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When I went to renew Rachel's subscription to "Creating Keepsakes" magazine, I discovered that the publishing company - CK Media - is duping subscribers into believing they're getting HUGE "Insider Savings" on rates, when instead, they're paying MORE! This adds up to a couple of million dollars in extra revenue. I'm holding the company to task on it. Find out more
Magazine Unethically Dupes Subscribers
Creating Keepsakes (published by CK Media) lies to customers about HUGE "Insider Savings" on magazine subscription renewals. Instead, existing customers pay up to 25% more for renewals than brand new subscribers pay! Subscribers are left wondering, "Where are my HUGE Insider Savings? This is how I'm valued as a customer?"
Rachel enjoys scrapbooking our adventures, big or small. She's put together some really nice layouts and our shelves are slowly being filled with 12-inch by 12-inch binders, each holding stunning and creatively designed pages. It's a hobby, a creative outlet and it's been fun to watch her skills and pages improve over time. We enjoy pouring over the old memories, reliving the joy, adventure and good times. The scrapbooks are a treasured family heirloom.
For Mother's Day, last year, I bought Rachel a 12-month subscription to a magazine called "Creating Keepsakes", published by CK Media. The magazine is all about scrapbooking. She draws a lot of inspiration from looking at the featured designs, staying on top of new tools, styles and scrapbooking trends. She really looks forward to the magazine arriving in the mail each month and it's been a wonderful gift.
When I went to renew her subscription this Mother's Day, I happened to discover that existing customers pay up to 25% more to renew their subscription than do brand new customers who are signing up for the first time. This doesn't seem right. You'd think that CK Media would reward existing subscribers, eh? What's worse, is that they flat out lie to their customers, stating on the magazine subscription expiration notice:
LAST CHANCE FOR INSIDER SAVINGS ... ACT QUICKLY ... you can still maintain your insider status which entitles you to take advantage of HUGE SAVINGS and home delivery at no extra cost!
We've all seen these magazine subscription renewal forms, right? "Act Now" ... "Hurry" ... "Huge Savings" .... "$70 off of news stand prices" ... etc. I've never looked to see if it's a better deal than what's offered for new subscribers ... until today.
To follow the trail of magazine subscription enlightenment, subterfuge and *gasp* bold-face lies ... read on brave magazine subscribers ....
Last Chance! Buy Now! Act Quickly! Save ... Save ... Save
Rachel began receiving renewal notices starting in January. They warned that her subscription would be running out "soon", encouraging her to "renew you subscription today". (She remembered that her subscription was a gift for Mother's Day, so was a little perplexed about why she was receiving notices in January. She even called subscription services and they indeed, verified her subscription was valid through the July 2008 issue.)
Sometime in April, she received an "Expiration Notice" (shown here). She showed it to me and hinted, ever so subtley, that she was hoping that "Alex" would buy her a renewal subscription to Creating Keepsakes for Mother's Day, especially since she eagerly awaited its arrival, each month.
In typical male fashion, the renewal notice languished on our kitchen counter for the rest of April and most of May. "Isn't Mother's Day at the end of May sometime?" I thought, "No big rush here!"
Mother's Day came and went. One day, in a rare burst of cleaning frenzy, I actually moved the stuff on the counter, unearthing the notice, like one would expose a fossil from under layers of sedimentary rock.
"Whoa," I thought, "I better renew this. Rachel will be upset if she misses an issue!" (Nothing quite like the fear of an upset wife to be a catalyst for action!)
I noticed that the "Expiration Notice" came with a time bomb - "Act by: 05/06/08". Was that the 5th of June or (the American) 6th of May. "Crap," I thought, "It's the 16th of May ... I've missed my "LAST CHANCE FOR INSIDER SAVINGS"! (On the plus side, it was only a few days after Mother's Day ... I was actually proud of myself for cleaning off the counter, as it could have been a whole lot worse, the expiration notice could remain buried and turn into fossil fuel before it was discovered - if at all!)
So, like with most things these days, I didn't pick up a phone to find the answer - I turned to the Internet.
Customers Left Wondering - Where are the HUGE "Insider Savings"?
I quickly found the Creating Keepsakes website and under the "Magazine" tab, found the link to "Magazine Subscriptions". There, plain as day for the world to see, was the Canadian rate of "1 year (12 issues) for $31.97 USD". Huh?
"Wait a minute! That's less than my HUGE 'Insider Savings' rate of $36.97! What's up with that?" I wondered.
Well, I thought about it for a minute and then came to a shocking conclusion ... "I bet Rachel has an account here and if I log in, maybe there's an even better deal for the loyal customers that are already subscribed!"
Sure enough, off the main site there's a "Log In" option ... so I plugged in Rachel's email and guessed - correctly - at the password. Whew. I was in and on my way to HUGE "Insider Savings".
One problem - nothing on the menu dealt with magazine subscriptions. On the "Profile" page, there was a link to "Customer Care", for modifying subscription addresses. I clicked it and got a 404 - Page Not Found. Lovely. (As a web developer, I'm getting a tad frustrated now ... no quick way into subscription services from a logged in user, plua a "File not Found" for a link to Customer Care? ... not good web design, friends ... not at all.)
Back to the Magazine drop-down and I spot "Subscription Services", just below "Magazine Subscription". I click, plug in Rachel's email address (no password, mind you, just an email) ... REAL secure guys!
Finally, I spot a link to "Renew Your Subscription". Lo and behold ... what do I see? No "drop dead" dates, no HUGE "Insider Savings" ... just the same ol' price that came on the Expiration Notice - 1 year for $36.97.
I went elsewhere to find the HUGE "Insider Savings". I turned to the magazine masthead, only to discover that $36.97 is the normal, every-day subscription rate.
The conclusion - HUGE "Insider Savings" are a LIE! CK Media and Creating Keepsakes are trying to deceive customers into believing such an animal exists. In actual fact, existing customers are paying $5 more to renew than someone signing up for the first time, via the Internet. That's about 15.6% more for Canadian customers and 25% more for customers in the United States! HUGE "Insider Savings" are looking more like a HUGE "Rip-off"!
Running the Numbers
OKAY. You might say to yourself, "Who's this guy kidding. Big deal. Five freaking dollars. Get a life."
While five dollars extra on a subscription renewal might not be a big deal to any one subscriber, what chaps my hide (besides the bold-face lie to - supposedly "valued" customers - is that it adds up to big numbers - in a hurry!
By CK Media's own admission, 21% of U.S. households have scrapbooked in the last 12 months. These are 2002 figures and are 6 years out of date, that number has likely grown. Creating Keepsakes has a readership estimated at about half a million people (again, 2002 data). source
Let's do some 'back of the envelope' calculations. If readership is at 500,000 people, lets assume that 80% of that are subscribers and that 60% of those renew their subscription each year. Let's assume two thirds renew for a year at HUGE "Insider Savings" of $24.97 USD (paying an extra $5 per year) and one third renew for two years at the HUGEST "Insider Savings" of $44.97 (sign up for two years and pay an extra $15).
LOL ... the longer of a period to which you subscribe, the more of a *cough* "Insider Savings" you get!
Doing the math (at right) reveals that the HUGE "Insider Savings" duping campaign is estimated to provide Creating Keepsakes and CK Media with an extra $2.0 million dollars, annually.
Suddenly, the "no big deal" becomes a much bigger deal, right? Sure, the numbers are pulled out of a hat. Actual figures might be higher or lower, but the point remains the same - CK Media is lying about HUGE "Insider Savings". There are none. If fact, customers who renew, thinking that they're getting HUGE "Insider Savings" are not getting savings, they're paying MORE THAN THEY NEED TO! And this "MORE" adds up to a millions of dollars in extra revenue for CK Media!
Holding CK Media & Creating Keepsakes to Task
I never considered myself to be a Ralph Nader kind-of-guy, but when I discover something that smells rotten, I'm not going to idly stand by and watch people get ripped off.
The day I discovered that HUGE "Insider Savings" were a HUGE rip-off, I fired off an email to the Creating Keepsakes customer care people (had to find a link somewhere that worked, mind you).
Yesterday, I (via Rachel) received a response to my email question, "Why do existing customers pay 15-25% more for a subscription renewal than brand new customers? Where are the HUGE 'Insider Savings'?"
In that email (which you can see here), the customer service rep (Shantel Andy), apologized that the online offer was lower, but said that website offers frequently have the best value. She said that they'd be happy to honor that (online) subscription rate.
For sure they will honor the posted online subscription rate! I expect no less, but what I want is MORE! I want my HUGE "Insider Saving" as advertised. If I'm getting the same rate as some schmuck that signs up for the first time, where's the savings in that?
Further, I want CK Media to acknowledge that there are no "Insider Savings" (tiny or HUGE). I want CK Media to apologize to their customers that renewed, who thought they were getting HUGE "Insider Savings" and instead, paid more than they needed ($5 for 1-year and $15 for 2-year renewals).
Short of filing a class-action suit for mis-leading advertising, the best I can do is make a public aware of the CK Media / Creating Keepsakes unethical subscription renewal advertising and point people to the better deal. (Throw away those subscription renewal notices and VISIT THE WEBSITE ... the real source for 'best value'.)
Mind you, I'll likely write to the company president, with a link to this article and eagerly await his considered reply.
In the meantime, Creating Keepsakes customers are left to wonder, "Where are those HUGE 'Insider Savings' we were promised?"