Struggling with amazon

by Chris Bertram on September 19, 2003

I’ve spent rather more time than I’d like over the past couple of weeks wrangling with Amazon over their stocking of my book. For some reason they’d listed it as “hard to obtain” and therefore subject to a £1.99 surcharge. When I questioned this, I received an email from their customer service people in India saying “yes, we’ve looked at the website and that is the case.” When I pointed out that I too could look at the website but that it was what was said there that was the problem, they replied “yes, we’ve looked at the website and that is the case.” [DO … LOOP] . Anyway, I’m pleased to be able to say, that the surcharge is now gone.



dsquared 09.19.03 at 12:08 pm

The cheeky little bastards appear to have slapped this one on any and all academic titles!


Bob 09.19.03 at 12:31 pm

Your book is shown as “Available for immediate dispatch” on the Blackwell website. Perhaps you should link to them instead of Amazon.


William Burns 09.19.03 at 1:12 pm

Amazon is full of endless wackiness. They’ve had my reference book on the scientific revolution listed as Ages 4-8 for months.


bandiera 09.19.03 at 1:50 pm

So the world’s biggest bookstore just got a bit smaller. I’ve started to notice this surcharge myself on some of the items in my wishlist (and they say it will take 2-3 weeks). It seems like they must be reducing the material they will hold in stock, so more manhandling is involved in getting the less common titles. Then, rather than just up-front charging something like retail price for it, they hide this surcharge out there. I suppose, too, that the surcharge is subject to VAT, unlike the price of a book? Not sure. But if you’re going to have to wait 2-3 weeks for a book to come via Amazon, you might as well order it from the local bookseller, put some trade on the high street and pay not more than the retail price. In this regard, I can’t say enough about the service provided by the London Review Bookshop.


Tripp 09.19.03 at 4:51 pm

Focusing on the (lack of) customer service, I had a similar experience with a Disney PC game. It wouldn’t work on my rather new PC. The website said ‘We know about this problem and our software engineers are working on it.”

I sent email to customer service stating “I saw on your website (cut and paste the verbage). Has there been any progress? Is a fix available?”

The response was simply the same cut and paste from the website. No acknowledgement that I had read the website, or that I had asked a question.


Keith M Ellis 09.20.03 at 1:28 am

Back when I wasn’t broke, I spent *a lot* of money at Amazon on books, dvds, some electronic items. Hmm, I suppose the total is at least several thousand dollars. The UPS man came here every few days. In all those transactions, I had problems very rarely, and when I called the customer service, they were responsive and helpful. I have severe arthritis as a result of a genetic disorder, and it’s difficulty for me to shop at regular stores. So, you know, I think Amazon’s pretty great. I don’t usually publicly praise them, but I thought I’d make an exception in this case. (Also, the comment about the csr being Indian was irrelevant, one can easily find that level of incompetency domestically.)


Chris 09.20.03 at 9:36 am

Keith, I’ve generally found to be better than in these respects.

I understand, btw, that the reason for the appearance of these surcharges is that (a) they are holding smaller stocks and (b) publishers can avoid this automatically appearing on new items for the first few weeks only by joining some special Amazon Advantage scheme.


John Kozak 09.20.03 at 7:47 pm

Amazon the advantage of being prepared to ignore standard bookshop/publisher protocol. I asked after Braudel’s “Civilization and Capitalism” in Heffers, and was told that they didn’t have it in stock, and couldn’t order the UC edition while a UK publisher in some sense “had” the title, even if they didn’t actually bother to print any. They were decent enough to mention Amazon.

Having said that, I’m currently having major grief on an academic title from Amazon.


Zizka 09.20.03 at 9:25 pm

Almost any book, new or used, can be found via . is a sort of co-op of independent booksellers and they are especially good on used books, including rare books. also has your book. B&N has it cheapest, with free shipping of you spend $25 total (i.e. another book).

Bookfinder covers the whole English-speaking world and part of the non. I’ve got many books from India and Australia.

Bookfinder refers you to Amazon, B&N, Powells, ABE, along with everyone else carying a book.

Amazon is never the first place to look. When selling a book, of course, you want to make sure it’s listed there (and w/o surcharge).


Kerim Friedman 09.21.03 at 1:52 am

I tried ordering a book from (France) for my brother who lives there. (US) told me that all my account information would work fine on that site. However, they could not process the very same credit card that I used the same week to buy something from My bank didn’t register any rejection, so they must have done something wrong. However, when I tried to call their attention to the fact that they weren’t processing the credit card correctly I was stuck in the same kind of LOOP: they kept telling me that they would re-enter my information and try again, and that I should call my bank. It was IMPOSSIBLE to get them to admit their system was broken. simply referred me to, saying it was not their responsibility (although the information is actually from their database). It was really frustrating because the book is not available in the US. (Have you noticed how doesn’t stock much in the way of foreign language books?) So I finally ordered from I recommend anyone looking for academic books in the US use 11

Anarch 09.21.03 at 4:14 am

It’s — no period/full stop — and I too highly recommend both abebooks and addall for technical books. I was looking for a copy of Isaac’s Algebra a few years ago; the cheapest I could find it in the US was around $100, but a link through addall hooked me up with a place in the UK where I could get it for around 40 quid.


AKMA 09.21.03 at 9:54 pm

I can’t get Amazon to stock one of my books — even though its companion volume is easily avilable from their site. I’ve given up even trying, at this point. Buy it from Barnes and Noble, or wherever. Amazon just seems convinced that Volume One doesn’t exist, while they gladly list Volume Two. Go figure. . . .

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