Mar 282003

You’ve probably seen these before. Something that looks like a bill appears in your mailbox, telling you to renew your subscription to some magazine. They quote the price you’d pay if you bought the magazine at a newsstand every month, and then quote their yearly subscription rate as “only” such-and-so amount. Except if you have the presence of mind to call the subscriptions department of the magazine itself, you’ll find that their subscription rate is far lower than the one offered on this “renewal order.”

A Publisher's Service Exchange ad, pretending to be a bill

On the back are four paragraphs of information. The second one says:

On receipt of this offer you will automatically be enrolled in the American Consumer Publishing Association (ACPA). This membership, a $29.95/year value and is free to you for one year!

No, that second sentence wasn’t a typo on my part—that’s actually what it says. And the paragraph goes on to tell you that you’ll get offers and such. Basically you pay them to send you the kind of mail you normally toss in the trash unopened. What a great deal! …for them.

Many magazines have actually featured articles about these guys. The articles all say that the magazine is not affiliated with PSE, and PSE does not have a contract with the magazine to make these offers. Consumer Reports featured them in “Selling It” in December 2002, mentioning that they have a lot of complaints at the Better Business Bureau. And Track and Field News mentioned that “rogue agencies, when they find they can’t deliver on what they’ve sold you, will offer a substitute product rather than a refund.” They go on to add that you are not obligated to accept a substitute for the item you paid for.

So if you’ve received one of these things, just keep in mind that it’s not an actual bill, and you can probably get a better subscription rate from the magazine itself.

Me, I’m just wondering what the hell they mean when they say they’ll “privacy protect” my name. I guess that means they know they’ve hooked a sucker so they don’t want to sell my information to all the other third-party subscription scamm—er, companies.

 Posted by at 5:16 pm

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