Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Book Packaging Quality Showdown

The biggest tragedy in my life is that I live in an area where there are no bookstores located near me. As a result I have to order all my books online. Over the past couple of years I've tried most of the South African online retailers and narrowed things down to those that offer free shipping if a minimum order threshold is reached. Not only does that give you an excuse to order more books, but it just makes way more economical sense.

When it comes to ordering books online the quality of the packaging used plays a critical role. It can mean the difference between a happy, satisfied customer or the shopping experience from hell. To a book lover there is nothing as disappointing as opening a package only to discover a damaged book inside.

I've put three of South Africa's online retailers to the test and this was my experience based on multiple orders from these retailers.


Loot.co.za (referral link) is my absolute top pick when it comes to ordering new releases. They take extreme care with the packaging of items. Batches of books are carefully packaged in such a way that they won't damage each other, covered with bubble wrap and then, depending on the size of the box used, more protective packaging material is placed around them to prevent the books from shifting around. Single books are wrapped in bubble wrap and securely packaged in a box.



In the past year I've placed 12 book orders from them and only 1 order had an issue. The book in question arrived with 4 pages damaged by a 1cm tear. The book was still sealed in cellophane and it was clear that this was due to a printing issue and not due to poor packaging. The return process was easy and the replacement book arrived without any problems.

Packaging quality: 5/5


Reader's Warehouse offers the best prices on older books. While their selection is somewhat limited the often have the best deals around and since most of the books are in stock they are able to ship your order very quickly. The quickest I've received an order was within 2 days, which is quite an achievement since I'm located in an outlaying area. Reader's Warehouse is the only retailer that sometimes includes extras like bookmarks with your order.



Books are packaged securely and protected with bubble wrap and other protective materials. The only negative is that the company doesn't have standard boxes. They use whichever box is available and this can sometimes lead to slight damage.

In the past year and a half I've placed 5 orders with them. One order arrived with slight dings to the corners of the books due to the fact that they were shipped in a makeshift box which had rounded corners. I was offered a discount voucher as recompense for the damage.

Packaging quality:  4/5


Before the merger between Kalahari.net and Takealot I ordered all my books from Kalahari. Sadly the great service and packaging I grew accustomed to from Kalahari did not transfer during the merger. I love Takelot for electronics, but they do not handle books well. Not at all.



Books are shipped inside a box without any protective packaging whatsoever. Multiple books are stacked on top of each other, and allowed to tumble around inside the box without any protection. In one instance (picture on top) the books were thrown into the box and some of those protective air cushions were placed on top. Of course since their was no padding on the sides this provided no protection whatsoever.

Every couple of months I'm enticed with discount codes/vouchers into ordering from them and most of the time it results in disappointment. My latest order arrived with the corners of the (very expensive) hardcover smashed to hell due to the fact that it was placed in the bottom of a too large box without any protection. I've returned the item and I'm still awaiting a replacement.


In the past 2 years I've placed 8 book orders with them. 2 of these orders had books damaged to such an extend that I requested replacements. 4 of the orders had books with minor damage to the corners of the books/paperbacks. I didn't want to wait for replacements on those so had to live with the damage. 1 order arrived unscathed. Complaints resulted in promises that they will look into improving their book packaging, but since this is a reoccurring problem nothing seems to have been done.

If you order from them it's a gamble whether your book will arrive undamaged. It's best to order a single book at a time since that provides the best chance of success. If Takealot wants to remain a viable option in the online book marketplace they seriously need to take a look at their shipping practices. I'm sure it would cost far less to take more time in packaging books using adequate packaging materials rather than have to deal with returns.


Addendum: A little fiasco
Today I received the replacement package for the book mentioned above. My heart sank when I saw the packaging. Once again the book was jammed into a box that was way too big and some brown paper was thrown on top. No brown paper to the sides where it really needed protection. My immediate thought was "Here we go again". A bit prophetic as it turns out. Same damage to the book and upon further investigation I noticed that the cellophane was cut in the exact way I did with the original damaged book in order to inspect the damage under the dust jacket. It turns out that Takealot sent me the exact same damaged book I returned as the replacement for the damaged book. I can't even...

Now I have to return it to them again and hope for the best. If they'll refund me in full I think I'll just order it elsewhere... 

Packaging quality: 2/5

I would love to hear your experiences with these retailers. Could it be that I'm just extremely unlucky with Takealot?


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