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Selling on Amazon
Who's Afraid of Nebraska Books?

by earthmom

#125, 21 July 2008

If you have even glanced at the Amazon forums over the last month and a half, you've seen this name everywhere. Never have there been so many threads focusing on this one book company: Nebraska Books. Never has there been such mass hysteria and screams of "Don't sell to them!" "Cancel! Cancel!" which brings to mind "The sky is falling!" And yet Nebraska Books (aka Tyson Motsinger as buyer) has been a valued customer of mine. I have completed several dozen solid transactions with them. They are my best repeat customer.

I have discussed Nebraska Books with several other sellers who have had and continue to have solid transactions with this company. Those people are not the loud ones you'll see on the Amazon discussion boards. They have repeated to me that they continue to sell and ship, no problems.

Nebraska Books seems to be a large company that buys mostly textbooks. If they order from you and your book does not match what they were expecting to receive, they send an email requesting a refund. They say they're "too busy" to return the book but still want their refund. All agree that this practice is wrong. They should find a way to allocate resources (as in hire some extra hands) just to help return orders that don't meet their specifications. The practice of "refund without return" started raising eyebrows and drawing complaints from other sellers some time ago, but recently the real storm hit.

No one knows for sure what happened but something went haywire with NBCís order system. Was it software related? Human error? Whatever caused it, there were hundreds (possibly thousands) of orders placed for books that were then hastily cancelled within 24-48 hours. [EDITORíS NOTE: To clarify, requests to cancel were emailed to sellers. Actual cancellations were not issued.] According to some sellers, many of these books had already shipped when the cancellations came in. There were also reports that Amazon sided with NBC and granted some A-to-Z claims, letting the company keep the books and forcing the sellers to refund. If so, the fault in that decision lies with Amazon even more so than with NBC. Itís one thing to be customer oriented but not to the point of ridiculous. Still, if this customer had a major glitch with their system, it is their job to fix it and take care of the fallout. [EDITORíS NOTE: See NBCís explanation of this event in this issue.] has taken the more sensible approach of insisting the customer return the item in order to receive the refund. Amazon, are you taking notes? Amazon's own return policy states that this must be done, but for some reason in the case of this large company they have gone against their own policies.

None of us know what goes on behind closed doors or what kinds of perqs or privileges comes with being a mega-buyer, but there is some reason that NBC has been treated quite gently in the wake of this big error.

Back to the mass hysteria that has ensued. Nebraska Books is located in Athens, Ohio. [EDITOR'S NOTE: NBC headquarters are in Lincoln, Nebraska. A distribution center is located in Athens, Ohio.] It's a nice little town with nice people living their lives totally unaware of the black mark that has been placed on them. There are threads warning sellers to cancel anything that comes from Athens, Ohio. I filled a book order for a lady from Athens just a couple of weeks ago. She wasn't related to NBC. She was just a lady who bought a book. I shipped it out. She was happy.

The most preyed upon are the new sellers who read the Amazon boards. We see over and over shocked postings that read, "Just got an order from Athens, OH! What do I do?" and they are cautioned by others to cancel immediately. Several of the big alarmists who are telling others to beware are sellers who have admitted publicly that they have never received an order from Nebraska Books themselves and are just spreading the panic. I would caution some of those who are freely posting statements about NBC and specifically Tyson Motsinger, openly calling him a "crook" or a "thief." These can be construed as libel or slander, and they are posted as fact in a public forum.

Apparently there is an opt-out phone number that you can call to be put on the list of sellers that NBC will not buy from. This was in a posting on the Amazon Seller Soapbox: The "Opt-Out number is (800) 869-0366." [EDITOR'S NOTE: When dialing this number, it's important to dial extension 8150 when you're connected. Otherwise, your call will not be routed to the proper department.] Use this number at your own risk. I have not verified it, and it may just be the number to order pizza in Athens for all I know.

I understand the frustration of this large company having a big buying/cancellation problem last month. For what it's worth, there was a day when Amazon itself had a big technology problem too, and the whole site was down for an hour and a half. That resulted in lost revenue to the tune of $13,000 per minute for them (and losses for all of us). NBC is not the only victim of technology. But the alarmists are not out there posting that everyone should stay away from no matter what because of that glitch. That's the difference.

My viewpoint is that I list books to sell, and when I get an order from a paying customer, I fill it. Nebraska Books has been and continues (as of a week ago) to be a paying customer and I'll be glad to see more opportunities to do business with them.

How to Avoid Problems with Nebraska Books:

  • Grade your books correctly. If necessary, go back and review the Amazon Guidelines. "New" does not mean pretty good with some highlighting. Clearly and honestly state the flaws. It can't hurt to grade conservatively. If it's between a Very Good and Good grade, grade it Good. You can always tout its condition in the comments field. Your buyer will be pleasantly surprised to get the book.

  • Be extra careful about the correct edition! This cannot be stressed enough - never list a textbook that is the wrong edition. Look at the catalog page and make sure it matches the book you have. Don't rely on the comments field to state "Different Edition" and assume that will make it okay. Your buyer is not responsible for reading these comments. The number one thing is that the item matches the catalog page. List by ISBN carefully, and even then double check the edition number, publisher and year of publication.

  • Ship promptly. Amazon sellers are required to ship within 2 business days.

  • Pack adequately. Don't stuff a hardcover textbook into a plain manila envelope and expect it to arrive in the condition you sent it in. For heavy books a box is more appropriate and will protect the corners from bumps. You may grade accurately and ship fast, but if you don't protect the book from postal handling, your buyer may receive a much lower quality book on their end.

  • Use delivery confirmation - or even signature confirmation when you feel it's necessary. Many sellers, myself included, use delivery confirmation on everything we ship. If your book is valuable, definitely add signature confirmation. Amazon encourages this practice as just another way to protect you in the event of a dispute. Each seller makes their own determination on what is considered valuable. Some go for any sale over $80 or $100.

If you remove the technological glitch of the orders/cancellations from last month from the NB equation, you'll see that for the most part NBC is complaining about items they say are not up to par. They say there have been problems with editions and condition, etc. If that is so, then following the above tips to avoid problems with Nebraska Books should give you a good, steady customer. This will also improve your overall selling and earn you other happy customers, who may also become steady repeat buyers.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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