Monday, September 27, 2010

Media Mail Shipping

A message thread on Bonanza a few weeks ago had people discussing media mail. Among the comments were ones by people that stated that they do not use media mail because it takes longer or that media mail can take up to a month. People just don't realize how fast media mail has become when one uses the computer-generated labels from either USPS or PayPal.

The PayPal labels are faster than both handwritten and typed addresses. The handwritten addresses are the slowest, because those are harder for the machines to read. Some people type their addresses and pay for the postage at the post office, and those are faster than the handwritten labels since the machines can read them better. The computer-generated postage is the fastest, because of the bar codes which are read by the machines.

For a number of years, I typed or copied and pasted my addresses into a Word document, printed the addresses and taped on the packages, and paid for the postage at the post office. I began using printed addresses after I heard that packages with printed addresses arrive quicker than packages with handwritten addresses.

I was slow to adopt to the PayPal shipping. I waited until after the service was available for a couple of years before I finally began printing my labels at home. I did not use delivery confirmation on media mail packages prior to going to the PayPal labels, so I did not know exactly how long it took for my packages to arrive. However, I could judge by when buyers left feedback. After I switched to the PayPal labels, I noticed that my buyers were leaving feedback a couple of days sooner than before. The PayPal labels made a difference in the delivery time.

I decided to check some of my recent media mail packages to see how long they took to be delivered. I almost always generate the shipping label the evening before I drop the package off at the post office, so a day can be subtracted from the number of days it took for each package to be delivered.

Delivered, August 30, 2010, 8:11 am, SLINGER, WI 53086
Electronic Shipping Info Received, August 25, 2010

Delivered, August 28, 2010, 1:45 pm, CHANTILLY, VA 20152
Electronic Shipping Info Received, August 23, 2010

Delivered, August 26, 2010, 1:14 pm, EAST HAVEN, CT 06512
Electronic Shipping Info Received, August 20, 2010

Delivered, August 23, 2010, 12:03 pm, DALLAS, TX 75287
Electronic Shipping Info Received, August 20, 2010

August 23, 2010, 8:57 am, HIGLEY, AZ 85236
Electronic Shipping Info Received, August 18, 2010

Delivered, August 18, 2010, 11:00 am, DALLAS, TX 75287
Electronic Shipping Info Received, August 14, 2010

Delivered, August 17, 2010, 9:25 am, CLINTON, MD 20735
Electronic Shipping Info Received, August 11, 2010

Delivered, August 17, 2010, 3:37 pm, MACON, GA 31210
Electronic Shipping Info Received, August 11, 2010

Delivered, August 16, 2010, 1:43 pm, CHARLESTON, WV 25314
Electronic Shipping Info Received, August 11, 2010

Delivered August 16, 2010, 11:35 am, ROCHESTER, NY 14617
Electronic Shipping Info Received, August 11, 2010

Delivered, August 16, 2010, 2:25 pm, MANDAN, ND 58554
Electronic Shipping Info Received, August 11, 2010

It looks like most of my packages are getting delivered within four to five days via media mail. I used to tell people that media mail takes 7 to 10 days delivery time, but I now tell them that they will have the package within 7 days.

It has been quite awhile since I received a media mail package that took three or four weeks to arrive. In the rare event that it does happen, either the seller has used a handwritten address or an extra bar code, like from UPS or a previous mailing of the package, is present on the package. Extra bar codes from previous shipments can cause the package to get misdirected to a different part of the country. Sometimes the package will bounce back and forth between two locations before someone notices the problem. This is why sellers should never leave old bar codes on packages.

The only time of year that I find that media mail can take two to three weeks is during December, especially for the packages with handwritten labels. I find that during December parcel post takes just as long as media mail. Otherwise, media mail is a cost-effective service that takes no more than around a week for delivery.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Latest Buying Problems

I have made some purchases in the last month in which books were missing from the packages. In the first case, I knew that I did not receive all of the books, so I went back and looked at the auction. I saw the books in the picture that were not included in the package. I read the description and figured out that those books were not listed in the description. Why, then, were they in the picture?

I did not write the seller since the books were not mentioned in the description. Additionally, the main books I wanted were the ones I received, and I got a good deal. I did check the seller's other auctions, and the four books that were in my auction's picture but not received were sold separately in another listing. Again, why were they also pictured in with the books for the auction I won?

In another transaction, I believe that I received only one of the two books. The trouble is that I am not certain, which is totally my fault. I seem to recall opening the envelope which had just the one book in it. I was busy that day and did not get around to doing anything with the book for several days. In the interim, I moved a lot of my books around, as in hundreds of them that I had to move to a different room.

Days later, I knew I had a problem when I could find only one of the two books. I have no idea whether I could have actually received both books and misplaced one of them. Since I moved a bunch of books around, there is definitely a chance that the second book is around here somewhere. On the other hand, I can only remember and find the one book. I cannot exactly contact the seller with the statement, "I think I only received one of the two books, but I could be wrong. I need you to check and see if you still have one of the books." I would look a bit stupid making that type of request.

The alternative would be to state, "I only received one of the two books. Could you check to see if you still have one of them?" The second statement would not make me look stupid, but what if I am wrong? The seller would think I was pulling a scam. I have to let it go, even though I think only one book was in the package and can find no trace of the other one.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Adventurous Allens Part 2

I gave the premise for the first book in the Adventurous Allens series in my previous post. I was unable to get into this book the first time I tried reading it due to the poor writing style. I was successful this second time, probably because I had already previously read the first 60 pages and remembered what I had read.

This book has about the most mistakes of any of the old juvenile series books that I have read. I have to wonder whether the book was even edited at all. Perhaps Burt published Grove's manuscript as it was sent to them. The book has misspelled words and missing quotation marks. Not only that, but Grove was overly fond of using unnecessary quotation marks.

I had to read some passages multiple times in order to understand them, because of the poor writing. In some cases, I had to ignore the fact that I did not understand what I was reading so that I could keep going.

This sentence on pages 50-51, reproduced exactly as it appears in the book, is confusing:
The two boys used the vacuum cleaner for Nancy as director of household affairs; and when everybody was tired, dishes and everything else could go, Nancy said, though they were "still there," when at last attention had to be turned in their direction!
Say what? I guess they put off doing the dishes when they were tired, but the dishes were still there, and then they had to do them after their other work was done.

From page 150:
Jimmy and the "bike" which was not a bike scurried around, gathering up various good things to eat and was warned not to lose the list which Nancy had given him.
Ignoring the fact that the sentence is very poorly structured, how am I supposed to know what a " 'bike' which was not a bike" is supposed to be? I had no idea, so I kept reading. It was a few chapters later that I finally figured out that the bike was the vehicle that Jimmy drove in the book, which was a small delivery van. At least, I think it was a small delivery van. Grove did not adequately explain the large and small delivery vans, so I really do not know exactly what the young people were using. It also did not help that Grove kept calling the large one a car.

I was taken aback on page 130 when Charles Curtis appeared. I did not know who he was, yet all of the Allens knew him quite well. I knew he had to be one of the Curtises from earlier in the book, so I went back and saw his name mentioned in passing on page 88, not enough to be remembered by the reader, which is why his appearance on page 130 nonplussed me.

Innuendos are always fun, and this book delivers a few good ones. From page 139:
Philip refused the offer to have him meet some young lady and join Charles and William with their ladies in dinner and later pleasures.
Yikes. I thought this was a children's book.

I had trouble understanding what Uncle John's business was, since the word "firm" was used repeatedly. I kept thinking that it was a law firm until I finally learned that it was a department store. How about calling it a department store from the beginning?

In spite of the bizarre punctuation and failure to explain basic parts of the premise, I actually enjoyed this book a lot. My favorite books tend to be books that were published during the 1930s, so this book fits right in. Despite the faults, I enjoyed this book more than I enjoyed several of the Billie Bradley books. I had trouble getting through a few of those. This book turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Perhaps the reason I enjoyed this book so much is because of how enjoyable it was to follow along with the adventures of the Allens, who are very likable young people. Philip, Nancy, Jimmy, and Marjorie have mutual respect for each other and get along quite well. Perhaps they get along better than one might expect of most siblings, but nevertheless, it made for very pleasant reading.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Adventurous Allens

I became interested in the Adventurous Allens series when I came into possession of the original artwork for one of the books. The Adventurous Allens series is a five volume series written by Harriet Pyne Grove. The author's name sounds like a bad pseudonym, but Harriet Pyne Grove was apparently a real person, and that was her real name.

1. The Adventurous Allens, 1932
2. The Adventurous Allens Find Mystery, 1932
3. The Adventurous Allens Afloat, 1932
4. The Adventurous Allens Marooned, 1932
5. The Adventurous Allens' Treasure Hunt, 1933

Like the other lesser-known A. L. Burt books, the Adventurous Allens books are extremely scarce and hard to find. It is difficult just to find the books, let alone the dust jackets. For comparison, these books are harder to find and scarcer than the first five Girl Scouts books by Virginia Fairfax. These books are probably equally scarce as the sixth volume in the Fairfax series.

I have been in-between series for a few weeks now and have been at a loss for what to read. I did not think I had any complete sets of unread books, until I realized that I had all five Adventurous Allens books.

I had not read any of them yet since Harriet Pyne Grove's writing style is a bit odd and kind of like that of Lilian Garis. I read some of the first Adventurous Allens book awhile back, but I had trouble getting into it because Grove's expository information is poorly written, making it difficult to understand. The most important part of a book is the beginning in which the author gains the reader's attention. Bungle that part, and the book will never be read.

This is how the book begins:
That first great adventure of the Adventurous Allens, the odd undertaking that led to all the rest of the adventures sought, enjoyed, endured, or met by them, was, from an adult standpoint, adventurous indeed. But it happened because at the time nothing else offered which seemed either profitable or endurable. It was a happy, if temporary solution of present evils; in other words it appealed to them as a great lark, in which they might forget sore hearts and all that had meant to them the security of home, the friendships and fun of school like, and their future dim, but expected opportunities.
That paragraph would scare off most readers. That would be why I had not read these books yet. Since I am somewhat desperate to have a set of books to read, I am ready and willing to deal with it right now.

The Adventurous Allens series tells the story of the four Allens: Philip, Nancy, Jimmy, and Marjorie. Philip is 19 and in his third year of college. Nancy is 18, and Jimmy is 15. Marjorie is around 12. Their parents died six years before the beginning of the story. Their Uncle John became their guardian and cared for them for the last six years. Uncle John recently died in a car accident, leaving the young people orphaned.

An employee of Uncle John's company stole a large sum of money, and much of the Allens' inheritance has to be used to pay off the debts. Actually, the Allens choose to use their inheritance because they want to do the right thing in their uncle's name, which just shows what upstanding young people they are. How can the reader not like them? They set a good example.

Since the Allens use much of their inheritance to pay off someone else's debt, they find themselves in need. They arrange for the sale of their uncle's property and decide to set off on an extended camping trip in two old delivery vans found on their uncle's property. The Allens explore the West and visit several national parks, including Yellowstone. They have a few harrowing adventures along the way.

I have too many thoughts for one post, so I will continue with my thoughts on Grove's writing style and the quality of the text in my next post.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Nancy Drew #56 2nd Printing 1980A-2

I have a 1980A-2 printing of Thirteenth Pearl according to Farah's 12th edition. There is not anything odd about the book itself, and it is just like the many other 2nd printings that have passed through my hands. It lists to #56 on the back cover and on the order form. It has Triple Hoax in italics on page 178.

I was writing the description of the book to sell it and was noting in the description that the book has a date written inside. I then realized that the date of "Christmas 1979" is rather odd for a book that was supposed to be printed in 1980 as Farah's Guide states.

I knew what this meant, but before acting upon it, I examined the book closely. I looked at my old "now sold" listings for the 2nd printing. I discovered little differences about Thirteenth Pearl that have no bearing on this topic, such as the fact that the first two printings have "TM" after Nancy Drew on the back cover. That "TM" has to be a reaction to the rights to the series transferring to Simon and Schuster. That was interesting although of no relevance to my issue.

The 1979 date is strong circumstantial evidence that the second printing was in 1979 rather than in 1980. It does not prove that the book was printed in 1979 since we do not know for a fact that the date was actually written inside the book in December 1979. However, dates are normally written inside books when the books are first purchased.

I contacted David Farah with this information. Farah told me that the dates used in his guide are the earliest ones that he has been able to prove. In past guides, he has changed printings to earlier years based on inscribed dates such as the one I found. Farah has made note of this inscription and plans to move the second printing earlier in the next guide.

I am glad I actually had the presence of mind to notice the date and the significance of it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Postage Due Package with a Twist

I was not going to write about this particular situation until I received an unexpected message from the seller.

A few weeks ago, I had to go to the post office to pick up a postage due package. Fortunately, I had to wait in line to send an international package via first class mail, so I was not inconvenienced by having to pick up the package. The postage due was $5.18. The seller had used a priority mail flat rate box, wrapped it in brown paper, and sent it via media mail.

Upon opening the package, I discovered that the box was a used box. USPS sees any use of priority mail materials for other classes of mail as a violation, but in this case, the box had already been used for its original intended purpose. The seller was simply recycling the box and had not defrauded the post office.

Since my bid for the books was at least $5.18 above my winning bid, I decided that I was not out any more than I was willing to pay for the books in the first place. Furthermore, the box was used, so why bother the seller about the situation? For those who think it odd that I would not take it up with the seller, I have had some sellers respond in a very negative, irrational fashion. Recently, I decided only to contact sellers when I feel the extra postage amount made my purchase too expensive. I don't enjoy being attacked when I have done nothing wrong.

Fast forward one week, and I received a message from the seller. He asked me if I had received all of my books. I had purchased several lots of books from him. He stated that he had received a "strange letter" from my post office about how media mail is only to be used for books. Since he did not know what the letter meant, he was concerned about whether I had received the books.

Of course I knew why he had received the letter. This is the response I sent.
I have received the books. I have not opened the box of ----- books since they arrived today, and I just got home.

This is interesting that they sent you a letter, and I know why. The first package you sent me (-----) was a flat rate priority box that was wrapped in brown paper. My post office pulled off some of the brown paper and sent the package on to me postage due because of the priority box. I had to pick up the package at the post office and had to pay $5.18 postage. It had messages stamped on it saying that priority mail supplies are only to be used for priority mail, etc.

My post office is overly vigilant about inspecting incoming media mail packages for violations, so I have to pay postage due on packages fairly frequently. I usually tell the sellers and ask to be reimbursed because most of them are using new priority supplies. I noticed that the box you used appeared to be a used box, and I don't see a problem with that. Additionally, I was willing to pay a little more than the opening bid for the ----- books anyway and would have paid more if someone else had bid, so I decided not to tell you about it. I guess I should have since my post office decided to tell you, especially since it sounds like the letter didn't explain the true situation.

The post office sees it as a violation for even used priority boxes to be reused for other classes. I don't agree with the policy on used boxes, but that is how it is. I just accept it.

I will be leaving you positive feedback and fives on the DSR ratings, so you have no need to worry about anything. I always run behind on feedback, which is why I haven't left it yet.
The seller thanked me for the information since he did not realize that he was in violation of the rules. He reimbursed me for the $5.18. He thanked me for being understanding about his mistake and told me that he was refunding me because he would not have felt right if he hadn't. Isn't that a great seller?

I am a bit annoyed with the inefficiency of my post office for sending the seller a form letter that did not explain the true situation. They should have two form letters: one for media mail packages that do not contain books and the other for media mail packages mailed with priority supplies. Of course the seller was confused since he knew he mailed me only books. How was he to know what the problem actually was? How helpful is it to send a seller a message informing him of his policy violation yet not telling the actual violation? It sounds like something eBay would do to one of its sellers.