What America Buys?

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So I tried to buy a copy of R. Talsorian Games’ tabletop roleplaying game, “The Witcher”, based upon the book series of the same name. It’s first print run is unavailable from the publisher, and the second isn’t coming out for a month or so (NOTE: At the time I made this purchase, no one even knew if there was going to be a second printing).

But that’s why we have Amazon, right?

I found a copy back in mid-January that was brand new, and offered at a good price, from a seller called “What America Buys“. I don’t usually look into the seller ratings for vendors before making a purchase on Amazon, because I’ve rarely been screwed in the past.

That policy has changed.

You see, the purchase went through fine, and I promptly received a notice of shipment, with arrival due the following week, no later than January 30th. Not as quick as I’d have liked, but acceptable. But there was one thing that was odd… The US Postal Service tracking number I was sent showed as invalid, according to the USPS. I’d never seen such a thing before, so I sent the vendor a message, asking them if they could look into it.

Time passed. January 30th came, and passed, with no delivery.

Amazon noted that there had been no delivery, and automatically updated the delivery date to now be between January 31st and February 5th. Odd, but not the first time something like that has happened. It is winter, and deliveries do get delayed by weather and such.

Then I received an email from What America Buys. They only asked if they could get my Order Number, to better investigate this issue. Which is odd, because I had emailed them through Amazon originally, and one would think the order number would be tagged to the correspondence, but what do I know? I just complain about things on the Internet!

So, I replied with the order number, and noted that Amazon had changed the delivery date. That’s it. I didn’t ask for a cancellation, or a refund, since I still wanted that book. I just wanted them to send me the correct tracking number, if they could.

Shortly thereafter, I got an email from Amazon that my refund for “The Witcher” was being processed, and I would receive it within 3-5 business days.

Wait… what?

I didn’t ask for that. I still wanted that book, especially since by then, the only copy I could otherwise find of that game on Amazon was one some fool vendor was selling for – I shit you not – $199.95, and an additional $25 for shipping! Turns out some folks think that, due to the popularity of “The Witcher” on Netflix, they can ramp up the cost of (what was at that time) the last brand new copy of the game on Amazon to ridiculous prices.

Of course, Ebay was worse. Some asshole there was selling a new copy of the book for over $300 plus shipping! It is jerks like these who will be taking a bath on those books, though, since R. Talsorian Games is putting out a new printing next month, but again, at the time this was happening, I didn’t know that.

Anyway, this wasn’t making for a happy Scormey. I went over to What America Buys’ Amazon page, and started reading the buyer feedback. I you just check out the front page of entries, it all seems good, all five-star feedback. But looking at the overall percentages, they has 16% negative feedback over the last 30 days (up to 17%, as of writing this), and now show as having 17% negative for the last 12 months, as well.

That’s not good.

Scrolling through, two things became quickly apparent.

  1. There was a strange similarity around much of the positive feedback, like it only consisted of a few words per entry, and kept very vague.
  2. There was – likewise – many similarities among the negative feedback. Things like invalid tracking numbers; poor communication; refunds either not given, partially given, or given when not requested; etc.

So if I had just checked their feedback before making the purchase, I would have saved myself time and bother, over a book they I suspect never actually had. You see, I think this is how it works, based upon my observations alone: I think they might be listing items for sale on Amazon, waiting to see if someone buys it. Then, if they get an order, they see if they can pick it up cheaper elsewhere, and if so, they buy it and ship it off to their customer. When it works, great, everyone is happy, especially this vendor, who ends up pocketing a little more profit. Conversely, if they can’t find a cheaper copy to buy, they just wait until the customer complains, then cancel the order. Sure, the customer gets screwed in that case, but ultimately no one lost any money… other than the folks said vendor refused to refund.

It’s a nice scam. Can’t really fault their hustle, y’know? Nevertheless, it’s a scam.

Now then, I wouldn’t have posted this here today, but I felt I needed to get the word out about What America Buys, and other third-party sellers like them on Amazon. I did leave them honest feedback on their Amazon page, but – shockingly enough – it hasn’t been posted. But they do show a veritable fuckton of quick-&-dirty five-star feedback, which just happens to drown out the negative and neutral ones. Which might account for why, when I posted my negative feedback, their positive percentage for the last 30 days jumped from 80 to 81%!

Again, it’s a scam!

P.S.: I did end up finding another vendor for “The Witcher RPG”, and ended up paying less. Yes, I know I could have waited for the second printing, but I’m not one to wait, and actually paid less than what the first (alleged) copy would have cost. I received an actual tracking number this time, and it shipped promptly, arriving in just two days.

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