The Current eBay Scam

On 4-15-2018 I received the following email:

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This was for a Guest order placed on 4-05-2018.

I don’t run a virus known as Windows, but, being the only member of the family to ever go to college for computers, I get drafted by family members who “just bought what was pre-packaged and on-sale.” Of course DELL doesn’t ship installation media with their pre-packaged shit and when you order it, years later from customer service, you get whatever the last bundle was, not what was actually on the pre-packaged bundle-o-shit you bought.

Naturally, when I re-installed my Aunt’s computer from the “just like the day you bought it” installation media DELL sold her (because even if you only use it for Solitaire, Windows becomes corrupted) it didn’t have all of the bundled software she originally had.

This lead me to making a Guest purchase on eBay because I won’t allow eBay to sell my personal information and Amazon is a malignant tumor which will one day end the human race.

eBay is desperate to invade your privacy. They want to sell your information just like Google and Facebook. At least they do until they watch both Google and Facebook go down later this year. Our Congress and media outlets can be easily purchased, just look at what the Clinton’s have done with their criminal enterprise, the E.U., not so much. They are the only ones to make any significant effort to reign in the criminal enterprises of Microsoft and Google. That whole Janet Reno thing was a crime against the human race.

You may notice that the “Leave feedback” link looks like it has been clicked. Well, it has. Ten days to ship an order is completely inexcusable. Guess what? The only thing you can do as a Guest is make a purchase. You cannot leave feedback, contact a seller, or return an item. Unless you let eBay completely invade your privacy, you are an unperson.

Amazon Pricing Scams

I don’t know if Amazon is directly behind this or it is some other puddle of scum. Just wanted to give a heads up to my customers. One thing is for certain, Amazon is definitely complicit in this, not weeding out the scum.

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Pricing scam

Please note the north of $1500 price for my logic book. I also don’t know how someone branded it “collectible” since it is still available new from the publisher (me). Guess you gotta say something to pull off a $2400 scam.

I suspect a large piece of this fraud has to do with Amazon Prime where customers get one free one every so often and they “try to make it pay” by selecting the highest priced item listed.

Unless these scammers are selling used/review copies as new, I also don’t know where they are getting their inventory. I don’t fill any Amazon orders. The original ISBN is for the original printing done with real ink on a real printing press is different from the IngramSpark POD version.

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Original Logic book

As you can see, the original book has a $15 list price. It is still available from Barnes & Noble as well as other reputable retailers.

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Alternate Sellers on Barnes & Noble

These vendors advertising “new” are most likely selling the POD version. I’ve never shipped new inventory to them and they seemed to pop up once I put a version of this book on IngramSpark POD service to get it into Books-a-Million. It will be a toner printed version instead of ink.

The “like new” seller will most likely be selling you a review copy someone unloaded. It should be an ink print and have the original ISBN.

Just passing along a heads up about yet another Amazon pricing scam.

If you want to be certain you got an original ink print you have two reliable choices.

  1. Purchase directly from Barnes & Noble (not alternate). I supply the BN warehouse directly. Sometimes they second source via Alibris if rush shipping is requested.
  2. Visit Alibris and purchase directly from Logikal Solutions. This method ensures you got legitimate inventory which really is first run new.

The Indie Book Store Solution

This is part of a discussion I started on Linked-in. Since it is important I thought I would post a version of it here for those who don’t belong to that group or Linked-in.

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Lots of places have tried various methods of solving the Indie book store survivability problem. Most Indie book stores actually list inventory on-line with Alibris or Abe or somewhere else. I have read some claims that a large percentage of their business, especially for very old and vintage books, has come via these channels. All of these sites seem to be lacking the last little bit.

“Consignment” is a filthy-nasty word for most. When dealing with Indie book stores it is fraught with peril. Some authors who have tried it claim no two have the same terms, etc. What sparked my memory of this was some “service” emailing me years ago which was offering to let me “rent” shelf space at their stable of Indie book stores. I don’t remember if the number of stores or the genre(s)/markets they cater to were ever discussed. I just remember that it sounded like yet another way to turn authors upside down, emptying out their pockets.

I’m not the only one who thought it sounded like quickly separate an author from his/her money. I went searching for the “service” with multiple search engines and came up dry. I did stumble across the article I posted in the initial discussion and was intrigued by the street cred of the original author. I joined in to some of the discussion there and the real solution formed in my mind.

James Patterson’s feud with Amazon is the stuff of legend now. A good number of authors, myself included, will do no business what-so-ever with Amazon. What big name authors going indie and unknown indie authors do not currently have is a reliable method of getting “splash space.” The next logical step is for some site which not only allows Indie book stores to list all of their inventory for sale, but allows them to uniformly rent “just inside the door upright cover facing table space” to vendors/authors where they don’t have to compete with Amazon.

I have heard many times that table space you first view when walking into a Barnes & Noble (and probably other chains around the globe) is all rented space. The major publishers pay to have a book positioned there for some length of time. Perhaps they also do it for Indie book stores, but I have to doubt they really pursue the indies.

The site needs to be the clearing house for payments both ways and enforce a uniform consignment code.

  1. All consignment space is on one or two tables directly in front of the door so customer has to see when entering.
  2. Each book stack is topped with an upright front cover facing door copy.
  3. Standard wholesaling margins apply.
  4. Each store is allowed to specify genre and content restrictions so a children’s book store doesn’t get porn sent to it, etc.

On the author/publisher side:

  1. Each title must be from an actual print run, not POD.
  2. Author does no business with Amazon
  3. Each title has been can be verified to have been edited by professional editors, not self-edited or “friends & family” edited.

Yes, I have listened to the moans and complaints and “rationale” from self-editors and POD users, and quite honestly, it doesn’t apply. The Indie store allowing you to rent such coveted space (vs. a shelf in the back room the public doesn’t visit) is putting their reputation on the line. They need a professional product not a Wal-mart quality thing. They also need the table to be full of products which people cannot browse in-store for a while then buy on Amazon for less.

There is quite a bit of chatter in the industry about survival of Indie book stores given high costs of store rent and utilities combined with “everyone trying to sell everything on Amazon.” This type of site solves both problems. Not only do the book stores get a cash flow to cover the cost of keeping the doors open, they get unique content which will not be sold on Amazon for at least 12 months (with the stipulation scammers hawking review copies as new will always be there.)

Authors should not expect to break even or turn profit on the rental of such prime space, but it will get them more exposure than they can get otherwise. During off-peak season the price should be somewhere between $300-$600 (depending on amount of foot traffic store has). Yes, November, December, May and June would have “prime” rates because Christmas and pool season are prime times.

Before this discussion devolves into yet another conversation about the low quality of POD, just stop. Even if there were some magic pixie dust which could make a POD book of the same quality as a Web run or a sheet fed run, the one thing you cannot get around is the COST. The per-unit cost of POD is astronomical (leave the multi-colored textbook argument in the closet.) A service such as this won’t give the Indie bookstores anything which is both unique AND appealing if your paperback novel _has_ to have a list price of $24 so the store can have a 40% discount and you can still earn a few cents per copy.

The Indie book store still needs to compete on price, but now it is price within a genre not price on a title. If they can retail titles in the same price range as the ones from the major publishers, but ones which simply are not available on Amazon, they have something. If every book on that table is twice the price of every competing title on Amazon, all you have done is help pay their rent. You have not helped build their business and you won’t be selling any copies. You may not realize it, but you aren’t going to sell any copies.

I certainly don’t want to create such a site. I’m too far into my IT career to take on something like that. Hopefully Abe will see the light. Perhaps that person working on the other thing will take it up? Maybe some young IT student reading this from their college dorm will pursue the venture funding. Perhaps someone will put this notion forward at Apple since physical books not sold on Amazon do not compete with any line of Apple’s business?

McDonalds Problem is Not the Menu

There has been a lot of chatter about the financial situation at McDonalds (MCD) lately.  All kind of chatter about revamping the menu, loss of market share, allowing more local store independence, etc.  All of it is wrong.  All of it is focused on the typical MBA thought process of “How can we change nothing and start making money again?”  This process never works.  It is based on the luck of some temporary downturn which will magically fix itself so the MBA can take credit.

Here is the truth, warts and all.  A large section of the American, and dare I say world, population has become “socially aware.”  This “do unto others and make a buck” philosophy based on the even more fraudulent philosophy called “Rational Self Interest” has poisoned the well.  The victims have decided ethics really do matter.  Some companies have caught on, such as Starbucks (SBUX).  While nay sayers dump on the botched announcement calling their program a “scholarship” and hinting they were financially contributing.  So what?  I hate coffee and don’t like Starbucks, but, they did something amazing.  They cut a deal so that any one of their employees from the lowest paid on up could get a 4 (four) year degree and graduate with roughly $2,000 in student loan debt.  I had more than that my first tri-mester in college back in the 80s.  Hats off.  Big applause.  Ethics matter.

In the case of McDonalds, they are viewed as evil, much like Wal-mart (WMT), Amazon.com (AMNZ) and even Google (GOOG).  Oh, Wal-mart should be no surprise.  There has been a documentary about them for years.    Given the news reports about conditions in warehouses for Amazon.com I can’t believe it will be long before there is a documentary about senior citizens keeling over in the heat.  There has already been news stories.

2015 is shaping up to be the year the mighty Google falls from grace.  The skeletons started falling out of the closet a while back with a tale about a Google exec, a prostitute, and heroin.  The much hoopla-ed glasses have fizzled.   Let’s not forget the Supreme Court’s ruling against Aereo saying you cannot take copyrighted material which is available for “free” in one form and “change its form as a service to the public” without express permission of the copyright holder.  This means that long drawn out copyright infringement case of biblical proportions where Google scanned books from a library and made them available on-line to sell advertising around them without permission from the copyright holder is really going to bite them now.  The documentary covering Google’s ills will have to be turned into a miniseries if it intends to cover everything.  Ethics matter.  Perhaps Google executives can use DuckDuckGo to search and find out what ethics are?

Of course, we cannot forget all of the stories in the news about major corporations creating business units without a country of origin to avoid taxes or the more widely circulated “double Irish” stories.  These stories are going to get more traction from international markets in 2015.  I expect the Republican party will attempt to re-introduce massive tax loopholes for their corporate owners in 2015, but the rest of the world is hot on the trail so the major corporations will find no shelters in 2015.  Ethics matter.  Maybe you can buy a candidate which has them?  Oh wait, if they sold their soul to a corporation that means they no longer have any . . .

This all brings us back to McDonalds.  Few things are more Norman Rockwell type Americana than the small town burger joint of the 1950s.  It was a local business which gave a few kids jobs and provided a safe place for kids and families to hang out.  The owners were pillars of the community.  Despite what the dieticians say, it was wholesome and good in the minds of those who eat animal products.  Today McDonalds is a multi-national corporation.  In the minds of an ethics conscious culture it is a corporation built on the backs of McJobs which pay McWages.  I believe McDonalds even got some note in “Food, Inc.

What happened to McDonalds has nothing to do with the menu or a healthier eating America.  Other burger joints have increasing sales.  People like to eat what they like to eat.  That will not change.  If we all ate healthy we would never know happiness, at least that is what we believe, especially since we are never happy when forced to eat healthy.  What happened to McDonalds is that a large section of consumers now believe the company has perverted Norman Rockwell Americana.  To them, that is unforgivable.

“Rational Self Interest” is not a legitimate philosophy, business or otherwise.  In general it is a philosophy followed by prison inmates, at least followed before they ended up in prison.

Despite what the press claims, for the people unemployed or holding down McJobs, there is no recovery.  The economy is still tanked and their outlook is not improving.  The upper 1% is getting richer, but the other 99% are getting poorer.  America is all about the come from nothing and build a success story.  In the minds of the general public McDonalds has gotten associated with “take those who come from nothing and keep them there.”  This “living wage” issue isn’t going away and won’t in a globally tanked economy.  It can’t.  The global economy cannot actually turn around until people earn a living wage.  No matter what Wall Street or the Republican party tells you, this is the simple truth.  The middle class on down are the ones who actually pay the taxes which get the country out of debt.  They cannot be taxed on income they don’t have.  Just about everyone in the world, except a handful of leaders in the Republican party, has figured this out.

Short term the only “fix” for McDonalds is a totally free four (4) year degree from a real college.  Not just 100% on-line, but physical classroom time too.  Americans understand “paying your dues.”  An awful lot of Americans join the military just to go to college.  If McDonalds becomes the puts 100% of its McJob employees through college for free, it can be loved again.

Know this.  Some fast food chain will do it.  Paying $12 for a drive through meal is tough to justify.  Paying $12 for a drive through meal which helps put kids through college, perhaps even your kids, is not.

Watching the Sun Set on Amazon.com

There are financial blogs which pay people to make pretty pretty graphs without providing any real information, and then there are blog posts which have actual information.  You can either have pretty pretty graphs with no information or you have to read.

Years ago I said Amazon.com was entering its final stages and now others are finally agreeing with me.  Take a good look at Sears.  You remember Sears don’t you.  The company which invented the mail order catalog business or at least was the first to take it to a massive scale.  A company which continued to bring in pathetic excuses for management whizing their money away on things like The Sears Tower and Prodigy.  You know, the company which then went bankrupt at the catalog portion of their business while others thrived with mail order.

Sears is today where Amazon.com will be in less than five years.  Yes, it took Sears decades to devolve into a ghostly image of what it once was, but Amazon’s demise will happen at Internet speed.  It has not choice, it is only Internet.  Finally other analysts are starting to say the same thing.

That article does lack a bit of IT knowledge, but it has the major points correct.  It’s not that brick & mortar retailers finally got their software correct, though.  It has a lot more to do with the fact physical retailers can purchase complete and customizable eCommerce software packages from tiny companies like IBM and Oracle.  Then they just have to turn on those feature consumers want such as “free ship to store” so they can do the one thing Amazon.com can’t do on a bet.  Get the add-on sales due to impulse/convenience purchasing consumers do while at the store to pick up their order.  Oh come on, you’ve all done it.  You go into one place to pick something up then remember you need/want something else which this store happens to carry, OR you are at the counter with your item and see the check-out counter display.

Contrary to popular belief, Amazon.com isn’t Barnes & Noble’s problem.  Lack of foot traffic is Barnes & Noble’s problem.  Web wise bn.com has a pretty good presence.  The real problem is the lack of foot traffic in the stores.  Culturally, not that many people “spend the day at a book store” anymore.  I have said this many times and will say it again.  Barnes & Noble needs to get into the DVD by mail rental business allowing in-store exchanges just like Block Buster did.  Block Buster could not make it work for many reasons, the two biggest were management and one-trick-pony.  Barnes & Noble doesn’t need that portion of the business to be directly profitable.  It just needs to sell the people other things when they come into the store to exchange a movie on a rainy weekend.  After a couple of months/years, it will become habit for the customers to “think of going to Barnes & Noble.”  That thought doesn’t happen much any more.

I’m old enough to remember when AOL and Prodigy were busy mailing more floppies in a given year that their were people on the planet.  Heck floppy sales plummeted at the consumer level because people kept finding ways of removing the protection and formatting those floppy disks.  Not everyone who got the disks own a computer so they would bring them in for their co-workers.  Sigh, then AOL started sending CDs out and the magnetic media recycling frenzy ended.

How many of you know that at one point in time you could actually buy a house via the Sears catalog.  I remember hearing those stories as a kid.  You could actually order a house and every thing to assemble it (sans the tools) would show up at the shipping address.  Yes, some assembly was required and yes, they came with assembly instructions.  If memory serves me correctly it wasn’t just a pile of boards and singles but was a bit less than the trailer/modular homes you see today.  It was some level of prefab in between.

I don’t tell you the “order a house” story to prove just how close I am to the great check-out counter of life, but to educate you whipersnappers about just how large and pervasive Sears was at the time.  _Everybody_ knew Sears.  Most bought at least some things there.  Only people with computers and/or dumb phones know about Amazon.com or at least purchase from there.  Yes Virginia, there is still a large segment of American consumers who have neither a computer at home nor a dumb phone.  Some cannot afford them, but, most of that segment simply don’t want them.  As much as I hate Wal-mart I have to admit, even they have figured this out.  How do I know that?  Take a really good look at all of the ads they run for basic cell phones with big buttons and no texting/Internet capability.  That segment of consumers watches television but does not shop on-line nor do they stream movies.

One final note about Barnes & Noble here.  In order to get that most cherished of market segments to do the DVD rental by mail with in-store exchanges, they need to have terminals either in the rental area or in the coffee area where customers can browse the main movie selection and update their list.  Come on, you will sell them coffee and something to munch on while they are doing it.  They might even see someone reading a book and purchase one on their way out.

No people, Amazon.com has hit the rocking chair of their existence.  Unlike Sears, they won’t have lengthy “golden years.”  Not that many people have “golden years” which are golden.  We tend to look back at life in our 20s-30s as that time.