Condition Guidelines at

by Valerie Jacobsen

14 December 2009

Beware of the Grinch!

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There have been major, unannounced changes to's condition guidelines, such that a careful bookseller's listings will now require special attention at If you describe all your books as "Excellent customer service, thousands of happy people," you've got nothing to worry about, but if you describe your books with greater care, you will need to be very cautious.

Remember, if's robot heads in your direction, you can lose not only your account but also your eBay account if you are found to be noncompliant at eBay owns, and this is just the way they do things. eBay informed me this week that suspensions are generally for a minimum of 30 days for both accounts, but that eBay can choose to make any suspension permanent for any reason, with no recourse or opportunity for third-party arbitration.

At eBay, JacobsenBooks is ranked as a Top-rated Powerseller, and as Powersellers we have been repeatedly assured of special courtesies if there were ever a problem. However, our first notice of a critical problem was suspension. If this happened to us, then it really could happen to anyone.

Here are some of the things we learned this week. Please don't consider this an exhaustive list of all hazards at I don't know them all, but I did run across these.


You cannot use the word "STAIN" in any of your listings at You can't grade at any level at all, including Acceptable, and state, "This book is new from the publisher and never read, but it has a pale, dime-size stain on the back of the dust jacket."

No matter how nice or rare the book and no matter how good your reasons, you just can't do that.

You can't state, "This book guides the woodworker in the mixing of stains."

You can't state, "This is the better edition with gilt titles and all edges stained deep red."

Don't use any variation of the word "stain" at

The robot's checking is not exhaustive, but hit and miss. Therefore, don't take comfort in the fact that you haven't received a notice from the robot yet.


If you say the book is Like New, you cannot use any word that could be used to describe a defect.

You can't list as "Like New" and state, "Looks brand new and appears to be unread. May have a hint of shelf rubbing to the jacket," which is what we do, given that even our brand new books are in a bookstore and subject to very slight handling and movement while on display.

(The only time I describe a dust jacket as pristine is when its value and importance demand that. I then wrap the book with special care and shelve it with our most valuable books. I don't display it in our store.)

You can't list as "Like New" and state, "This CD is brand new. I just took off the shrink wrap today to replace the jewel case, which was slightly cracked."

The robot's attentions do not seem to be subject to human review until you are suspended.

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Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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