I got a small box of books from Amazon recently, as I have been known to do on occasion; like, oh, say, monthly. For the first time, these books were not wrapped or tied down in any way, they were just stacked loose in the box. The box was pretty chewed up -- torn through in a couple places, in fact -- and all the books were a little dinged up. Oh, there was one of those little balloons rattling around in there with them, but it had been completely ineffective. Most of the damage was not too bad, although all of it was completely unnecessary, given just a little care in packaging. But one nice hardcover had its dust jacket badly torn. When you put a heavy book with a dust jacket loose in a box with some more heavy books and then kick the box around, the results are very predictable.
So I returned that one. They pay return shipping, but I paid for a box and packing, because I wanted it to be well-packed, to make it clear that the return shipping did not cause the damage. They cross-shipped a replacement.
Today I got the replacement. Again, there was no wrapping or any kind; the book was just loose in a box. And so the dust jacket was once again torn, although not quite so badly this time, because it was the only book in the box. The box wasn't damaged, but do they think these things don't get thrown around?
Amazon used to take a piece of cardboard and firmly shrink-wrap the stack of books to the cardboard, by size, so that the books did not shift around. The piece of cardboard fit tightly into the bottom of the box. Sometimes they'd throw in a couple of those balloons on top so the whole bundle was held snugly in the box. They almost always arrived in fine shape when packaged like this, even if the box was damaged or dented. I'd get an occasional cracked CD case or a DVD case with a broken spindle, but those cases are fragile and I easily replaced from my stash of spare cases.
I have written Amazon a note inquiring about why they have changed their shipping practices. We'll see what they say. I'm a big fan of Amazon because of their support for small press and obscure titles, but if they can't get books to me in one piece, I can find other sources.
FOLLOWUP: Amazon replied with a boilerplate message advising me to return the damaged book for a refund, but the text seems to indicate they think the issue is specific to this particular item.
"We're investigating and will make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else. While we research this issue, the item may be temporarily unavailable for purchase from Amazon.com, though it may be available from other merchants on the Amazon.com website. When you see that the item is available again from Amazon.com, then you can be assured that we have resolved this problem and it should be safe to order the item again."
That's a non-answer, so I wrote them yet another note. At some point it becomes wasted flapping of gums, I suppose.