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Topic: PBS should refund member credits when requestor conditions not honored

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Subject: PBS should refund member credits when requestor conditions not honored
Date Posted: 9/25/2011 5:36 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
Posts: 1
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PBS should refund member credits when requestor conditions are not honored and the member who shipped the noncompliant book/audiobook refuses to do so.  The member who is not complying with club policies and guidenlines should also have the credits they earned in the transaction removed from their account and possibly have their membership suspended for a period of time or even terminated.  This protects the members who follow the rules of the club.  My situation is a perfect example of why that is needed.

I have certain requestor conditions on books because family members have asthma/allegies and cannot tolerate smoke and because badly scratched discs won't play on my CD player, so I don't want those items sent.  Recently, a PBS member ignored my conditions and sent a badly scratched CD audiobook set that would not play on any of my CD players.  I contacted her, explained the problem, and asked for a refund of my credits.  She refused to do so unless I returned the audiobook to her, which was fine except she refused to provide her mailing address to me (I told her I did not have her address) and she also would not pay the return shipping costs (why should I pay to return something to her that should not have ever been sent to me in the first place?).  I asked PBS to intervene by restoring my 2 account credits. I suggested PBS follow up with the member and dock her account the 2 credits too. I buy extra credits from PBS at $3.45 per credit so this cost me $6.90.  PBS refused to intervene and said I should just mark the problem "unresolved" in my Transaction Archive.  I contacted PBS to complain about this unhelpful response and my complaint - pending since September 11, 2011 - remains unanswered by PBS.

PBS allows members to set conditions and then refuses to penalize members who violate them. That is unreasonable and a breach of a material component of our membership agreements.  What is the use of placing those conditions on requests if PBS refuses to enforce them?  Why is PBS more than happy to take our money for credits and earn money off us in other ways, then refuse to help us when a problem arises.   It would be very simple for PBS to restore and/or dock credits under these circumstances.  Not doing so undermines our confidence in the Club and our trust that we will get what we swapped or actually paid cash for.   As members, we are entitled to expect at least that much support from our Club and its leadership.

Last Edited on: 10/1/11 8:14 AM ET - Total times edited: 4
Date Posted: 9/25/2011 6:02 PM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2007
Posts: 15,226
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Why should PBS take a receiver's word about the condition of something send over a sender's? I completely disagree that the site should go in and take credits away from a sender who has sacrificed a book and postage costs purely on the word of a receiver. Not only does this site not have the staff time to deal with mitigating problem swaps, but I would be absolutely pissed if I sent a book, paid the postage and then a receiver could lie and get my credits taken away. The only assumption that the site can make is that we will all be honest in our dealings with each other and catch the dishonest senders through the RWAP process and its follow up.

PBS is very clear in the Terms of Use and Help Center that they will not mitigate problems swaps - that they expect us to work the problems out between ourselves and if a bad transaction cannot be worked out, we should be able to just walk away as they are usually rare. If you cannot deal with that aspect of the site, then you may want a site that isn't free so that the site has more oversight. The SwapaCD site charges a transaction fee of 0.49 for every CD requested and then will refund the requester's credit for problems, would you be willing to pay a fee for the insurance on a bad swap? I've received 603 books, that would have cost me $295 on the CD site, I could have 100 bad swaps before I am out that much in credits.

Date Posted: 9/25/2011 6:13 PM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,583
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yes Melanie D.

David, it is also really bad form to give the name of a member with whom you are having a dispute.  The problem is between you and the other member and should be kept to PMs.  Venting in the forums is fine, but it should be done without naming the other person.

Date Posted: 9/25/2011 6:29 PM ET
Member Since: 8/26/2006
Posts: 9,365
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The administration has no way to verify whether a book was damaged or not.  The way they've set it up is that the sender has control over whether or not to refund the credit, and the requestor has control over leaving follow-up as to whether the sender resolved the problem or not.  If a member has too many unresolved problem swaps (or too many books marked RWAP when the sender doesn't agree) his account would be flagged and the administration would look at it.

"Badly scratched" seems subjective.  Where is the line between somewhat scratched and badly scratched?  If a CD plays on my CD player, I may just assume that it's okay.  I wouldn't necessarily know that my CD player happens to read a scratched CD better than the average machine, so I might look at the CD and say, yes, it's scratched, but not badly.  After all it plays on my old machine.

PBS doesn't actually make money by selling credits.  For each credit generated, they have to have a book or money set aside to satisfy the IRS and the accountants.

The help doc dealing with the question of receiving a problem book states:

There is a problem with a book I received!

The vast majority of swaps take place without a problem at PBS.  But of course nothing is perfect! If there is a problem with a book you received, you need to follow the instructions below.

Please note that we can't adjudicate disputes about book condition  - we can't know in what condition a book was when it was mailed, and we can't examine books or rule on "he said/she said" situations.  That is why marking a problem book "received with a problem" is very important: if a sender's account shows a pattern of problems, the sender's membership will be jeopardized.  One problem swap will not do this - a pattern of problem sending will; thus it is critical for problems to be recorded in order for poor senders not to be able to "fly under the radar" and keep sending problem books.

The good news is that most problem swaps are settled easily by the members.  If everyone is polite and gives the other member the benefit of the doubt, things do not have to be unpleasant, even in the setting of a problem swap.


Date Posted: 9/25/2011 7:56 PM ET
Member Since: 10/23/2005
Posts: 7,719
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Where exactly would these credits come from? And how would they determine who gets them?

Date Posted: 9/25/2011 8:07 PM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2009
Posts: 10,283
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I sympathize with your complaint. On the surface, it does seem to make sense to force a refund.

But consider this for a moment. There are also many forum posts from people who believe they have sent a perfectly fine book out, and are puzzled and dismayed to find that someone has marked it damaged somehow. They are usually certain that they check everything they send out very carefully. (I believe that they do). They are usually certain that the receiving member is being dishonest in some way. (This may or may not be true. I am certain that most RWAPs are by people who sincerely believe that what they received is unpostable. I belive that it is possible to miss something in a book, no matter how carefully it is checked before being sent. And I also believe that it is possible that sometimes, in certain situations, people may use a RWAP unfairly or even dishonestly).

There is also the case where two people look at the same book, or CD, or whatever, and honestly have a difference of opinion as to whether or not it is postable. There are a lot of gray areas in the rules, and there can just be an honest difference of opinion in the matter. One person can be sincere in believing that something is postable, and another person can be equally sincere in believing that it is not.

Then there is the case where a sender may deliberately send out something that is unpostable, or that doesn't follow a RC.

PBS has no real way to determine which of these cases might be true.

That's why PBS leaves it up to the sender to determine if they should refund the credits for the item.

Last Edited on: 9/25/11 8:08 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/25/2011 8:14 PM ET
Member Since: 6/4/2007
Posts: 2,941
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Re: what Sandy said, the OP should be edited to remove the name of the Sender in question. 

Date Posted: 9/25/2011 8:15 PM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2007
Posts: 2,550
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How does PBS prove which member was wrong?  Who do they believe?  I understand them not getting involved in individual transactions. They can't be involved in every dispute.  From what I have seen/heard, they do look into accounts who's members have been involved in NUMEROUS RWAP's (Senders or recievers). 

It's very bad form to call out a member by name on the boards. 

Date Posted: 9/25/2011 8:20 PM ET
Member Since: 12/31/2009
Posts: 3,995
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It's your word against theirs. Even if the site did regularly referee these disputes, what makes you think they are going to yank credits out of a person's account solely on the word of some other person? If that was the way things worked, there'd be liars, scammers and thieves crawling all over the place. It'd be a nightmare. Kinda like the way eBay turned out.


ETA: And yes, please remove the person's name from your OP. There's no way we can discern exactly who it is that you are talking about by looking at a common name (nor should we), and there's no reason to keep it there other than as a way to enrage the person. It'll do nothing more than possibly cause you trouble.

Last Edited on: 9/25/11 8:35 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 9/25/2011 8:39 PM ET
Member Since: 7/28/2006
Posts: 4,984
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It'll do nothing more than possibly cause you trouble.  yes

And possibly get your account suspended.  The Team doesn't look kindly on people who call people out publicly on the forums. 

Date Posted: 9/25/2011 8:45 PM ET
Member Since: 12/31/2009
Posts: 3,995
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Yup. Suspended was exactly the kinda trouble I was thinking about. I was trying to be diplomatic. cheeky

Date Posted: 9/25/2011 8:45 PM ET
Member Since: 8/23/2007
Posts: 26,510
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As someone who had another member incorrectly RWP them for the wrong bidning-I'm glad PBS doesn't automaticallly refund the credits.  The requestor made the mistake not me.

They will suspend the account of someone who has multiple complaints against them and doesn't make amends.

Date Posted: 9/25/2011 9:40 PM ET
Member Since: 1/1/2009
Posts: 1,924
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 Dear David,


 I am very sorry you are not happy with how things are done here. It is sad when bad swaps happen, but rather rare. You did read the user agreement and help documents when you joined though correct? It is not as if it was not made clear how things are done, though I am guessing maybe you did not understand why they are this way. There are good reasons for it. Bad swappers do get caught and they do get shut down but there is a method and it is not as simple as he said / she said with one swap. The club is amazing and most here are amazing members but sadly like all groups, there are some bad apples.

  In the end, while bad swappers happen, I think the system is the best one I have seen and I am thankful for it. Sorry you don't agree.


  All the best,

   Kim C.


Date Posted: 9/25/2011 11:43 PM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,177
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Your frustration is understandable David, and you opened an interesting discussion.  Unfortunately, the obvious solution sometimes creates some undesirable ripples.   PBS admin does not mitigate individual transactions, and there are good reasons for this guideline...several of which are posted above.

Date Posted: 9/26/2011 10:16 AM ET
Member Since: 2/6/2009
Posts: 1,411
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I've never had a problem swap where a reciever accused me of ignoring their RC or anything like that but I agree with what other members have said. It boils down to a case of one member's word against another's.

Especially with the case of a CD audiobook. It's very possible that the sender tried the CD and it worked fine for them but the CD doesn't like your machine. Or that the sender only looked at the CD and didn't notice any obvious scratches, thought it would be okay to send. But even one invisible to the naked eye scratch can ruin a CD and the sender missed it.

Date Posted: 9/26/2011 1:27 PM ET
Member Since: 9/27/2008
Posts: 370
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I had a requester get three books from me and marked them all RWAP.   No way were they unpostable.  Two were almost mint.  If we implemented the first posters idea, I would have been out three credits and three books because of someone else not be honest. 

Date Posted: 9/26/2011 1:39 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,683
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I have had several books  (via PBS) sent to me that I determined were unpostable.  In most cases, I've reported this to the sender, explained why they were unpostable and, in all cases, received my credits back.  I guess I've been fortunate so far in dealing with honest people.  In at least two cases I can remember, I told the sender the books were unpostable (re: PBS) and why, but they were still acceptable to me and that I would not request my credit back. 

At half.com you can report a book as unacceptable and ask for your money back or a partial refund. In most cases, I have received what I requested, AND I have, on several occasions given a full or partial refund to others who had problems with the books I sent or the books I sent that they didn't receive. This is why I use DC in all my activities at PBS (books and DVDs), half.com and amazon.com.  I have had experiences in a number of cases on the two commerical sites where the sender just ignored my e-mails.  After trying two or three times, and saving those e-mails, you can request that the site refund your money.  But there is a limit to how many times you can do this.  In one case, I "ate" $5 or so on a crummy book so that I could save my limited chances to get my money back for something that might be more expenise later.

Having dealt with the two commerical sites for many years - far longer than I have been registered on PBS - I can only say that even an occasional bad experience on PBS would be as nothing compared to the slew of wonderful books I have received here for a lot less than even just the shipping and handling charges on the commerical sites.

And, just for the record, as I know it is frowned upon by PBS, none of my books on the two commerical sites are dual-posted here. Frankly, I doubt whether the various copies of monographs of the Canadian Entomologist and other entomological references would be wishlisted here. :-)

So, if you have a bad experience on PBS, report it, then regard it as water under the bridge and push on.  My one-year experience with PBS reinforces my belief that there are far too many good people here to let one or two bad apples ruin it for you.

Date Posted: 9/27/2011 6:37 AM ET
Member Since: 7/12/2009
Posts: 177
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We human being tend to concentrate on the bad and to ignore all the good things that have happened.  When I have a problem swap (unusual, thankfully), I go back through my transaction archive and recall all the great swaps I've had.    No system is perfect, because human beings are flawed, but my experience on PBS has been positive about 95% of the time.

Last Edited on: 9/27/11 6:38 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/27/2011 8:28 AM ET
Member Since: 4/24/2008
Posts: 310
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David, I agree with most everything that has been said here.  You really should edit out that name of the person who sent you the defective CD.

Here is a tip that may work to get a scratched cd or dvd to play.  Rub white toothpaste all over it and then rinse off.  Buff with a soft cloth.  There are videos on youtube demonstrating that this really works.  I have had to do this a few times with dvds from the library and netflix that would not play right.

Rick B. (bup) - ,
Date Posted: 9/27/2011 4:20 PM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2007
Posts: 2,625
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David Z - one thing I haven't seen mentioned here is that if a member consistently has problem swaps where they are the sender, PBS will terminate their membership.

So while they don't get involved in individual disputes, their track record follows them.

Date Posted: 9/27/2011 10:09 PM ET
Member Since: 4/28/2009
Posts: 10,367
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hmmm, I thought that PBS didn't award the sender a credit if they violated the requestor's RC. that seemed to be what happened when I got a WL book filled with smoky smell in June since I got put back as first on the WL and got back my credit (so I didn't have to "pay" 2 credits to get one acceptable book).  It's not like they came and smelled the book to see if it really violated my RC or not!  Sender did not ask for me to send it back either, but she did admit to not even reading my RC.


[editted to add the forgotten parenthesis]

Last Edited on: 9/27/11 10:10 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/28/2011 1:58 AM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2009
Posts: 10,283
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If you got your credit back, then the other member must have refunded it.

There is no automatic credit return on any type of RWAP. PBS will sometimes intervene if the sender refuses to return the credit AND clearly admits that they broke whatever rule, but that is the only time they will intervene. And, someone (the requestor) has to point it out to them and request some type of action.

Date Posted: 9/28/2011 6:47 AM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,583
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Seems that David wasn't especially interested in seeking advice or suggestions from anyone since he's never bothered to come back and respond or edit his OP.  Looks like another case of a first time poster doing a vent and run. 

Date Posted: 9/28/2011 10:05 AM ET
Member Since: 1/21/2006
Posts: 125
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Well, since David didn't come back to his thread, I'll hijack it.  My question's a little related to a few posts up:

When you email PBS to intervene in a RWAP, how long do they take to respond?  Usually my messages sent via "Contact Us" receive responses within 24 hours, but a RWAP-related email I sent on the 25th hasn't gotten a response yet.

Date Posted: 9/28/2011 10:24 AM ET
Member Since: 8/23/2007
Posts: 26,510
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They may be waiting for a response from the other party.