Friday, June 21, 2019

Day of the Ziffit

This is to be a day of sitting and waiting. Let me tell you why.

We are readers. And as such—and despite occasionally taking advantage of the amazing convenience of eBooks—we habitually visit bookstores and charity shops and return home with arm-loads of new acquisitions. In a perfect world, this would not present a problem—an ever-expanding library is a joy to a book-reader—but, alas, this is not a perfect world so we do not live in a mansion with a library and snooker room that we could turn into a library. We live in a tiny flat, a reality which, from time to time, requires us to cull the herd.

We undertook such a purge a few weeks ago. But this one was different, as we had discovered a service called Ziffit.

It sounded brilliant. You download the app, point your phone at the bar-code on the book and, ping, the book is added to a list, along with the amount of money Ziffit will pay you for it. You do this to all the books you want to get rid of, then take them to a handy collection point (there is, it turns out, one half a mile away from us) where they are shipped to Ziffit Central and a few days later, money appears in your bank account.

That’s what the website said, at least. The reality was a little different.

It started well. I pointed my phone at the first book. Ping! It was accepted. The next book was not. Nor was the next. Nor the next. I scanned several series, where one book in the series was accepted, and all the others rejected. I scanned old books, new books, rare books, popular books—nothing. In all, I scanned over one hundred books. Of that, only eight were accepted, for a total of £4.97. This in my view, wasn’t enough to bother with. So I didn't.

Undeterred, or perhaps because I had already done all the work to dig them out, I then scanned our collection of CDs.

The CD cull represented a major step in our efforts to regain storage space. We’d been hauling these CDs around with us for years but only recently realized that we no longer owned a CD player. So, even if we did one day decide to move several items of heavy bedroom furniture and search through the box under the bed to find that one song (rather than just cue it up on our phone) we wouldn’t be able to play it anyway.

Still, it was a heart-rending decision. These were physical items, sought-after jewels that, throughout our lives, we had scoured erstwhile records stores for and listened to over and over again. Each one evoked memories, making them more than just a collection of useless, plastic discs. But, while memories don’t take up space, things that evoke them do, so the CDs were consigned to the Ziffit pile.

That went marginally better. The hit-rate for CDs was about 1 to 4, so we ended up with a big pile of acceptables, and four big piles of rejects to haul down to the charity shops, which, incredibly, still accept CDs.

Following Ziffit’s guidelines, I boxed up the ones they wanted, closed out the list and moved on to the step where I arranged to take them to the local drop-off point. To my consternation, that option mysteriously disappeared, leaving me no choice but to arrange for a courier to come pick it up, which required our presence. And the pick-up window was from 8AM to 5PM.

The upshot was, in order to get rid of the CDs—and, hopefully, see £98.07 put in our bank account—we had to take a full day out of our oddly busy schedule so we can sit here, in the flat, all day long, waiting for someone to come take this box. (And how, I have to wonder, do people with the inconvenience of jobs cope with this?)

Ziffit, to their credit, did try to soften the blow by telling me that, on the day, they would send an email with a 1-hour window “so you can plan your day.” Sorry, too little, too late. I plan my day in the weeks leading up to it, not at 9AM when I may or may not get an email telling me to be here from 1 to 2PM. (No email yet, by the by.)

To conclude, it would have been a lot less trouble and taken a lot less time if I had just bundled everything up and schlepped it down to the charity shops. The only up-side to Ziffit that I can see is that, from here on, I won’t be tempted to try any of the “Bucks for Books” dot coms popping up like housing estates on green-field sites.

However, if you find yourself with a surplus of books, or a surfeit of obsolete CDs, and you don’t mind buying packing materials or waiting around all day for a delivery van, then you might give them a try. After all, despite my moaning, I am going to be almost a hundred quid to the good when this is over. And I am getting a day off where I don’t have to run here or there or do this or that so, all in all, I would call it a win. But just.

UPDATE: Three emails and two text assuring me they would come get my package today. We waited all day, and no one showed up. No hundred quid, and I have to unpack all the CDs and take them to the charity shop. Ziffit can stuff it.

Disclaimer: Ziffit is not paying me for this, aside from the money they promised for the CDs. They did not solicit a review and, frankly, would probably have been happier if I had not supplied one