I often used to order a “free issue” of some magazine with the “cancel if you don’t want to continue” clause, which actually means: you don’t explicitly have to cancel, just don’t pay and they’ll stop sending it. But the letters you get try to make it sound like you HAVE to pay if you let even a few weeks pass without cancelling.
In all these letters, after berating me for my crimes, the tone would switch and it would say “to continue receiving ______, pay this amount OR here’s a special 2-year deal!” They did the good-cop-bad-cop within the same form letter.
And I bet a lot of people who got the free issue and forgot about it probably just paid up, thinking “omg i did promise to cancel within 4 weeks…!”
The envelope outside would often say things like “Collections Department” too, which is pretty evil.
Where have I heard that one before?
When I get crap like that with a prepaid reply envelope, I fold up all their materials and mail it all back to them. At their expense.
I particularly love doing that with NRA mailings.
I would never suggest you do something like take their reply paid envelopes which they hope you’ll put your checks into, and instead tape it to a brick and post that back to them.
Because that would be mean.
Meh, while it may feel cathartic you’re just creating more waste and it basically costs them nothing. And if you go with the brick option there basically zero chance the post office wouldn’t just throw it away.
Anyway, going back to the OP this subscription renewal scam has been around for literally decades. I’m surprised this still happens. Clearly it must be somewhat profitable — maybe among the kind of set that still subscribes to print media magazines.
The old and vulnerable
During my couple-of-decades in the US, every single piece of postal mail that wasn’t from the DMV or IRS was a scam like this. Some more blatantly scammy such as Mark’s example, but all were varying degrees of scams. Full of tricks to make you think they are bills, strong wording on the outside to try and get you to open the envelope, fake handwriting to make it look like a personal letter from someone you know, pinkish-red* envelopes that say “final warning” that aren’t bills, etc. It’s all blatantly disingenuous and serving no societal purpose.
America is the libertarian paradise that a tiny portion of the population wanted. Everyone trying to scam everyone else constantly, because nothing you can get away with is considered wrong.
*I think red envelopes may actually be regulated, so they use pink. Just a hypothesis.
I do wonder if making it the postal service’s problem would encourage legislators to ban this sort of scam.
My dad’s 85, but by no means vulnerable. He saves up his junk mail, then switches all the contents into the wrong reply-paid envelopes and mails them back.
He says that, at his age, any chance to sow a little confusion is a good thing.
I think underfunding of USPS is what created this problem. Junk mail is what funds them and anything goes because they are desperate to stay alive.
Due to yada yada, I see a lot of spam emails every day, and skimming them paints a miserably clear picture of the psychology at work. These people know exactly how it feels to get a stern letter about some financial thing you don’t understand, and instead of trying to understand more, they want to spread the pain to other schmucks with childlike imitations of the same scary letters. It’s so pitiful and so loathsome at the same time.
My mother’s AARP membership is paid up for like 10 years (she’s 80 and not in the best of health) because they keep sending her renewal notices that make it sound like her membership is going to expire soon if she doesn’t renew now. I don’t think the AARP is, in general, a scam, but all companies that rely on subscriptions for their revenue end up engaging in some shady practices until they’re made to stop.
Consumer Reports was the most ironic, constantly sending me deceptive letters trying to get me to resubscribe while calling out deception on the last page of every issue.
BB shop is not exactly a paragon of virtue.
It seems like there is something larger and more systemic at work than corrupt ethics on the part of those who send out these scams.
I have a Watergate-quality shredder between my mailbox and my desk. Most of the time I just shred things; but NRA and AARP stuff gets shredded and then stuffed into the carefully retained postage-free envelope! Obviously, the shredded materials are not pure NRA or AARP mailing, but a random handful works fine!
Another variation on this is a “renewal” bill sent to the Accounts Receivable department of a company. This often results in the bill being paid without any real thought. In the cases I remember, these are usually smaller publications, which did send the magazines after the bill was paid.
I’ve done this too, especially with credit card offers, and I make sure there is no identifying information in any of the leaflets that I stuff into those business reply envelopes. For some reason, I don’t seem to get those kinds of offers anymore, the ones with the postage paid envelopes.
While doing this for a number of years, I’ve often wondered if this could be considered fraud via the USPS. That would suck to have Postal Inspectors knocking on my door asking about all these “business replies” that never were.
I don’t get magazine subscription scams, but I’m constantly getting “your car warranty will expire” scan mails. Often for cars I no longer even own.
It’s disgraceful and the USPS basically encourages this quasi-legal and wasteful practice by making it cheap and profitable for businesses to do this kind of thing.
…and refuses to not deliver it because it’s their revenue stream. No amount of “no junk mail” or “no flyers” signs on the mailbox will prevent it because they are contractually obligated to deliver this trash. Aside from one letter every five years from the DMV or whatever, literally every single thing that comes through the mailbox is garbage. The US has an entire quasi-government* agency devoted to sending people piles of trash.
*I say “quasi” because it’s a “independent agency” of the executive branch and has a weird structure where they are required to provide universal service but also required to justify their existence and be profitable. It’s all very strange and different from how other countries do it. This hybrid structure is a big reason why (IMHO) junk mail in the US is so much worse than elsewhere
Use a gift credit card for “free” offers. Then spend the card balance on anything else. If you forget to prevent the auto-renew, the only card number they have can’t be charged.