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June 1, 2020

Holy Sheet: Is This How They Sell Magazines Now?

Filed under: Business,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:06 am

John G. wrote to Mouse Print* last week after buying a queen set of Better Homes and Gardens sheets at Walmart, which came with an unexpected surprise.

BHG Sheets

 

The package says that by buying this set of sheets you also get a one-year subscription to Better Homes and Gardens magazine. That’s a nice bonus. And this was inside the package:

Better Homes and Gardens offer card

The card explained that a one-year magazine subscription was included as a “thank you” for the purchase. So far, so good. But our consumer became disenchanted when he read the details shown in tiny print above:

*MOUSE PRINT:

“If you do not wish to receive a one-year subscription to Better Homes and Gardens (valued at $6) as part of your qualifying purchase, fill out the card, write “refund” and mail to BHG Refund…”

So while it first appeared to him that he was getting the magazine as a free bonus in this specially marked package, he says “reading the fine print on the enclosed postcard makes it clear that I’ve ALREADY PAID for the subscription!”

And that is our opinion too. By definition, you are only offered a refund for something you have already paid for. So, it seems the cost of the magazine was embedded in the purchase price of the sheets.

We contacted the magazine’s publisher, Meredith Corp., and their vice president of corporate and brand communications provided the company’s position:

The subscription is a gift included with purchase with a stated value of $6.00. The cost of the sheets is independent of the fact that there is a gift subscription that comes with the purchase. The consumer does not pay $6.00 for the subscription (BH&G licensed products at Walmart are not marked-up to cover the subscription value of $6.00).

The company spokesperson went on to say that this promotion has been in use for over 10 years, it was approved by the entity best known for certifying that a publication’s circulation claims are accurate, and no consumer has ever complained.

Whether the cost of the magazine was rolled into the purchase price or not, we can only guess that very few sheet buyers even know they are entitled to $6 back because of the inconspicuous way the refund option is disclosed. When we gave the company spokesperson two opportunities to reply that they would consider making the refund offer more conspicuous in the future, she did not say that they would.

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12 Comments

  1. The publisher’s vice president called it a “gift.” But yet you could get a refund. So it wasn’t a gift.

    Comment by HMC — June 1, 2020 @ 7:11 am
  2. choice of gift – magazines for a year
    or $6.00 in a check
    your choice
    IT IS A GIFT

    Comment by mia — June 1, 2020 @ 8:14 am
  3. If that first picture was visible from the outside, I don’t see any problem. It clearly shows that the magazine is include at a $6 value. If I were them, I wouldn’t even offer the refund option. I’d love for that option to be available for other things to get a refund on parts of bundle. Sony likes to bundle smartphones and ear buds. It’d be great if I could send back the ear buds and get a check for $250.

    Comment by MarcK1024 — June 1, 2020 @ 9:49 am
  4. I’m very conflicted on this one. I don’t know the legal backends, but on the surface it looks like the easiest solution for BHG would be to just exclude the $6 refund, which I don’t think is the answer anyone wants.

    Comment by Joel — June 1, 2020 @ 9:50 am
  5. Mia, if it is a gift, why then can people get a refund?

    Comment by hmc — June 1, 2020 @ 10:17 am
  6. This is very sneaky here. If we believe the claim by the company that they have done this idea for over 10 plus years what percentage of the people buying the sheet set even sent that card back in???

    That is six bucks you can have back on what is a 20-30 dollar item at Wal-mart.

    Should have just offered the magazine as a free gift and let it go at that and not offered a refund.

    Comment by richard Ginn — June 1, 2020 @ 10:18 am
  7. So de minimus a transgression that you are wasting resources on it.

    Comment by Meeo Mie — June 1, 2020 @ 10:29 am
  8. We’ve encountered the same offer for related products and gone for the six bucks every time. No problems.

    We took “refund” to mean a refund for the free magazine subscription (not the product) that we declined.

    Comment by JonK — June 1, 2020 @ 10:59 am
  9. Since people who buy the sheets are happy with the price paid, a way to get $6 back is kind of cool.

    Comment by Randall Flagg — June 1, 2020 @ 11:01 am
  10. Publishers are really this desperate to increase magazine subscription numbers?

    Comment by Wayne — June 1, 2020 @ 11:06 am
  11. Meeo Mie, the amount of money may be small, but I suspect that if you saw $6 on the sidewalk, you would bend down and pick it up and put it in your pocket. The amount of money aside, this is just another example of a big company trying to trick us.

    Comment by hmc — June 1, 2020 @ 11:20 am
  12. I purchased a comforter and I saw the gift subscription notice. I opted to get $6.00-the value of the gift and received a check within 3 weeks (which is better than the rebates you receive from other major brands that send a visa gift card). My wife then purchased some sheets as well and received the subscription. I had no problems.

    Comment by WillR — June 1, 2020 @ 7:13 pm

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