You won’t be surprised to learn that we buy a lot of Chinese art books here at chineseart.co.uk. We maintain a large library of books to help checking all our entries and for help with delving into some of the arcane byways of Chinese art.
We buy books internationally and one of our largest suppliers is (or was) amazon.co.uk. As you may know, not all books supplied by Amazon actually come directly from the Behemoth that is this vast operation, which operates internationally with virtually no policing. Some books are supplied by what is known as Amazon Marketplace – independent traders using the Amazon mantle.
Rather recently, we spotted a book on Amazon we wished to acquire: Chinese Ceramics: Porcelain of the Qing Dynasty 1644-1911, sold by an outlet called ‘the book house’, said to be part of Amazon Marketplace. We duly paid for same.
Imagine our surprise when the book illustrated below pitched up in the post!
It doesn’t look to us much like a book dealing with the porcelain of the Qing dynasty, does it? Maybe the book picker at the warehouse wasn’t very bright and made a little mistake? Oh, but what is this? If you look at the bottom of the back cover you will see that this unassuming cheap little paperback does, indeed, officially profess, with an official bar code, to be Chinese Ceramics . . . Even more disturbing, the book came in the same parcel as a guidebook bought DIRECTLY from Amazon books UK. So it did not come froma marketplace seller at all. That, Amazon, is what is called FRAUD.
Now, there’s been rather a lot in the press lately about people getting bricks in the post professing to be expensive phones or laptops. Perhaps this has now spread to the Amazon world of art books?
We emailed Amazon. The nice American-sounding man who came on the phone, Mr Christian, did not dispute the matter. I got the impression it wasn’t that unusual. So far we have got no credit for our postage (£2.80). I suppose if you take a few pounds or dollars off millions of people, you will become rather rich, especially if you don’t pay very much in tax.
If Amazon was based in the UK, I would fire off a legal missive. But, as we all know, they are based in remote Luxembourg, safe from all threats: from both governments and customers. The most you could do is hop on a plane and go and deface their nameplate.
Curiously, the very same morning an email came in, apparently from the organiser of a lecture on Chinese art (indeed, on fakes and forgeries!), I was to give a few days later. I was surprised to see that it advised me he was away at a conference in Krakow, Poland (what about my lecture???). His cases had been stolen and would I please send him some money pronto?
It’s sort of comforting to know that it’s not just the Chinese art scene which is replete with fakes and cons. They are, indeed, all around us. Let’s be aware . . .