March 30, 2012
The More Things Stay the Same, the More Things Will Remain the Same: On the key rule of yadda yadda
On and For the Record
|May 2010||March 2012|
|"As you know, Principle 3: Fair Dealing of the AALL Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers discourages this practice. Specifically, section 3.1 of the Guide states "Publishers should obtain the customer's consent prior to making a shipment or initiating a transaction, unless such shipment is part of a standing order or subscription to which the customer has previously consented." As neither the KeyRules or Transfer Pricing Strategies are part of a pre-existing standing order or subscription, CRIV would ask that West/TR cease the practice. It is burdensome to both law librarians, West, and the Postal Service to boomerang unwanted material in this fashion. I have the utmost respect and appreciation for West's products and customer service. Please understand that the practice of shipping unsolicited material only serves to hurt the goodwill West has built over the decades with the law library community. Anything that you can do to have this practice ceased is greatly appreciated." -- Excerpt from Rob Myers, CRIV Chair, email to TR Legal||"After recent listserv discussion about problems with West KeyRules, I sent an inquiry to Anne Ellis at TR/West. Her response is below. If the suggested resolution mechanisms do not work for you or your library, please let me know so that I can follow up on behalf of CRIV and the AALL membership." Shaun Esposito, CRIV Chair.|
I would like to thank Rob Myers for allowing me to speak to an issue raised by customers who have voiced concerns about receiving a publication without their prior consent. To be clear, companion products contain content that supplements our customers’ subscriptions and are deemed important to the collection. These are viewed favorably by most subscribers; very few of these products are returned to us.
Prior to sending a companion product, we notify subscribers by letter asking that they let us know if they don’t want the particular title. And we’re always trying to improve how we work with customers. The letter now includes a stamped and addressed return postcard where customers can indicate with a checkmark if they do not want to receive the publication, and simply drop the card in the mail.
We understand that our customers’ time is valuable, and our goal is to provide only the products our customers want and need. If you received a companion product recently without first getting proper notification, please accept our sincere apology.
Senior Director, Librarian Relations
I would like to thank CRIV Chair Shaun Esposito for contacting me about an issue being discussed by librarians recently that related to a blog post about KeyRules shipments.
KeyRules are a part of our Court Rules collections. The product gathers all the information needed for a particular filing in one place in one book, including relevant rules and statutes; caselaw and secondary-source materials; and timing, filing, and service requirements, and is deemed important to the collection. Customers overwhelmingly agree that these titles are an important part of their subscription, and only a very few are returned to us.
Prior to sending our KeyRules, we notify subscribers by letter asking that they let us know if they prefer to not receive the title. The letter includes a return postcard, stamped and addressed. We understand that sometimes a letter may be overlooked or misplaced by a subscriber, so if a customer receives a KeyRules shipment and decides that the title is not wanted after all, the product can be returned to us at no cost to the subscriber.
We understand that our customers' time is valuable, and our goal is to provide only the products our customers want and need. If you received a KeyRules shipment recently without first getting proper notification, please accept our sincere apology.
Finally, you also asked whom to contact with questions. For questions around company policy or business practices, I encourage librarians to contact me directly. If your questions relate to your particular account, please contact Thomson Reuters Customer Service at 1-800-328-4880, and press 6.
Shaun and my librarian colleagues, I thank you again for allowing me to address your questions. We appreciate that we are allowed to be part of your conversation.
Senior Director, Librarian Relations
(Emphasis added to selected boilerplate language.)
As you can see from the above record, this is not some sort of "suggested resolution mechanisms." And I doubt that most institutional buyers find it all that workable. My hunch is most "colleagues" (? I didn't know Anne paid for West crap!) would rather receive titles the old-fashioned way -- by actively deciding to purchase them instead of being a member of the opt-out Columbia Legal Book Club. See TR Legal's Unsolicited Shipments are "Viewed Favorably by Most Subscribers" If "Most" is Defined as 3.7 Percent: Findings of LLB Poll (May 2010).
But what the heck. So CRIV got slapped around again by TR Legal. It was worth the effort to once again put on the record that
- TR Legal does not understand that its customers' time is valuable;
- TR Legal's goal is not to provide only the products its customers want and need; and
- TR Legal's higher-ups, by which I mean higher than the Senior Director of Librarian (Marketing) Relations, are so "threatened" by AALL that they have boilerplated their "customer experience and education" responses to AALL.
Nice try, CRIV. Not your fault; just another example of wasting time. As long as AALL subscribes to its "partnership" nonsense, the more things will remain the same. What the heck, I'll save CRIV and TR Legal the time if AALL wants to ask the question, "what's up with this OnePassYourAss thingamabob?"
I would like to thank [insert the new what's his/her name name] for giving me the opportunity to respond to an issue being discussed.
OnePassYourAss furthers our goal of providing only the products our customers want and need. Because we understand that our customers' time is valuable, you don't even have to waste any time to order our products. It is even better than our opt-out postcards because now our (oops) your West users can execute new standing orders on their own and they will appear on our (oops) your billing statement.
I hope our corporate revenue generating response to my librarian colleagues is sufficient to understand how much better this is for y'all. It works for us, so it must be a good thing for you.
Granted back in the late-19th - early-20th centuries, West Publishing gave birth to law libraries as we know them today because members of the bench and bar could not afford to purchase on their own legal resources that the then new age of commercial legal publishing produced (Sound familiar? Loop back up to OnePassYourAss and here and here). However, that doesn't mean AALL now has to be the George Costanza of library associations in the 21st century.
As an elected AALL Board member who is attending the Board's Spring Meeting right now (and hopefully is wearing a Ten Gallon Hat to carry home all the BS that will be going on while trying to nudge some reforms forward), once said:
We poke a lot of fun at legal publishers (although, we pale in comparison to some of the other blogs out there) and, quite frankly, sometimes the vendors make it too easy for us to point out some of the crazy things they are doing either through new products, organizational reorgs, or pricing schemes.
BS, really? In a nutshell, yes. Of course that's my and only my professional assessment. Why? Because after the Executive Board's and their hired help's long and continuing history of do-nothingism except for producing and directing the production of yadda yadda statements that result in nothing more than giggles from the vendor community, it is BS. Just look at the historical record of the dilution of offical AALL's strategic directions with respect to consumer advocacy. It doesn't take a chemist to know our professional association has reached the pablum stage of lip-service.
Friday Fun? It really is just too damn easy ... but if all we do is poke fun at some of our vendor reps and our association's elected officals and their hired help in their capacity as such, we really are not representing our employers as members of an institutional buyers association. If the above "on and for the record" does not tell us all that it is going to take concerted action by all of us, individually and collectively, to move beyond the de facto yadda yadda "partnership", then what will? [JH]
I appreciated reading this. I'm glad I'm not the only one cynical about some of these practices. I too am awfully tired of hearing that all decisions are based on what "most customers" want. The bottom line is at play here, not customer desire.
Posted by: Maria | Apr 2, 2012 10:07:54 AM
In retrospect, I'm not sure what message the Price Index committee conveyed to publishers because LexisNexis also provided new set pricing, but others upplied supp. costs, as before. Either way, it refflects poorly on the communication between the two and the inability of the Price Index Committee to discern the nature of the data they were receiving. It's why many have simply given up on the Price Index as a reliable tool for budgeting. Let's hope things improve under the new editor.
Posted by: Ken Svengalis | Apr 1, 2012 10:32:20 AM
This response from Anne Ellis reminds me her response to me when I asked her what supplementation figures West would be supplying to the AALL Price Index Committee. Both seem to indictate that she is not paying attention to the relevant issues and merely parroting company propaganda. When I asked her about the supplementation figures issue, she replied that West would be supplying new set costs from the web site. This response indicates that she had no idea what the Price Index was all about and what figures it has historically tracked. And, it is mind boggling that she would think we needed West to provide the Committee with figures readily available on their web site.
In this instance, she appears to have been asleep over the past 25 years during which time which have complained repeatedly about the practice of some publishers of requiring a negative option to stop the receipt of materials which should never have been part of a standing order, or completely independent of one.
-- Ken, First, let's remember that Anne's job is to be the face of library relations for West; her job is to say what her employer wants her to say, solve whatever problems her employer wants solved. In recent memory, the one problem that was publicly explained by Anne and solved in response to libraries receiving empty boxes was the Not Enough Glue Being Applied matter. Enough said, right?
I don't know when you asked Anne about print supp pricing but if it was in the context of the latest edition of the Price Index, let's remember that AALL did not ask vendors to provide print supp pricing for the last Price Index, so why would West provide that data. Our Ass'n received the data they asked for, nothing more, nothing less. -- Joe
Posted by: Ken Svengalis | Mar 30, 2012 11:57:57 AM