16 Tons

23Oct03
You get 16 tons of junk mail and what do you get? Another day older and Ruddy Ruddy in debt.

Another package came in addressed to Ruddy Ruddy, which is always even more exciting than the usual mail. A quick look told me that it was another shipment from Harlequin advising me to Open immediately! Surprise gift inside! A Free Gift from us to you See inside carton… So, I saw inside the carton, and sure enough, there were four more Harlequin Blaze novels (Flavor of the Month by Tori Carrington, Over the Edge by Jeanie London, Yours to Seduce by Karen Anders, and Anything Goes … by Debbi Rawlins [and not Cole Porter]) as well as a bookmark, a coaster with a mountain lake scene on it … and an invoice to the tune of $19.09.

I read the letter that accompanied this and it seems like Harlequin has some kind of sleazy Columbia House-like deal going on here, except that it’s even worse because Ruddy Ruddy never signed up for this. They just bought the name and address from whatever third party the name got signed up with. So, now Harlequin is sending a box of books every month, along with an invoice. You can return these if you’re dissatisfied or don’t want them, but if Harlequin doesn’t hear back, they’re just going to keep sending them. (Oh, and the coaster? Harlequin is vowing to send a free one every month until Ruddy Ruddy’s got the whole set. This is so they can continue to prominently display a big “Free Gift” label on the package, which helps them dupe people into thinking they’re getting free books until they finally figure it out, say, when four shipments have come in and the recipient is a hundred buck in the hole. That’s even sleazier than this whole negative opt-out routine.)

This is pretty moronic of them. What if they end up mailing a shipment to someone who doesn’t live at the address on the package — like, say, Ruddy Ruddy — and the occupants just ignore or throw out the packages? Harlequin’s going to lose twenty bucks per package until they finally get to the bottom of the matter.

Also stupid: this piece of fine print in the contest rules that they sent along as part of a “win a free plush robe” offer:

In order to win a prize, potential Canadian winners must correctly answer a time-limited arithmetical skill-testing question to be administered by mail.

A time-limited test to be administered by mail. That’s not exactly a proctor standing over you with a stopwatch, is it? They’re basically saying, “Look, we’re giving you at least a week or two to add, subtract, multiply, and divide this equation, because we know you’re not just the kind of moron who reads Harlequin novels — you’re the kind of complete retard who falls for shady direct-mail sales campaigns.”



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