Sunday, June 25, 2006

Magazine Billing Services - a total con (mostly)

This is an FYI for everyone, so that you don't get caught like we did. Okay, this is not a TOTAL con, because I mean, I do get the magazines. It would be a total con if also, I got no magazines. But here's what I mean...

I have subscriptions to several magazines. Occasionally in the mail, I get something that looks like a bill for renewal. I never know whether Brian has done this or not (even though I've gotten them before), so I leave them out for him. And I keep getting the magazines, so I'm guessing it gets renewed. Yesterday he checked back through the checkbook and saw that he had renewed one particular magazine FOUR TIMES in the last year, three of which were for three year subscriptions. One of the years is up this month, but I still have NINE YEARS remaining on my subscription, to the tune of about $200. The hell? The bills are coming from Magazine Billing Services, and evidently they just indiscriminately send these 'bills' to you (4 times this year? And thats only the ones we paid. I'm pretty sure we've gotten more than 4 of these.) regardless of where you are in your current subscription. On the back, if you turn it over, it does say that "This is a magazine subscription offer not a bill or invoice. You are under no obligation to buy or renew at the time". On the front though, it looks very much like a legitimate renewal form.

Okay, so I can just see a story like this going up on some website like The Consumerist, and every commentor saying "Moron. This is totally your own fault." Which, it totally is. We should have kept track of when we had paid for subscriptions and how long they were good for. Brian probably should have twigged that he had paid for three year renewals three times already this year. The thing is, he sits down with a pile of bills and goes through and pays them. And I'm sure thats what this company is hoping for: you'll just blindly sit down and pay them, because it sure looks like a bill.

I haven't gotten to call the Customer Service phone number yet because they're only open M-F, but I'm going to call tomorrow. I don't expect that they're going to do anything for me though. On the back of the "bill" it says "All orders are fully cancelable by calling our toll-free number within 168 hours from the time the order is placed (which is pretty arbitrary I think, considering that you mailed your payment in. 168 hours starting from when?). After that, in most cases, cancellations will not be accepted. If a cancellation is accepted, it will be subject to a $20 processing fee (so, basically, the price of a 1 year subscription)." I'm thinking I'm not going to be able to get any of these subscriptions cancelled, but I can at least verify that I have NINE YEARS remaining on my subscription, and tell them to TAKE MY NAME OFF THEIR MAILING LIST, FOR GODS SAKE.

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