Robot 6

Amazon no longer selling many graphic novels following price-glitch frenzy

amazon-logoAmazon.com has removed the “buy” button from all of the graphic novels it lists that are distributed by Diamond Book Distributors, including books from Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, IDW and many other publishers. Calvin Reid at Publishers Weekly reports this is apparently in response to last weekend’s pricing glitch, in which a variety of high-end books were erroneously marked at much lower prices. While the books are not available directly from Amazon, they can still be purchased on the website from third-party sellers.

Reid reports:

A source knowledgeable about the situation told PW that Amazon has been forced to temporarily take down buy buttons for all titles supplied by Diamond in order to correct the problem. According to the source, Amazon has to do an audit to figure out which customers got books and at what prices. While the situation is temporary, the source said, “there is no timetable for when this will be completed.” The buttons were still off Thursday morning.

Here’s a quick recap for anyone who was under a rock — or who, like me, missed all the excitement because they were sick in bed this weekend. On Sunday, Amazon was offering big discounts on all sorts of high-priced comics collections — everything from Marvel’s Omnibus line to the Bone: One Volume to The Complete Invincible Library Vol. 1 hardcover. Most of them dropped from their usual prices — those Omnibus editions retail for about $100 — to $14.99, with some falling to a little more than $8 as the day went on.

Fans and retailers went on a buying spree, and social-media sites like Twitter and Facebook were ablaze as creators pushed their own books and fans bragged about their purchases. But while some of the orders were filled and shipped, many of them were canceled, with customers receiving $25 credits for their trouble.

While many customers seem okay with the fact that they aren’t going to receive the 100 copies of the Ultimate Spider-Man hardcovers they ordered, some feel like Amazon should still honor the price. If you’re one of those, David Brothers has some words for you:

Amazon doesn’t owe you a single solitary thing. They’d be well within their rights to cancel every order and not lose a few thousand bucks. There’s even a note in their TOS that sometimes, on occasion, books are mispriced, and sucks to be you if they charge you the full price. Until the book ships, they do not charge your card, meaning that there is no sale. That means they owe you nothing until the book leaves their warehouse.

So to call them up and ask for a refund for time wasted ordering obviously mistakenly marked down books makes you something like a jerk. They don’t owe you anything. If anything, you owe them whatever the actual price of the book you ordered was. It’s a blessing that they honored any of the orders, considering it was such an obvious cheat that we were all taking advantage of. I got a few Ultimate Spidey HCs and I’m pretty happy about that. I didn’t get a Tomb of Dracula, but so what? I don’t expect Wal-mart to let me buy eighteen computers that got marked down to 50 bucks because somebody dropped a decimal point, and they’re under no obligation to let me do that.

As does Tucker Stone:

Thousands take advantage of an Amazon pricing screw-up, a large scale mislabeling of products, and a beautiful sea of crime results, one that is initially bragged about at a volume usually reserved for when they sing the National Anthem at a baseball game. It’s gorgeous from the bird’s eye, a fantastic rainbow explosion, with children and professionals running to their computers and grabbing everything they could ever want, laughing hysterically as they pant out their credit card numbers before turning to the social network of their choice to proclaim what rampant criminality has wrought forth.

But when they get called on it, what do they say?

“I’m going to file a class action lawsuit” – some random infant, repeated exponentially

That’s the kind of response that would make George Washington weep. A class action lawsuit? Really? That’s the legacy you want written across your face, attached forever to your name?

Johanna also offers commentary here and here.

And others are pointing to the buying frenzy that followed the glitch as evidence that comics are too expensive. On Bleeding Cool, Rich Johnston said, “But if there is a lesson here, it’s this. Comics are too expensive, You make them cheaper, much cheaper, and people will buy them. Buy lots of them. Buy them more than anything on Amazon.” David Uzumeri responds to Rich on ComicsAlliance, while retailer Chris Butcher offers some succinct comments as well.

And finally, a similar glitch apparently hit Barnes & Noble yesterday, although it appears that the titles that were affected have all sold out now.

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Comments

16 Comments

“But if there is a lesson here, it’s this. Comics are too expensive, You make them cheaper, much cheaper, and people will buy them. Buy lots of them. Buy them more than anything on Amazon.”
Yeah, then turn around and sell them for more than cover price on ebay. What’s your point?

If there is a lesson here, it’s this. The comics web (blogosphere, whatever we’re calling it today), like modern 24/7 media in general, needs something to get in a snit about. You give them an incident, and they’ll make a crisis out of it. Draw “lessons” from it. Generate threats of lawsuits, histrionic arguing about “rights,” and sooner or later, accusations of Nazism.

In other words, nothing new to see here, folks. :-)

Feeding frenzy, that’s all.

Just because 3-4 people talk about class action lawsuits, please don’t paint the whole comic book readership as spoiled little children.

I think more people were upset about Amazon’s whipsaw response to the situation, specifically sending out numberous form e-mails with contradictory information and the deleting of orders without any e-mail notices. The latter seemed almost an invasion of privacy because Amazon’s blanket response also included some legitimate pre-orders for graphic novels.

Rich Johnson’s gripe with the $3.99 price point is a separate issue, that I agree with but won’t get into here.

For a brief moment I too considered placing an order for some of those Omnibuses, but I hesitated, and then I mentioned it to my wife who put voice to the nagging feeling at the back of my brain. She pointed out that it would be wrong, akin, in fact, to outright theft.

However, in these tough economic times who gets hurt by this computer glitch? Marvel?… No. Diamond Distributors?… No. Amazon… maybe a little. The guy who packs the boxes or wraps your order in bubble wrap… who might not be able to keep his job because Amazons got to make up that loss somewhere… or the customer service rep… most likely that’s the guy(or gal) who’s going to take the brunt of the abuse weather verbal from some disgruntled consumer who didn’t get some or all of his essentially FREE (with shipping) books.

Or the guy I really worry about (because I’m also that guy), who likes the fact that he can get his graphic novels at 25-40% off because the Alaskan town he lives in doesn’t have a comic book shop, or a bookstore that stocks Graphic Novels, or most importantly gets his books shipped for FREE even though he doesn’t live within the contiguous 48 states.

Did I miss out on a great deal (Incredible Hulk Omnibus… I covet you so)… Yes. Can I look at myself in the mirror… Yes. Can I look 100+ alternative school students looking for moral and ethical guidance in the eyes and tell them it’s wrong to lie, cheat, steal (including plagiarizing and illegal downloading)… most definitely, most emphatically… YES.

I bought some stuff. All but one thing got canceled. In fact, it’s shipping. I bought a few more through B&N. If I’m a bad person for trying to take advantage of a glitch, so be it. If Amazon/B&N don’t like the price I paid, don’t ship it and make sure I still have the money I tried to spend. I don’t see myself as a criminal, just a consumer.

I’m only upset that I can’t place an order for books I was planning on buying from Amazon this week.

I’m saving up for a few on my wishlist still. I just hope they are still available. It’d be wrong if guys that were indeed interested in those titles were to miss out, or be charged a possibly higher secondary market.

I would just like to point out that while most of the facts put forth about Rich Johnston in this post and the ones linked from it are accurate, namely that he made people aware of the glitch and that he let people know that if they bitched about their cancellations to Amazon Customer Service, they could get a gift certificate.

However, he also posted today links that allow people who automatically received the $25 gift certificate to use that money to donate books to worthy causes.

I tried to take advantage of Amazon’s mistake to get a $15 Criminal Omnibus. My order was cancelled and i was given the $25. Having had second thoughts even as I placed my original order, I have used my “ill-gotten” gift certificate to buy books for a Children’s Hospital through one of Rich’s links.

I got my order canceled & the $25 gift certificate. There’s a good chance I’ll use the $25 towards buying the book I wanted when it’s available again. I, like some people who stumbled across the prices, just thought Marvel was canceling the Omnibus line & that’s why they were so cheap. To be honest I have no idea how much a fair price should be for the Omnibus books. You figure Marvel is not likely to be paying royalties to the Kirby estate & Stan Lee (which I don’t really have a problem with, that was the nature of the business at the time & it’s sad if people squandered their savings or whatever, but it’s not the fault of someone who paid for work for hire), & long term it encourages more comic buying & solidifies their place in the market & in the american consciousness. I’d say $75 retail with them going for $50 would be awesome & realistic. Maybe cut them to 20 issues instead of the huge amount they are now to save a little more….

Anyone notice the glaring discount differences between Amazon.com and Amazon.ca? Do some random sampling–for ex—the New Iron Man hardcover collection the first 19 issues of Fraction’s run—about a 20 dollar difference now that the Canadian dollar is almost at par with the Greenback. Anyone ever hear of “Free Trade?”

you are a fool if you think paying what the website asks is theft. i have accidentally given people (who did not deserve them) discounts at my store, in no way did i think of them as a thief, an opportunist maybe, but hey that’s life/business. it is not our job to make sure amazon has the right prices displayed we are the customers that are always right. im not trying to say anyone has a right to sue but at the same time you can still be a good person and try and save money on books you could have downloaded for free anyway. also InStockTrades.com is probably the cheapest place to by trades these days.

After my initial excitement over the prices died down, logic kicked back in and I knew I wouldn’t be receiving any of the books that I ordered. The prices were just too good to be true. I’ll use the generous $25 credit to order one of the books that I wanted once they’re restocked…or just get something else. It is no big deal.

After a few stumbles, Amazon handled the issue perfectly. They had enough orders make it through that when they started cancelling them, people had a legitimate reason to compain. It would have been far more expensive to let the books ship, and to only offer recompence to those who called would (and did) ALSO get people angry. And since the electric-type internet spread the news that they were offering the gift certificates to anyone who complained (via Bleeding Cool) I’ll lay odds the calls went up as well, costing them more money to take the calls. It was far easier to stop everything, issue a blanket apology and give everyone a token gesture in “apology”.

That’s proper customer service in a nutshell. The customer does not want to be told they’re wrong, whether they are or not. If you piss them off, they won’t come back. You make them happy, even let them think they got something over you, and they’ll come back and spend far more than you gave them over time.

I would like to point out the hypocracy of David Brothers. Some one who got there miss priced books telling other people that they should shut up about it is shear hypocracy. His example of Wall Mart is also some what foolish as dempending on the state your in Wall Mart would be required to sell you the computers at the marked price by law.

My favorite part is how these bloggers talking down to the community all took advantage of the pricing error themselves and then call everyone else out for stealing. Do these internet tough guys lack all ability to comprehend hypocrisy?

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