Many (Un)Happy Returns

Posted by on March 21, 2012 in life in klaskyville, self-publishing | Comments Off on Many (Un)Happy Returns

As a customer, I prefer to shop at stores that permit me to return damaged or faulty goods easily.  I don’t return a lot of items; I’m not one of those people who buys four dresses, with an eye toward keeping one.  I don’t bring home a half dozen table lamps, to settle on one.

In the past month, though, I’ve made two returns to Amazon.  The first item was an instant hot water dispenser for my kitchen.  The item I had purchased was a top-of-the-line unit, intended to upgrade and replace the deceased unit that had originally been installed.  Alas, the new unit was a fraction of an inch too wide in the diameter of the tube that passed through my granite countertop.  Filing the granite did not work.  Re-drilling the granite was a huge challenge; I could not find a contractor who would attempt the work, due to potential liability if they cracked my entire countertop.  And so, I reluctantly returned the new dispenser and bought a replacement model identical to the original.

(I felt hugely guilty about this return, although Amazon processed it without any challenge or problem.  Still, the manufacturer should note when it changes its diameter of tubing – or at least that’s what I’ve tried to convince myself.)

I completed another return today.  I had ordered vacuum cleaner bags through Amazon, because the ones I need (Model 50557, “Q” bags) are impossible to find anywhere in my area, with the exception of one hard-to-reach-and-park-at Sears.  Alas, the bags that I ordered were described as 50557 “Q”; however, they turned out to be 50558 “C” bags.  And that one little digit was enough to guarantee they would not work in my vacuum cleaner.  Therefore, another return is logged onto my record.

(I do not feel the least bit guilty about this return.  Amazon vendors should create product descriptions that accurately reflect their products.)

As an author who sells numerous books through Amazon, I have a love/hate relationship with their return policy.  I believe that book buyers, like Instahot- and vacuum cleaner bag buyers, should be able to return faulty merchandise.  Nevertheless, I resent the 1%, or so, of returns that I receive each month.  I especially resent the returns on my Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft and How Not to Make a Wish books — each of those is only priced at $0.99, so why bother with a return?!?

Perhaps my perspective is tainted by my personal experience (well, duh, of course it is!), but I strongly suspect that most of the book returns are people who bought the title, read it in a week or less, and returned it.  In other words, they’re from readers who use Amazon like a lending library.  And while Amazon tells us booksellers that such users’ accounts will be closed, we all know how easy it is to set up a new account.


It’s 1% of my sales.  Fewer than twenty a month.  I shouldn’t let it bug me.

But, man, sometimes it really does.

Mindy, off to buy “Q” bags from the hard-to-reach-and-park-at Sears…