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The IOBA Standard is the journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association and covers the book world, with a special focus on the online used, out-of-print, and collectible bookselling markets.


Elephant Skin

Don’t you just want to meet the punk who invented the concept of internet ‘feedback’? I mean WHAT WAS HE THINKING WITH? Obviously he wasn’t a vendor–possibly a buyer, but definitely disgruntled. In the real world…’scuse me, did I just say, ‘real world?’ mein gott, I earn my creditor payments from this stupid glass box; maybe I can’t beat it senseless but it’s most definitely real…in the ‘3-D world’ a transaction ends two ways, customer dances the mambo all the way out the door fondling his new acquisition or customer throws a fit or a chair or a book or a unfortunately handy tabby. Then your personal and professional judgment muscles kick in; if the customer has a shred of legitimacy to their grievance you do what you can to make them happy or at least go away, but if their eyes have that glazed over look of a foot soldier for an unseen power listening to the little voices echoing inside his occipital lobe, you politely ask him to leave whilst dialing 911 with your big toe.

Alas the e-world isn’t remotely like that. For the most part if a customer is happy you never hear from them again. If they are unhappy you hear from them…a lot. Luckily for the tabby they are usually many miles away. The bad part isn’t dealing with the problem, hey we can take a return or two or three, this is part of the whole enchilada of retail; it’s not being able to ‘see’ the customer. If you could see into their eyes you could possibly tell if the book was truly damaged in transit by gorillas, or are they just pulling your pud because they realized they didn’t want or need or couldn’t afford the book in question and decided to just whack it on the side of the counter before contacting you. You should just be able to take the return back and reimburse the funds. No harm, no foul…no way…with an internet feedback system, a bad trade lingers around like boy cat spray, just when you think you got the stench out, along comes a rainy day that revitalizes the odor to the embarrassment of all present.

I count myself a lucky vendor, possibly because I am not as they say a ‘power seller’ [read: successful seller] — only a small percentage of my unhappy customers reach for the feedback button before contacting me, those who actually bother to TELL ME THERE IS A PROBLEM get it fixed and hence have no axe to grind. However there are quite a number of arse-headed people out there who think with their…well…arses. Either they ordered the wrong book or they got something different from what they expected or they didn’t get anything at all, possibly their brain cells are asleep or dead or sedated but they decide to whine about it on a page built just for that purpose. Oh, joy.

Now, I know from experience that none of them bother to actually READ THE OTHER FEEDBACKS, cause if they had they would have quickly realized that their ‘problem’ is an aberration and not the end of the end of the bloody world. Riddle me this: if you were to read 900 feedbacks that said basically ‘NO PROBLEMS’ would you jump off the conclusion bridge that inferred I was trying to rip you off for a measly 8 dollars? No, you wouldn’t. You’re not an arsehead. Neither am I. I would never stoop to stealing any amount that piddling.


When I first got connected, way back when, [I can’t even remember that far back anymore, I think I was born sucking on this keyboard, see the teeth marks?] I took everything everyone said about me or to me very personally. After all, I thought they actually meant it. At the time none of us realized the internet would unleash all those pent up id’s like Rottweilers after a letter carrier. You can’t tell anything about anyone from words on a screen. For all you know I could be a Danish bikini model, but then if I was would I be sitting here talking to you? [and yes, I talk like this in real life]

People say and do things out here in the ethersphere that would get them stoned, pilloried and possibly burned at the stake in 3D, up to and including bearing false witness against thy neighbor. In the tangible universe an unfounded accusation of thievery would get you slapped with a libel suit or at the very least an unrecently deceased haddock. But on the net, you would probably have to create a dedicated site that actually had a deleterious impact on some major corporation’s cash receipts before it became cost effective get a law dog to nip your ankles. You can file suit against a feedback poster but who really wants to do that? answer: WE ALL DO, can we afford it? hardly. All we can hope is that we get an overwhelming number of good responses that when glanced at make the offending post look like the actions of a dope fiend.

These days I execute swift and decisive action against those who jump the gun: post negative feedback BEFORE contacting me. I retaliate with a nebulous sort of rating that says “doesn’t communicate well” (that confuses the hell out of them) then send them a sickeningly polite email asking why they didn’t contact us the 1st moment they realized there was a problem? If one calmly pretends to be completely confused by their response you can usually get them to belly flop over and offer to retract the feedback (which we know isn’t possible). If anything it’s amusing as hell to play with their little minds and since aside from a response that says “customer was offered a full refund but declined” (you don’t want to say anything too nasty about anyone on your own feedback page no matter how much of a moron they are, it makes you look petty) there isn’t much joy in slinging mudville back and forth with someone you can’t see.




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