Femi-Nazi Bookworm Chainsaw Rip-Off Party!

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:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/consumer/tv_and_radio/watchdog/reports/holidays_and_travel/holiday_20060221st.shtml

So fraudsters and now liars. How very shocking.

Comments

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  1. adamondi says:

    Sounds like any number of magazine subscription scams that I have personally experienced or seen other people experience. All of the people involved in these companies need to be lined up and fed to rabid wolverines.

  2. Ran Kailie says:

    The first thing I would do is send a certified letter to the company stating that you do not acknowledge this debt as your own. Then report the attorney general (if you’re in the US it was unclear).

    Once you notify them that they must cease and desist contact you, and that you do not acknowledge the debt, if they send you anymore letters or contact you, you have a better foundation for nailing them to a fence by their sensitive parts.

    Their website also seems to be using bertlemen’s DNS servers, so you may also want to send a letter getting your idea home to their CEO, that you will never shop with BMG or its affiliates again if they choose to associate with such fraudulent companies.

    Domain lookup for mango.co.uk:

    http://webwhois.nic.uk/cgi-bin/whois.cgi?query=mango.co.uk

    Address:
    Groundwell
    Hargreaves Road
    Swindon
    Wilts
    SN25 5BG
    GB

    I would start with this person:

    Liz Young
    Executive Vice President
    Corporate Communications
    Phone: 1.212.782-90 09
    Fax: 1.212.930-90 99

    She’s the only BMG corp person I could find stateside. mango.co.uk is part of Bertelsman’s Direct Group division.

  3. MarvinMar says:

    This does not apply to her situation.
    But in the US there are rules that apply to this kind of thing.

    http://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/fraud/merch.htm

    You, the consumer, may only legally be sent two types of merchandise through the mail without your consent or agreement:

    Free samples which are clearly and conspicuously marked as such.


    Merchandise mailed by a charitable organization that is soliciting contributions.

    And in these two cases, you can consider the merchandise a gift if you wish. In all other situations, it is illegal to send merchandise to someone, unless that person has previously ordered or requested it.

    Furthermore, it is illegal for a company that sends you unordered merchandise to follow the mailing with a bill or dunning communication.

  4. Itch says:

    Here in US, if you are sent something that you didnt request – its yours clear and free. My wife is part of the cooking club, which will send her stuff to try out and review every once in awhile. The thing is, they send a heads up letter before hand to allow you to opt out of that item.

    Funny thing is they will send calendars and other knicknacks, saying “keep this for 10 dollars, or send it back”. One call of “I didnt ask for this. I’m keeping it and my money” blows them off, but we stay in the system. The company either makes money from idiots who send cash, gets thier product back which they can send it again, or takes a loss but may have free advertising in the home.

    Check and see exactly what UK’s mail solicitation laws are like, cause I find it hard to believe something like this would be legal.

  5. Keira says:

    I cannot imagine what convinces you that women who read books are necessarily sexy. Although preternaturally true in my case, for the most part the Librarians and School Teachers you appear to lust after with arrested adolescent zeal are as dry and dusty as the antique tomes they clutch to their bosoms.

  6. aka Cat says:

    Keira: dry and dusty? You’re hanging out with the wrong librarians.

    adamondi: I was going to protest your treatment of wolverines, then I noticed that you specified that they be rabid. Since they’re fatally ill anyway, I don’t imagine they’d object too much.

  7. snark says:

    I am married to Cheryl (sorry, chaps) and I can testify that in no way is she sexy. Oh, that’d be a divorce lawyer at the door – saying it’ll cost me a lot of money to send him away. Wonder if he works for Bertlesmann. Shitty piss…

  8. Anonymously says:

    God, reading through that blurb was painful. After re-reading it I’m still not sure exactly what the story’s about.