Return to sender

In a moment of weakness, I joined a book club.

Six books for a buck sounded pretty good. But the experience was not unlike going to one of those 600-item Chinese buffets that look great at the door but turn into something else once you’re hovering over the steam tables.

There really weren’t any six books that I was all that interersted in or hadn’t already bought.

Then came the shipping costs on a buck worth of books. Would of been cheaper to drive down to the warehouse in a Hummer.

And then came two crappy books every month, picked by the club because that’s what they wanted to send me. At first, I dutifully called the phone number (no toll free number) to cancel the order before it got sent. I soon learned that if you wrote "return to sender" on the unopened box, the club would stop sending you two books every month (of course, they send the books in an unmarked box so at first you’re not sure who’s sent you the gift in the mail and if you open the box, you’re stuck with 2 crappy books you didn’t ask for).

And just now I got a form letter from the club, letting me know I still need to order a book or I’ll be dinged $14. The letter is addressed to Dear Member, followed by a 9-digit number written in ballpoint pen. Would of been quicker and more personable to write my 3-letter name. And shouldn’t they have software that prints in my name, rather than relying on some poor staffer who has to handwrite nine-digit numbers?

Now, if I ran the club, I’d be asking why someone hadn’t ordered 4 books in the course of 2 years. And here’s my reason:

I’ve ordered a pile of books from Chapters and Amazon. The selection’s newer and better, the prices are always cheaper and shipping is FREE once you hit a minimum order.

So if you’re tempted by the 6 or 10 or 20 books for a buck, take a pass. The club’s looking to make a fast buck off jacked up shipping charges for overstocked books that are one step away from the remainder bin.

Would love to know what the customer retention rate is on these sorts of clubs. I won’t be back and I’ll be telling everyone to take a pass.

Published by

Jay Robb

I've reviewed more than 500 business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and worked in public relations since 1993.

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