Here is a recent example (one that is sadly all too common). I'd been searching for a reasonably priced copy of a certain Civil War book that's been OP for going on 15 years, and I found an online listing for a 'NEW' copy at less than 1/10 the going rate. Of course, the unlikely condition and price raised a number of obvious red flags, so I sent off a politely worded and apologetic inquiry seeking a reaffirmation of the book's condition and a description of how the seller packages his books. The replies (a series of increasingly insulting missives delivered in rapid succession, in which it was admitted that the seller was selling a used book with highlighting inside as 'new') ended with the lovely:
"Please don't order this book. I think you are going to be a pain in the ass, and I don't want trouble with [venue X]. Thanks for your interest."I had a good laugh about that one.
It is also strange the defensiveness that inquiries about packaging engender. One would think independent sellers would jump at the opportunity to separate themselves from the competition, especially if the book's price is considerable. Instead, one often gets the canned response "I've had X number of customers and no one has ever complained". Invariably, this is code for 'I package as terribly as the next guy'. Sadly, if I requested a partial or full refund for every order that was grossly misgraded and/or underpackaged and consequently badly damaged (as I would be entitled to do), I would have my buying privileges revoked.
The seller rating systems employed by online venues are all fatally flawed. The vast majority of book buyers are only concerned with price and apparently have a bizarre conception of who controls delivery time, leaving the overall seller ratings of horrific mega sellers indistinguishable from those that excel through proper grading, packaging, and overall customer service. So where does this leave a buyer who actually does care about correctly identified books and their condition? You have to be a pain in the ass. You have to ask a lot of questions (politely and diplomatically, of course) a paying customer should never have to ask. The content of the reply and manner in which it is conveyed will inform you far more about the likelihood of you getting what you want than any of the silly rating systems out there.