How Springer sent me to collections for adopting their textbook.

The story begins with one of those little mundane activities that fill every professor’s day. Right before the spring semester began I was evaluating various textbook options for the next time I teach undergraduate real analysis. Stephen Abbott’s Understanding Analysis published by Springer seemed to be exactly the kind of book I was looking for. It is standard practice with many academic publishers to send faculty evaluation copies of textbooks upon request (and frequently without request, too!). I asked my department secretary to request an evaluation copy of Abbott’s book for me.

The book arrived in my office mailbox in no time, and soon thereafter an invoice for $54.95 addressed to me personally arrived in my email with the comment, “60 DAY APPROVAL COPY, FREE WITH ADOPTION ONLY.” I forwarded the invoice to the secretary with the news that I had decided to adopt the textbook, and she communicated the news to the Springer rep listed on the invoice. All standard stuff.

Then a couple of weeks later I got another copy of the same textbook in my mailbox. Oh, how funny! They accidentally sent me two. I gave it to the secretary. She rolls her eyes and says she’ll take care of it. She ships it back to Springer. Emails fly. The secretary forwarded one to me to inform me that it had been dealt with. The Springer rep was suitably embarrassed. He had written, “Can you believe we sent them a second book and then charged them for the first!” Someone at Springer would apparently take care of it for us.

Then I get another invoice addressed to me personally. It must have gone out before the people at Springer took care of it. Right?

Nope. Today I got a letter from a collections agency. Dr. Robert Jacobson owes $61. Springer literally sent me to a collections agency because I wanted to adopt their textbook for my course.


Robert Jacobson

R&D-oriented computer scientist, mathematician, and software engineer with broad experience. I have particular interests in compilers, programming languages, and virtual machines; computer vision and machine learning; and algorithm design and mathematical programming.

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