An Ordering Nightmare

Josie Leavitt - September 9, 2010

Last week a truly hilarious, vaguely disturbing order snafu happened, and I feel I must share the experience.
I needed 70 copies of Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Chains for a teacher order. There was some urgency for the order (and when are teacher orders not urgent?) and I thought I was being so smart by faxing my ordering to the publisher. Here’s something all buyers should know: make sure you’re sending the order to the right publisher. Why I didn’t think of sending this to Simon & Schuster is beyond me.
After the passage of several days, I called the publisher to inquire about my order and convey my urgency. It turns out that the “ISBN you ordered is not one of our titles.” Oh, insert expletive here, really, I said. What to do, what to do?
I was told by the publisher that they had another book called Chains that was $15.99 in paperback. I said no, that’s not the right book. I finally looked at my copy of Chains and realized I was speaking to the wrong publisher. I sheepishly hung up, thinking the matter was closed.
Imagine my surprise when three cartons of Chains arrived, from the wrong publisher. Three cartons of the wrong books can happen sometimes, but when three cartons of an adult S/M novel arrived with a photo on theĀ  cover of a clearly nude woman in a suggestive pose with a chain wound around her ankles, it was more than a little shocking. Won’t be giving this to any school.
My squeamish staffer had the misfortune of opening the cartons and was horrified anew each time. Our teenage male staffer kept circling the cartons, dying of curiosity, but to his credit, he never peeked.
The problem with a mis-ship like this is two-fold. Do I wait for the call tag (the return shipping label from the publisher)or do I accept free books from the publisher(often given instead of paying for shipping)? I opted for the books just to get the books out of the store faster.

11 thoughts on “An Ordering Nightmare

  1. Hannah M.

    A similar story: My husband ordered The Burning Tigris, a hefty book on the Armenian genocide, from our library. When he went to pick it up, he was handed Burning Tigress, a romance novel with a steamy cover. He was so embarrassed!

  2. Shiloh Walker

    Oh, man…yes, I’ll agree…hilarious, and disturbing.
    If it helps at all, it’s not really an S/M book-it’s erotic romantic suspense. The chains play into how a prior event kind kept a hold on the lives of the characters. One story does have light bondage elements.
    And it’s definitely not at all a book for kids… I’m so sorry, even though I am kind of laughing still.

  3. Mary Quattlebaum

    It’s an easy and often funny mistake to make! I was an author with two children’s books, including one titled “Winter Friends,” at a large off-site multiple-author event. One title was there in abundance; “Winter Friends” was completely absent. The booksellers had inadvertently left behind several boxes of books. One staff member raced back to pick up the remaining boxes and arrived, panting, to open “my” box with a flourish –and there were pristine, charmingly illustrated copies of “Winter Friends” … by another author/illustrator team. Whoops! Luckily, when folks stopped by to ask for my “Winter Friends,” I could show my other title.

  4. cbt

    I work for a publisher, and we get orders faxed to us for other publishers’ books all the time. PLEASE, booksellers: make sure you have the right publisher.

  5. Elizabeth Bluemle

    I used to do book fairs for the Vermont College of Fine Arts (who now have their own permanent bookstore, hooray!), and I tried to be meticulous about having all the backlist titles for the faculty, students, and visiting authors/artists available at the sale. When Sharon Darrow’s books came up on iPage, I noticed she had an odd one called BottleKatz: A Complete Care Guide for Orphan Kittens. I didn’t think to question its authorship, since, hey, kittens aren’t such a stretch from children’s literature (although Sharon’s books aren’t exactly kitten fare). You’ve already guessed it: I was pretty embarrassed when Sharon burst out laughing at her table, wondering why I had this one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others paperback sitting among her titles.

  6. Kerri McPhail

    I love your column and read it eagerly when it arrives, so thank you.
    I had the misfortune of having the carton rounding feature kick in last year during a Patricia Polacco tour. I received so many (hardcover) books that they had to be sent on a freight truck! Everything ended up well, but until they were picked up, I did not sleep very well.

  7. Theresa M. Moore

    I sympathize greatly, but then I never order anything in bulk like you did. Generally my solution to keeping track of several publishers at once is to maintain a spreadsheet for each publisher source, and then there would be no confusion when ordering. It is often true that the authors are responsible for any ordering snafus. The shipment should be sent back as soon as possible as “refused” and the right publisher to be contacted, even if it represents a delay in your books arriving for your students. Just using the title and author’s name is often not enough, and in future you might back up your order with a picture of the cover just in case.


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