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Amazon listing, part 2

Yesterday, I made an annoyed post about an amazon.com seller who was listing Cast in Silence for sale. Used. When, until I'm finished AAs, it doesn't even exist in galleys for ARCs yet. I was very irritated.

The proprietor of the on-line store responded in comments, and in the interests of fairness, as everyone had a chance to read my snit (granted, it is my journal, but still), I am pulling his comment out of the thread and putting it here in full, no changes, so that people who read my comment can also read his explanation.


There is no FRAUD going on here - there was a database error during a database merge that caused a few ISBN's in my multi-million book inventory to get corrupted. When that file was loaded into an Amazon server, it listed some books for sale that I do not have. A built-in safety measure increased the price of these items (items for which my inventory management system cannot verify the existence of in any of our warehouses). The prices were raised up high enough to prevent anyone from ever considering buying the items, then when a live person (not an automated inventory management system) verifies the error in the inventory, that suspect item will be removed from our master database.

There has been many accusations about these books that were accidentally offered for sale, some pretty wild accusations I might add, and I am disturbed that no one ever thought that TSCBOOKS (me) may have simply made a mistake.

I am not a cheat or a con artist, as this post has stated, I am an honest business man trying to run a large book company. If I was attempting to defraud anyone by selling them books that I do not have, would it not make more sense for me to offer these books for sale at a price that someone might actually pay? No one would pay $1000 for one of these books, especially one that obviously is not available for sale yet. This is the very reason why the price is set so high when a potential system error is detected -So No One Will Buy That Item.

You should reconsider how you look at the world - the most obvious reason for all of this commotion is "A Mistake". Most of the posts here are taking the assumption that bad intention were the reason for these books being offered for sale. Not a single person offered the idea that someone or something at TSCBOOKS "might have made a mistake". Why do you think it had to be something bad that TSCBOOKS did? Is that more exciting to you? I apologize if this was a simply, boring, unintentional computer error, but that is exactly what happened.

Please forgive me for having a computer error. Please note that our database safety systems instantly prevented anyone from buying these books (at least anyone that would not spend $1000 for a book that is probably worth less than $5O). Not a single person has attempted to buy any of the books in question yet, and I am fairly sure that no one will ever try to do so. If anyone would attempt to buy an item that I determine I dont really have, their order would be cancelled immideatly, their payment would immideatly be refunded and the sale canceled since the item is unavailable.

Please let me know if there is any immediate action anyone would request I take in regards to any of these books in question - please post a response on this web site.

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this.


First: Let me say that I actually do believe that there are some ways in which a database can, in fact, come up with these errors.


The errors, because they occur for books which are not yet published, and for authors who have something of a following, are not singular. If it were just my book, or just rolanni's book, or in fact just any one of the other authors mentioned, I would not have been as annoyed or alarmed. But it's not a one-off. It follows a pattern. It doesn't follow enough of a pattern -- i.e. the listings occur for every single NYP title -- that it immediately looks like a careless error.

I am open to the possibility that it was, in fact, a careless error on your part. So read what I now say as if it was that.

If I am suspicious of on-line sales, it's because I actually have some experience as an on-line buyer. I am aware that, from time to time, ebay sellers get hacked and items appear that are, in fact, complete fraud. If you are offering -- for sale -- something that doesn't exist, at all, that's my initial reaction.

If you're making a living in on-line sales, and you are not aware that this type of error, which is not singular, not a one-off, will have a negative effect on your reputation -- often to people who will never blog about it or otherwise post, I'd say you are not doing your homework. At all.

If the most obvious explanation for all of this is "a mistake", and you are now aware of the nature of the mistake your database(s) contain, why are there still listings for NYP books by other authors up on amazon.com, for sale by TSCBOOKS, at 1,000.00? Because if it's a mistake and you don't care enough to fix it, that also says something about the way you run your business.

If you have a database that you can't search by price, you need a different database. I will assume that you can search by price. When you have claimed, clearly, that you know the errors will have an inflated price of 1,000.00, why don't you just, oh, search your database for all books priced at 1,000.00 and delete those corrupted entries before you post them in public? Or better yet, filter out all books at that price, so they're never actually uploaded to amazon at all?

And if you haven't done this, and it hasn't occurred to you to do it, after my own public post and the more private communications of other authors who you've also listed on amazon -- incorrectly -- you're just going to have to suck it up.

You can say whatever you want about the people who feel you are a conman or a fraud. The fact is, you know that some of your listings are wrong. You are aware that you have other listings on amazon--right now--that are also wrong. But you aren't doing anything to fix them unless someone else is doing the homework for you.

Look. You know you don't have the book(s). You are advertising on amazon that you do. You are doing this by mistake -- but you're not actually taking down listings which exist, in your database, and which are in error. Feeling injured in this case is a direct byproduct of your passivity, and the fact that -- at least at the moment -- you can't be bothered to do the work to look for and fix the errors that you know are there.

It's not actually my job to do your homework, or your database management for you, unless you want to hire me and pay me for it. I mentioned it on my blog because, in fact, I wanted my readers to know that what was offered does not exist; I didn't do it for your sake.

Because I'm willing to accept that you have a very, very lax database/listing automation system, I'm posting your reply here, to allow you to state your piece in as open a forum as I made my initial post.

-- Michelle Sagara


In reply to another author's post, you claimed that:

The problem was an erroneous ISBN uploaded into an inventory database - it just happened to be that the ISBN submitted did actually exist, it was the ISBN of this yet to be released book.

This, however, is problematic. Because it isn't just one book. And, I'm sure you're aware that ISBNs have checksums. It is not actually a matter of randomly entering 13 digits and coming up with the actual ISBN of an existing -- and not yet published -- novel; you have to be unlucky enough to come up with a 13 digit number that, when checksummed, works as an ISBN. You have managed to do this not once, not twice, not even three times -- but at least half a dozen. All of them for books that are not yet published. The half a dozen would be the ones I'm aware of, by the way. I have no doubt that there are others, but I am also busy enough that that half a dozen was enough for me.

Honestly? It's your business. If you want to look like an error-riddled merchant (in the kindest interpretation) or a merchant who tries to sell things that don't exist to the gullible (in the unkinder one), that's your business.

But if the reputation of an honest merchant were actually of value to you, you might consider going through your database by searching on the "ridiculous" price of 1,000.00, and deleting those entries. It would be a goodwill gesture, and one that doesn't seem -- to me -- to tax the limits of even the most simple of databases, or to require a lot of, you know, time, since there aren't any legitimate entries at that price.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 11th, 2009 09:07 pm (UTC)
Yeah, if they have a built-in safety measure that increases the price so it's flagged as problematic, why don't they have a built-in safety measure that checks for the flagged item? Sloppy at best. Hard to see how they'd expect to profit from it, though.
Apr. 12th, 2009 04:37 am (UTC)
That was exactly my thought when reading the vendor's comment!
Apr. 12th, 2009 12:11 am (UTC)
Not only is he both very touchy, and careless in his bookkeeping, but he misspelled immediately twice in a row. I found that highly amusing.

Apr. 12th, 2009 01:48 am (UTC)
I think it's a very careless error, and if it's happened before (like he claimed) he should have made some mods to DB and his business processes.

I don't think his claim that pricing items $1k/each makes it okay because that's a terrible business decision. All those entries should've been flagged for error, and someone (meaning humans) should have gone over them.

If he can't do it himself, he should hire someone who can.
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(Deleted comment)
Apr. 12th, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC)
I don't think 'Lady of Mercy' is entirely out of print; I ordered it from BenBella and got brand new copies of the last 3 books of the Sundered series. They were actually really awesome about it. You just can't get it on Amazon.
Apr. 12th, 2009 04:08 am (UTC)
As a database geek, yes it is triflingly simple to set the DB to not return data that does or doesn't fit X criteria. My experience totally supports your statements. Thanks for the heads-up, I will avoid doing business with this guy.
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:27 am (UTC)
There are multiple entries with this problem. But in fact, it may well just be one error: that the input included already-registered but as-yet-unpublished books. If the erroneous entries were only for some popular authors, or followed some other pattern that isn't automatic, then I'd suspect fraud. But if he's offering *all* registered but unpublished books for a given publisher (or set of publishers) at $1000, then it's entirely believable that it's an error--a single error that systematically affects all unpublished books. The ISBNs would all be valid because they were in his data. The entries would be wrong because the data wasn't expected to contain unpublished books.

That doesn't change the fact that the guy's an idiot for not filtering out errors in his data before it hits Amazon. Or that he ought to have fixed the underlying problem (lack of filtering) immediately after realizing it was there. But still. I'm more inclined to believe incompetence than malice given his explanation.
Apr. 12th, 2009 01:01 pm (UTC)
I'm a small time seller who lists books on Amazon. Many of these BIG TIME sellers have no choice but to use software to list and reprice all their books. Amazon does have a lot of listing bugs. But...

Amazon gives us a list of our inventory and the ability to easily remove books or any other media. I understand that he probably has a lot listed, but all he has to do is punch in a SKU or ISBN number and that book should come up. And with two clicks of the mouse he can remove your book and all the others.

If he can jack up the price on these *error* listings using his software, I'm pretty sure it allows him to remove books as well. Just my honest opinion...

Jan. 18th, 2012 01:46 pm (UTC)
it automatically jacks the prices on them. he doesnt do it manually he never even gets notification unless he personally looks at all the listings and details.
Apr. 12th, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC)
Does anyone else find his (or her) tone troubling? If he did, in fact, make a mistake, then one would imagine he would attempt to genuinely apologize for it. After all, it's HIS MISTAKE, and it has offended the writers of these NYP books he claims not to be selling (despite rather damning evidence to the contrary). His anger and flippant sarcasm seems completely out of place, and I would've had less difficulty believing him if he had extended a humble apology for his error. But perhaps I'm just being foolish, expecting civility out of someone who characterizes himself as an honest businessman.
Apr. 13th, 2009 06:44 pm (UTC)
I completely agree. I found his tone to be more troubling than the "mistake" that was made. Mistakes happen, and can be expected. But then the people that make them shouldn't get angry at the people who are mislead by them! His tone should at least have feigned contriteness, and an awareness of the problem does not excuse him of that. In fact, in increases his responsibility to his customers. I wouldn't want to do business with this seller now, not because this issue raises questions of his honesty, but because it displays his complete lack of customer service skills. I am not going to do business with someone who is clearly hostile to people who have find problems with his products. I'd be afraid of what kind of treatment I would get if I were the victims of another one of his, or any of his automated system's "mistakes".
Jan. 18th, 2012 01:43 pm (UTC)
This whole page is stupid. TSCBooks shouldn't have to justify the mistakes the database that runs their company made. Like he explained he did "fix" it enough so that no persons would consider buying them. Getting angry and posting harmful things to ruin the reputation is childish and they're an excellent ebay seller for thousands of customers daily. If you really go to AA then you should think of the steps and remember the problem lies in yourself not the world. Meeting makers make it. Hope you make it back so you can better yourself.
Feb. 21st, 2013 08:14 am (UTC)
Won't bother to contact them now!
I came to this post because they have a VHS video (published and Out of Print long ago) listed for $777. It's possible that it's rare at this point -- but it's NOT in demand (it's a documentary about kids adopted from China), or certainly not $777 worth. I was looking them up to offer a lower price, like $10 -- it's VHS for heaven's sake -- most people can't even play it anymore! But this blog convinced me I don't want to buy from him no matter what. The one star review saying he was a scammer and never had the book in the first place didn't help either ;-).

I think those who say he "doth protest too much" are right on target. Certainly it's too much for me.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )