Car And Driver Is A Bitch

Car and Driver magazine sent Jim a real jerkoff collections notice, made all the more worse because his payment wasn’t even yet past due.

Being a Consumerist reader, he gave back as good as he got, and then some.

Their delicate pas de deux, inside. — BEN POPKEN


Car and Driver sent Jim this:

PAYMENT PAST DUE

Dear Jim Ounn:

Frankly, I’m surprised.

Although we have sent you two invoices we have not yet received your $12.00 Car and Driver renewal payment.

If there is a problem with your order, please use the reverse side of this form to let us know. I’ll see that the problem is resolved right away.

At your request, we have extended your current subscription by 15 issues. So please send us your check today. That way you won’t miss even one exciting issue of Car and Driver.

Sincerely,

Kurt Trumbour

For Car and Driver


Jim wrote back:

Car and Driver
P.O. Box 51132
Boulder, CO 80322-1132

Dear Kurt Trumbour:

Frankly, I’m surprised.

Although I haven’t sent you any indication that I wanted to extend my subscription to Car and Driver, you send me a pseudo-dun for a payment, slugged PAYMENT PAST DUE in big, “embarrass the daddy in front of the kids” type at the head of the letter.

I’m surprised that a big organization like Hachette Fillipacchi Media thinks this type of strong-arm tactic is the best way to get and retain customers. Granted, my piddling little subscription barely pays the morning latte straw bill for just one of the HFM VP’s, but evidently, it’s a significant enough amount that you felt compelled to send me a snotty letter and address a 43-year-old man in the tone you would a teenager who’d been caught getting the correct spelling of “vulva” from his next-chair neighbor during an anatomy test.

I’m also surprised that you think I’ve renewed my subscription, when I’d done no such thing. I was planning on renewing, since I consider Car and Driver by far the best automotive publication extant, but those plans went out the door when I received this disdainful letter. The customer might not always be right, but he is the one who signs the check. Torque him off at your peril.

I’m also surprised that a media company like HFM, with tentacles in various and sundry places including the Internet, would think that someone aware of the grass-roots nature of the Internet wouldn’t forward this “You’ve been a bad boy” letter to sites like consumerist.com, which get thousands of hits each day from people just itching to find out which companies care about their customers, and which companies think “customer” is a synonym for “loser.”

So, frankly, here’s what I want you to do.

First: Spell my name correctly. It’s Jim Dunn, not Jim Ounn, as C&D has been spelling it.

Second: Immediately cease with the threatening letters over a renewal I didn’t request. In fact, unless it’s to contact me to apologize for the ridiculously overwrought scare letter you sent, do not ever send anything to my address again.

Third: DO NOT RENEW MY SUBSCRIPTION.

Fourth: Deliver the rest of the issues I have on my current subscription.

Fifth: I will be sending the letter you sent me to consumerist.com. Maybe they’ll post it, maybe they won’t. If they do, however, HFM’s bullying tactics will be there for all the Internet to see. One thing consumerist.com does is to post a company’s actions if they attempt to make amends for their error. If you should decide that my business and goodwill are important enough to contact me and try to regain my business, I’ll be glad to pass those subsequent make-up efforts along to consumerist.com.

Jim Dunn

Comments

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  1. Jon R. says:

    Good for you and thanks to Consumerist.com for posting the letter. One day, companies will get the message.

  2. Sam Glover says:

    Nice letter, Jim!

  3. Falconfire says:

    I myself am tired of how ALL companies treat you in letters about things, regardless of what it is, from renewals to normal bills.

    I want a REAL letter that looks like a ADULT wrote it, not some POS bill with 5 different color inks and 64 point fonts.

    Why is it schools require their students to write in a dignified manner and take points off of grades for the exact same bullshit these companies do all the time in their letters to you?

    You want your company logo on it, fine. BUT STOP HAVING THE DUMBASS GRAPHIC DESIGNER MAKE YOUR DAMN LETTER FOR YOU!

  4. iameleveneight says:

    BITCH SLAP!

  5. TPSreports says:

    Car and Driver is still kicking around?

    I used to subscribe to them for years. Then this web thing happened.

  6. homerjay says:

    I want Jim Dunn to write all my letters for me in the future. That was gold, Jerry, pure gold!

  7. Triteon says:

    Well done, Jim! I’d love to see the follow-up from C&D, and if they don’t respond let us know that too.

  8. He says:

    It’s all online anyways. Caranddriver.com, roadandtrack.com, and autoweek.com all rock. Road and Track’s technical reports are by far some of the best geek reading there is. The pictures are as big and nice and it’s not as good for crapper reading, but it’s cheap and has all the same words they print.

  9. kerry says:

    Meh, they’ll probably respond with a “thank you for your interest in car and driver magazine, as you’ve requested we extended your subscription for another 24 issues, please enjoy these coupons for 10% off the C&D webstore.”
    I’d be surprised if anyone even reads it.

  10. acambras says:

    I love the way he managed to work the word “vulva” into a letter to Car & Driver. Hee hee…

    I also really like what he said halfway through the letter: “The customer may not always be right, but he is the one who signs the check.”

    BTW, What is this thing called a “check”? ;-)

  11. aka Cat says:

    Dear Jim,

    Next time a company pisses me off, would you write a letter to them for me? This is pure gold.

    Thanks,
    Cat

  12. Awesome letter from Jim.

  13. Heymoe says:

    Good job, Jim.

    I’ve noticed a trend in condescending notices to get a rise out customers whose subscriptions are about to run out.

    OnStar sent out a notice saying that my yearly contract was up and “for my convenience” they would continue it at a much higher month to month rate. The option to re-up at the yearly rate was available online, but to cancel you had to call a tollfree number and put up with a retention specialist.

    Their game is a reverse telemarketing scheme where YOU call their sales people to cancel and they appear to throw you a bone by reducing their “convenience” rate to what you’d have paid in by renewing. You don’t call, they rip you off big time.

    Even with supposedly legit companies, a one-time credit card number is becoming necessary.


    Moe

  14. kcskater says:

    The tone of that letter feels awfully familiar. In fact, I think it was MIT that sent letters similar to these to high school seniors a couple of years ago. Maybe C&D thought the style was effective? I guess they were wrong…

  15. mandarynn says:

    Absolutely hysterical! Thanks for sending this in, Jim.

    Also, I was going to give my Dad a gift subscription for CHristmas. It *won’t* be Road & Track!

  16. Jim, your letter made my day. I think it may be the best letter sent by a consumer to a company that I’ve read on this site. (This should be a contest…)

    Why is it schools require their students to write in a dignified manner and take points off of grades for the exact same bullshit these companies do all the time in their letters to you?

    My sister says the same thing all the time (she’s majoring in English). She doesn’t understand how ‘professionals’ get away with stuff that would get her a ‘D’. I think the D students end up writing for bullshit companies because the A and B students become teachers.

  17. Nice job working in not only vulva but also torque into a letter to C&D. You have a gift sir, it’s good to see you are using it for good and not evil.

    Avidly awaiting HFM’s response.

  18. StuSchaff says:

    I recieved a very similar letter from the Wall Street Journal last year. I called to let them know that, frankly, I was quite surprised by their over the top letter–is it common nowadays for publishers to try and shame their subscribers into renewing?

  19. Magister says:

    Bravo, this was a brillantly written letter that also managed to plug this stie.

  20. Myron says:

    Bravo. It seems all magazines pull this shit now. I’m constantly amazed how poorly companies will treat their most loyal customers.

    Now I’m getting magazine offers that tack on a small print “shipping and handling” fee … for a magazine subscription. Bullshit.

    So I think the best course is to:
    A) Call up the magazine and have a half hour conversation with them discussing the renewal you didn’t ask for. That costs them real money, the kind of feedback they might pay attention to. If everyone did this I think they would stop the antics.
    B) If you still want the magazine, order it through a discounter like supermagdeals.com.

  21. bmcgann says:

    That’s a great letter, but it will never get read by anyone who counts. If he sent it back in the business reply envelope that came with the renewal, it will likely be trashed and no one will have read beyond the first sentence. The business reply envelope goes to a facility that receives thousands upon thousands of other reply envelopes every day, all of which are opened by a machine. “Exceptions”, which is what these are, get put to the side and dealt with “later”, i.e., sometimes never. A better bet would have been to mail that very same letter to the publisher listed in the masthead of the publication at Hachette’s New York office.

    Fortunately, the letter has been posted on the internet for all to see!

  22. magic8ball says:

    I get similar letters from Martha Stewart all the time. I subscribed to her food magazine, and six months into a one-year subscription she started sending me letters telling me that my subscription was running out and I needed to renew right away if I didn’t want to miss any issues. But I kind of expect Martha to be annoying.

  23. drbrn_grl says:

    Jim Dunn is my new hero! Truly awesome letter. I’m expecting a similar “where’s your money” letter from Vanity Fair any day now. I decided not to renew — so you know what I did? I didn’t pay the invoices they sent me. And then they kept sending me the magazine. I’m sure that will somehow be my fault and they’ll turn the account over for collection. I hope Jim doesn’t mind if I borrow liberally from his letter when writing my own.

  24. Keith-MA says:

    “Second:…In fact, unless it’s to contact me to apologize for the ridiculously overwrought scare letter you sent, do not ever send anything to my address again.

    Fourth: Deliver the rest of the issues I have on my current subscription.”


    Hmmm…

  25. SecureLocation says:

    Number One, Hachette is a pretty sleazy outfit. Number Two, the writer should thank them for extending his subscription since he doesn’t have to pay for anything he didn’t order.

  26. Nancy Sin says:

    P.S. Fabulous response, Jim.

  27. Chongo says:

    I wish I would of kept my increasingly “nasty” invoices from Seed Magazine. I placed the order on June 19 and just in the last week received the first issue. Plus, it was beat to hell. Of course, that didn’t stop the company from sending me 5 invoices that said things like “It isn’t that hard to slip a check in the mail”.

    I would of called them to complain but of course there is no contact # or email on the invoice anywhere.

    is there some rule about what a company can say in their invoices? shouldn’t some sort of contact information be required by law?

  28. ChazB says:

    Jim rocks. Very classy response.

  29. homerjay says:

    Ya know, for years I’ve been recieving the local daily newspaper for free. Everytime a new carrier starts on my route (which is every 3 or 4 years) it stops. Then within a few weeks I get a kick-ass offer from the paper to get a 26 week prepaid subscription. After 26 weeks it just keeps coming. No bills, no calls, no little envelope. It would go on forever if the carrier never changed.

  30. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Very well done!

  31. incidentist says:

    Would it be too ironic to turn this into a form letter that could be filled out and easily sent to various no-goodnik companies? Boy I hope not.

  32. Uurp says:

    Yes, the ‘vulva” was a nice touch. Made the letter human.

  33. JLam4911 says:

    Is there some sort of “Internet Snark” award? Because I think Jim just won it.

  34. notdiddy says:

    I had a similar experience with Car and Driver. Years ago, I received an offer for five free issues, and then I would be charged $12 for the next year. I checked off the box that said “bill me later” and waited.

    A couple of months later I received an invoice. As I had not received a magazine yet, I ignored it. I than received a collections notice (and still no magazines). I sent an email to the company stating that I had not received any magazines yet from my free trial. I received a second notice. At this point I was getting angry.

    I sent back both the invoice and the collections notice with a letter that read something like “I am glad to see that I am on your invoice list, unfortunatly I do not seem to be on your list to mail magazines to. If you insist on sending me to collections, have the collections officer bring the magazines that you have not sent me with him and I’ll gladly give him the $12 you claim I owe.”

    They never sent another collections notice, but then they never sent any magazines either…