25th Anniversary Issue: Timeline: 1989-93


JANUARY-APRIL: Adrian Courtenay, founder and publisher of DM News, denies a report published in The DeLay Letter that he is about to retire. “We’ve got a lot more mischief to get into before we’re finished,” Courtenay says. … More than 50 corporations, law-enforcement agencies and consumer and trade groups form the Alliance Against Telemarketing Fraud. … Supermarket scanners now can measure customer buying habits in relation to pricing and advertising and provide DM tools for manufacturers and added information for segmentation. … Citing problems with cable hookups, J.C. Penney scuttles its interactive videotext home-shopping system, Telaction, after dropping $106 million into it from 1986 to 1989.

MAY-AUGUST: Bucking growing industry sentiment that online electronic home shopping systems are years away from practicality, Prodigy Services Co. – a partnership of Sears, Roebuck & Co. and IBM – takes the no-turning-back step of rolling out its PC-based interactive videotext. … At least $1 million in fraudulent mail-order purchases were made by New Jersey inmates. A Tiffany watch brought the situation to public notice. An inmate was seen wearing one, which Tiffany identified as genuine. … The USPS says it considers alternative delivery a threat to its Second- and Third-Class base. … Quill Corp. is the surprise choice of North Dakota to test the National Bellas Hess decision with its new use-tax law. Quill was chosen because “its sales showed up in so many of the audits of businesses in the state and because local office-supply retailers complained about the mail-order company,” says assistant attorney general Carla T. Smith. … Mailers and postmaster general Anthony M. Frank are unhappy over Sears’ decision to end an experiment at 11 stores that served as mini-post offices after picketing by union workers.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: Sterling Publishing, a UK-based publisher of 40 magazines, acquires 50.1 percent of Jami Marketing Services’ common voting shares and all of its preferred stock for more than $12 million. The remaining 49.9 percent will be owned by founders Jeffrey Schwartz and Michael Miller. … In its first major U.S. product launch in years, Atari U.S. Corp. uses a two-prong direct marketing plan for its new pocket-size computer, Portfolio. … California Gov. George Deukmejian vetoes a bill that would create a database of names of consumers not wishing to receive phone solicitations. He says it would do little “to prevent out-of-state telemarketing calls from being made to California.” … Lands’ End will launch a case testing the California use-tax law. However, the DMA is unhappy about the case, which could become the first legal test of the law. … A venture capital firm invests $1.1 million in J. Peterman Co., letting the cataloger more than double its mailings. … Philip Morris will sell cigarettes by mail for the first time starting in 1990.


JANUARY-APRIL: CVN Cos., the cable home shopping operation, is being overhauled, only weeks after its acquisition by QVC Network Inc. … The use-tax battle edges toward a conclusion when Lands’ End sues California to test the state’s right to impose a 6 percent tax on direct response sales. … DM News goes weekly. … The recent growth of real-time automatic number identification systems triggers a congressional bill to give consumers the right to withhold their phone numbers. … North Dakota tax officials add a twist to the use-tax war, introducing a new interpretation of what constitutes presence in a state. They claim that presence is created in a consumer’s home state between the time a product is delivered and when the consumer physically samples it. Until then, it still technically belongs to the mail-order firm – and because it’s up to the state to “protect” the product, that establishes a presence for use-tax purposes.

MAY-AUGUST: Infomercial maker Twin Star Productions pays $1.5 million in consumer redress to the FTC. … Tennessee passes a bill imposing criminal penalties for recorded sales calls without prior consumer consent. … BellSouth enters the coupon business by mailing a coupon book to 34 million households. … A North Dakota judge rules that Quill Corp. is exempt from the state’s use tax. … American Express buys Epsilon Data Management. … A Pennsylvania court rules that caller ID is illegal. … Copywriting legend John Caples dies at age 90. … New York Telephone withdraws a petition to market its 3.5 million telephone listings to DMers after consumer groups say it will violate privacy rights. … The nation’s first online change-of-address system, Postal Buddy, debuts as part of a six-month test that will give 102 large mailers instant address-change data. … Lillian Vernon Corp. and Crutchfield file a lawsuit against Tennessee over the constitutionality of its use-tax law. … The Teamsters union delays its decision to strike against UPS, blaming slow mail delivery for a delay in its voting. … Responding to a recent book, “50 Ways to Save the Earth,” consumers sign up for the DMA’s Mail Preference Service at almost four times the previous year’s rate.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: Catalogs report decreased sales and begin pulling back mailings in response to the Persian Gulf war and poor economic conditions. … Prodigy Services, an early online PC system used for shopping and information, starts a nationwide service after testing local markets for two years.


JANUARY-APRIL: Blockbuster denies a Wall Street Journal report that it plans to rent its customer list of 30 million names. Doing so could violate federal laws against disclosing the names of movies people rent. … The Postal Rate Commission recommends raising rates on Third-Class mail 25 percent and First-Class mail 15 percent “to restore the balance between these two major classes of mail.” … Sears denies reports that it will close its catalog division. … Cataloger Yield House files for Chapter 11. … Nonprofit mailers face two more rate increases this year under President Bush’s budget proposal. The budget has the USPS cutting the cost of subsidizing free mail by more than half. … Sporting Life files for Chapter 11. … Private investment firm Peter W. Smith & Co. buys Donnelley Marketing for $200 million from Dun & Bradstreet Group. … George J. Ball Corp. buys cataloger W. Atlee Burpee for an undisclosed amount. … Visa and MasterCard file a $95 million federal lawsuit against 18 telemarketing companies, alleging racketeering, fraud and unlawful business practices. The suit accuses Daniel Klibanoff of operating a nationwide network of “boiler room” operations to bilk consumers. … A House bill would create a national no-call list.

MAY-AUGUST: The North Dakota Supreme Court rules that telemarketers and mail-order companies must collect the state’s 5 percent sales tax on some purchases by state residents. … Daniel Klibanoff obtains bankruptcy protection for himself and one of his firms, Listworld Inc. … For the first time in the Clio Awards’ 32-year history, the ad community honors two direct response campaigns. … Direct mail ad spending is picking up and will reach an annual level of $34.2 million by 1995, a study projects. … TRW fights a lawsuit by New York aiming to prevent the company from selling consumer credit lists to DMers without consumer permission. … The Senate approves an amended revenue-forgone appropriations bill that could boost Third-Class postage rates for nonprofit flats 41 percent. … The DMA says it will lose $900,000 for the 1991 fiscal year ended June 30. … Equifax Inc., responding to growing public pressure over privacy, pulls all mailing lists based on its consumer credit files from the market.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: International Business Development will begin selling catalogs in a retail outlet in Moscow and plans to arrange mail-order centers in other Soviet cities. … A federal appeals court rules that listings from Yellow Pages directories can be copied if the compiler does not usurp the creativity from the initial compiler. … The U.S. Supreme Court will reconsider the 1967 National Bellas Hess decision prohibiting states from taxing mail-order sales by out-of-state companies that lack a physical presence within their borders. … The USPS will offer discounts for walk-sequenced flats in groups of 125. … Directors of the Nonprofit Mailers Federation urge nonprofits to “voluntarily poll their list of donors at least once a year” to determine those who do not want their names “rented or exchanged.” … The House and Senate pass bills outlawing unsolicited direct response fax transmissions and telemarketing calls. … The FCC adopts rules preventing long-distance companies from switching residential and business customers from one service to another without written or oral authorization by use of a toll-free number.


JANUARY-APRIL: A congressional subcommittee proposes requiring telemarketers to register with the federal government. … Direct marketers square off with the government at a U.S. Supreme Court hearing over use taxes. Quill Corp. attorney Jack Gaggini argues in favor of the physical “nexus” standard for use taxes while North Dakota attorney general Nicholas J. Spaeth argues for greater authority to tax remote sales. … The USPS announces a $350 million budget cut because of declining mail volumes. … The Postal Rate Commission approves discounts on First-, Second- and Third-Class mailings of pre-barcoded flats. … The General Accounting Office says declining mail volumes eventually may force the government to subsidize the USPS. … Haverhills joins the growing list of catalog companies to declare bankruptcy. … Industry pioneer Walter Karl dies at age 80. … Direct marketers get spooked when the FBI seeks mailing lists for use in its investigations, a practice the DMA says could undermine public confidence in marketers. … The FTC speaks out against a proposed national no-call list, saying it “would not be in the public interest,” and appears to favor industry self-regulation instead.

MAY-AUGUST: Postmaster general-designate Marvin P. Runyon outlines a plan to make the USPS more competitive and efficient, promising to bring the same approach he used at the Tennessee Valley Authority. … The U.S. Supreme Court rules that Quill Corp. doesn’t have to pay a North Dakota use tax but reverses an old prohibition on use-tax collection, inviting Congress to take action. … A federal grand jury indicts Listworld owner Daniel Klibanoff and nine others accused of fraud. The defendants offered low-interest-rate credit cards to consumers by mail and telemarketing and sent financial guides instead. … Founders of list brokerage and management firm Jami Marketing Services repurchase a 50.1 percent interest in Jami from Sterling Publishing Group. … Tupperware launches a catalog to supplement its direct selling through parties. … Horticultural mailer Foster & Gallagher buys Michigan Bulb. … Deerskin Trading Post makes a $2 million offer to buy the Joan Cook catalog.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: The DMA moves to block congressional acceptance of two last-minute amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act that would limit list use. The revision is dropped. … Apple Computer starts a catalog. … Publishers Clearing House defends itself against charges made on a television news segment that it dumped several hundred sweepstakes entries. … A DMA-Deloitte & Touche study says direct marketers do not take advantage of the latest database technology. … The DMA and industry professionals predict that President-elect Bill Clinton won’t be bad for the direct marketing industry. … California enacts a law restricting the use of fax machines for outbound DM that is stricter than the federal law. The California law mandates inclusion of an 800 number for opt outs. … Avon makes $20 million in sales in the first year of its DM program to complement its door-to-door sales. … Liberty Media Corp., a division of TCI, agrees to acquire a controlling interest in Home Shopping Network, which could lead to a merger of HSN and rival QVC Network. … A congressional committee finds the USPS’ National Change of Address service to be a privacy violation.


JANUARY-APRIL: Sports Illustrated switches strategy from sweepstakes to focus on premiums as part of an effort to avoid noncommittal subscribers that sweeps generate. … Bell Atlantic debuts an electronic shopping service to help catalog ordering through a 16-character display screen and magnetic card reader that is part of the ScanFone System supplied to subscribers. … Sears says it will close its unprofitable, 97-year-old catalog division – producer of the 1,600-page Big Book and the nation’s largest cataloger. … Retailers embrace scanner-based marketing. … The economy forces Directel Inc. to liquidate. … Saks Fifth Avenue becomes the first specialty store to market its merchandise on QVC. … California wineries turn to direct mail as markets tighten and rules loosen.

MAY-AUGUST: Fingerhut Cos. Inc. and Capital Cities/ABC Video Enterprises team to market an exclusive line of products through direct response TV on ABC broadcast and cable outlets. … Five companies file a lawsuit to void the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s ban on unsolicited advertising faxes, saying it violates their rights of free speech and due process under the First and Fifth amendments. … Catalog revenue reaches $51.5 billion in 1992 and should reach $66.4 billion by 1996, according to a study. … The DM industry wins the right to depreciate its customer lists and certain other intangible assets when President Clinton signs his hard-won economic program into law.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: Spiegel Inc. buys New Hampton Inc. for $40.1 million. … Eddie Bauer will launch a full-scale catalog and retail presence in Japan next fall. … Trans Union Corp., the only one of the three major credit bureaus to continue offering mailing lists based on credit reports, will challenge a decision by an FTC administrative judge effectively ordering it to stop. … A bill prohibiting state officials from releasing personal information about licensed drivers and motor vehicle owners without giving them the chance to opt out is introduced in the House and Senate. … Departing for the first time from its 30-year marketing strategy, Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc. tests a mail-order catalog. … Rep. Leslie Byrne, D-VA, introduces a bill to prevent the debt-ridden USPS from spending up to $7 million to replace its 23-year-old eagle logo. … Gateway 2000 debuts successfully on Wall Street as investors push its stock price well above the initial offering price. … Magazine subscriptions have taken away from newsstand sales over the past decade, a circulation study from Vos, Gruppo and Capell Inc. finds.

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