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If it ain't fine then don't tell me it is!

By Nick Pappas, Bloody Dagger Books
Source: Interloc News, March 1997

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No. It’s my head exploding in a fit of anger after receiving yet another book incorrectly graded.

Over the past year or two, every magazine, periodical, newsletter and scrap of paper devoted to bookselling has had at least one article dealing with the grading of books. All of them were down to earth, easy to understand, and very informative. So, why, why, why, are so many booksellers ignoring this information?

Could it be that these people have never seen a book in truly “Fine” condition? Perhaps they don’t care as long as a sale is made (considering that the book is not returned)? Could it be simply laziness?

A major problem

I don’t have the answer, but I can tell you that this is a major problem in this business, one that I’ve discussed not only with the people involved with Interloc, but with dealers worldwide.

Just consider this for a moment. You finally locate that special book for your customer. After verifying its availability, you contact your customer. “Yes,”he says. “I want it.” The customer pays you in advance and then you pay the dealer. The book is shipped. You receive it and find that it is nowhere near “as described.” So what happens?

First, you call your customer and say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think you want a book in that condition.” Next, you count to one thousand in hopes of reducing your anger, call the dealer, explain the “problem,” and tell them you will be returning the book for a full refund. You then write a refund check to your customer, rewrap the book, send it back, and wait for your refund.

Lasting, negative effects

So how has this affected you? And what about the dealer who sold you the book? Well, you now have an unhappy customer, and I for one do not like to see an unhappy customer. They pay my bills, they put food on my table and on a good month allow me to enjoy some R&R. Along with everything else, you now have to wait for the refund which you could be using elsewhere.

This dealer has wasted your time, possibly damaged your reputation, and tied up your money. This is not good business!

As for the dealer who sold you the book—they miss out on a sale. They have one of their books tied up and not available for sale, and most of all they have just been added to your growing list of “unreliable booksellers” and will receive no further business from you. (At the time of this writing, I have three legal-sized pages filled with dealers in this category!). All of this could have been avoided if the book was properly graded and described.

In many cases, a sale could take place even if the book is in lesser condition than originally desired. If it is a difficult title to find, many customers will be willing to accept a lesser copy, as long as they know in advance what to expect. But surprises are unacceptable!

What can be done about this madness?

The first step is to learn the grading terms and how they apply to a book:

Book Grading 101
AS NEW (AN) - Fresh, crisp, unblemished, unread. As if newly purchased.
FINE (F) - Almost as new. May lack freshness or show the mere traces of handling or use. Considered among many to be the premium grade for older editions Note: A book with a remainder mark is not fine.
NEAR FINE (NF) - Marginally fine (keeping Fine itself very strict). Books having even the smallest stain, bumping to corners, or the previous owner’s names. Dust Jackets with closed tears, creases, etc. Note: Fine and Near Fine paperbacks should have no crease on hinge or spine unless noted.
VERY GOOD (VG) Modest wear; blemishing; (scuffs, nicks, heavy creasing, fading, small DW tears).
GOOD (G) - Average wear, fading, soil. DW with chips, tears.
POOR (P) Much used, worn, and/or soiled.
 Note#1:“MINT” should be used when speaking of money or plants…not books. Note #2: When in doubt...down grade.

The second step is to return any books that you receive that are not as described—even if the flaw is minor. After all, you paid for a F/F book, not an NF/F book. If you don’t let the seller know, how are they to learn? By keeping the book, you have just led this seller to believe that they are grading their book correctly. You are not doing the dealer nor the bookselling community any favors.

If you continue to experience this problem, you should contact the system supervisor (if you are using an on-line system), and report the problem. Since this is a business and they are business people, they will not allow this problem to remain. Chances are, they’ll have received many other complaints about said seller and the seller will be “booted” from the system.

Ah! Gee! You don’t want to see someone get “the boot!”

Well, listen up people! A great portion of booksellers are in this as a full-time business, not a hobby. They need to buy and sell books to pay the bills. It is their livelihood. If someone is having a negative effect on this business, then don’t let the doorknob hit them in the you-know-what on the way out. If we don’t police our own business, no one else will.

One last topic that needs to be addressed and is also a part of the above problem is refunds!

It is not only an unacceptable business practice, but it is also against the law to withhold a refund for more than 30 days after receipt of returned merchandise! To do so, constitutes postal fraud under the law.

How many booksellers out there who do business by mail are aware that there are very strict laws that govern “Mail Order” businesses?

If you haven’t read the laws, I suggest you do so promptly. Postal fraud is a very serious law and one that is heavily prosecuted by the U.S. Postal Service.