August 9, 2010
Welcome to the New "Customer Experience and Education" from the Folks Who Brought You Unsolicited Shipments of New Titles They Deemed Valuable Additions to Your Collection
I received our first opt-out postcard on August 5th from TR Legal. You receive an opt-out postcard for a new West title yet?
I've been wondering when my little county law library's automatic enrollment in the Columbia House Legal Book Club was going to start. This, you may recall, is TR Legal's response to law librarian complaints about the Company's practice of sending unsolicited shipments of new titles West deemed so important to law library print collections that they trumped fair business practices and law librarians' own professional judgment on collection development matters. Back in May, no law librarian I know and, based on the emails I received, no law librarian who read the above-linked LLB post had yet seen one of the opt-out postcards Anne Ellis, Senior Director of Librarian (Marketing) Relations, referred to in response to then CRIV vice-chair Rob Myers' request that TR Legal cease its practice of sending unsolicited shipments without consent.
Our first opt-out postcard had a return-by date of August 20th (see below), otherwise the title would be automatically shipped. As explained in the accompanying "Dear Colleague" letter from Bob Azman, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience & Education:
We understand that our customers' time is valuable. Our goal is to provide only the products our customers want and need. If you do not want to receive Ohio Federal KeyRules, please let us know before August 20, 2010 to avoid delivery.
(Emphasis not added.)
Of course you can return the title to Eagan at TR Legal's cost if you don't want what TR Legal thinks your library needs should you fail to open your junk mail in a timely manner as defined by TR Legal, excluding, also of course, any costs associated with library staff time spent doing so including but not limited to packing it up for shipment using the hoped-for saved shipping box it came in, labeling the box, plus watching out for the title's appearance on a monthly statement, a credit for same on a follow-up monthly invoice if paid or a refund check which depending on how rigorous your institution's accounting requirements are may require staff time to track down the payment you made before you can deposit the refund you received. I should be calling this post "Vendor Experience & Education" but I digress... .
I won't nitpick over whether "before August 20" per the letter and "by August 20" per the postcard have the same meaning. However, because this new title covers court rules, I do hope its editorial quality for court filing deadlines is better than this mailing. The title is, after all, "all the information you need for a filing -- in one book!" It's just one damn good thing I wasn't on vacation when this notice arrived because opening junk mail is last on my To-Do list when I have a backlog of mail waiting for me.
Dear Colleague, is it OK if I send back any titles to your attention should I miss a reply by (or is it before) deadline because my junk mail stack is so high I failed to open my next Columbia House Legal Book Club mailing in a timely manner? One of your assistants won't mind wasting his or her time, right? You see, after reviewing my pile of shipment notices, invoices and statements from the Company, I've usually had enough with TR Legal mail.
Yes, I Opted-Out. How could I resist the offered "34% discount off retail." Well, for starters, neither the postcard nor the cover letter specified the retail price or the discounted price for Ohio Federal KeyRules or for the "CourtRules/KeyRules combination," whatever that is. If TR Legal really understood that its "customers' time is valuable," don't you think this pesky little detail is important for making a buy-not buy decision? Nor does the mailing give any indication of publication frequency or state explicitly that you have entered into a standing order for future editions of Ohio Federal KeyRules. Well, OK, I think we can guess the answer to the standing order status.
I'm not wasting any of my time looking any of this information up by or before August 20th. If I ever want this regurgitation of print content our library already has, I know how to order the title and want my rep to get a sales commission once I know exactly what it is going to cost our library, how frequently it is published and whether I have entered an on-going commitment. Thanks for allowing me to return the title if it doesn't suit our library's collection needs, but I, for one, will never be checking the "Please send me" option on the postcard without knowing what any of these new titles are going to actually cost my library until I open an invoice. I also won't be stopping whatever I am doing to call customer service to find out this information by or before some stipulated deadline on a postcard.
Apparently to TR Legal's mindset, a deadline driven consent-to-ship does not require this degree of specificity. In my opinion, TR Legal continues to violate AALL's fair business practices for legal publishers principles. Here's a thought, how about a big, bold green (as in "go" or as in "revenue") checkmark symbol indicating "new title" displayed in print sales catalog mailings sent to libraries instead of all this. I, for one, do look over TR Legal print sales catalogs when they arrive on my desk. They even take priority over junk mail.
What's up with 34%? Not 30% or 35%, exactly 34%. Did some outside consulting firm inform TR Legal that either the Company had to double the number of copies at a set price like some "As Seen On TV" infomercial or offer a 34% discount to trigger sales? Maybe 34% is just the Senior VP of Print Pricing's favorite number? Remember the 34% price increase for West's Supreme Court Reporter advance sheet subscription? More likely, it is the favorite number of TR Legal's Senior VP of Profit Margin.
What the heck, unlike "As Seen On TV" infomercial pitches, at least shipping and handling is "free." By the way, considering the toil and trouble Anne Ellis has to deal with day in and day out, isn't it time she be promoted to Senior VP of something. Got room on the sixth floor? In the parking lot? But I digress again... .
Ah, Customer Experience & Education?The last time I received a boilerplate letter from Bob Azman was about six months ago. At that time he was Senior VP of Customer Service. Now he's Senior VP of Customer Experience & Education. Congratulations, I guess. New division, department, whatever? Or has TR Legal just given up on customer service and decided it was time to rebrand the vendor-buyer relationship?
Who thought up "Customer Experience & Education," and what altered state of consciousness was he, she, or everyone in the chain of command that had to stamp their collective approval on that name? Since customer experience and education is more from TR Legal to customers than it is from customers to the Company, one can easily imagine how the meetings started ..."well, no one is buying the partnership rhetoric anymore so we can't use that... ."
96.4% of law librarians who participated in a recent LLB poll simply want new product literature from TR Legal without any strings attached, without involuntarily becoming members of TR Legal's Columbia House Legal Book Club, without this brand of customer experience and education from the land of 10,000 invoices. To paraphrase from the "Dear Colleague" letter, as a "current [insert West series] subscriber law librarians do not want to be scheduled to receive [insert new West title]." Quit wasting law librarians' time; where's the cancel my book club membership checkbox? [JH]