Cheryl is a sexy wench, and we don’t think she’d mind us saying so. After all, cool is sexy, and Cheryl immediately identifies herself as a girl who prefers books in which girl are chainsawed to death than ones where “single women drink chardonnay and moan about men.” Hey, us too!
Cheryl’s not only cool, therefore sexy; she’s also a book lover, therefore sexier. And because she has exemplary taste in fine literature, she turned up her nose when she was solicited by man hating book club called Mango.co.uk, sending her a book she had absolutely no interest in for a mere 99 pence. Translated from monetary metric, that’s a couple bucks.
Almost anyone knows what happens next: Cheryl’s billed for the 99p. If she pays it, she is assured that she’ll be signed up for an exciting book membership that very day. Wisely, she doesn’t pay. But then she gets nailed with a late fee. And then the debt collectors come calling.
That’s the point when Cheryl stops knockin’ back the chardonnay and takes the chainsaw out of the closet. Cheryl’s email, after the jump!
A couple of months ago, I received an unsolicited “free” book from a ‘chick lit’ book club, Mango.co.uk (MAN GO, get it?). It was a service I never signed up for and a book I never wanted (‘Making Your Mind Up’ by Jill Mansell). Considering I’m a big fan of books like ‘American Psycho’, I don’t much like literature where single women drink chardonnay and moan about men; I generally like my heroines chainsawed to death. Considering also it was sent to my maiden name, I was a bit suspect. I let it go, thinking it was ‘free’, so, hey, what’s the harm in sullying my bookshelf with a single piece of chick lit?
A bit later, I got an invoice for 99p for this ‘free’ unsolicited book. Querying the fine print, I noticed, “Pay for your introductory parcel and activate your membership today!” Had I paid this fraudulent invoice, I would have signed myself up to the book club – and the yearly requirement of purchasing 5 vastly overpriced pieces of literary mush, as well as a selection of ‘editor’s choices’ which, had I not sent back out of my own pocket, I would have also have had to pay for. My best option? Ignore it. A 99p ‘free’ (and let me remind you, unsolicited, book) was not going to turn into a massive expenditure. And since I had not signed up for the service in the first place and didn’t want the book, I figured they had no right to query this further. I was wrong.
Fast forward to yesterday. I get an ‘urgent notice’ through the post in one of those little brown envelopes which screams ‘you are fucked’. It was a ‘payment overdue’ notice from Mango. Failure to clear the outstanding balance on a ‘free’ book I never asked for will result in my being referred to debt collectors! To make matters worse, the payment due date was from before the letter was even postmarked! They didn’t give me a chance to even clear the 99p ‘debt’! Insult quickly added to injury when I found out that this ‘free’ 99p book had suddenly jumped in price to
14.99 (and sells for only
3.89 on Amazon, rrp
6.99!) Ah, but hurrah! A customer careline! 0870 165 0276 (a premium rate customer ‘care’ number!?) I dialled, to be met with the slowest talking menu system that fraudsters have ever created. I jumped from menu to menu, hoping to be put through to an actual human being. It seems as if the only thing you can do on this premium rate phone line is to pay your bill, and it takes 5 minutes of paying through the arse to do that. In anger, I pressed 0 for operator – and the system hung up on me. I wonder how much I will have to pay for the privilege of their version of ‘customer care’.
So now I have a ‘free’ shitty book, a
14.99 invoice, a big phone bill and threat of debt collectors / poor credit rating all over an unsolicited book.
So I decided to look into this company a bit further.
It is a subsidiary of Books Direct (BCA – http://www.bca.co.uk) which in itself is a subsidiary of Bertelsmann Books and Magazines Limited – yes, Bertelsmann: the ‘B’ in BMG. So this isn’t just some pony company, some flash in the pan outfit set up to fleece good citizens. It is a part of a very large (and supposedly reputable) company. I also found that dozens (hundreds?) of other people had exactly the same or similar issues as me, that they’ve been featured on BBC’s Watchdog show and investigated by the Direct Marketing Association and Trading Standards. It seems to be company practice to decimate people’s credit rating and well-being in order to turn a profit. They provide a premium rate automated money making machine which never allows one to resolve their issues, and only have two advertised email addresses – which seem only to exist to fire off responses along the lines of ‘We got your email, sucker.’ They use every trick in the book to fraudulently sucker people into coughing up their hard earned money. Sending an unsolicited book and then threatening with debt collectors is tantamount to harassment and speculative blackmail.
How did they get my details? Furthermore, how did they get the details of everybody who has been sent this ‘free’ book? And how is a company like Bertelsmann able to get away with what is quite obviously a scam?
I’ve sent letters to all the relevant authorities, but what is a little ‘boo-hoo-hooing’ going to do when debt collectors are breathing down my neck?
They’ve recently gotten a new CEO who, apparently, has ‘cleaned up’ the company and made the premium rate phone number easier to use. His response to BBC’s Watchdog is at the following link:
So fraudsters and now liars. How very shocking.