When You Get An Email Meant For Another


That inadvertent email you received did not surprise me at all. Recently, I was chatting with the clerk at (a large bookstore chain) while she rang up my order. I mentioned I had never returned a book and wondered what their policy was on returns in case my gift recipient already owned it, adding, “…of course, I’d never return a book I’d actually cracked open.”

At this point, the store manager glanced over and said, “We appreciate that. Unfortunately a lot of people read books and return them. They treat us like a library.”

I said, “Seriously, you can tell they’ve actually been read?”

He said, “You’d be amazed at the condition some of those books are returned in.”


Hi, Angela….

The contents of the email remind me of the time I commented to a (large bookstore chain)’s store manager that folks could very well buy a book, read it carefully with the 30-day return period and, of course, cart it on back.

The lady responded, “That’s right. As a matter of fact, some employees use the place as their lending library.”

It would seem booksellers should include the caveat that any returned books must be in re-saleable condition.

Merry Christmas.

Jim Gordon


That is why as a small publisher I only *sell* books.

I do not lend them, rent them, consign them, or otherwise dispose of them except that I receive cash first.

That used to be the normal mode of the book biz before consignment and returns took over.

Publishers and authors need to take back the power from the bookstores that forced this practice on us.

We have enough alternatives that putting books in stores to be returned damaged is not necessary anymore.

William Adams, PE, PhD


Hi Angela —

Ugh. This is precisely what is wrong with the book distribution system today. The system is ripe for this kind of abuse. Those people who return books after reading them don’t understand — or don’t care — about how they are taking money from the pockets of authors — the people who entertained or educated them with their book. It is stealing, plain and simple.

Maggie Bonham
Author, Howling Dead, Prophecy of Swords, Lachlei and more than 30 other novels and nonfiction books


Hi Angela,

As sad as it is, I am not at all surprised. This is the same person who always wears the latest fashion but whose closet is empty. They just put that dress, or suit, “On the card” and return it after the event. Frighteningly, they often do the same with lingerie and even undies.

Not too long ago a reporter did an undercover story and was allowed to return panties and bras to almost every major store and the stores just clipped a new tag on them and returned them to the shelf. No washing, none marked as returned, just sold to the next person.

My own funny story – I was in the auto parts manufacturing business making suspension and brakes for over 30 years. I had come out with a new system, and got good press on it. A customer who had bought a kit five years prior called and wanted instructions about how to return their used parts in exchange for the new design. I patiently explained that I didn’t sell any used parts and that they should try to sell their parts locally (they were in Puerto Rico), and put that money toward upgrading.
The guy was furious he couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t exchange parts that had been on his car for five years. Then he went one step above telling me that, if I was unwilling to exchange the parts, he wanted me to buy back the old parts and credit him, including shipping, toward the new parts.

Why would any store accept a return that was soiled or damaged in any way?



Hi Angela,

Concerning the returned book…Yes! That was exactly the low-life person’s intent: Take the book home, read it leisurely, and then return it for a refund for some ad nauseus reason. Saves the reading fee!

Here’s the real kicker. MOST PEOPLE ARE THIS WAY!!! Yes! They will take advantage of a loophole–i.e., a return policy. Same as with taxes! (Oh, dear, and why is the government always looking for money?! Or ways to close leaky holes?!)

Unfortunately, it’s part of this country’s work ethic I believe–subconsciously, maybe, but still an insanely impulsive (no holds barred!) quirk to make money [even though oftentimes it means cheating someone else out of the same amount–regardless of how you define making money], whenever the opportunity arises.

Another small case of this in point, please: People at newstands or coffee shops who rifle through the pages of a magazine or newspaper without once thinking to pay for reading it.

For 20 years as a journalist this ticked me off to no end!

In small town coffee shops then they’d let you put your newspaper up close to the cashier counter, but only if you’d do it the old honor-system way–e.g., an upright, open rack with a coin can attached for people to pay. The establishment didn’t want something else to mess with; rightfully so.

I was always eating breakfast at some of these places it seemed. Irked me to no end the way people would slip over and get a newspaper on newspaper day, take it to their table to read, and then when leaving fold the paper back up and put it neatly back into the newpaper rack. Without paying! Once I confronted a guy. Angry, I was.

“Hey, I own that newspaper! How come you didn’t pay for it?! That’s stealing!!”

He stared at me with this quizzical look like I was the stupidest person in the world.

“Pay for it? I ain’t gonna pay for that! That paper ain’t worth paying for!”

“Then why did you pick it up in the first place?! You can clearly see the sign there, 35 cents each! Huh?”

Then, sure enough, he broke into a grin.

“Yeah, but you left it open, too,” he said.”People ain’t a gonna pay for something they don’t have to have when they can get it for free!”

Stupid, I was.

Never forget it.