- Rating Internet Book Sellers
Of all the internet book websites I have used, AbeBooks is the only one I have found that provides seller ratings. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in a previous post, AbeBooks’ ratings are based solely on the percentage of completed sales — a pretty limited system for deciding a seller’s overall reliability. There is no system for the buyer to rate the transaction.
Ebay’s feedback system is not flawless, but it is still much more useful. For every transaction, ebay encourages both buyers and sellers to leave a detailed and honest account of their experience.
A buyer can check a seller’s feedback before deciding to make a bid or a purchase. You still have to be careful, because the feedback score on its own can be deceiving. It is important to actually read the individual feedback comments before buying, even if the seller has a 100% positive rating.
For one thing, buyers sometimes click the positive feedback button, but they write comments are, shall we say, less than positive. It is also not uncommon for a buyer to choose the neutral feedback option (which does not count against the sellers’ overall feedback score) and then leave comments that can be quite scathing.
Being an auction format site, sellers on ebay can leave buyers feedback as well. Because the only thing a buyer really has to do to fulfill their end of the bargain is to pay for their items in a timely manner, sellers will often refuse to sell to customers with recent negative feedback.
Book buyers should also take further steps when purchasing from ebay sellers. Check to see whether they have sold books before, and make sure to focus on the feedback from those sales. If the seller does not normally sell books, then you might want to discuss with them, in detail, how they plan to ship yours.
I have heard of ebay sellers with 100% positive feedback, but few or none from book sales, mailing heavy and valuable books in plain paper envelopes, with no padding whatsoever. I have heard of books being water damaged, because the seller did not think to wrap the book in plastic before packing and shipping it. Generally, a good seller will accept returns on damaged goods, but if it happened to be a rare, hard to find book, or an exceptionally good deal, a refund is hardly what the collector wants.
In my opinion, internet book websites need to provide consumers with a better, ebay-like, feedback system. Otherwise, we take a chance every time we purchase from an unknown seller. I don’t want to make it sound like all internet book sellers are disreputable. In fact, the opposite is true; most are very reliable. It would just be nice to have a more useful system where you could find out about the ones who aren’t.
Finally, be fair when you are leaving feedback for a seller on ebay. There are some things sellers cannot control, such as international delivery times, packages destroyed in shipping, customs charges and delays, and more. Remember that leaving negative feedback will affect the sellers reputation, so think carefully about what you say and how you say it. Your feedback should be based on the facts of the transaction and should never devolve into a personal attack on the seller. This is definitely not the place for a book review.
As I look over this post, it strikes me how much simpler it is to just walk into your neighbourhood book store, where you can employ the old-fashioned method of actually picking up and inspecting the books you want to buy.
** It is a few months down the road now, and a fellow collector has just told me that Alibris.com has recently adopted quite a good feedback system. I just watched a video feedback tutorial on the help page of their website, and it looks pretty much like it is a combination of AbeBooks’ system and ebay’s.
In essence, Alibris takes the seller’s percentage of completed orders and they also use a customer feedback interface which is very similar to ebay’s. They combine both scores to come up with an overall seller rating. If anyone knows how they do this, please let me know.
Because Alibris.com is not an auction format site, there is no need for a buyer rating system. Customers have to pre-pay for items purchased through on-line book websites, and thus their end of the interaction is taken care of.
I have not used Alibris’ system myself yet, but I would be careful filling out the customer feedback forms, as the wording of the questions differs from ebay, especially in the detailed feedback section; the section where you award stars for service/expectations. Basically, five ebay stars equals three Alibris stars. You will see what I mean when you compare the wording of the detailed feedback questions, but in a nutshell, five ebay stars mean the seller met your expectations, whereas five Alibris stars mean the seller greatly exceeded you expectations.
Let’s hope the other on-line booksellers adopt similar (is it too much to ask for consistent) systems for useful customer feedback.