For years, airlines, car rental agencies, and cell carriers have advertised eye-catching but incomplete prices. In a very calculated way, they leave out of the big print price certain fees, taxes, and other charges to make the advertised price seem lower than the price the consumer will actually pay.
This practice has now made its way into the publishing industry for some magazine subscriptions.
Here is a subscription card for ShopSmart;) magazine:
Nowhere is the total price disclosed. Rather, you are made to do the math yourself — 6 issues times $3 an issue is $18. Right?
*PLUS $4.95 S/H
Shipping and handling is extra? For a magazine subscription?
Worse, what kind of sleazy publisher would pull this kind of stunt? The last one you would ever expect — Consumers Union — the publisher of Consumer Reports. Ironically, they are known for pointing out lapses like this on their Selling It page each month.
When questioned why the total price was not stated, and why they resorted to using a fine print disclosure to indicate that the advertised price was not the actual price customers would pay, a spokesperson emailed:
“Unlike many other publications, ShopSmart takes no ads and we need to depend upon revenue from newsstand sales and subscribers for this publication. Part of the reason that Consumers Union charges shipping and handling for ShopSmart is that it is a newer title with a relatively small circulation; it’s not afforded the economies of scale that benefit larger publications.
Our marketing team believes that the S+H notices listed elsewhere on the advertisement were both reasonable and appropriate.
As you know, we are a mission-driven, non-profit organization. Revenue from this product helps support our ongoing product testing and research.
Our hope is that potential subscribers will see the value of ShopSmart and that we will be able to reach, and inform, a new audience of savvy shoppers.”
Wow… sounds like the type of denial that an ordinary publisher might sling. Please don’t get me wrong. Consumers Union is a fine organization that has earned the public’s respect for decades for the invaluable services they provide. And ShopSmart;) is actually quite a good magazine with features of great value to many, particularly those interested in consumerism. What I do object to is this type of advertising tactic. They are the last organization in the world I would ever expect to engage in such a ploy.