abroad.

    I was originally only interested in the new book and only added the used book to my order because it had an interesting German title and because I wanted to take full advantage of the expensive shipping costs by combine shipping. Both ideas were (and ALWAYS ARE) mistakes.

    It turns out the same book is available in English in fine condition for about USD 15 plus shipping to Canada (probably USD 20 with domestic US delivery). This is a danger of buying an interesting foreign title - it's often also available in English with a slightly different title after translation. So one should not order foreign titles unless you know exactly what the book is; otherwise you should note the author's name and search ABE or ADDALL to make sure it's not already available in English - the English versions are ALWAYS cheaper, especially if there are copies in the US. You often get them at a fraction of the cost of German or French versions.

    This was not the fault of the bookseller but they also did not indicate any problems with the book's condition. I have known this seller several years and have bought very expensive books from them in the past without problems. The used book I bought was described in the exact same way as other books I bought from them in the past and I would have been OK with the higher cost so long as the book was in a usable condition. As it is, the book arrived in several pieces and looks like it had been in this condition for a long time.

    The other mistake I made was to look for other books to add to my order so as to take advantage of the heavy cost of shipping. In my rush to submit my order I did not check the German title more carefully for an English version.

    But what really killed my relationship with this bookseller was the store owner intentionally evading my inquiries by diverting me to her employee whom she knew had no power to do anything for me. When I spoke to that person, she was clearly exasperated and told me she could do nothing for me. The owner was giving me the proverbial undignified round-around. When I got the employee to pass me back to the owner she was clearly speaking English as well as her younger employee but she refused to even look at my emails and the photos I sent them.

    The key to buying from abroad is TRUST and this old lady just threw that out the window. Why would I ever want to buy from her store again and subject myself to a repeat performance? I have better things to do with my time and money.


    Michael
     
  5. Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

    Fortunat Mueller-Maerki National Library Chair
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    It seems that the moral of the story is clear: Never buy a book on impulse, i.e immediatly where you first encounter it, be it in a physical store (or at a mart), in a booksellers catalogue, or at a internet store without doing your research first.

    1. Step one: Check if you have the book allready. Which means you MUST carry with you (preferably in electronic form) a complete list of every horological book you own, no matter if you own 100, 1000 or 10'000 books on horology.

    2. Examine the merchanidise, Physically and carefully if that is possible, or by allways asking very pricise and pointed questions of the seller by phone or by email

    3. Know the market price, best checked by using one of the used book metasearch engines like abe.com, bookfinder.com etc. In 99% of the cases there are multiple copies for sale somewhere on the internet.

    4. Figure in your total cost including shipping.

    Only then make the decision.

    Buying anything - books, clocks, watches - is hard work , and hard work generally is rewarded by better outcomes.

    Fortunat
     
  6. Ansomnia

    Ansomnia Registered User

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    Very well put forward Fortunat. I agree with you completely. You can also say my mistake was clearly that of being "penny wise, pound foolish"! :eek::mad:

    Another aspect that is worth mentioning is how well the seller communicates to the buyer. In my case, the seller was not and would not have been very helpful due to the language barrier. However, this happens even when both seller and buyer speak the same language. Some sellers on eBay simply reply inadequately to inquiries, on purpose I suspect, leaving the buyer to have to make a leap of faith.

    It's always better to walk away when sellers don't reply or give poor responses.


    Michael
     
  7. clockhoarder

    clockhoarder Registered User

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    You could always file a claim with your credit card company for a refund........worth a try
     
  8. Scottie-TX

    Scottie-TX Registered User
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    Another point and, First - I am not a collector of books. Second, I'm not trying to persuade you to reconsider your opinion of the seller - but:
    But. Perhaps there's an element of collectability involved? While an English version may be available at a substantial reduction, I suspect that some may prefer the book in poorer condition and higher cost if it was the original language version. Is it possible that a reader may prefer to have the original language version and not someone else's translation?
     
  9. hoo-boy

    hoo-boy Registered User

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    That is the pits! I have had success using Paypal in these type situations. (NO, Paypal is not perfect and I have heard of bad experiences) The coupla of bad experiences I have hads have been successfuly resolved by paypal (For me Mayble not for the fradulent seller) the usual disclaimer on being associated with paypal!....hoo-boy
     
  10. Ansomnia

    Ansomnia Registered User

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    Yes, I did pay by credit card. But I believe the credit card company can only help if the merchant did not ship me the item or if I never ordered the item.

    Credit card companies usually do not want to get involved when it's an issue of the customer not being happy with the condition of an item. It can get very subjective. Of course, if a lot of money is involved and there is a clear case of fraud then it may be a different story.

    Having to deal with the credit card people on top of having to deal with the bookseller is also problematic. I don't want to waste my time arguing with people.


    Michael
     
  11. Ansomnia

    Ansomnia Registered User

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    Scottie, I understand your point but I'll explain why it does not apply in this case.

    First of all, my complaint is primarily about how the bookseller responded and the loss of TRUST. Any issues about the book could have been resolved nicely had she acknowledged the problem and simply responded to my complaint.

    The bookseller did not try to justify the price of the book. Instead, she did everything she could to avoid speaking to me or even reading my emails or look at the photos of the book. She behaved as if she already knew what I was complaining about. I was the one who paid for the long distance calls and waited 3 weeks for a priority shipment. They never even notified me of the shipping or provide a tracking number. After waiting more than 2 weeks I had to remind them to provide shipping confirmation and a tracking number.

    It was simply very shabby customer service. Maybe business was bad but that does not excuse impolite treatment of a good customer.

    As for the book, it's not a scholarly work. It's what we call a "coffee table picture book". There is almost no text. The forward introduction by Arnold Toynbee was translated into German from English.


    Michael
     
  12. Ansomnia

    Ansomnia Registered User

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    Yep, you're right. PayPal would likely have been helpful in this case, had the seller accepted PayPal payments. PayPal does have its pros... as well as its bad points. :)


    Michael
     
  13. Scottie-TX

    Scottie-TX Registered User
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    My read here is that this case is CLEARLY more about your dissatisfaction with the seller than your dissatisfaction with the product. That makes the solution simple.
     
  14. Rich Newman

    Rich Newman Chair
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    Immediately contact your credit card company. Tell them 1) that you did not get the book in the condition advertised, 2) you have contacted the seller x times and apparently the staff has been instructed to not process complaints and 3) this was part of a larger order and that you have no issues with the most expensive item that was correctly sent - - only the second item that was falsely advertised. Have the price + shipping figure ready to be discussed and you may need to mail or fax in a statement. Simply tell the truth.

    Ask the customer service representitive to advise what recourse you have. I think you will find that the transaction can be disputed and will require the seller to respond to the Bank. Worth a try. These things have time limits so call the number on the back of your card right away.
     
  15. Ansomnia

    Ansomnia Registered User

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    rpnewman, thanks for your suggestions about contacting my credit card company.

    I paid for the books with my Canadian VISA card. I've had this card for over 25 years and have a very good relationship with the bank that issued me the card. I did complain to them about another problematic purchase several years ago but they told me they cannot help me unless the merchant fails to ship me the item. Maybe it's different in the US but in my case, they were not interested in the condition of the item, only that the merchant actually ships the item.

    So in this case, I would have to educate VISA on what the proper value of the book should be and then convince them the bookseller misrepresented the condition of the book.

    So far, the book has cost me about 60 EUR (shipping included), about USD 86. It's not a cheap book but I would have to make a lot of phonecalls to even attempt to get VISA to help me with this. It's simply not worth the enormous waste of my time. I have a lot of other much more worthwhile things to spend my time on.

    If the book were worth USD 250 or more I would likely raise more of an issue. As it is, the bookseller will simply no longer get my business and I have already recounted my story for others to judge for themselves. I treat this as a lesson to myself and to the bookseller to be more careful next time.

    I have bought from many offshore booksellers, from the US, Europe and the UK. This was one of the worst experiences I've had. They didn't even send the books in a proper mailer and this is a big bookseller who brags about selling "art reference books". You'd think they would know better. I was surprised the parcel escaped damage enroute.


    Michael
     
  16. hoo-boy

    hoo-boy Registered User

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    You mentioned in your reply about calling credit card issue rSEVERAL years ago.... as rpnewman advised I would call them ASAP. There has been numerous rule changes in the credit card game in recent years mostly brought on by I.D. theft. I think you will be pleasently surprised.....hoo-boy
     
  17. Ansomnia

    Ansomnia Registered User

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    I'd like to thank everyone for their advice and comments. Hopefully my story will prompt others to be more careful than I was, and avoid similar disappointments. Actually, my loss of trust was far worse than my loss of the money.

    :Party: Otherwise, I wish everyone all the best for 2010! :Party:


    Michael
     

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