Joining (and Quitting) Record Clubs

1966 ad for the Columbia Record Club

It is difficult to escape from AOL these days. If you call them and tell them you want to drop their services, you will be presented to a person whose job it is to offer you concession after concession to make you stay. If you ever joined a record club in the 70’s, you are already familiar with how difficult it can be to escape from a corporation that wants to keep you as a customer.

I joined the Columbia Record Club in 1977. I was able to obtain twelve cassettes for a dime, if I recall. After that, I needed to buy eight more at regular club prices. Cassette tapes ran about six-eight bucks at the discount store. That’s about what Columbia charged, plus shipping and handling. You spent around 80 bucks to get 20 tapes. Overall, not a bad deal.

But THEN, you had to quit. And that wasn’t so easy.

You would get a punch card statement every month that you had to return to Columbia, or you would automatically get that month’s offering (and have to pay for it). The card had a box you could check if you had met your obligation and wanted to quit.

Yeah, right. Check that box, and, just like clockwork, the next month you would receive another notification that you had BETTER mail back!

I was too smart for that. I had heard the stories from friends about how that box was ignored. So I took my punch card, wadded it up into a ball, wrote C A N C E L ! over and over in the little boxes where you would type the numbers of the albums you wanted, then tore the card in half, and taped it back together crookedly. Try running THAT through your card reader!

I never got another notification.

You almost felt sorry for the record clubs sometimes. After all, ripping them off was rampant. All it took was a fake name and a PO box. The perpetrator would get his twelve records or tapes, cancel the PO box, and leave them high and dry. A fellow I work with knew a guy in the 70’s who got nearly a hundred albums that way!

Those ads were a ubiquitous part of every magazine on the shelves in those years. I guess they still are. Some offered discount prices on records and tapes with no obligation. However, they would still send that monthly notification that you’d have to send back to avoid getting a Debby Boone album. And they were also difficult to quit.

If today finds you a record club member wanting to get out, remember my trick. They don’t send punch cards any more, but what they do send in intended to be scanned by a computer. Fold, spindle, and mutilate to get your wishes across.

And AOL’ers trying to quit? When they put you on the phone with the persuader, just keep repeating over and over “The internet is a tool of Satan!” You should be processed out within minutes.

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