Returns That Left Me Speechless

I've meant to post this for the longest time. Just got busy I guess. Or, maybe I simply didn't know how to put these experiences into words. Here are a couple of book returns that stand out in my memory. Why post these? Maybe to share my experience with you; I've learned that you can never be prepared for everything. Sometimes you just need to go with the flow when running your home-based book business.

I remember one return a couple years ago, from a prison. The book I had shipped a few weeks earlier arrived in my mail. But needless to say, I was alarmed to be getting a package from a correctional facility. I opened it up and took out a book I'd recently shipped to that state, and a letter was included. I don't have the letter anymore. But it stated that the individual who had ordered it was not allowed books in his cell.


I researched the order, and I still couldn't determine that I'd shipped this book to a prison. It seemed like a perfectly ordinary mailing address to me.

I was puzzled: how do inmates order books? Or did someone order this book for them?

I refunded the order. But never heard a peep from any customer.

I don't remember what reason I gave Amazon for the refund because it didn't fit neatly in any of the usual reasons.

But that book went back into inventory and was sold not long afterwards. I wish I could remember the topic. I hope it wasn't on lock picking or building weapons (I did pick up a collection of 'Build your own silencer' books at one time; I disposed of them after this incident, just to stay on the safe side of the law).

In another book return incident that happened about 2 years ago, I shipped a carefully-wrapped college textbook by USPS Media Mail. Within a weeks or so the person who ordered the book sent me a return request, noting they needed a refund because they no longer needed the book (always brings a grumble out of me early in the morning!). I replied that I'd refund once they sent the book back via USPS Media Mail, as this is the cheapest way to ship books.

Well, nobody was listening.

Or else they wanted their refund back pronto.

I received this book back in a flimsy shoebox via Priority Mail. Here is what it looked like:

Surprisingly, even though the packaging looked like it had been in a train wreck, the book inside arrived in fairly decent condition in spite of the fact that it had not been wrapped to prevent scuffing or mangling. There was no protective covering. There was no bubble wrap or packing pillows to protect the book. It was simply tossed in the shoebox with the return authorization and dropped off at their local Post Office.

Yes, the refund went out. But the amount of the refund they received was actually less than the $9.00 they paid for Priority Shipping, so they would have been money ahead to simply keep the book, maybe give it to a fellow student. The cost for Media Mail through the US Postal Service is less than half that.

I braced myself for a blistering response from the customer. I fully expected to have to fight negative feedback.

But none ever came.

I guess they never realized that they'd overpaid for the book by choosing the wrong shipping method. Perhaps they were in a hurry to get to class. Maybe it was Mom & Dad's credit card that was paying for the shipping so they didn't care. Whatever the case, it made me change the way I respond to requests for refunds. I made it clear that the buyer needed to ensure they chose Media Mail for returns or they were liable for the higher costs themselves.

I've never had a similar problem since then.

So two refunds stories. A part of life of your business. People got in a hurry and ordered the wrong book. Or they changed their mind. Or their jailer intercepted their order before they got it. Whatever the reason: Don't stress out if a customer asks for a refund. From my experience they are few and far between, and it is better to refund and move on than to get in a spat with your customer.

I heard this state years ago, and I stuck with me ever since: "The customer isn't always right.... but the customer is always King."