all i did was sell the guy a book

I've been selling my used books at Amazon Marketplace practically since that option has been available. I buy a lot of my books there too. Even with regular trips to Goodwill, bookselling is the only way to stem the incoming tide and keep the house from being totally overrun with words (my husband described me as "an invading library" when I moved in). It's not hard. As the email sale notifications come in, I print off a label and drop the book envelopes off at my office, send a little courtesy email letting the buyer know the book is on its way, all very warm and fuzzy.

Until today.

In response to a little courtesy email I received the following salvo:

"Interesting that you send your products via 4th class carriers while Amazon charges me 1st class rates.....I think that there will oneday be a class action lawsuit about this unethical practice."

This is, take note, the first time that I have ever been called unethical for selling a guy a book. Or is he calling amazon.com unethical? Hard to say. Being, however, a helpful individual who takes customer service seriously, I sent the following response:

I was rather intrigued by your message, and so I did some research. I could not find anywhere any indication that amazon.com was charging you first-class rates. Rather, you were charged, from what I can determine from the website, a flat rate of $3.49. As to this see explanation of rates.

I also think the website is pretty clear that "standard" shipping is slow.

That flat rate is intended to cover not only my postage but packaging and labor. Of that $3.49, in the case of your transaction amazon.com credited me with $2.26 of which $1.84 covered postage and the remainder covered packaging materials (although I think I used a recycled envelope), gasoline, and time spent packing the books, sending confirming emails, researching and responding to an email of complaint.

The difference between $3.49, which is what you are charged for "shipping and handling" and $2.26, which is what I receive as compensation for "shipping and handling," is amazon.com's cut (they also charge a nominal commission which in case of this transaction was probably less than a buck).

There is nothing secretive about the spread between amazon's charge and my reimbursement, nor do I view the fact that I spent $1.84 on actual postage as unethical. The total cost to you of your used book was $6.49. If you had purchased it from amazon.com new it would have been $9.00 not including shipping or sales tax, and if you had purchased it in person in [state] you would have paid $12.00 suggested retail plus $.99 sales tax in the [city] area.

In short, if there ever is a class action lawsuit on this subject, I doubt you would make an appropriate class representative because it is hard for me to see how you have been harmed by amazon.com's pricing practices, which are fully disclosed. You'll get your book. I actually sent it out the very day you ordered it, which is 48 hours sooner than I am required to. And you got a great deal on it.

I hope this has adequately addressed your concerns. If not, I suppose the best solution would be for you to boycott Amazon Marketplace in protest. I would urge you not to do so because the deals really are very good."

Writing well is the best revenge.

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