Written by Ben Kerr, posted on http://historical-academy.co.uk/blog/2014/08/08/collinge-and-clark-review/
This week I was asked to review a bookseller whom we were unfortunate enough to have to work with in the process of acquiring the antique books as part of the Roworth fundraising campaign.
In my role at Triquetra, I handle many of the sourcing and purchasing operations and as such I deal with hundreds of suppliers from tiny one man operations to massive multinational corporations. I have seen excellent service and I have seen poor service but this experience was particularly notable for just how poor it was. It was suggested I write this review so that others would understand the risks of dealing with this seller and can avoid them if possible.
On the 25th of June we realised that the crowdfunding campaign had gone so well that we could afford to purchase the 1804 copy of Roworth’s “The Art of Defence on Foot, with the Broad Sword and Sabre.” We had found a copy at an antique bookseller in London called Collinge and Clark and so I ordered it early in the afternoon and requested special delivery, which according to their shipping information would lead to the book arriving the following day. The next day I waited for the post and unfortunately when he arrived he didn’t have the book so I waited in the following day and still no book. Now I was a little bit worried about what was happening so I contacted the seller and was told that they hadn’t sent the book yet but would do so the following day which was July 1st. As you can imagine I was not best impressed as their delays would put me behind schedule with the facsimiles, but everyone makes mistakes and so I gave them the benefit of the doubt.
On the 3rd of July I contacted them again as there was still no book, and I was getting worried that this may have been some sort of scam. The email I got back showed a truly spectacular level of incompetence. Oliver Clark emailed me to tell me that:
“I realise that I have sent you (a very nice) copy of the 1798 edition and cannot locate the 1804 edition. You may do as you wish. Keep the book, or return it for a refund.”
As you can imagine I was fit to be tied. We already had a perfect copy of the 1798 in its original binding and we had promised our supporters a copy of the 1804. He assured me though that this (wrong) book would arrive that day, and surprise surprise, it did not arrive until the following day. I opened it to check and confirm that it was the wrong book, hoping desperately that perhaps he had just made a mistake and actually sent the 1804…he had not. The book was a rebound 1798 edition in notably lower condition than the copy we already had, and was missing its poster. I assessed it as being of lower value than what we had paid.
I emailed to request that a refund was processed as per the distance selling regulations and that they arrange collection of the book since it was their mistake from start to finish I didn’t feel that I should take any further time out of my work to deal with it. Unfortunately the problem had only just begun. I received no response to the email and as time passed I realised I was going to be in London on my way to my MBA residency so I worked out that they were close enough to Euston station for me to reach them safely during my stop over. On the 11th of July I had still not heard from them and so I made my way to their shop in central London and personally returned the book. I wanted to get an understanding of what was going on so I didn’t reveal who I was, just that I was a volunteer for the organisation dropping off the book so they could process the refund. Seeing the shop in person I could see exactly why they had sent me the wrong book, it is rather unorganised which would be quaint if it wasn’t for the significant problems this affair had caused me and the organisation.
I expected to have an email from them shortly after to confirm the refund but nothing came and so on July 16th I contacted them and pushed them to sort the refund out. I was told that they had received the book and would process the refund that day.
On the 21st of July I contacted them again as we still had not had a refund and the charity had purchased Angelo’s posters to offer instead of the 1804 so we were out of pocket now. They got back to me to say that they were incapable of making a refund over paypal so needed our bank details. These were sent to them immediately and we waited, with me asking Keith (who handles the finances) every few days if a refund had been made and every time Keith telling me it hadn’t. Finally on July 31st I had had enough and so emailed to let them know that they had until the 4th of August to make the refund or we would be taking legal action. Keith also followed this up with a phone call to ensure that the message was made clear.
Finally on the 1st of August the refund was processed and we washed our hands of the whole affair. As I said before we have dealt with some poor suppliers in the past but this shop truly takes the cake. We will be doing everything we can to avoid them in future as they cost hours of our time and showed themselves to be a poorly run supplier. I hope my review causes others to consider alternative options if they are in the market for antique books.
In happier news the facsimiles are well on their way to completion and are just in the final stages of being cleaned up and typeset at the moment.
Anything with a vague historical bent
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