I Am Afraid of The Columbia House CD Club

club \’kleb\ 1: an association of persons participating in a plan by which they agree to make regular payments or purchases 2: to beat or strike with a heavy weapon

I am afraid of the Columbia House compact disc club.

The scariest thing about the Columbia House compact disc club is that even before “the evil record and tape people” (whose business cards were changed back in ’91 to “the evil compact disc people”) have started to suck you into their world of never-ending reply cards, check off boxes and glossy magazines touting “this month’s special artist,” you’re already their bitch.

There you are, silly ensnaree, floating on air and skipping-to-your-Lou (my darling) all the way to the mailbox with their “No Postage Necessary” reply card. You have already been blinded by their 12 CDs for a penny and cannot see the forest from the trees. It’s like the beginning stages of a beautiful relationship that one day will result in a bunny being boiled.

The beginning is always the honeymoon stage. Your eyes are blind to the horrors that will one day materialize in front of you – whether that be an ex-girlfriend breaking down your apartment door after a mishandled breakup or a collection agency calling you on the phone to find out why you haven’t yet paid for The Jim Croce Collection. The scary thing is…you will never see it coming.

I know I sure didn’t.

It always starts like a game. A really fun game involving stickers and numbers and sticking the album cover stickers in spaces that say “stick your stickers here”. These stickers are colorful and fun to look at – each of them have funny, sexy, colorful pictures of musical artists and women in tight clothing and men with gold chains hanging around their necks. These are the people I want to be my friends, these people on those stickers, and I want to bring them home with me. The only way to do that, of course, is to pick twelve of my most favorite-ist stickers and place them gingerly within the boxes. Hee hee! I haven’t had this much fun since Mr. Miller’s third grade art class!

The evildoers at Columbia House have obviously done their research. They have appealed to the child inside of all of us by turning their advertising/order forms into a game. There are the child-like stickers, which harkens back to the days when heterosexual men and women stood proudly, showing off their eerie books of collectible stickers. There is the mysterious monthly mailing, wrapped up in plain brown cardboard, which makes us feel like everyday could be Christmas. And of course, its always story-time with that wonderful little Columbia House booklet we receive each month. There are good guys and bad guys, but who is chosen as “This Month’s Selected Artist” is anyone’s guess.

The game they’re playing aims so close to our inner child that I have dubbed it, The Columbia House Activity Book, which keeps us so mired down in fun and games that we hardly ever have time to look for the holes. But even when the adult inside tries to find the holes, we are very rarely successful. It is an amazing deal before our face – the twelve discs for one penny, and one more for just $6.99, all the free unused stickers we get to keep for the “slow times”… And for those really tough customers, there’s always the prepaid postcard. “Free postage,” we might say to ourselves… “Crooks don’t give away free postage.” Suddenly, joining this club is the biggest no-brainer in the history of the world.

Congratulations. You have just made the biggest mistake of your life.

Now that you have made the biggest mistake of your life, here is where you get a choice. You can wait for your music to arrive, then dedicate your life to waiting at home for the damn Columbia House monthly magazine (which arrives three times a month and must be returned in a 48 hour window) and lose sleep and watch your marriage fall apart and memorize your local post office’s hours of business and their current rates for first class and media mail packages…

Or…you can go to prison.

Because living in Cell Block D, where you can work out whenever you want, run the prisoners’ library and hammer out personalized license plates, may just end up providing you with more free time in your life than the alternative. Sadly, if I could still make that decision now, I would be writing you from San Quentin. Because when it comes down to it, I am less afraid of dropping the soap than I am of the mailman bearing gifts from The House.

Why? Because I know that if I don’t find the “yes” box in that tiny little window of time stating that I do not want this month’s very carefully chosen selection then two weeks later… I will receive a package of unwanted music in the mail. And the even scarier thing about it is that although we are one-hundred percent sure that we have not ordered one damn thing from Columbia House since we received our initial baker’s dozen of music, we still have to open the damn thing up.

Oh sure, we’ll try to lift the cardboard flap up just a little to see if we can see the title of the disc. We’ll examine the coding on the address and bar code in the hopes that all our experience in cryptology will provide us with a hint so we don’t have to fully remove it from the package. We will sniff and bend, shake and press. But in the end, we will still have to open it up. We are curious fools, us human beings.

We know that the music inside is not ours. Chalk up another point for the thinkers at The House. They know that humans like me will be desperate to know what’s inside instead of just writing “Return to Sender” on it and dropping it back in the mail. The M.E.N.S.A. kids over at Columbia know that once we open the package and see the CD’s they’ve randomly chosen to send us due to our very important reply card never finding its way to Terre Haute, Indiana… we may even want to open the CD’s just a crack to see, just maybe, how the music sounds. I mean, we haven’t ordered anything in awhile and we still have three CD’s to buy and while it’s here and opened, we may want to at least make sure we’re not missing out on anything, so…

The music never lives up to the hype in our brain. And now we’re on the hook for the compact disc anthology: An Evening with Vanilla Ice.

And if the repetitive glossy mailings and misplaced reply cards and unwanted packages that come every two weeks isn’t enough, there’s the whole math thing. The Columbia House CD club knows, deep down, that you suck at math. How else could they get away with charging you twenty bucks for shipping 3 CDs to you?

Unless you’re Russell Crowe playing John Nash in A Beautiful Mind or Matt Damon playing a collegiate janitor who can crack unsolvable equations in Good Will Hunting, you’ll never quite crack the code that I have dubbed the “media mail postage rates from Terre Haute, Indiana to anywhere else in the United States, taking into consideration the amount of insurance you’ll need to figure in as well as registering said packages with the ‘return to sender’ service…” Sure, magical things like figuring out postage rates do happen…in Hollywood movies. But in the real world, you’re shit out of luck.

In the world of the Columbia House CD club, it costs whatever they want it to cost to send you crap in the mail. They are always right. And you can do nothing about it except stick your stickers happily, take your Ritalin and pretend that nothing’s wrong.

Now comes the moment of truth. You have been roped in by the happy colorful stickers and story booklets. You have stretched yourself thin trying to find thirteen compact discs that will not turn your stomach… “I bet the soundtrack from Glitter would be great to listen to on the elliptical machine!” But now you are faced with the constant mailings and the never-ending reminder that you have three more discs to buy over the next two years. You think two years will take forever, but it never does. It’s always just hanging there. Over your head. Ruining your life and the lives of those who spend any time with you. Well, at least that’s how my family vocalizes the horror.

And so now, faced with having to still buy three compact discs from the Columbia House CD club, I find myself a prisoner in my own house. Afraid of the mail, afraid of what it will bring, then afraid that when it does finally come there will be a form to fill out and stick back in the mail within a 48 hour window. Afraid that even if I get it in the mail on time, afraid that I will still get some package that I will, unfortunately have to open because I will fear missing out on something really good inside. And then, when I have opened it and the perfect faces of 98 Degrees are there, smiling back at me – the fear will envelop me. For I am not a guy that listens to boy bands. I’m not. I swear. That is not my O-Town disc that you found in my car. A friend left it there.

All I can really do is look to the future. To a day when I will have finally paid off my debt to the monolith that is the Columbia House CD club… To a day of less-fearful times when I will happily jaunt to the door when I hear my favorite mailman arriving with gifts and bills and special offers for my local Cleaners. But even as I imagine the paradise that I will someday experience, the fear starts to creep back in. I remember what a friend just told me recently… About how Columbia House just started up a DVD club. Five DVDs for the price of one! An amazing deal. And a free postage-paid envelope, too. Those guys, man… they are just so generous!

I will never get out alive.

12 comments on “I Am Afraid of The Columbia House CD Club

  1. Karen - June 29, 2005 at 6:18 am -

    I have been a member of the CD club for years, and for the past 4 or so, I haven’t had to send in a reply card. I think this happened when I decided not to send the reply card, got their blasted CD and then I’d turn around and return it. *evil grin*

    Oh but now I’m a member of the DVD club and ended up with 2 accounts, cancelled them, they begged me to come back and now I’ve got 4 accounts. ROFL! I’m cancelling 2 again, but waiting for the funcash to come around again so I can spend it. 😉 I’m hooked big time… LOL

  2. casey - June 29, 2005 at 11:24 am -

    I am awaiting your next mini-series with great anticipation: The Columbia House CD Club vs. Pauly D and The Family

  3. Sissy - July 2, 2005 at 7:16 am -

    Haha! So true! Especially about peeking to see what the CD is.

  4. peter - August 23, 2006 at 4:51 pm -

    The columbia house scammers got my kids to sign up for stuff and now the evil collectors are calling.

  5. NAD - October 19, 2006 at 7:53 am -

    I got this pop-up on the internet offering 25 DVDs for 49 cents each with an additional five FREE DVDs.
    In the summer I get a package of 7 DVDs and a bill for $50.
    Excuse me but this is not what I asked for.And what’s more the bums put an interest on my bill which they never told me of!!!!
    I’m not paying a penny until I get what I asked for at the price I was offered.
    After all,it’s not me who’s breaking the law.It’s them!!!!

  6. CCL - November 1, 2006 at 9:59 am -

    Everything you said is all so very true…but prepare to let me scare you even more. I am a member of the DVD club, and fulfilled my obligations several months ago. I keep getting the “Director’s Selection” offers in the mail. I send them back with the words CANCEL on the card, only to keep getting more. One apparently slipped through my scrutiny of the mail (vacation, school, ???) and I received the dreaded brown package. I resisted temptation and returned it to the sender unopened. Upon checking my statement, my credit card had already been charged for the purchase…$29.65! Don’t try to contact anyone over the telephone, it is a monotonous automated loop…you will never get a person on the phone. I have cancelled on the post cards, on the automated phone system and via an email request. I am STILL getting the glossy catalogs and Director’s Selection cards.

    I agree that it is wise to resist the temptation of the stickers (you can keep them to play with, just don’t send them in), and ignore the idea that you might be getting something free (they charge you on the back end for that postage). Once you’re in…you’re in for life!

  7. Ke - December 21, 2006 at 9:37 am -

    They really suck!!!! It is all a scam, trying to get customer service on the phone, forget about it!!!.. I cancelled some selections an entire month before delivery, by email that is, got confirmation emails that the orders were cancelled, and guess what they hit my CC for the charges anyway. I then emailed them to cancel the entire account, well they did and the only page available to me is the payment page on the website and they still say I owe…..What a Crock……Now just today I got hit again for a payment on what….ha nothing….so I am disputing, and contacted the BBB. WILL NEVER FALL TRAP AGAIN or better yet VICTIM……DO NOT DO IT…..THEY LIE….While charging outrageous fees, when your local walmart has the same thing for 8-10 bucks less, just get it when you pick up eggs…..We Should riot the mail.. Yeah you are right CCL IN IT FOR LIFE……..

  8. corrina - April 11, 2007 at 1:29 pm -

    How do I get out of this???

  9. Pauly D - April 11, 2007 at 3:14 pm -

    Corrina – You will never get out alive, unfortunately. Just face facts, continue to pay for CDs you never ordered, and be happy you didn’t join the Columbia House Blood & Liver Service.

  10. Too Late - April 23, 2007 at 7:08 pm -

    I took the marry go round ride with CH DVD club. They say one thing on line and send another in the mail. I canceled my membership and paid the extreemly high prices for shipping and handling. I canceled on line on the phone recording and got a confirmation over the phone of the cancelation. What was in my mail today? The brown bomb from Colombia House. What part of canceled don’t they understand. This is bordering on mail fraud. Sticking it to the credit card on file. An unauthorized transaction and clearly not following the orders to cancel. I wish there was more to do then blog and warn people not to shop Colombia House. Get what you want on EBAY at half the price and tell the seller thank you.

  11. Helen Johnson - April 28, 2007 at 12:05 pm -

    My son responded to their “Get 12 DVD’s Free with membership” – Never Buy Another Thing – come-on. He has had to buy countless DVD’s at inflated prices just to protect his credit – and it never ends. I have now taken over, trying to unwind the endless maze of payment due, late payment, required purchase to fulfill contract, and their phone menu of indecipherable options, none of which include speaking to a human. All we want is OUT! but my college education is insufficient to save ourselves. Save yourself! Step away from the “bargain”.

  12. Mary - May 2, 2007 at 2:31 am -

    I received a brown box in the mail over the weekend. From the outside, my husband and I couln’t make out what it was, so we opened it. Yep, biggest mistake of our lives. We didn’t ask for the darn thing, but we have it anyway. I called the customer “help” line. Boy, is that a joke. I want to tell someone that I did not request this THING, but since I opened it, I can’t mark return to sender. My question is, how would I have gotten the number to call if I had not opened the box? Now what do I do?

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