Amazon – Noblesse Oblige

I am your faithful scribe
my book is $14.95
but it only
sells on Amazon dot C-A
for 50,000 dollars, and I mean K!

Oh, Amazone….
please list Baby for President on Amazon.com
It’s been three weeks in waiting…
A technical issue? I want a tissue!

And take down the fraud
who knows what’s going on!
stock price goes up and services go down

You’re the only game in town
and we’re stuck at home
signed up for prime and it’s not worth a dime

Oh, no, Amazone!
Have mercy on me!
Noblesse oblige – pretty please –
if United States laws do not make you

save your place with this bonus Baby for President bookmark

Baby For President- replaced by newer?

Baby For President

Almost two weeks ago, I noticed our paperback book from 2012, Baby For President, was not listed on Amazon anymore. Thinking it was because of the CreateSpace-Kindle Direct Publishing merger that happened recently, I re-posted it on Amazon. The market for the book is U.S. and Canada. I received an Amazon email that it’s up. But as of June 6, it’s not up. It was briefly up on Amazon in Canada…well it’s a long story…

I am the author of 11 books of babies that are published through major publishers such as Random House, Harper Collins, and Workman Publishing. But the book in question, Baby For President, is a print-on-demand paperback book that Tom and I self-published through Amazon, along with a Kindle eBook and an Apple iBook edition. It’s an election-year project that we’ve had fun with since the year 2000 when Tom first captioned my photos, and our book, What Babies Think, was published by Andrews McMeel.

In 2018 I noticed something really weird on Amazon. There was a new “Mass Market Paperback” edition of the book on its own listing page, with a slightly different name of the book and of the publisher.  The selling price was more than double the $14.95 price we set for our paperback. So we raised the price of Baby For President to $50, updated the cover with a new photo, and ordered the counterfeit book for $33.

Wouldn’t you know it, the book never arrived. The bookseller sent a message that it was damaged in shipment, and the shipper was in the midst of returning the package to them, and they were presently out of stock. Even though their listing advertised that they had three in stock. And then the price went up to $115.77.

What was especially maddening is that the counterfeit book listing came up in an Amazon search for our book, when our real listing didn’t even show up! Probably because we ordered a copy, so it raised the Amazon Best Sellers Rank of his to 2,042,527, when our book was ranked at 9,204,621!

I sent Amazon a DMCA notice and they removed the phony listing. Because our self-published book is a print-on-demand, I’m the sole distributer, and our edition is the only edition, we would be the only ones with a listing displaying the photo and selling the book new on Amazon. Or did the third party seller have a copy of the printable file? Or did the third party seller even need an actual book to do whatever it was they were doing?

After that, I received an email from the infringer who identified himself only as Walter, writing that he lost his Amazon store and he needed me to help him get it back.

I'm so sorry for infringing your intellectual property rights.
Though I know that nothing I do could really make up for 
what I did wrongly, I just would like to say, 
"am really very very sorry for you!"
I guarantee to you that I would never infringe your property 
rights again in the future. This guarantee could serve as a 
legal proof against me from any related issue happen 
in the future.
Since my Amazon selling account is the only financial source 
to maintain my family's living, and I have parents and kids 
need to feed, I cordially ask you to give me a second chance.
by your mercy and kind heart, could you please write a 
notification email from penny@babystock.com to 
notice-dispute@amazon.com saying that the case
has been resolved?

A little scary, although it’s the kind of note you’d want to get from an infringer, along with a check. I didn’t respond (I didn’t get a check), but his store was back on Amazon within six weeks.

The paperback dropped off of Amazon.com at one point, I thought because Amazon’s CreateSpace, that printed the book, merged into KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). Having just noticed, I moved the book to KDP, because after all, it is an election year.

I can report that after two years, the Amazon bad players have upped their game, by 3,333 times! Baby For President, while not yet listed on Amazon.com, priced at $14.95, is listed on Amazon in Canada. Immediately after the Canadian listing went live, a bookseller in Maine, U.S.A. listed our book for $10,515 CDN new, and $50,000 CDN in a used “acceptable” condition.

I took my book off of Canada, hoping it would erase the disturbing Books Mela listing, but the listing remained, without the link to buy it from Amazon…

…and now it’s selling new in Japan….

…and now the Kindle book is sold all over the world, when it’s only supposed to be sold in the U.S….

So I asked Amazon, what’s going on? My book is for sale by Books Mela on Amazon.ca and the book is not even for sale by me, and I can’t even buy author copies. I’m restricted by Amazon and KDP to having to set the price of my book between $10 and $250. But Books Mela can “sell” my book new for $10,515 and used for $50,000. That’s not fishy?  And their answer, direct from Jeff Bezo’s Executive Customer Service, where emails go when they are sent to jeff@amazon.com, is that third parties don’t need the book in stock to be able to sell it on Amazon. If the third party has a “sale,” they can delay the shipment while they order the book from Amazon. They can “sell” it new. They can “sell” it used (even if no copies exist.) They can “sell” it for whatever price they want. They can buy it from the Amazon link and ship it straight to the enduser. Except that I don’t get much of that $50,000 sale. On their “sale” involving my book for $50,000, they would theoretically pay my royalty on the $14.95 price, which is $2.37, and Amazon would benefit twice from the sale of one book, once by making $5 on the first sale (if Books Mela even bothers to buy the book to do whatever it is they do) and then $4,000 to $15,000 on the second sale of the first sale of my book.

Amazon used to be so responsive when they were growing their fan base. My book isn’t even available to buy yet – it’s only available for criminals to attached themselves to it. Amazon stands by their policy – they think it’s fine that my book provides a third party something to “sell” for $50,000, even when the actual book is not available to buy on Amazon.com or elsewhere in the world.

It’s 2020, and the internet is broken.

[UPDATE: JUNE 15]:  My book is still not for sale in the U.S. It is still for sale in Canada for $50,000 CND. (That’s about $40,000 U.S. dollars). How is this third party bookseller allowed to list my book, when my book is not available? Amazon, who I email almost daily in regard to this problem, asking why my book has not been listed yet, says the reason why my book is not listed yet, for my price of $14.95, is that there is a “technical problem” with my book. I would say so!

Mysteriously retouched by Pierre

Laying of corner stone – Mount Salem Methodist Episcopal Church Addition – March 11, 1917     photo by Pierre Gentieu 1917 / printed by Penny Gentieu 1992
History of Mount Salem Methodist Church, Wilmington Delaware 1847-1947  written  by Frank P. Gentieu 1948
Photos by Penny Gentieu 1992

Digital image by Penny Gentieu 2019

Jeep Administration Building Implosion

April 14, 1979

Jeep officials said the building was too expensive to keep, that they needed the parking spaces.  It was 64 years old, built in 1914, and had been vacant for five years. The demolition was announced less than 60 days before the implosion date.

We were all so disappointed. To think what a beautiful, distinctive, classic and uniquely famous building was being torn down for a parking lot.

As the Jeep Administration Building in Toledo, Ohio was being made ready to blow up, the classic, 63 year old Waldorf Hotel on Summit Street and Madison Avenue was being torn down, to make way for a bank.

Tommy was a punk rock drummer in a Detroit band. And quite a great drummer, at that. He seemed like the perfect metaphor of the pending doom – he was like the dynamite that was going to blow up the building. Out with the old, in with the new, rock and roll style. I thought punk was the perfect answer to disco.

I asked him to pose for me as the dark force in the building during the weeks leading up to the implosion. We managed to somehow get on the roof of the building, where Tommy stood on a ladder over West Toledo.

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One day nearly two years after this shoot, Tom said to me, I’m moving to New York, do you want to come? Of course I said yes. We’ve been together ever since. Tommy (his drummer name, his real name is Tom), the proverbial dynamite of the Jeep Administration Building implosion, turned out to be the spark that changed my life.

We actually moved to New York on April 13, staying at a New Jersey hotel that night before we drove over the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan and down Broadway on the morning of April 14, 1981, exactly two years after the implosion Jeep Administration Building. It didn’t even cross our minds at the time. We were, after all, two nonchalant punk brats. In fact, not until right now have I ever realized what a fortuitous day that was for us.

Is life the car or the road?

There’s a car involved (a Jeep) there’s a road involved (40 years so far), and there’s some dynamite, in the form of a couple of beating hearts (or is it music?) …. today is much more than just the 40th anniversary of the Jeep Administration Building implosion.

But we are still sorry to see it go.

Pierre and the Lafayette Guard

First photo I ever saw of Pierre Gentieu. He was wearing the Lafayette Guard uniform, and I saw it right after I rented my Lafayette St. studio in January 1992, which was right after I found out that he was a photographer. Thank you, Pierre.
Soldiers representing five generations, Penny Gentieu Photography Studio on Lafayette St., New York City. A lot happened in the photo biz during the years I had the studio – it was a war on photographers waged by the Son of Getty. But I was up for it. I bought these toy soldiers in New Orleans in 1999 to put on display. Sometimes they fell down from the vibration of the Six train that went through the basement of the Lafayette Street building, but never Pierre, and never the bullet. Thank you, Pierre.
380 Lafayette St., New York, New York, Spring 2000.  My studio building was under renovation both physically and metaphysically. I had a 2,100 square foot corner space with on the fifth floor with 12 windows, for ten years, then it was renovated and wouldn’t you know, the rent tripled… nothing lasts forever… except…
The Marquis de Lafayette monument. Prospect Park entrance at 9th Street, Brooklyn, New York, just five blocks down the street from our 78 Prospect Park West apartment, 2006. Thank you, Pierre.

Chris and Andrew and Pierre’s bullet

I’m descended from two Civil War Yankee soldiers. Well, that is, one Yankee soldier, Pierre Gentieu, and Binie Weed, the sister of Yankee soldier Frank Weed, who was Pierre’s closest comrade in the 13th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry and his tent mate.  Had it not been for a split second decision made by my great great grandfather, enroute to Vicksburg as a Confederate soldier in April 1862, Pierre and Frank would never have met on such agreeable terms, Pierre would not have been introduced to Binie after the war, and there wouldn’t be me! I suppose that’s why I felt compelled to find out all I could about the inspiring story of courage that he left for us.

While researching my great great grandfather’s Civil War story in Louisiana, March, 2000,  I met two very special Civil War historians, Chris Pena and Andrew Capone, who lived in the area of Pierre’s first battle, an hour up the river from New Orleans in Donaldsonville and Thibodeaux.

They gave us a tour of the area, showing us where Pierre’s camp was, where his first battle was. Later, they treated us to a delicious Louisana home cooked dinner of sauce piquant at Andrew and Judy’s house in Donaldsonville, the town where Pierre Gentieu took his stand.

Site of Pierre Gentieu’s first battle at Georgia Landing, between Donaldsonville and Thibodeaux. The road here separates the two plantations where the battle lines were drawn in the Fall of 1862.

I told them the story of  how in 1861, Pierre initially signed up with a Louisiana militia, but ended up fighting in the 13th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry.

It was April 1862, and Colonel Theard of the New Orleans Guards was leading the militia to Vicksburg from Fort Livingston. Half way to Vicksburg, in the very town of Donaldsonville, he lined up his men and gave them a speech.

Colonel Theard told them of his orders to go to Vicksburg, but explained that he had no right to take them outside the state without their consent. He hoped they would go, but he didn’t want to force anyone. The Colonel then offered any man an opportunity to declare if they were against the cause of the Confederacy. If any man had any scruples about it, that man was free to step out of the ranks.

In Pierre’s own words, as he recalled the moment 50 years later in a letter to his nephew, Frank Weed’s son:

Then came the time for me when I had to decide at once.  My conscience and pride were struggling; one was saying you ought not accept the cause of slavery; and the shame to appear before my comrades, as if I were afraid because we would have to fight, was a struggle indeed; but I made up my mind now or never whatever happens—I stepped out the first one in my company with cries of coward from the rear.

There I stood for a few long moments until Albert Fest stepped out from the right of the company. A very tall man compared to me, he said, “Pierre, I am with you on this!” Then 30 German men stepped out soon after that. As we were the butt of all insults from behind, the Colonel put a stop to that very quickly, saying “None of that, men, it takes more moral courage for those men to step out as they have done than to stay in the ranks;” and closing the few of us near him he spoke kindly, but sadly, saying to leave all our equipments, taking only our personal property—-that New Orleans was so many miles off, in such a direction—-we could get there the best way possible—-that we were free;  and so we left worrying whether or not some of the hot headed ones might shoot at us; but the Colonel kept them in line until we disappeared in the woods.

Back in New Orleans, the trip of which was not without adventure, Pierre signed up with the 13th Connecticut. One reason he chose that regiment was that the great looking uniforms appealed to his sense of style, with the dark blue trousers and polished brass buttons. He survived nine battles.

Pierre Gentieu in his uniform of the 13th Connecticut Infantry Volunteers. This regiment featured dark blue pants, as opposed to the common light blue of most of the rest of the Yankees. Because the 13th Connecticut was so well dressed and polished, they were called the “dandy regiment.”

After dinner, Andrew took us into his workroom. He excavated battle grounds, including the site of Pierre’s first battle as a Union soldier. Andrew looked through the baggies of bullets, then handed me a bullet covered in white rust and dust, saying, it was Pierre’s bullet. Pierre dropped it during his first battle. The bullet never hurt anyone, Andrew pointed out, and it was mine now because Pierre wanted me to have it.

I gladly accepted the bullet for all of its poetry and brought it back up north. I arranged it in my studio along with some toy soldiers that I bought in New Orleans, one to represent each of five generations, and a broken brick Chris and Andrew gave me from the ruins of Fort Butler, and some Spanish moss.

The soldiers were slightly precarious on the brick, because some mornings I would come in to find that the soldiers had fallen on the floor or into the Spanish moss, from the vibrations of the Six train that ran through the basement of the Lafayette St. building. But never Pierre, and never the bullet.