Reader's Digest Informative - There are no "free" gifts

Review by 96543 on 2009-09-04
Elsewhere on My 3 Cents today, someone posted a complaint about a scam regarding a free gift card and JC Penney. (Sounds like JCP wasn't actually involved, however.) It made me think about something I experienced recently with Reader's Digest, and I am sure is going on with many, many other companies.

My wife subscribes to Reader's Digest. The magazine arrived recently and contained a postcard that said she was entitled to three free gifts. (By the way, all "gifts," by definition, are "free.") Since I love scooting around the Internet, I took the postcard and entered the URL it listed to claim the free gifts. That URL did not exist. I entered it a few times, even searched for it via Google. No luck. I searched for "Reader's Digest" via Google, and found their main website. From there I searched, in vain, for information about the gifts. Ultimately, I emailed their Customer Service people about it.

Fine Customer Service. Their site let's you track the status of your question, which I always find helpful. They told me that if I wanted the free gifts, I had to sign up for something or another, and all I needed to do was let them know. I didn't want to sign up for anything, and that ended it. Besides, their "free gifts" are not free if I have to do something to get them.

For kicks, I re-entered the URL and this time it worked. As I followed the links, knowing to be careful not to sign up for anything I didn't want, I noticed how more challenging that became with every click. When I clicked "No thanks" on one screen, it went to another to confirm I said "no." It went on like this for a while, with page after page asking if I wanted A or B or neither or both, or did I mean yes or did I mean no, and was I sure I clicked the right one here and the wrong one there, and so on.

On those subsequent pages, it became more difficult to tell you were actually opting out of option A and not agreeing to option B. The language they used was very clever.

It got to a point where I just left their site altogether, since I didn't want to accidentally sign up for something. I was convinced somewhere along the way, they would have worn me down and gotten that click of approval.

Anyway, my concern is that Reader's Digest has a reputation of being a very family-friendly organization that has been around for ages. As such, people probably put a lot of trust and faith in them and their website. And yet, even they employ what I consider to be deceptive practices:

1. Offer free gifts that you must buy something in order to get. (At that point it's an incentive, not a gift.)
2. Drop you in an Internet cycle that makes it increasingly more difficult not to sign up for a variety of things, be they purchases or simply permission to fill your email account with their offers.

I believe it should be very direct and very black-and-white. "Do you want to buy this in order to get these incentives? No? Okay, thanks for stopping by." Not: "No? Well, please click here if you really meant no and not that you meant yes."

That's just my three cents on the matter!
Comments:13 Replies - Latest reply on 2009-10-26
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-09-04:
Very good reminder.

Even sites, like startsampling, one must be careful to read the offer completely to make sure you are actually going to recieve a product for free.

Posted by Anonymous on 2009-09-04:
That is so true. You can't get anything for "free" anymore. There's always ALWAYS strings attached.

Especially, those places that offer free trials of stuff if you simply give them your credit card number. If you have to give them your credit card number, it isn't going to be free. They'll take your money and then you'll be screwed.
Posted by Slimjim on 2009-09-04:
Good info. You were looking for the trap and it was still overwhelming. I Imagine they catch quite a few that way
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-09-04:
Reader's Digest I'm sure doesn't think it should be that direct as you do. If so, they wouldn't be able to scam at least some people into signing up for services and products.
Posted by B. on 2009-09-04:
Iv'e always said nothing is free in life.....unless you buy the jumbo size first.
Posted by Johanna on 2009-09-04:
Isn't RD filing for bankruptcy?
Posted by Nohandle on 2009-09-04:
Nice informative Mundo. Many of us grew up with Reader's Digest coming monthly to our home. In addition, the condensed books. I signed up to include a family member for a yearly subscription for the magazine at no charge. What did I have to lose? Fine next year I received a renewal which included both subscriptions, no problem with me at all. I paid the fee for both.

The following year I received, in about July, a renewal for both and I just ignorned it. I wasn't interested. Sometime along December of that year I received a bill for both and a thank you for renewing. I didn't renew squat, where did this come from?

It took me forever to find a telephone number on the internet because at that time there was not one on the bill but I finally found one, don't remember how right now. At any rate, some chippy sweet person told me they had automatically renewed both subscriptions because they just knew that was my intent. Really, that's interesting. They can read my mind?

I still receive the condensed books but something isn't quite right with that company now. When did it go downhill? I really don't know.
Posted by Starlord on 2009-09-04:
I recieved a CD of beautiful melodies once from Reader's Digest. the accompanying material said I had 14 days to listen to the CD and decide if I wished to purchase it, then other CDs would arrive at regular intervals. Also in the package was a return label for which I would ahve had to purchase postage and recommended insurance. I contacted Reader's Digest and told them that the federal courts had declared unsolicited merchandise was to be considered a gift. I was under no obligation to pay for it or return it, as I had not ordered it. I stated I was excercising my right to keep a gift that had been sent to me. I never heard another word about the CD.
Posted by Eloise on 2009-09-04:
Thanks for the info Mundo!
Posted by Johanna on 2009-09-04:
I love it, Starlord!
Posted by Reason A. on 2009-09-05:
I quit RD about a year ago and still get offers. I think their latest last week was $9.96 for a year. I signed up once to send a free subscription to my sister-in-law and she received a bill for it. How embarrassing is that? Next time, I sent a free subscription to one of the editors at RD...never did hear back on that one...I'll bet they billed her. It has always been one of my favorite magazines until lately when they have bombarded me with mail and even phone calls.
Posted by no longer appreciative of Southwest on 2009-09-26:
This is why I refused to renew a subscription with Reader's Digest or any of the others I ordered the year before. I couldn't believe the amount of deceitful notices I received either "threatening" me for not having paid (I had paid for all ordered in full,before I even received any)or to endless notices to pay for subscription renewal I never made! Just getting these weird notices and on outside of envelopes as well was embarrassing. Based on this I would not subscribe to any of them any more. I can't believe what they did/do is legal!?
Posted by emmac on 2009-10-26:
Thanks for your comment. We also subscibe to RD and I have always wondered about the "free gift". No more.

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