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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hall of Shame Sellers

I have been considering something for a long, long time. I have
very little time to devote to my blog, yet I don't wish to abandon
it completely. I do not want to inform newbies how to become a
bookseller, either. I do mentor a few privately who desire to become
better bookseller, though. They know me either personally or by
reputation from personal business dealings. I am by no means perfect.
I have made mistakes, more in the past than present, but occasionally
I do err. I am only human! But - what I take from my mistakes is a
lesson in how to provide better customer service, especially if someone
contacts me with a problem.

I have been buying and selling online for many, many years. (Husband
and I buy a
lot of books and items for our respective collections.) I
know what I like and what I don't. To be blunt, I have dealt with many
wonderful, wonderful buyers and sellers and some complete morons
(99% are sellers.) who are totally devoid of common or business sense
and occasionally even ethics! In this vein, a small group of trusted,
respectable booksellers, with whom I am friendly, and I trade
information. We share information on the gems, but possibly more
importantly we spell out who are the losers to avoid at all cost and

As such, I have decided to share this information to better assist the
public.Of course, all names have been changed to protect the guilty.
The beacons of excellence will be known via their business names,
unless requested otherwise.

Here is the most recent example of egregious seller behaviour in
response to an email. We bought a book misdescribed as "Mint."
Yeah, yeah, I know, that is a dead giveaway in itself, but my
husband really wanted the book. Once it arrived, he was
extremely angry and was going to immediately leave a neg on
eBay for the seller. (Yeah, yeah, I know eBay... ugh!) The book
stunk to high heaven of mold, to which I am extremely allergic.
Of course, it had to be taken immediately out of the house by DH
to be properly treated before either I went to the ER or the book
caused problems in our house. (Which is why DH was so very

I told DH maybe the person selling it couldn't smell the mold.
(I don't know how!) and that I would write the seller to explain
the situation. He told me to add in that the book was
misdescribed, also. OK, not everyone selling books is a
professional bookseller, especially on eBay, so I added in a
reference to for help in describing and grading books.
I tried to be nice while explaining our problem with the
purchase plus a little useful info. As the saying goes, "No
good deed goes unpunished."

Immediately following is the reply. Below that is
my original contact with the seller. I did not edit either except
to remove user name.

Dear fraubucher

Hi there, I my self buy and sell antiques, on line, i find them at
yard sails and grage sales,they come from basements , and
attics, were they are sold, not every one takes a book from there
book shelf and sells we have a book from the collection of
the man who wrote it ,and had the greatest bottle collection of all
time, and was signed by him, and you complain about your
condition. i think if you are dealing with antiques of any kind you
might want to find a different hobby, old things smell just like that
OLD... no matter were they come from, be it a barn or an out
house, sory the price was not cheap enough for you , and better
luck next time, if you can find a better copy put your nose in it and
dont wast my time..... "
Ignorant and Illiterate 06/29/2008 11:02 PM

My email dated
June 25, 2008 8:55 AM:

Dear ...,

Hi, The book has an strong odor of mustiness, mildew to it. You
may or not have noticed it, but if you did, you really need to add
that to the item's description. I am extremely allergic to molds
which cause me severe asthma attacks. That fact heavily effects
my decision to buy something. Had I known in advance the book
was mildewed and musty, I would have had the option to open it
outdoors using necessary precaution measures and then
properly treat it before inspecting the book. A book that smells
musty has live mold in it, even if not visible, and will infect an
entire collection. Also, a very helpful reference site is
for their book description standards. It's a great aid if you expect
you may frequently sell books. In my experience books and
bottles are commonly found together in collections. Just to let
you know. Thanks,"

Nota bene: I have dug bottles and bought books 200 to 500+
years old. There is a big difference between smelling "old"
and smelling moldy and musty!

Have any suggestions for the Hall of Shame? Let me know.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tasha Tudor, 1915-2008

My heart aches for the Tudor Family. I am one of many, many people who appreciate and love Tasha's art. The world of children's books is a little less sweet. The following is from an email I received today:

"Dear Friend,

It is with great sadness that we must tell you Tasha Tudor, 92, passed away in her Vermont home on June 18, 2008 surrounded by family and friends. We have created an online memorial website and invite all who loved Tasha to share their feelings and memories in the Memory Book section.

The office of Tasha Tudor and Family is closed for the time being and will reopen on June 30th.

Due to the extensive travel plans of our national and international guests, the Secret Garden Tours of Tasha Tudor and Family will proceed as scheduled. They will, however, be led by our capable staff, instead of the family.

We thank you for supporting Tasha Tudor's lifestyle and artwork during her long career. We hope that Tasha's message of 'taking joy' in all that one does will be remembered as we pass through this difficult time together.

-The Tudor Family

The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet, within our reach, is joy. Take Joy.
Fra Giovanni "

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Books For Soldiers in Trouble

Several years back I helped manage a large, monthly, FOL, library book sale. One of the activities I instituted was shipping books to a program called Books For Soldiers. Our branch mailed a lot of really good books to the forces overseas.

Due to health reasons, three or so years ago I quit my volunteering. The wear and tear on my body was too great and since I was tired of doing way too much heavy, physical work myself, I left with no regrets. But... I often wondered if the Books for Soldiers program continued since the woman who actually boxed and shipped the books also left the FOL group after I did. Happily, I learned this year that the mailings continued.

So, it was with some dismay that I learned yesterday via email that the Books for Soldiers program is in dire financial difficulties. I don't think they'll mind my pasting the information in my blog. If even a couple people read this and donate, that is a few more dollars.

Books For Soldiers
2008 Fundraising Update Newsletter April 2008

It Is A Bad Economy

Starting at the first of this year, BFS started a robust fundraising campaign here in North Carolina. We contacted small companies and some large companies you probably have heard of. To date, we have received a stack of letters that begin with "we deeply regret not being able to donate this year" and no cash. From our corporate donation campaign we have received a tad under thirty dollars from a philanthropy grants group in Winston Salem, NC. That was it, nothing else.

Times are tough for all non-profit groups, food banks from all around North Carolina and across the nation are suffering from a lack of donations and a sharp increase of those in need. The article below arrived in my email today about a women's shelter closing because of a lack of donations.

The Next Step

The BFS Board of Directors have discussed this problem for some time and have decided to have another go at fundraising. We are working on a different campaign aimed at companies in larger states - California for example. Every time we want to do fundraising in a state (cold call, direct mail, advertising) we need to file with that state's Secretary of State - filing in all states if prohibitively expensive so we have to pick and choose.

In our last newsletter, we reported on the hacker attacks that coincided with our 5th Anniversary. Those DNS attacks didn't help our balance sheet. Our final IT bill from the datacenter for that week was a tad over $11,000. If you recall, the hackers brought down the whole datacenter just to try to kill us.

The Board set a goal of $70,000 to raise by November 1st of this year. If that amount is not raised, the site will close on December 31st, 2008.

If we cannot make the fundraising target, the Board will seek to sell the site to another 501(c)(3) and any new owner will need to be qualified - have the IT talent to run the site, the funding to keep it going and the funding for the required upgrades, both software and hardware. We would also stop accepting new OVs on November 1st and stop accepting new books requests from soldiers on December 1st, 2008.

What Does It Take?*

It takes a lot to run BFS on a monthly basis. The monthly funds required to run an operation like BFS are large. Here is a partial summary of where the donations go.

All figures are a monthly average for 2007.

Books, DVDs, other carepackage items $1153
Postage $812
Rent $1600
Utilities $277
IT Services (server farm, hosting, bandwidth) $4258
IT Maintenance Contract $1500
IT Security Software License Fees $350

There are other things like broken computers, the occasional software purchase, insurance, pencils, toilet paper for the bathroom, etc. that we purchase.

No one at BFS receives a salary.

The BFS presence on MySpace, Flickr, YouTube are all free. Our presence in Second Life has also been donated.

We will be disabling the uploading of photos in the next few weeks to save bandwidth. Please post your photos to the Flickr BFS Group and include the Flickr link to the photo in your forum post. If you want keep your photos on BFS, place them on Flickr and post the code in your post. Instructions can be found here.

My hopes is that eventually we can raise more than the $70k survival goal. Last year our goal for 2008 was to move to a website design where the cumbersome OV process was performed online and searching and finding soldiers would be a breeze - subscribing to soldier requests is my favorite new BFS feature. Now we are just struggling to stay open.

How You Can Help

The ONLY reason we are open today is because of the OVs that have donated so far this year, but now I need to ask more of everyone.

1) Office party fundraiser - Coordinate a "Save BFS Day" at work and urge, beg, cajole your co-workers into coughing up something for BFS.

2) Have your company cough up some cash. We will send your company a formal donation request, just send us the company name, contact name and address and we will get it out right away. Send these requests to me personally (

3) Have your place of worship pass the plate (hat, kippah, whatever) for BFS. Consult with your church's leader about holding a "Save BFS Offering" one day this month. Checks should be made out to "Books For Soldiers." If they have any questions or concerns, please contact me directly to set up a call.

4) Visit our donation page and give what you can.

or by check

Books For Soldiers
2008 Fund Drive
353 Jonestown Rd #123
Winston Salem, NC 27104

In Closing

I started BFS five years ago and fully expected it to be online for only six weeks, that is the length of time I thought it would take for our troops to finish up in Baghdad and come back home. I am also terrible at predicting who is going to win the next NASCAR race.

If worse come to worse, it has been a good run - a great run in fact. In the first 6 months of operation, we collectively shipped over 400 tons of packages to the Middle East, that is when I stopped counting. We also built the largest English library in the Middle East - together with US soldiers at the Baghdad International Airport in the months following the fall of Baghdad.

We have done a lot of tremendous work, made a lot of great friends and even a wedding or two! We have also lost a lot of friends and we have received way too many memorial flags. Either way, you can all be proud of what we have achieved.

I promise that we will do everything in our power to meet our fundraising goals and will appreciate any help from you.

Thank-you for your support, patience and hard work over the last 5 years.

And most of all thank-you for your support of our troops.

Storm Williams
Books For Soldiers

*Legalese: BFS is exempt from filing IRS Form 990. Any financial information found here should not be considered as a replacement for IRS Form 990 or a supplement to an IRS Form 990.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Happy May Day

Gerard_Van_Spaendonck_Bouquet As a little girl, my younger brother and I would walk to the surrounding forests and collect wildflowers on the first morn of May. Lilies of the valley, trilliums, phlox, assorted sweet violets, wild roses, Virginia bluebells, spring beauties, Dutchman's-breeches and trout-lilies were lovingly and carefully collected from Nature's bounty for our Mother and Grandmother. Always mindful to not strip or over pick an area or grouping, we'd walk for hours breathing in deeply the scent of mouldering oak and maple leaves as the ground warmed through the forest's canopy. We traversed the same ground the Native Americans walked many years before. We innately appreciated the wild world due to our constant exposure to it. We blissfully coursed the woods, meadows and swamps without fear of human caused danger.

Once back home, we'd arrange our wildflower bouquets and place the flowers on our front porch. Then the show began. We'd knock on the door and run away to the side of the house to hide. My Mother put on a good production of acting surprised upon seeing the breathtaking token of love on the porch. She'd shower us with hugs and kisses after we jumped out into the open. My Mother then drove us to her Mother's house and the scene would be re-enacted for her benefit. Such was our May Day tradition. Sadly, wikipedia states the tradition of anonymously leaving May baskets has faded since the 20th century.

We also left smaller bouquets on doorsteps of friendly neighbors or the elderly. I miss those times. I miss the forests. I really miss the forest's spring wildflowers.

My May Day gift basket to you is a free poetry book entitled May Day with the Muses by Robert Bloomfield, which can be downloaded at Project Gutenburg, a wonderful source of literature in the public domain.

To introduce yourself or your children to May Day, here are some books you may find if shopping locally at your neighborhood independent bookseller. These also can be found on the net from a worldwide indie by searching by author and/or title at Bookfinder or ADDALL.

The Romantics and the May Day Tradition
by Joshua, Essaka
Beltane by Raven Grimassi
On The Morn Of Mayfest by Erica Silverman
Little Grey Rabbit's May Day by Alison Uttley
The Rainbow Tulip by Pat Mora
And, a beautiful music selection:
Beltane: Songs for the Green Time (CD) by Jaiya

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Busy Weekend for Book Signings in San Diego

NINE, yes, 9 authors will be Signing, etc. from Friday to Saturday on the very first weekend of May at San Diego county bookstores.

A nature writing workshop is being held 5 p.m. Saturday at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park in Ocean Beach. The workshop is sponsored by San Diego Writers, Ink. Registration is $25-$30. For information, call: (619) 284-1343.

Sunset Cliffs is a great place to see the sunset over the Pacific if the sky is clear. I prefer to view sunsets from the Laguna Summit or Tecate Divide.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

USPS - New Prices Coming May 12, 2008

j0379439 "Pricing has always been important to the Postal Service. Now, with greater pricing flexibility than ever, our customers have more choices, and we can price quickly in response to customer needs and the marketplace." - Pricing and Classification Vice President Stephen Kearney

The second half of last year's proposed postal rate changes takes place on May 12, 2008. The most commonly used classes are included in the rate changes. A few discounts will also be put into place, but these will not impact the average postal customer.

j0434883For those of us shipping packages:
Express Mail becomes zone-based with a 3 percent price cut when purchasing online or via corporate accounts. Meet USPS' quarterly minimums, will save shippers even more.

Priority Mail offers an average 3.5% savings if using electronic postage or meeting other USPS requirements.

Parcel Select features pricing and volume incentives for large- and medium-size shippers.

Parcel Return Service becomes weight based with savings for lighter packages.

j0288926Mr and Mrs John Doe's mailings will also be affected with changes. The USPS website is proud to state: "The average increase by class of mail is at or below the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index."

The changes are as follows:
First-Class Mail letter (1 oz.) = $0.42
First-Class Mail letter (2 oz.) = $0.59j0413666
Postcard = $0.27
First-Class Mail large envelope (2 oz.) = $1.00
Certified Mail =$2.70
First-Class Mail International changes depend on destination