The infamous "Selection of the Month" ploy and how I have chosen to deal with it.
By John Stacy Worth
Since this is our first on-line issue, I regret that we don't have a wealth of material by writers other than ourselves. Rest assured that this will not be the case in further issues. (Provided of course, that you, our brothers and sisters in the cyber-faith, get busy sending some submissions our way.) At any rate, for this issue, I have decided to share with you an experience that is currently, as I write this, happening to me. As of now, I am a member of the Science Fiction Book Club, and, up until recently, have been quite satisfied with the service they have provided me. The following is a letter that I have written and am sending to them in the hopes that they can resolve the matter to my satisfaction. The letter itself pretty much explains the situation and what I think of it. Read it, and, if you have any comments about my situation, or have been in it yourself, please drop me a line via e-mail. I say this because I intend to write a future article about how the situation was resolved and would like to have a sample of your comments in addition to my own. Perhaps, through our corporate voice, we can stumble on to a way to slay this demon that they call the "Selection of the Month." I thank you in advance as you join me in my quest.
To the Powers that be at the SFBC:
When I decided to join the Science Fiction Book Club, I thought to myself, "I hope this book club is not like some of the tape and CD clubs that I have had trouble with in the past." It has saddened my heart to no end to realize that it is. My point:
For the first year or so that I was a member of the SFBC, I had no complaints at all. The catalogues came on time and I was able to send in the little form that stated whether or not I wanted the "Selection of the Month", before that selection actually arrived. But, oh how things have changed.
About two months ago, I received Foundation's Fear and Blood of the Fold. This would have been all right, except for the fact that I distinctly remember marking "Do Not Send" on the little form. (I would have indicated "Please Rush" if I had wanted those two books.) I thought to myself, "Maybe I sent it off too late." At any rate, I decided to wait and see what would happen.
You'll never guess what happened. Here it is about two months later and I have just received Lady of Avalon and The Ship Avenged. Once again, I distinctly remember marking "Do Not Send" on the little form. And this time I'd made sure that I had mailed out this information in a timely manner. While this may not seem to be a major issue to you, it is a source of unneeded aggravation for me to have to mark it "refused, return to sender" and put it back in my mail box. Petty? Perhaps. But it has become more of a matter of principle with me, as I have come to question your motives in regards to your "Selection of the Month".
For now, here is how I propose to handle the matter. I am sending back the most recent of the books, Lady of Avalon and The Ship Avenged. (This is an indication to you that I do not want them.) As for the other two books, I have decided to hold onto them, without paying, until I receive a response from you, regarding this particular letter. I will not accept a form letter on this matter. I want a response that addresses my question--specifically: Explain to me the benefits of the "Selection of the Month", because, somehow in my perhaps inferior mind, it is extremely unclear to me what these benefits are. I would also like for you to include a copy of this letter signed by you, which will serve as proof to me that you have, indeed, read it and are addressing it specifically.
Now, lest you think me a thief, I assure you, that I will pay you for the other two books, or return them at your expense, if you deem such a resolution necessary; but only when I get this response that I have requested.
If you would like to keep me as a member, here is the only compromise that I can see myself agreeing to: As compensation for the aggravation that this situation has caused me, allow me to keep Foundation's Fear and Blood of the Fold free of charge. I believe this to be a fair and reasonable request on my part.
In the event that you find my proposed method of resolution unacceptable, I request that my membership with your book club be discontinued immediately. If such turns out to be the case, I must inform you that any books sent to me before this situation is resolved, one way or the other, will become my property and you will not receive any payment for them whatsoever.
Before closing, I would like to add this: It is my belief that this problem arises from the fact that the "Selection of the Month" even exists. For example, let's assume that my response was lost in the mail, or that it didn't make it to you in time. If such is the case, to me it seems ludicrous that anyone should choose to interpret a lack of response as a sign of affirmation. If I ask someone to marry me and they remain completely silent on the matter, would it be reasonable for me to then assume, "Hey, this person said yes!"?
I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the "Selection of the Month" idea is nothing more than a ploy used by tape, CD, and book clubs to make more money. A person checks his or her mail, sees that they have books or tapes that they haven't ordered, and, instead of being bothered with sending it back, they simply write out a check. This, I think, is what the club is counting on.
Am I wrong? Are my reasoning capabilities really so inferior to yours? If so, please enlighten me. For as hard as I have tried, I can think of no other plausible reason for the "Selection of the Month" to exist. It is definitely no convenience to me to have you send me items that I did not personally request. It does not make logical sense to me that such clubs choose to interpret a negative response (or no response) on the part of their customers (for that is what we are, not members as such clubs fraudulently claim) as an indication that we want the items!
If your customers are indeed members, then why don't we put it to a vote and see just how many of us really prefer the current way of conducting business. Again, if such is the case, I would like to cast my vote right now for the abolishment of the "Selection of the Month". It would be much easier for me if I could simply contact you when I want a particular book. You could then interpret my silence for what it would be: an indication that I currently prefer to make no purchases; and not for what you wish it was: a request for two books every couple of month.
If the tone of this letter seems a bit antagonistic, please forgive me. I do not intend to come across as unreasonable or unjustifiably angry. It is just that I have had this problem before, and I was under the disillusioned impression that, this time, things would be different. It may seem no big deal to you, but I am the type of person that gets extremely aggravated by the little inconveniences in life. I suppose some of my anger is due to the fact that I highly esteem the genres of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and I may have had an idealistic view of how a book club devoted to those genres would operate. If it seems that I have implied that this situation was intentionally executed on your part, again, forgive me. I am not saying that. Again, it is only that this is not the first time this situation has happened to me and it seems to me that, even if this was an unintentional mistake (which I sincerely hope that it was), then a problem still exists, because of the fact that this mistake occurred at all. As I said before, I think the real culprit is the "Selection of the Month" itself. At any rate, the whole thing has somewhat disheartened me and shaken my faith in an art form which I do dearly love.
So, I implore you. Renew my faith. Agree to my requests, address my grievances, and perhaps we can still continue to do business with one another, and perhaps even develop a mutually beneficent merchant/customer relationship. I anxiously await your reply.
John Stacy Worth