Book Depository: A waiting game

While the title of this blog post may sound like an intriguing book cover, the situation I find myself in right now is far from intriguing or even appealing. I am chronicling my first experience thus far with Book Depository, one that has been sadly fraught with disappointments.

My journey with online book-shopping started, not with Amazon as much of their selection does not ship to Singapore where I live, but with Open Trolley, a local online bookstore that offers frequent discounts and offers. They are based in my own country, so while shipping is not free, it is certainly inexpensive. They also offer an alternative of picking up your order for free at their brick-and-mortar store at Plaza Singapura, a mall in the shopping district here. For years, I have been ordering from them and have never been disappointed. Their book selections are adequate, and while they may not have a wide range of covers to choose from, I’m not too fussy about that.

I have heard about Book Depository from various sources before, though I have never bothered to check them out as I expected that, being a company based in the UK, their prices along with shipping would be outrageous. However, on one random day when I felt like a little bit of book retail therapy, I decided to open their website. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that they have free international shipping! Not only that, but their books sold for a cheaper price than Open Trolley! I couldn’t believe my eyes and had to check and double check that the currency reflected was in SGD and not in USD or worse, GBP. So if all this works out, I’d actually save a few dollars per book, right?

With that in mind, greedy me decided to order 5 books at one shot. I ordered: Anna Karenina, Annotated Emma, Annotated Pride & Prejudice, The Alchemist’s Daughter and Tanamera.

So here’s a timeline of what’s been going on:

28 May, Thursday: Order placed for 5 books.

29 May, Friday: Email received saying Anna Karenina has been dispatched.
(At this point, I was confused at why only 1 book had been dispatched. I re-read the shipping notice email carefully and realised that they stated that books would take a varying number of business days to be dispatched, and may be shipped out separately. OK, seems like a funny way of doing things because, wouldn’t you be wasting more money on postage? But sure, if that’s your clearly stated policy, that’s fine by me. My bad for not reading properly beforehand)

1 June, Monday: Email received saying The Alchemist’s Daughter and Annotated Emma have been dispatched.
(Note that 1 June is a public holiday in Singapore but was not so for the UK, and books having been dispatched on this day was proof that it was a normal business day in the UK. This is important for later)

3 June, Wednesday: Email received saying Annotated Pride & Prejudice and Tanamera have been dispatched.

Now so far, all my books are on time. Those sent out later adhered to its estimated 2 or 3 business days before dispatch. For every dispatch notice email, they have a small little FAQ section in which this was stated:

When will my order arrive? Once your order has been dispatched, we offer the following times for delivery in business days (Mon-Fri): United Kingdom: 2-5 days Ireland: 4-6 days Europe: 4-8 days Australia & New Zealand 5-8 days US & Canada: 5-8 days Singapore & Hong Kong: 5-9 days South America: 10-15 days All other countries: 7-10 days You can check your order here. For more information on delivery please check our Help section.

Note that they specifically said it would take 5 – 9 business days for Singapore. I also thought that I would be offered tracking since most international shipping does that nowadays, but was slightly disappointed to see that “checking [my] order” only consisted of me being able to see which books have been dispatched and which books hadn’t. No information on its current location. But hey, this is free international shipping, so I shouldn’t be asking for much. Since no tracking is offered, I expected the delivery to keep roughly to its estimated delivery time.

I eagerly counted 9 business days from the date of the first book’s dispatch, 29 May. I dared not rely too much on it arriving in the earlier half of the estimated time frame, since after all it is shipping from halfway round the world. Although I received the dispatch notice on 29 May, I began counting the next business day, which would be 1 June, and nine business days later took me to 11 June.

Come 11 June, however, nothing had been received thus far. I emailed Book Depository, worried, since it is an ordinary mail package being delivered halfway across the world with no tracking available. I tend to be paranoid about these things. Their reply back:

Hi I can confirm that your order was sent out to you on 29 May and 1-3 June to:[Name and address omitted]SINGAPOREDelivery is usually 5-9 working days from ordering therefore if it has not arrived by 16 June please check with your local sorting office to see if they are holding any items for you. If you have still not received this please contact us again confirming that the above address is correct; we will then look into the matter further for you.Kind Regards,[Name omitted],Customer Advisor

Now, I am not deliberately messing up their email format. The email really did come to me like this and I’ve only just copied and pasted from the email I received. Niceties aside, I was somewhat disappointed that I was asked to wait for another 3 business days after the stipulated time frame. I tried to reason to myself, however, that perhaps they can’t control and help it when local post offices delay the shipment on their side. In my email to them, I had already pointed out that it is unlikely that there was a missed delivery as there is always someone available to pick up and sign for parcels at home, and even if there was, there would have been a missed delivery slip in its place telling me to head to which post office to pick up my parcel. I have received no missed delivery slip.

After waiting around for a while, on 15 June Monday, I decided to email my local post office regarding the issue. The gist of their reply was expected: “We cannot help you. You should’ve opted for registered mail.” Well –  I wasn’t given the choice of opting for registered mail now, was I? I always prefer tracking especially when ordering from companies based in foreign countries. I’m paranoid about lost mail!

It is now 16 June Tuesday. As of the time of writing, I have not yet received any parcel and have emailed Book Depository earlier in the day about this.

I’ve went around reading others’ reviews on Book Depository and mentally kicked myself for not having done so earlier. Many of them have praises for Book Depository’s price, selection but the complaints are almost unanimously in one area: delivery time. Buyers from Singapore have also waited up to 3 – 4 weeks for their book to be delivered, so it seems the 5 – 9 business days estimate was a farce.

Taking a leaf from a book blogger from Singapore, I’m going to record down exactly how long it’s going to take my deliveries to be fulfilled.

Dispatch #1
Book/s: Anna Karenina
Ordered: 28 May, 2015
Est. dispatch date: 29 May, 2015 (1 business day)
Actual dispatch date: 29 May, 2015 (1 business day) – in time
Est. delivery date: 11 June, 2015 (9 business days)
Actual delivery date: 17 June, 2015 (13 business days) – late by 4 business days

Dispatch #2
Book/s: Annotated Emma, The Alchemist’s Daughter
Ordered: 28 May, 2015
Est. dispatch date: 1 June, 2015 (2 business days for both books)
Actual dispatch date: 1 June, 2015 (2 business days) – in time
Est. delivery date: 12 June, 2015 (9 business days)
Actual delivery date: 16 June, 2015 (11 business days) – late by 2 business days

Dispatch #3
Book/s: Annotated Pride & Prejudice, Tanamera
Ordered: 28 May, 2015
Est. dispatch date: 1 June, 2015 (2 business days for Tanamera), 2 June, 2015 (3 business days for P&P)
Actual dispatch date: 3 June, 2015 (4 business days) – late by 1-2 business days
Est. delivery date: 16 June, 2015 (9 business days)
Actual delivery date: 17 June, 2015 (10 business days) – late by 1 business day

I will be updating this post when I actually get my books, and what its physical conditions are like.

Update16 June, 9pm: I had gotten a message from a household member that I had received a parcel this late afternoon. I couldn’t ascertain whether or not it was the Book Depository delivery until I got home, but lo and behold! It is actually the parcel I was waiting for. When I opened it, however, I was somewhat weirded out to find that it was actually Dispatch #2 that arrived. I’m not complaining, but where is Dispatch #1? It is slightly puzzling since it is a lighter package with only 1 book in it, and was sent out 1 business day earlier. Anyway, let’s hope it’ll turn up some time soon.

As for the physical conditions of the books, I have to say I’m not 100% satisfied with its packaging. It was a typical brown cardboard packaging (something folded to look like a box, but not really one), but there was no other additions to absorb shock and impact to the parcel. The books were completely unprotected in the brown packaging that also served as an envelope all in one. Unsurprisingly, there were minor dog-ears to both books but what upset me the most was a noticeable cut to the spine of my Annotated Emma. The thing is, I’m not sure how this cut came about. The packaging was sealed in a most frustrating way that made it very difficult to cut open even when I was trying to slice the tape horizontally. The cardboard separated into layers instead of opening into a flap. I tried once to cut through it vertically and thought I might have hit something but I can’t be sure. So I don’t know whether this was a mistake on my part, or was the cut already made beforehand? Nevertheless, I’m disappointed that there wasn’t additional styrofoam or bubble wrap around the books which would’ve prevented this cut if it had been made by my penknife.

The front of the package.
The front of the package.
The back of the package. That scotchtape looks easy to cut through but it really isn't.
The back of the package. That scotchtape looks easy to cut through but it really isn’t.

3

4

Some deformations at the bottom back cover.
Some deformations at the bottom back cover.

6

What looks like a nail mark on the front cover?
What looks like a nail mark on the front cover?

9

CRIES.
CRIES.
Minor dog-ear on the front cover.
Minor dog-ear on the front cover.
Minor dog-ear on the back cover.
Minor dog-ear on the back cover.
Some deformations on the spine.
Some deformations on the spine.

Update17 June, 3pm: I have received a message from the member of my household at home, saying that two packages have just been received and they look similar to the one received yesterday! Finally! My Dispatches #1 and #3 are here! I don’t know if I’m going to have the time to take pictures and upload them tonight. But I am extremely happy and relieved that all my deliveries have been completed. I’m going to be way more careful with cutting the packaging this time. 😦