Down the Rabbit Hole

Elizabeth Bluemle - September 19, 2012

Flying Pig bookseller Darrilyn is not easily daunted, but a phone call this week tested her mettle. Last week, we received a mis-shipment of three boxes. We hadn’t ordered these books. They are heavy volumes, so while there were only 12 books in all, they arrived just four to a carton.
We called the publisher and explained that we had received these three mystery boxes, and would like to return them. The publisher offered to send call tags (for those of you not in the field, these are pre-paid mailing labels).
So far, so good.
The problem started when we then received one call tag, for one box. Our UPS man, savvily noticing that we only had a single call tag, picked up one box and headed on his merry way. Darrilyn headed to the phone to let the publisher know we needed two more call tags–and that’s where a simple shipping error turned into a Kafka-esque dramedy that took 15 to 20 minutes of staff time.
It took a good 12 minutes for Darrilyn to get across to the customer service rep (in a service center somewhere far, far away) what had happened. Every time she thought the situation was clear, the very polite but misunderstanding woman on the other end of the phone would ask for a piece of information that revealed we were still on different pages. For instance, she REALLY wanted our purchase order number. We would like to have given her that information, but since we hadn’t actually ordered the books, there was no PO number to provide. She also kept putting Darrilyn on hold and coming back with permission to return the books, which was kind, but since we hadn’t ordered them in the first place, unnecessary.
The fact that there were three boxes for only 12 books was particularly stymie-ing to the customer service rep, no matter how many times Darrilyn explained that they, the publisher whose rep we were speaking with, shipped that title four to a carton because they weighed so much. The confusion was compounded by the fact that we now only had eight books in two cartons to return, since one had gone back with the single call tag. This turned into a circular conversation that would have been hilarious if a line hadn’t started forming at the register. Patient customers were waiting for Darrilyn — who had expected a two-minute phone call — to be able to come back and sell books.
At the end of the call, after four on-hold sessions, Darrilyn was told that the rep we were speaking with was not able to do anything about the problem; we would need to talk to the person who had issued the single call tag. We were given this person’s first name and an assurance that we would be hearing from her. Let’s just say we aren’t quite holding our collective breath, and fully expect another round of “Who’s on First?” tomorrow.
All this by way of giving readers another glimpse into the glamorous world of bookselling. Frankly, we encounter enough little snafus in the day that we ARE responsible for without spending this much time on mistakes that aren’t ours.

4 thoughts on “Down the Rabbit Hole

  1. Carol Chittenden

    Wait! There’s sure to be one more chapter: you will be invoiced for the books you didn’t order, and put on credit hold because you haven’t paid for the books you didn’t order. It will cost you at least another half hour to sort that out.
    The good news: your wages are so low it will barely show in your ledger.

  2. Terry Caszatt

    This story is driving me crazy, too. I’m wondering what 12 volumes are in the boxes that took Darrilyn 12 minutes to try and return? Wow, the number 12. Elizabeth, I’m thinking someone is trying hard to give you a great gift and that’s why it’s so hard to return it. I think there might be 12 fantastically rare volumes in the boxes – say a book by each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, or maybe the 12 Disciples. Or how about 12 books worth a fortune because of their covers alone – books like The Pretty Polly: A Voyage of Incident, or The Flying Beetle, The Dream Pedlar, etc. Okay, just a thought. It might simply be Disney’s 12 Rare Books: Mickey and the Beanstalk, Roquefort the Mouse Detective and so on. Wait. Another thought. Maybe it’s a clue to the old Dewey Decimal System. Ah… what is 012? Biographies? I can’t remember. No, bibliographies of individuals! It’s all coming clear…

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle Post author

      You’ve given me a lot to Google, there, Terry. Sadly, though, it was 12 copies of a single book, the name of which I can’t divulge because then I’d be outing the publisher. But I like your thinking! Much more fun than the reality.


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