Thursday, June 07, 2012

eBayer Beware: Plumcircle, LLC

As you know, I've been selling some stuff on the eBay. Thing is, I've also been buying some stuff, scratching that Marvel Comics itch I've had since seeing Avengers. And I've found some great deals, between eBay and Amazon and a few other places.

But one of the best sellers I've found on eBay for low prices has been a group called Plumcircle, LLC, who also have an Amazon Marketplace store (which, as it turns out, I'd ordered from before without realizing). The first thing I ordered through their eBay store was a copy of the second Waid/Wieringo Fantastic Four volume, listed as "Very Good" condition, which on eBay translates to:
A book that does not look new and has been read but is in excellent condition. No obvious damage to the cover, with the dust jacket (if applicable) included for hard covers. No missing or damaged pages, no creases or tears, and no underlining/highlighting of text or writing in the margins. May have very minimal identifying marks on the inside cover. Very minimal wear and tear. See the seller’s listing for full details and description of any imperfections.

This is what I got:

Needless to say, I wasn't super-pleased. So I contacted the seller, described the crumpling and creasing and tearing, and asked if I could work an exchange (since they had multiple copies for sale) or, failing that, get a return. I got a response the next business day that was very apologetic, and that they'd sent out a new copy that the customer service rep personally checked out to verify its condition. I received the book, was happy, and left glowing feedback.

And proceeded to order another four books from them, one through the Amazon Marketplace. The Amazon one, Incredible Hercules: The New Prince of Power arrived without any incident, and I look forward to reading it. Yesterday, I received two of them: The Thanos Imperative and Atlas: Return of the Three-Dimensional Man. Thanos Imperative had some creasing on the cover, but it was fairly minor and easily overlooked. Atlas, on the other hand...

It's a little hard to tell from the pictures, but the crease there on the front cover runs its entire length and is throughout the book, and the second creasing higher up split the spine. I don't expect perfection from stuff I buy online, I really don't, but I do expect "like new" to mean:
A book that looks new but has been read. Cover has no visible wear, and the dust jacket (if applicable) is included for hard covers. No missing or damaged pages, no creases or tears, and no underlining/highlighting of text or writing in the margins. May have very minimal identifying marks on the inside cover. Very minimal wear and tear. See the seller’s listing for full details and description of any imperfections.

So now I was in the uncomfortable position of looking like a colossally stupid scammer trying to get free comic books from an online merchant. So I sent this message:
Two of my orders from you guys arrived today; one was great but the Atlas book had some pretty severe crumpling/creasing along the corner and cover. I hate to say this, since I had the same situation with my first order, but I can provide pictures if you want support. Is there a chance of replacement, or should I start the return process?

Thanks! I hate to be a squeaky wheel, but obviously I wouldn't keep ordering from you if I weren't pretty satisfied.
And it was the truth. I think you can really judge a business by how they handle complaints and errors and so forth, and I was very pleasantly surprised with how easily my Fantastic Four problem had been handled.

And then this is what I got back:
We have issued a full refund.

You state you are satisfied, but it must be with just the price since you have stated your dissatisfaction with the condition of our books, 2 out of 4 purchases. I'm going to guess you are a collector & might be better off buying these books in a local store so not to have to worry about bumping & bruising causes by shipping.

Thanks you for your orders.
It's true that the prices were a major consideration. It's also true that for most of these orders, the shipping has been free, so I got what I paid for in that regard, I suppose. I'm not thrilled with passing the buck onto the Post Office, though it's certainly possible that this is damage from shipping. However, it's weird that damage from shipping would tear a cover (FF) or crease the center of a cover (Thanos) without damaging the thickish plastic bubble-wrap packaging. It's also weird that I've had problems with 2/6 orders (3, I suppose, if you count Thanos, and I guess there's still the opportunity for the Black Widow trade to be damaged) from this company, but no problem with any of the other merchants I've been ordering from in the last few weeks.

It's also weird that two items shipped from the same place in the same very short span of time that arrived on the same day (rubberbanded together, no less) would arrive in such disparate conditions. But I guess that's possibly what happens when you take no care whatsoever to make the packaging for a paperback book rigid or difficult to bend, up to and including not putting a "do not bend" stamp on the outside.

But I resented the implication that somehow I was at fault for deigning to think that an item described as "like new" should be, you know, "like new." So I admit it, I turned on the snark in my reply.
Five purchases, actually; I also ordered from your Amazon Marketplace store. The price was certainly a factor, but the shipping speed, the nice packaging, and speed/care with which my previous problem was dealt with, also left me fairly satisfied. I am something of a collector, but I have a hard time believing that only a collector would be unhappy when the item they've purchased "like new" arrives anything but. Thank you for the refund; once the last book arrives, I won't bother you with my business again.

Maybe I overreacted. Maybe they under-packaged. Either way, I doubt I'll be buying from them again.

So to those of you who buy graphic novels and trades on eBay or Amazon Marketplace, Plumcircle has excellent prices and free or very cheap shipping in most cases. They also have prompt customer service who will gladly issue you a full refund if you're unsatisfied. But if you care at all about condition, realize that you're rolling the dice.

So, anyone want a couple of damaged Marvel trades?


Unknown said...

Yup. Collector here. Plum Circle buys lots of dead stock and resells at excellent prices and they do offer cheap shipping. The problem is that they really don't take the time to properly ship. They could easily avoid these issues by packing all of these books between boards, box in box. Instead, they merely stuff in a little bubble wrap and crumpled paper which obviously fail to protect against crushed spines, bumbed corners, creasing etc.
It is a crap shoot. You buy from them taking a good chance you may have to return and most distressingly, they now charge YOU for the return shipping

Ken said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ken said...

They sent me a book that was in almost perfect condition. So I have no complaints in that at. But what was weird was they sent me the book in one of those bubble wrap packages but it had the bubble wrap part ripped out. So instead of bubble wrap surrounding the book it was the glue that keeps the bubble wrap attached to the package that was surrounding the book. It didn't damage the book, but it just as easily could have. I just got lucky. I found this very odd. But I think why they did that was maybe to lower the weight of the package so as to keep it from costing them an extra $ to ship it. That's just my guess