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