Ever wondered how Book Depository (BD) makes money despite offering cheap books, and free postage from the UK to anywhere in the world? They have a cheat sheet.
I received an email from BD yesterday that I normally ignore. (I have bought books from BD before, but like most customers I did not scrutinise their bills. We do expect honesty from our merchants, don’t we?) This latest April offer was fantastic. I went berserk. Who can ignore discounts of over 50% on such excellent titles?
I picked some books from that list and more from their regular lists. 32 titles. Only when I received their order confirmation, I noticed that some discounts and savings didn’t match. I checked the list and sent them a complaint. Their excuse (after several emails exchanges): “... website may not have been updated”. All 32 titles? Every one I picked? Borges, Calvino, Fitzgerald, Saramago, Vonnegut ...?
This is how it seems to work: inflate prices by 100% (to give the impression that it’s a better quality book with a higher list price), offer discounts of 50% to show massive savings, to catch your fish. You’d think BD would be above all this, no? No.
Example: George Orwell’s 1984. Advertised list price, RM77.94; Discount, 67%; Savings, RM44.55. (You’re thinking ‘wow, large format’?) When the bill came: list price was RM44.99; discount, 33%; savings, RM14.94. (A mass market, A-format, small paperback at that.)
This, on all 32 titles. (I have the full list with screenshots, if you’re interested.) Bait and switch, or false advertising? Is this legal? For B&W stores in Malaysia, it is. What do digital laws say? How about international e-commerce laws?
BD refunded my money for all titles except one (which, they say, I can return at my own cost). Does that make it alright? How about the other millions of unsuspecting shoppers? (Years ago, when The Good Book Guide sent me a wrong title, they apologised and replaced it, and told me to keep the wrong book with their compliments.) BTW, look at the BD logo.
(Please pass this on to anyone who buys stuff online and friends in the media, as a public service message.)