Saturday, November 07, 2009

Preying on the elderly and incompetent

Have a look at the "bill" I got in the mail today from Reader's Digest. As you can see, they're sending me my "FINAL NOTICE" giving me one last chance to "reinstate" the "terminated service" on my "lapsed account.

This pisses me off, because it's so dishonest and unscrupulous. Here's how the scam works.

They get your address from wherever, then start to send you the magazine. When the first one arrives, you might think "I didn't order this" or "Did I order this?" Either way, there's no bill with it so you don't worry about it. Then they send them monthly for quite a while, months, maybe even a year. After you've been getting them, and time passes, then they send a bill

Unless you're on the ball and paying attention, its pretty easy to think after a year of getting the mag that you probably wanted it in the first place. Maybe you've come to enjoy it, and if so, fine. You got a few free issues and now you can start paying.

But if you don't pay the bill, they start to send notices like the one below, peppered with references to your account, your terminated service, the preferred previous subscriber discount, and all that hooey, all designed to trick you into thinking you once wanted the mag.

This a problem because the elderly and infirm get these, and they often don't pay attention. It's easy for them to think, gee, I've been getting this, I'd better pay for it. That very thing happened to my sister.

Wait, there's more. One the back it says "We will continue your subscription each year with interruption until you tell us to stop." You're signing up for life if you ever send them any money.

And one more thing. It also says if you don't want to renew, "just write cancel on the bill and return it." Well, Reader's Digest bombards you with all kinds of magazines and books and offers. If you make the mistake of confirming your address to them, Katy bar the door because you will have opened the junk mail spigot wide open. I also believe they aggressively shop your information and sell it to other direct marketers.

And again, remember that elderly folks get this stuff and are especially susceptible to it. It's preying upon the weak among us, pure and simple. It ought to be illegal.

Here's the bill. Click to enlarge. I outlined various part in red boxes.

1 comment:

fortboise said...

Elderly, definitely, "incompetent" is stronger than need be. Competence diminishes at some point, and they're after those who are going, but not necessarily gone. (Unlike the folks who are still sending advertising to our house addressed to my mother-in-law, who's been dead a few years.)

Reputation management is the crucial task here. Put Readers Digest in your title along with preying.