Thursday, March 29, 2007


Today, I received two shipments from one of my book clubs. I had ordered one because they told me that I had a credit. The book I ordered cost about $4 more than my credit, so I expected to be billed for that amount plus S&H.

The other parcel included two books which I did not order intentionally. I simply forgot to send back the no-thank-you card on time.

I was billed the full amount for both shipments, so I called customer service. They explained that my credit had been applied to the larger shipment, the one I didn't order, because that charge came in sooner than my actual order, but oops! They had "forgotten" to deduct the credit from my bill.

The customer disservice person seemed surprised that I had noticed I didn't get my credit. Actually, I hadn't known I was entitled to one until they informed me of it.

I asked her what would happen to the credit if I returned the unordered shipment. She said it would revert to the book I actually ordered and I would owe the difference, as I anticipated in the first place.

She did not apologize for charging me full price for both shipments. I wondered if she expected an apology from me for noticing. We'll call it a draw.

With a billing system like that, it's no wonder I had a credit. They apparently bill more than is owed, so if you pay it, you end up with a credit which seduces you into buying another book.

It takes a truly evil genius to come up with a modus operandi like that.

Bait and switch, you say? Nay, me pretty. More like rape and disembowel, methinks.

Meanwhile, I have perused the books and decided to return them. I will have to pay for shipping because I opened the box. I usually avoid this expense by prying the invoice off the outside without disturbing the box itself; then I use rubber cement to replace the envelope, write "Return to sender" on the box, and drop it at the Post Office.

It's only fair that I should pay for not responding to the catalog offerings in time. But I don't always play fair. Since they don't, either, I think that lets me off the hook.

Two wrongs may not make a right, but the second one sure makes me feel better about the first.


QT said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and for the thoughtful comments.

I would have done the same in your postion. I honestly think most "customer service" policies are written to profit from the fact that the average joe is overwhelmed and more than likely won't have the time to follow up!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I've always suspected as much. Most people do not have the time or energy to read their bills, including at the grocery store register.

When I became more conscious in this regard, I realized that MANY companies overcharge as a matter of course. Even if it's just a few dollars or change, it adds up over many customers.

I generally don't confront them unless it's a substantial amount, but I do watch more carefully in future dealings.

Christina_the_wench said...

I think BMG music and Time Life is looking for me for this very reason. Shhh! Don't rat me out!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Your secret is safe with me. After all...

curmudgeon said...

I bought some wood from a hardwood supply oh, a few months ago.
At the time, the bill seemd to be 'normal', and I went on my merry way.
I happened to look at the receipt a couple days ago - being tax time and all - and noticed a $3 delivery fee. 'Scuse me? I picked the shit out, carried it to the cashier, had it rung up, then loaded in my truck MY DAMN SELF!

Yes. Next time I will indeed question the tactic.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


If you did all that yourself, I think it's worth more than three puny dollars. Especially since You paid THEM.

furiousBall said...

Bad customer service people seem to wake up full of expectations of others and a sense of unwarranted deserves anchored in nothing but their own inflated self-image.

That sentence was a catastrophe. On behalf of the English speaking population of the state of New Jersey, I apologize to your blog.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


"A sense of unwarranted deserves..." Can I steal this?

meno said...

I amnot allowed to join anything that requires me to send back a no or i'll get the stuff anyway.

I know this from sad experience.

I wonder how many people they get away with this stuff with.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Many. Hmmm, menomany, menomany, elemenopee.

Michael C said...

That last sentence should be my philosophy ;-)

Thailand Gal said...

All of them are like that. I belong to a few of them and it's a real chore to keep those cards going back. If I don't they send me more books, more CDs, more... crap.

Admittedly, I don't look at the bills as close as I should. I pay on line and forget about it.

There are probably millions of deceptive practices they use. I'm not surprised.

Wish I was.. :)

Lee said...

I used to belong to a book club that required that I return that stupid card, which I could never, ever do. I returned every unordered selection, unopened and eventually they stopped sending them...I imagine paying postage both ways for nothing became annoying.

Anonymous said...

Dear Thinking Blogger Woman,

I think you make me think a great deal. Thank you for that. I think.

Over the years, I was always so terrified of being charged for books (or tapes) that I didn't want, that those clubs weren't much fun. The books and music I wanted were never available so the thrill of those clubs got old quick.

This post was really nice, funny (and thoughtful) stuff as always.

I like you, HinSF.

Jocelyn said...

Maybe three wrongs really, really make a right, so you just need to do one more wrong thing, like remove every other page from one of the books before returning it.

Right? I mean, that's logic.

The Moon Topples said...

I am not allowed to discuss any related experiences I may or may not have had due to the gag order in the settlement agreement (which may or may not exist).

I found your post quite [omitted] and think that the [deleted] should really consider [redacted].

[rest of comment illegible]

urban-urchin said...

Christina's comment made me laugh out loud.

I can't join 'clubs' like this for this very reason. I'd be stuck with a litney of crap I don't want...

Pickled Olives said...

I feel your pain. We had this issue go on for about a year with those darned Disney book series. They actually had no return address and calling to cancel did nothing as they kept sending more. We finally stopped paying without sending books or calling and they finally stopped sending. Scammers.

Bob said...

for some bookclubs, the package can be surreptitiously openned and reglued (HA! I am the master of forgotten response cards) for returning.

One way to avoid this is to not pay your bill for about a month. return what you want and then go on-line to pay the balance.

you can tell I've done this before, no?

Laurie said...

I have had the same thing happen to me. It's pretty frustrating and they act like it's no big deal.

Molly said...

I'm filing away "customer disservice" for future use---with your permission?

MsLittlePea said...

Sounds like fun fun fun!

I mostly go to the library. I don't always get to read the newest stuff right away but there's always something else. And it's free, that's my favorite part. If something turns out to be my new favorite book then I'll just buy it at B&N when it goes on sale. That way I have more money left over for my real addiction: shoes. I can't say I never have a late fee, though. 25cents here and there-I consider it my monthly donation....

thethinker said...

Haha, love the last line.

Open Grove Claudia said...

I love book clubs because they introduce me to books I would never read (Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next for example). But GRRR I hate the rest of it. Good for you for sticking to your guns!

CSL said...

Lately, I've been noticing that it is increasingly rare for "customer service" people to apologize for ANYTHING. I belonged to QPB and they started sending those mailings so frequently I just couldn't keep up. After returning about four shipments unopened, I told them to cancel my membership. They did, and moved me to a "nothing to return ever, buy when you wish" program, letting me keep the bonus points I'd accrued. I was mightily pleased with that.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Everyone needs a philosophy. With luck, it can take the place of actually thinking about anything.


A few dollars here and there really adds up over thousands, perhaps millions, of customers.

It reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon I once saw in which a man was stabbing another in the back. The caption was, "Sorry, Charlie, but business is business."


Annoying and unprofitable. Most of the book clubs have changed my arrangement to one in which I get no automatic shipments because I have shown that I can't handle them. I'm a very bad person.


You are a thinking woman's best friend. I like you, too.


I like your logic. So much better (and more fun) than theirs. Can I join your club if I don't tear out too many pages?


Redacted? I don't deal in that shit. You are far too advanced for me. I am merely subversive. Not literary.


I also think of club in quote marks. I am not a joiner. I just really, really like books.


By law, you are not required to pay for anything you receive if you didn't order it. And anything without a return address is fair game, I'm sure.

There can only be so much Disney in ones life.


I am quite adept at prying off the invoice and replacing it w/o opening the box. Rubber cement is my friend.


They need to re-learn politeness because it creates more rudeness in return.


Help yourself.

Sweet Pea,

I think they opened the new branch here with my "contributions."

Sometimes, the public library staff surrounds my house with bullhorns in the middle of the night. They yell, "We know you're in there. Come out with your books up."


I can rationalize anything.


I usually join them because I can't resist the lure of 73 books for $4.00. Then, it's business as usual.


I have the same arrangement with them and with One Spirit because I flunked out on getting the cards back in time.

It's a perfect arrangement. I love looking at the catalogs, but every 3 weeks is too often.

velvet girl said...

Sounds like you're on to their nefarious plan. ;)

I know I can't join these kinds of clubs because I would always forget to mail the cards in. I just know myself too well.

jali said...

I've tried to be optomistic and to beleive each time time that I'll do well in a book club - it'll never happen. The initiial selections and prices are great - after that things always go downhill for me. I am another one no longer allowed to join "clubs" like this.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


For me, hope springs eternal.


It's a brilliant marketing concept. The ititial offers are irresistible.

Crankster said...

I'm not even sure that the automatic shipment is particularly fair--you're far more permissive than me!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


What's fair got to do with it?

Don't worry. Little by little, I'm training them.

Eventually, they either switch my membership to one with no automatic shipments, or they cancel it, at which point, I re-subscribe with another 4 or 5 books for 99 cents each plus a bonus book for half-price.

Everybody wins.