Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chegg: Cheap Books, Crappy Service, Costly Results

My wife and I have been using Chegg for a while with decent success. Renting a book through Chegg is generally at least $30 cheaper than buying used, even if you sell the book back. I like the business model and all was going well until last semester. Now they're trying to charge me full price for two books on a gotcha scheme where you can't prove their employees' ineptitude.

Here's what happened: Both of us rented several books for Spring semester. Time slipped by and my wife never sent them back. So we paid a late fee. That was fine, it was our fault. After that we made sure to send it back, because inaction on our part would result in the purchase of the book. So we sent three of them back in a single box.

The catch: only one of those books was checked back in. The box was received, there was no mention of damage to the box. Thing is, we can't prove that we put all of the books in it. Why? Because with Chegg you simply use their return labels, so there's no receipt saying how heavy the box was, nor is there any remaining evidence of the contents. It's your word against theirs.

What this means for you is that if one of their warehouse workers screws up, you're paying. Or at least you'll be charged. I'm nearly certain that's what happened here. I have no hard evidence but it certainly does fit. We know we returned all of the books due at the time, the box arrived, but only one book was checked in. That's not all, though...

Just today, as we attempted to print the return label for the last book we'll ever rent from Chegg, we found that the book was marked as returned. It happens that this is my Macroeconomics book, whereas the Microeconomics book from last semester is one that went missing. Needless to say, they're very similar books. Why is this one, which I'd only just received back then and is still sitting in my office, marked as returned when the other went missing?

There's a million scenarios, but this is what seems likely: The books arrive and for whatever reason they are manually checked in (a barcode is misread, maybe that's just the process). The worker receiving the book doesn't pay enough attention, because they're probably not paid well enough to pay attention and likely have quotas to meet for the day. Said worker checks in the book that was recently rented instead of the book that was due.

That still leaves a mystery of what happened to the other book that is missing. However, in such a scenario it's likely that stressed, underpaid workers doing repetitive cataloging will make mistakes. So it wouldn't surprise me if that book were simply not properly checked in.

Of course, that's only half the problem. The other half is the way this service will treat you in this scenario. They're argumentative. They're brash. They refuse to acknowledge any possibility of fault. You'll spend countless calls with different members of their CSR team explaining the same thing over again, and receiving the same attitude each time. Then they charge you full price and completely destroy the value of their service.

That ends my relationship with Chegg. Well, there is one more chapter to this. After my wife speaks with yet another supervisor today, if the problem is not somehow amicably resolved, we'll be speaking with our credit card company to dispute the charge. Fortunately, Amex tends to look down on this as much as I do.

Update: It would seem that it is possible to get through to these people. After a conversation with a supervisor, and an explanation that yes there are two economic fields with similar names, we're getting a refund. There's no explanation as to what happened to the other book. I don't particularly care, though. It's over and that's what matters.

Update 2: Pretty wild. We received another call and a bit more of a refund. I think Chegg is taking this to heart. There's more here.


Eric said...

I rented with last spring quarter and saved over $300 dollars.

Andy said...

I had a similar experience with Chegg... I've used now once as well and the customer service is pretty good.

Dan said...

I'm actually going to try BookRenter next semester. I'm a little concerned because their damage policy seems to border on disallowing normal wear. However, the book I need is exceptionally cheap through that service so I think it's worth the risk.

I'm also going to buy another book used from Amazon where they claim to guarantee a buyback price (condition dependent, of course) through December. If that works out, it'll be the cheapest price I've found for that book from any of the similar services.

Anyway, I'll try to report on my experience with the others later.

Briana said...
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