Shipping, Handling Costs Not Music to Their Ears

I've been in the DM business for nearly 20 years, but I was totally surprised by what happened recently.

My teen-age daughter had received a classic package with a good offer from Columbia House (which I thought was one of the pillars of our industry). To get her into the continuity thing, it offered a dozen CDs free, as long as she ordered five more later. All she had to pay was the shipping and handling.

So, the CDs arrive -- a small box, about the size of a loaf of bread. Inside is the bill ... for $28.12!

Forgive me, but I expected $3.95, or perhaps 5 bucks. But $28.12?

My daughter weighed the package, called the post office and told them what the indicia said. The person there told her it costs $2.74 to ship.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, I'm not a DM naif -- I've been at this for a while, and I understand what shipping "and handling" mean. I understand the notions of acquisition cost and LCV (longtime customer value). I understand how you need to cover/recover some costs of acquisition through nickel-and-dime fees. But the whole point of this offer was for free CDs. Five bucks is close enough to "free," but $28.12 sure ain't. A modest S&H charge is OK. An obscene one was not.

As a consumer and parent, I'm appalled.

As a direct marketer, I'm offended.

I thought Columbia House was a respectable leader in our industry. But this episode has caused me to rethink my perception.

I hope that they'll re-examine the concept of professional integrity and that a smart DMer will fill them in on the 101s of making customers mad (vs. building loyalty). And I hope they listen.

<I>Jack Vincent<I>

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