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Not Every Used Book Sale Goes Smoothly

We are continuing our experiment in selling surplus books via the Amazon.com Marketplace, an idea we got from reading an article by Fred Bernstein that appeared in the New York Times on April 11. Today, we experienced the most unusual situation yet. Apparently, a book that we had shipped to a buyer in Quebec had cleared Canadian customs in Montreal, and was subsequently stolen out of the Canada Post Corporation mail stream.

Read on for more details....

The email we sent to Amazon.com seller services is self explanatory:

This is regarding an Amazon Marketplace transaction where I was the seller and the buyer had a shipping address of Sainte-Adele, Quebec, Canada.

Today, I received from the U.S. Postal Service a shipping envelope that had been ripped open with a letter from the United States Postal Service International Claims and Inquiries Office in New York dated May 16 that reads:

Please inform your customer of the contents of the attached communication from the foreign postal administration, and advise him/her that the United States Postal Service makes no provision for the payment of indemnity for the loss, rifling, damage, or delay of ordinary mail.

The attached letter from Canada Post in North Sidney, NS, dated May 2 says:

Dear Customer: The enclosed item of mail was found without contents in our processing stream.

It is always a matter of concern to Canada Post Corporation when mail entrusted to our care is found without contents in our processing plants.

Be assured that we are constantly striving to improve our processing methods to offer better service to our customers.

For further enquiries contact your local Customer Service.

Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience this incident we have caused you {sic}.


I must conclude that the contents of my shipment was lost or stolen while en route to my customer in care of Canada Post. Apparently, I have no recourse because I did not ship the contents with insurance.

I would be glad to provide facsimile copies of these letters to Amazon and/or the buyer.

Would you please tell me what my responsibilities are under the terms of an Amazon Marketplace transaction in this case?

Dave Aiello

Chatham Township Data Corporation

Amazon.com essentially told us to either ship another copy of the book to the buyer or credit the buyer for the loss. We decided to ship another copy of the book. This cost us less than you would expect, because we had a second copy of the book in the first place. (Remember, we are normally selling the second copy of books that we no longer need.)

This is the first time in the history of our company that we have ever had a shipment completely lost in transit. It's hard to believe that Canada Customs would have cleared the package if it was empty. So, we must conclude that Canada Post either damaged the package in transit, or had its contents stolen.

We point this out because a lot of people selling surplus goods on-line mistakenly assume that their liability for delivery of goods ends with the act of shipping. But, one way or the other, the customer really needs to receive the goods.

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CTDATA Venutures (CTDATA) develops Internet and Intranet applications for corporations and non profit organizations. Our services include:

  • Consulting services for Movable Type and TypePad-based publishing systems (visit our Weblog Improvement website for more information),
  • Financial services business process consulting,
  • Content management system and knowledge management system consulting,
  • Apache web server engineering and hosting,
  • MySQL, Sybase, and Microsoft SQL Server architecture and development,
  • SOAP, REST, and XML-RPC system architecture and programming, including Amazon Web Services and
  • Weblog publishing.
For more information, contact Dave Aiello by email at dave [at] daveaiello.com or call him at +1-267-352-4420.
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