mouse
Go to Homepage


Subscribe to free weekly newsletter

Mouse Print*
is a service of
Consumer World


Visit our sister site:

Consumer Reporters & Advocates in Media


Updated every Monday!   Subscribe to free weekly newsletter.

October 24, 2011

Magazines Shorten Fixed-Length Subscriptions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:48 am

When you are in the consumer business as long as MrConsumer has been, you think you’ve heard everything until something comes along that makes you shake your head in disbelief.

That happened a couple of weeks ago when Angela T. wrote complaining about a letter she received from the publishers of Every Day with Rachel Ray magazine. It said, in essence, that their November issue was so fat with content they they were going to count it as two issues against your subscription (and thus shorten your subscription by one month).

They do say that if you call to complain, they will restore your original subscription length.

Fast forward about 10 days, and Mouse Print* received another complaint about a magazine subscription being shortened, but this time it was Family Handyman. Here is the letter that Brian F. received:

Same thing — we’re sending you a really big November issue, so we are going to count it as two issues against your subscription unless you file a complaint with us.

Is it a coincidence that two magazines are pulling the same stunt at the same time? Not at all. Both magazines are published by the same company — a subsidiary of Readers Digest.

It is interesting to note that the following fine print footnote appears on the current subscription sign up pages online for both magazines:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Each 1-year (11 issue) subscription includes a special issue, which counts as 2 in your subscription. Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.

Does this mean that your “year” of the magazine is really 10 issues because one of the 11 is a double issue, or is it just an explanation of why there are 11 issues and not 12? More importantly, was such a disclosure made to old subscribers before they signed up, or did they believe they were signing up for 12 separate issues a year?

Mouse Print* asked the publisher of both magazines some very pointed questions about their letters and their seemingly unilateral decision to cut the number of magazines they would deliver to their subscribers.

Here, in part, is their reply:

“For any magazine in which we have provided special content so that the magazine issue counts as two, we have provided an explanation in a letter to every subscriber and polybagged it with the magazine. In the letter, we encouraged subscribers, if they were not completely satisfied, to contact us so we could address their concerns immediately by either extending their subscription expiration date or issuing them a refund for the balance of their subscription. We’re happy to report that, so far, most subscribers are happy with the bonus content.

Many magazines give notice in their solicitations that they may publish special issues in place of or in addition to regular issues of a magazine as part of someone’s subscription. The promotional materials for all of our publications, including Every Day with Rachael Ray and The Family Handyman, contain such notice provisions.”

The publisher ignored most questions posed to them, including whether old customers were actually told clearly in advance of signing up for a subscription that their subscriptions could be cut short when special issues were published. If they were, then the magazines would be within their rights to do so.

However, if that warning was not there, the publisher may be on weak ground. It generally takes at least parties two parties to form a contract (or modify one) after agreeing to all terms. In a number of states, the consumer’s silence does not constitute acceptance of a contract’s terms, as their letters would like to assume. (“If you don’t call to complain, we assume shortening the subscription is okay.”) If silence constituted acceptance of a contract, then car dealers, swimming pool installers, and everyone else in the world would be sending you letters that said, if we don’t hear from you by November 1, we are going to deliver a car to your front door, install a swimming pool in your backyard, and sign you up to receive these 100 magazines. And you have to pay for it all.

Hopefully, a sharp state Attorney General or the Federal Trade Commission will open an inquiry into whether the publisher was within its rights to shorten readers’ subscriptions in the manner they did.




  ADV


• • •

January 19, 2009

Dishing on the Obama Victory Plate

Filed under: Internet,Retail,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:47 am

obamaplate1With one of the most historic inaugurations upon us, it is no surprise that Obama souvenir peddlers are coming out of the woodwork. Take the Obama “Victory Plate”, for example.

In a current TV commercial, the announcer is exhorting us to “own a piece of history”, “priceless work of art”, “first issue collector’s plate”, “this issue has been strictly limited to 65 firing days; after that, the die will be destroyed forever”, “this special treasure will be cherished as a prized family heirloom”, and “the certificate of authenticity from the American Historic Society promises you will own a collectible of the highest quality and integrity”.

Well, if the American Historic Society has endorsed this “collectible”, maybe it could worth money someday. Not.

*MOUSE PRINT: Not disclosed either in the commercial or on their website is the fact that the American Historic Society is not related to the American Historical Society — the  organization incorporated by Congress in 1889.  The latter nonprofit has neither commissioned the manufacture and sale of this plate, nor endorsed it.

The American Historic Society appears to be merely a marketing company engaged in the sale of commemorative coins and memorabilia.

And like so many other made-for-tv “collectibles”, the Obama plate is most likely destined to join that velvet picture of Elvis in your garage.




  ADV


• • •

December 22, 2008

That Unreadable Jibberish in TV Show Credits

Filed under: Business,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:36 am

For this holiday week, a change of pace to a lighter subject. Most people don’t read the credits at the end of television programs. Even fewer folks have probably noticed what appears to be a screen full of boilerplate language at the end of the CBS programs “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory.”  The microtype fills the screen and only appears for two seconds.  No one can read it, even if they wanted to, unless you can freeze frame that moment on the screen.

While the casual observer may have assumed this was some type of elaborate copyright notice, in fact, the screens of tiny white letters on a black background are called “vanity cards” authored by the show’s executive producer, Chuck Lorre.  And they change every week.

Here is the very first one he wrote in 1997 when he produced the show Dharma and Greg:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Chuck Lorre

Mr. Lorre has now authored over 200 of these vanity cards, that range from Seinfeldian rants about nothing, to chiding the brass at CBS for some slight, and everything in between.

Even the Wall Street Journal noticed his two-second treatises and wrote a story about them.  For a slide show of a few vanity cards, click here. His entire collection of vanity cards is immortalized on Chuck Lorre’s own website.  Enjoy.




  ADV


• • •

October 13, 2008

ShopSmart: Hiding the Real Price of Magazine Subscriptions

Filed under: Business,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:28 am

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:

ShopSmart

Nowhere is the total price disclosed. Rather, you are made to do the math yourself — 6 issues times $3 an issue is $18. Right?

*MOUSE PRINT:

*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.




  ADV


• • •

October 6, 2008

The Reality of Reality TV Show Top Prizes

Filed under: Sweepstakes,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:21 am

America's Got TalentLast week, Neal E. Boyd won the top prize on NBC’s America’s Got Talent program.  In addition to headlining one show at a Las Vegas hotel, he also won a much ballyhooed $1,000,000, or so it seemed.

Throughout the season, host Jerry Springer reminded contestants of the big prize and the chance to become America’s most talented winner.

Let’s hope that Mr. Boyd wiped the stars out of his eyes long enough to read his contract with the program, and the fine print that rolled by during the credits at the end of the show.

*MOUSE PRINT:

annuity

Translation:  Like the lottery, the big prize is doled out in small increments over decades.  In this case, the winner would wind up getting less than $500 a week for 40 years.  That’s a mere $25,000 a year.  Hardly an amount that would change one’s life.  The alternative lump sum amount is not stated, but after taxes, it is likely to be in the $300,000 range. 

The million dollar prize certainly was an attention getter for the thousands that tried out for the show, and to create excitement amongst viewers.  The winner got his shot at fame, which he might say was priceless, and worth more than the somewhat illusory million dollar cash prize.

It appears that other reality shows have also touted big top prizes that were never quite what they appeared, and sometimes, they were not even awarded.  (See end of this story.)




  ADV


• • •
« Previous PageNext Page »
Powered by: WordPressPrivacy Policy
Copyright © 2006-2016. All rights reserved. Advertisements are copyrighted by their respective owners.