I ordered two 'new' copies of a college textbook a few of days ago from a medium-sized marketplace seller on Alibris, Collegebooksdirect.
The description for both read:
"New Book in shrink wrap. Excellent condition!"
They showed up quickly.
I've ordered dozens of times before from this seller, and never failed to be impressed.
This time, not so much.
They did show up shrink-wrapped, but I was looking at one of the sealed books, and I noticed this :
That's right, a previous owner wrote their name to the top edge of the page block in bright red letters, and the book got sold to me as new.
I opened the shrinkwrap on this book.
I notice that the binding is not tight , ending any suspicion that this could have been at least an unread book, marked by a buyer and then returned before the end of the legal return period for the book.
Next, I look carefully at the boards.
There are minor scratches to the boards, and I notice a tell-tale small amount of ground-in dirt to the corner of the back board:
This is a fairly clean used book, but it ain’t new.
The second book was in better shape, but the bottom edge of the page block had the following soiling and/or pen marking:
So, went ahead and unsealed that one, too, and sure enough, the binding wasn't tight, and there was some random dirt between the front endpaper and the free front endpaper .
I went ahead and sent an email to the seller. I won't consider this seller as a whole a bad bookseller, given his track record and probable large number of employees, but he certainly EMPLOYS a bad bookseller who let these guys slip past.
A hearty "No Cookie" award goes out to that employee, although I'm hoping they're a fine bookseller who came in with a hangover that day, or some such equally worthwhile excuse.
Enough margaritas makes any mistake seem like a good idea....
08/25/2009: I contacted Collegebooksdirect to let them know about the mistake. A few hours later, I received a very polite apology from one of their employees, along with an offer to pay me the price difference between NEW and USED copies of this book.
 I've censored part of the name; no reason to involve the previous student owner of this book.
 Don't know what a tight binding is?
"The binding of a new book is very tight; that is, the book will not open easily and generally does not want to remain open to any given page. As the book is used, the binding becomes looser until a well-used book may lay flat and remain open to any page in the book."
 Don't know what a free front endpaper (ffep) is? Go to the above link. I'm just sad this bookdoesn't have a bastard title page, preventingme from working that phrase into the main text of the article.