01 June 2005

My HCOA Survey Response

I've been a member of the Handyman Club of America for several years. I find their magazine quite informative, with interesting projects, and their subscription price is reasonable. However, they recently sent me a hefty packet of info for a Member Survey. My reply is probably not quite what they were expecting!

Here's my original email, sent early on a Friday afternoon:
Dear Sirs,

I recently received your Handyman Product Survey packet. After selecting several items that I thought I might want to try out, I decided to check on the Net to see how much of a discount your Member Prices would be, since that perceived benefit was definitely an incentive to me.

I checked out four items. The results, to put it mildly, were not what I was expecting.

1) Solar Mole Repeller: I could not find a product picture that exactly matched this, but I did find a very similar product, with the same name, at a couple of lawn-and-garden sites. Internet Price: $24.99. Handyman Club Member Price: $39.95

2) 16pc. Titanium-Coated Forstner Bit Set: I found a set that appears identical in all respects except for the layout in the box, at www.cumminstools.com, which is a retail hardware site. Cummins' price: $29.99. Handyman Club Member Price: $59.95

I realize you could make a case that these two examples were not exact matches, and that your offerings are much higher quality and represent a good value. However, I checked two more products.

3) GearRatchet Vortex Socket System with Case: I found this identical product quickly at www.autopainterssupply.com, a retail auto supply site. Their price: $45.99. Handyman Club Member Price: $59.95.

4) Grundig Outdoor Radio, Model FR200: 21st-century-goods.com sells this identical model, in choice of two colors no less, for $39.99. Not only that, but the most current L.L.Bean catalog offers the identical model FR200 radio, made especially for them by Eton in five colors, with nylon carrying case included, for $39.95. Handyman Club Member Price: $49.95

I have been a member (#xxxxxxxx) of the Handyman Club for several years. I like your magazine, and I thought you truly were committed to using the buying power of the club to get good deals for your members.

However, this survey was a real eye-opener in that respect. The sites I checked are all retail vendors - these are not Ebay-auction or closeout bargain prices that I found. In EVERY case, your Member price is 20% to 50% HIGHER than the retail prices on comparable or IDENTICAL products.

This is simply a rip-off. You are betraying the confidence of your membership that this product survey and try-out offer repesents a good deal. I would not object if your Member prices were equal to or even 5% or so higher than retail. That wouldn't be a bargain, but understandable for the advantage of a 30-day trial. But to pick four products out of twenty-four and find they are all exorbitantly over-priced, certainly leads me to conclude the same is true of the other twenty products offered.

I have no intention of completing your survey or trying out any of the offered products. Not only that, but I sincerely regret now that I recently renewed my membership. I will not make the mistake again of assuming that you are offering me any benefits except the information in the publication. I do find the magazine useful, so I will allow the current subscription to run out. But I do not intend to continue my membership beyond that point.


Now the quick-eyed among you may have already realized that I made an embarrassing, if quite common, faux pas in the third-to-last paragraph. Fortunately, a friend called me just after I had sent this, and when I read it aloud, pointed out my error. With a bit of thought, I was able to turn it to my advantage and send the following correction less than an hour after the original.
Dear Sirs,

After careful review of my recent email to you, I realized that I had made an error in my statement regarding the difference between your Handyman Club prices, and the prices I found on the Internet. The statement should read: "In EVERY case, the retail prices on comparable or IDENTICAL products are 20% to 50% LOWER than your Handyman Club Member Prices."

To state that information correctly in the order I originally used, it should have read: "In EVERY case, your Member price is 25% to 100% HIGHER than the retail price on comparable or IDENTICAL products."

I regret the confusion that my original email may have caused in this regard. I regret even more that I did not use stronger language to convey my disgust at your attempted ripoff of the membership.


I do give credit to their customer service department. I received the following personalized reply on Monday, two days earlier than I expected. (The reply only copied my original email, so I do not know if the gentleman who answered me saw my correction email as well.)
Dear Member,

Thank you for doing this comparison. I have forwarded this to the Marketing department to see if we can not get the prices changed. I am sorry but we do not match prices but you may see them lower in the future. Sorry for the inconvenience.

[[ The above was followed by this standard form-letter paragraph. ]]

Please visit our website at: www.handymanclub.com/ to change your mailing or email address. You can also fill out a Product Test application online. You are a valued member with us, so be sure to let us know if you have any further questions or concerns.

Thank you for being a Member.
Member services

I certainly hope that in the future, their Marketing department does a good bit more research beforehand!


At 6/04/2005 05:40:00 PM, Blogger Greg Brown said...

For many years I bought CDs through the BMG music club and rarely, if ever, visited a store which sold CDs. Then the Border's store opened in Tigard and in doing so, opened my mind as well. Their prices were lower than BMG's and moreover, the CD's appeared at Borders 6-9 months earlier than they appeared at BMG.

Needless to say, my next action was to terminate my BMG account.


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