swindled in the marketplace
Thursday, January 26 2006
The other day I remembered that I'd never received a book I'd bought late in 2004 in the "Amazon Marketplace," which has become the Ebay of non-auction online retail. The book was entitled What's the Matter With Kansas and I bought it from what turned out to be a fly by night outfit called Secca Media. The incredible volume of shitty ratings (many of which begin with the two words "Never received") is testament to the value of checking such things before interacting with people you don't know online.
Just to see if there was a period before which Secca Media turned into Sucka Media, I went back in time through the Amazon Marketplace ratings to see where the ratings went from good to bad. There were hundreds of ratings, and my hunt took awhile. But I found the date where the dramatic change happened: October 25th, 2004. This would imply that Secca's unreliability probably started about two or three weeks before that. Back in September 2004 the ratings appeared to be of the high quality one normally sees of retailers in these marketplaces, though there were ominous indications in the occasional rating, such as the 3 out of 5 points given by a rater who, on 9-14-04, wrote, "In the past I have received books in as few as two day, this order took over a week." There was also a bad patch of ratings in early August of 2004. Amusingly, back in July of 2004 the eventually-to-be-disgraced Secca responded to a then-rare bad review this way, "Bonnie: The item was shipped to a prison-like address. Your delay is within the prison system. This is very common. Book was shipped as agreed!"
In early July of 2004 it seems most of the errors were logistical, not negligence or apathy-based. On July 4th, for example, a rater gave a 3 out of 5 and wrote "I was sent the wrong book. At least it was received promptly."
So who is Secca Media, and how could they have flamed out so spectacularly? On this page we learn that Secca Media is also known as "marionbooks zShop" and "Marion Books Online." The feedback link on the Amazon site takes me to a hotmail address, firstname.lastname@example.org. I know that attempting to contact this person is hopeless, but perhaps they have sprung up online in some other form recognizable from this collection of information. A future google search may lead back to this page and provide the crack that this case so desperately needs.
Not wanting to be out $17.74 despite the passage of more than a year since I should have gone ballistic, I checked to see what the Amazon policy was in terms of guarantees for the legitimacy of the transactions in their marketplace. It turns out that you have to notice and complain within 90 days of your purchase for them to give you any satisfaction (or bother to respond to your inquiries). So then I called Chase, my credit card company, to see if they could fix my problem. But their cutoff is 180 days. Somewhere out there, Secca Media is smoking GPC cigarettes and drinking cheap whiskey, both bought with money stolen from me.
The development of my ultimate web-based SQL front end continues apace, hobbled only slightly by bugs in an underlying txtSQL backend, one I'd replace with MySQL on any serious project. The air tenperatures were down to 30 degrees during the daytime, which in a normal January would be balmy but in this one feels like an arctic blast.
I spent the bulk of my afternoon in the Meineke on Ulster Avenue, waiting to have the Fuel Saver Special done to the "new" '97 Honda Civic. Knowing how these places work, I didn't tell the guys working there that I'd bought the car on Ebay until after they'd given it the once over. As usual, they found expensive things they wanted to do to it: replace the back tires, replace all the brakes ($500!), and replace the inner front tie rod. I nodded my head and feigned concern, but I wasn't really feeling it. You fundamentally can't trust these guys; they can say anything they want to and their job is to sell manhours and bits of shiny new metal. As a measure of this phenomenon, some weeks ago Gretchen had taken the car to another shop for an inspection and they never said boo about the brakes or the tie rod, though they did notice the balding nature of the rear tires.
The dreariness of an automotive waiting room is something I've written about many times before, so I won't bore you with anything but the standout events. Early in the wait I walked to the nearby Salvation Army to look at the trouser options (I'm a normal-shaped guy, but there were none that fit me) and then to the next stop in any Ulster Avenue homeless crawl, the Town of Ulster's public library next door. There I could sit in a heated room and read the New York Times op-ed page, which I refuse to pay for online. Unfortunately, the best it had to offer was the name-droppy wanna-be sultry-hipness of Maureen Dowd.
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