Textbook return after 2 months?
October 25, 2013 4:10 PM   Subscribe

Today, I received a refund request on my Amazon seller account for a textbook I sold two months ago on Amazon. Should I accept the request?

I am a college student (a senior undergrad at a public US university) and I sell my used textbooks on Amazon. Last summer, a new building opened on our campus and a few departments moved into the building. During the move, many professors left their unwanted textbooks they've accumulated over the years out in the hallways with signs that said, "Free - Please Take."

Being a poor college student on financial aid and barely squeaking by on work study income, I jumped on the chance to make free money! My partner and I brought a laptop to campus, looked up the textbook values on Amazon, and kept anything that sold for higher than $10. We left campus with a stack of books, including a few 2013 textbooks that were quite pricey. We listed them on Amazon, and about half of them have sold. (yay!) We shipped them out.

Today, I received a refund request on my Amazon seller account for an $80 textbook I sold two months ago on Amazon. This is what the buyer wrote in their refund request: "Hi there I didn't end up using this textbook for class. The professor changed his mind and we had to purchase another book. So I don't need this one anymore. What can I do with it? Can you take itback"

Personally, I do not believe it is fair to return a textbook two months after buying it, with one month of school left to go before finals/the end of the semester. We had sold this 2013 textbook for $80, and the book is now selling on Amazon for $22.
Also, today is my university's withdrawal deadline. This may be a coincidence, but I suspect that the buyer might have withdrew from their class, and is now trying to get their money back for a class for which they are not going to get credit. That is mere speculation on my part, though!

Logistically, do I have to accept their return request? What happens if I do not? It has been 2 months since the purchase, almost down to the minute: they bought the book on August 25, 2013 1:59:55 AM PDT, and requested a refund on October 25, 2013 1:54:18 AM PDT. If I do not accept this request, can I protect myself from a bad customer feedback rating from this person?

Ethically, should I accept the request, regardless of anything else?
posted by horizonseeker to Work & Money (22 answers total)
I'm not sure how it works on Amazon, but I'm a seller on eBay and there I pretty much go by what I said in my returns policy. My policy says that a buyer has a week to contact me to return an item after they take possession of it and then only if its faulty. They also pay any return postage. So hold the buyer to any returns policy you may have stipulated.

If you don't have a returns policy, I'd say that the agreed upon terms are that you don't accept returns.

Given the buyer has asked you explicitly "what can I do with it? Can you take it back?" I'd say the buyer knows they're basically asking you for a favour. So ultimately i guess it depends on how generous you want to be. Given two months have passed, and the timing is pretty suspect, I'd say no, don't let them return it, unless you have a returns policy or some other kind of pre-sale agreement that says otherwise.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:15 PM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ethically speaking, I would say not accepting the return is perfectly reasonable. The customer's reasons are in no way your responsibility. If they want to recoup their losses, it's up to them to do so by selling the item on.
posted by fearnothing at 4:19 PM on October 25, 2013 [12 favorites]

I mean, you are already on kind of shaky ethical ground, taking free textbooks and reselling them for a profit. Personally, I'd allow the return and chalk it up to karma.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:23 PM on October 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Refuse the refund request. It's been too long and there wasn't anything wrong with the book that you're responsible for.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:24 PM on October 25, 2013 [13 favorites]

Best answer: You are not a library.
posted by Houstonian at 4:25 PM on October 25, 2013 [26 favorites]

Nope. They can resell it themselves. If they hadn't bought it, another student probably would have. It's highly unlikely that the professor changed the book 2 months into the term. You sold them the correct book at an agreeable price and the transaction is complete.

How you got the books in the first place is not a factor at all. You saw an opportunity and were resourceful. You didn't steal the books or get them through fraud/misrepresentation. In fact, you likely saved them from a recycle bin.
posted by quince at 4:29 PM on October 25, 2013 [44 favorites]

Whatever the return policy was when you sold her the book is what you should do. As for what she should do with the book, she is welcome to try to sell it again herself. Ethically, you did not do anything wrong by selling these books.
posted by wondermouse at 4:29 PM on October 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

Amazon's policy is you must accept a return within 30 days of their recieving the item. After that, Amazon does not require you to accept the return. Keep in mind, though, that the buyer can still 1. Leave negative feedback, and 2. Attempt a charge-back on their credit card.

You can kindly refer them to the AZ policy and apologize and say no, or you can accept the return if you are concerned about feedback and the textbook has maintained its re-sale value. Check to see what it is going for currently.

Good luck, and don't be afraid of the threat of bad feedback make you accept it if you really don't want to.
posted by thebrokedown at 4:36 PM on October 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

Good stuff on recognizing an opportunity and actually succeeding!

You do not have to refund the money or whatever.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:49 PM on October 25, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Reply: "Hi, sorry to hear your situation. If you had contacted me within a week or so of receiving the textbook we may have worked something out, but at this late date I'm afraid there is nothing I can do for you. Take care - horizonseeker"

60+ days is kinda absurd to ask for a refund on a text book. For all you know the buyer has friend in the library that copied out the last 1/3 of the book.. or that the professor actually only used 2/3rds of the book or.. perhaps the buyers story is correct and they slacked off on following up on it for most of the semester and now needs beer money (or rent money), but I'd say at this point it is not your concern. Be polite, be concise and move on.
posted by edgeways at 4:49 PM on October 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: The professor changed his mind *two months* into classes? Hahahano. My guess is this is more one of those "dropped at the last minute because failing" kinds of things, because I am a cynic and believe nothing good about the world, evidently.

I mean, um, "I'm so sorry, I accept returns only within the first 30 days, in accordance with Amazon policies. But you can always list it for sale yourself, good luck!"
posted by Sequence at 4:56 PM on October 25, 2013 [8 favorites]

You sold the book in good faith; how you got it is immaterial. Her later change of mind (whether because her class is over or her professor changed his course) is also immaterial.

She got what she ordered and what she paid for. If you had committed fraud --- if you'd switched books, or she never received it in the first place --- she *might* be justified in asking for a refund, although waiting two months? That's a bit much; if the sale was flawed, she should have asked a lot sooner.

No, you do not owe her anything. Tell her she can always sell it herself, just like you did, but as far as you are concerned the book is hers.
posted by easily confused at 5:03 PM on October 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

The textbook was worth $80 when the semester started in the fall. The textbook is only worth $22 now because the semester is almost over. Would you try to return a gallon of milk to the grocery store after its expiration date had passed? Also, there is nothing "ethically shaky" about taking free stuff and reselling it. C'est la capitalism.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:10 PM on October 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I'm also a college kid who sells textbooks online (and has sold textbooks found in the free bin in dorms at the end of the year). Don't do the refund. I had someone write to me once, asking for a refund because the margins in the book I sold them were too small (????), and they disappeared when I told them I wouldn't do it. They didn't even leave feedback (most people don't leave feedback).

If you do receive negative feedback, you can always write a comment in response to the feedback. You can read more about it here on Amazon's site. As long as you stay professional in your response, you're good. A single one-off negative review wouldn't raise red flags for most people.
posted by topoisomerase at 6:01 PM on October 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Not your problem.

I wouldn't even bother responding.

Give em' the old dead textbook society treatment.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:24 PM on October 25, 2013

What? No! They are dropping the class, which has nothing to do with you. Next time you list a book for sale make your refund policy clear, so this isn't even a question.
posted by goo at 7:02 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am an Amazon seller. Unfortunately, from a practical standpoint it depends on how much feedback you have. I think most people aren't going to buy from a seller with only 80% positive feedback, so if you only have four seller ratings, you have to refund because you're guaranteed to get a negative. (They have 90 days to leave feedback.) Now, if you have lots of good feedback, I would tell the buyer to stuff it. I was lucky enough to have a Nexus 4 for sale when they were sold out, and had a buyer tell me they didn't want the item a few hours after I'd shipped it. By the time I got it back, the price had gone down by $100. Thems are the breaks. Amazon allows returns for pretty much any reason. (Which is part of the reason why people are so much more willing to buy there, so you're getting the benefit of that policy as well.) You might try negotiating, but it's probably not worth the risk when dealing with the kind of scum that will keep a textbook for most of a quarter and then return it at the last second.
posted by wnissen at 8:53 PM on October 25, 2013

I would say to not allow the return. Even though you got the books for free, presumably you put effort into taking the books, and paid real money to ship them out. So it's not like the money magically fell in your lap; you were quick to jump on a legitimate opportunity.

I also think it's extremely suspect that the buyer is trying to return the book. My university is on the quarter system, so each term is only 11 weeks long, including the final. If I get the book late or return it early (or request a return and then don't mail it for another week), then I've gotten my whole usage out of the book.

You should suggest your buyer sell the book on Amazon (or eBay or the local university bookstore), if you really want to be nice.
posted by ethidda at 10:27 PM on October 25, 2013

Another good reason not to accept the return is you don't know the condition of the book. It would suck if you accepted the return and the book turned out to be trashed.
posted by ryanrs at 5:49 AM on October 26, 2013

How much you paid for the book is irrelevant. Your decision to sell it and their decision to buy it had nothing to do with how you got your hands on the book.

Because many retail stores offer generous return policies to build loyalty, a lot of people are starting to consider not wanting something anymore as a good enough reason to return something.

I would not bother with trying to parse the legitimacy of their story. It doesn't matter. Just politely refer them to Amazon's return policy and suggest they do the same thing you did when YOU had an unneeded book: sell it for whatever you can get for it. Mention to them that you cannot be responsible for a professor's whims, and that they should contact the school to try and obtain remedy for the costs they incurred because the professor flaked out.

I doubt the college bookstore would refund the full price after two months even if the book was shrinkwrapped and never taken out of the bag.
posted by gjc at 6:04 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, hivemind! Hadn't thought about universities on the quarter system. Regardless, I'm glad you (mostly) agree that 2 months is too long to request a textbook return.

I used a combination of your responses: "Hi, sorry to hear your situation. If you had contacted me within a week or so of receiving the textbook we may have worked something out, but at this late date I'm afraid there is nothing I can do for you. I'm so sorry, I accept returns only within the first 30 days, in accordance with Amazon policies. But you can always list it for sale yourself, good luck!"

Her response was: "Thank you for the suggestion."

I closed her return request. I only have 6 ratings with a 100% feedback score; I hope she doesn't change her initial positive rating to a negative one. Hopefully, this is the end of the issue. Thank you all!
posted by horizonseeker at 8:51 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Horizonseeker, if you do get a negative rating, you can still politely respond to it. Don't let the weenies hold you hostage. Worst case scenario you can always start over on another site.
posted by mitschlag at 6:29 AM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

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