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Crazy People

By tomsoterwriting - Posted on 16 February 2013

Like many other people, I sell used books, CDs, and DVDs on Amazon. It's an odd business: you have to price your item -- usually by looking at what other people were charging – and then, if it sold, you have to package it and get it out within two days (otherwise you get a warning notice in red on your item saying, "This item is late." Then your customers rate you, on a scale from 1 to 5, usually with brief comments (typical ones I have received: "Quick Delivery; item was as described," or "Fast, efficient service. Pleased with item. Thank you.") I always try to satisfy the customer, of course, and generally I pride myself on being successful. I get the occasional complaint; once or twice I've sent the wrong order; sometimes items were lost in the mail. One customer didn't know how to read the tracking notice and insisted to me in multiple e-mails that her order was lost. I patiently explained to her that, according to the tracking information, it was still in transit; she eventually got it, though she never thanked me for the extra efforts I took on her behalf.

I don't make a lot of money off the sales and with all the hassles I sometimes I wonder why I do it.

I wondered that the other day when I got a bizarre e-mail from one of my customers. I had sent him a used CD of DIRTY HARRY ANTHOLOGY, a CD that had been in my private collection and was in excellent condition. I described it as "Like new" in my listing, and since there were many copies available on-line, I priced it at $5. It was packed with bubble wrap and sent First Class mail. Even though the customer had only paid for Media Mail; the difference between First Class and Media was maybe 25 cents, so I paid more so my customer would get it faster. 

If I expected gratitude, I was to be sorely disappointed.

"If you can describe this CD as 'like new' then you need a new pair of glasses," he wrote with no preamble.  "A visit to my local DVD rental store to have the disc repolished and a new replacement case restored the disc to "as new". But to add insult to injury you had the item shrink wrapped. It plays fine and i will keep it but if you went to a local car dealership and found a 5 year old Lexus in saran-wrap described 'as new' you would be straight out of the showroom. I give 5 star reviews to 99.9% of my many Amazon purchases but this was a bad joke. Do yourself a favour in future and be honest. It will benefit you in the long run. I wanted to give you a 1 star rating but it wouldn't let me. I have my CD, you have your money. Sleep well. Sincerely. Alan Haycock."

Were we on the same planet? I knew the case and disc were fine, and I certainly hadn't shrink-wrapped it. I was irritated -- more by his tone than his complaint -- and responded with the following e-mail:

"Dear Mr. Haycock,

I'm sorry you're dissatisfied with your purchase, but frankly, I don't know what you're talking about. The disc was from my private collection and played perfectly, which even you admit. It was NOT shrink-wrapped. There was bubble wrap used to protect it, but it was not shrink-wrapped. The case was fine when I packed it. The disc was unscratched and played without a skip. I stand by my statement, it was "like new."

 I have consistently gotten top ratings for my service and products. You apparently received your disc within three-four business days, as I sent it – at no extra charge to you – "expedited" i.e. first class. As you are so dissatisfied, however, I am refunding you your $5.

What a silly brouhaha. In the future, I suggest you avoid what is obviously a stressful experience for you and buy only new products. And, thank you for the unsolicited advice about being honest. I've never had a problem with it. 

Best wishes, 
Tom Soter

Perhaps I shouldn't have added the sarcastic remarks,  because they seemed to set him off in his next e-mail:

"You really are a prize #### merchant. The fellow in the video store held it up to the light and said 'Someone been playing frisbee with it? I'll polish it up for you.'  Old Chinese proverb, "When caught with trousers round ankles, best to fess up" You obviously subscribe to the 'Try and #### your way out of it' school.  Like new, my arse. Alan Haycock."

I shot off a quick reply: "You really are nuts. Get a life." He sent me one more nasty e-mail where he compared me to a Ponzi schemer, with vitriol everywhere, and I thought to myself. For five dollars? He gets so lunatic over five bucks. And even if what he says were true, the CD couldn't have been that bad or else why would he keep it? But who knows what goes on in the mind of a crazy man?

For five dollars. Sometimes you've got to know when to let go.

February 16, 2013