Buying certain books commit you to a lifelong relationship -- that seems to be how some publication houses think. Purchasing their books is a vow of marrage until death doth us part. You want to buy one book for a specific reason and you practically need a divorce lawyer to stop receiving future issues. I don’t even bother buying from certain places anymore because it is such a nuisance to stop them from sending me more than I asked for.
I suppose the first of such bondings began in 1963 when my wife and I purchased an encyclopedia. Oh, it was just such a dandy package. A twenty-four volume set encyclopedia, a ten-volume set of children classics and going forward, ten-years of yearbooks to keep the information fresh; and a bookshelf build to hold it all. The problem is it took 34 years to get the bleeping yearbooks to stop coming, by which time there wasn’t any more room on the bookcase and it was sagging in the middle from the weight of the years piled on top.
Unfortunately I do very well at repeating my mistakes, because about ten years ago I ordered an accounting book, figuring it would help on a project I was involved with at my job. Six months later, I receive an update, a bundle of pages to replace changes made to parts of the original ones. Well, isn’t that nice of them, I thought. Then a couple of weeks later I receive a bill for about ninety bucks for this update. So, I pass the bill on to the boss and the company pays the fee. Six months later a familiar package arrives, and so it went every six months thereafter, following me as I moved here and there in the company, like some ghostly albatross stalking this ancient reader.
I really don’t want these updates anymore. I just received another and I went over the bill closely and found how to end it...maybe. I have to send back the package, which I have done, and now I have to call this place and ask them to cancel the account and I have to do it within a certain amount of time or I have to pay the bill. I hate this kind of stuff. When I order a book, I want just that book at that time. If there are updates, then fine, send me a notice saying there is an update and ask me to return a card if I WANT THE UPDATE. None of this negative response stuff. Don’t give me this, “We’re going to sent this thing to you unless we hear from you in the next ten minutes that you don’t want it”.
I’ll tell you the worst example to prove why this is a scam to unload books on people who don’t want them. Three years ago, I ordered a cookbook from a major credit card firm back when I wouldn’t leave home with out them. After all, my wife had been a subscriber to their cooking magazine and she liked to collect cookbooks. Fine, no problem, the book came, I paid for it. End of story? NOT ON YOUR LIFE.
A year rolled by and a letter came in the mail offering the new year’s version of this cookbook. I asked my wife if she wanted it and she said no she didn’t. So we send back the card saying we didn’t want the new cookbook. A couple of weeks go by and we receive a card from this credit card company telling us they received our refusal card too late to stop shipment of the cookbook, and sure enough a few days later the cookbook arrives. Now, think about it, we sent their card back too late to stop shipment, but they had enough time to get our card and prepare a reply that it was too late and send the reply to us in time to arrive almost a week before the book...BUT THEY DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO STOP THE BOOK SHIPPING! Give me a break!
So I took the book still within its unopened package to the post office and sent it back as refused by the addressee. I then endured receiving a dunning notice each and every month for the remainder of the year trying to collect payment for the cookbook, even though we send back the first such bill saying we had sent back the book. So end of story, right? NOT AT ALL!
This year we receive a letter in the mail notifying us the new revised version of this glorious cookbook was now available and would be sent to us if we didn’t sent back the card saying we didn’t want it. We sent back the card IMMEDIATELY UPON RECEIPT saying we didn’t want it. It came anyway. It is sitting on our coffee table as I type, unopened. It came with a message that they received our refusal too late to stop shipment. They received the refusal too late? What do you have to do? Telegraph your refusal the day BEFORE you receive their offer?
The problem this time is the book has probably sat here too long. We’ve been busy and distracted and I kept forgetting to take it to the post office to return and bills for it have already began to arrive. And like a lot of people, I’ll probably say, “oh well”, pay the bill and stick it on my wife’s cookbook shelf, and this company will have sold another book that wasn’t wanted. And next year I’ll receive the notice to send back the refusal that can’t possibly meet their deadline to prevent shipping.
And I call this a scam, scam, scam.
Illustration: Photo of a set of encyclopedias from familybusinessideas.com