Record Hassles

BMG Music Services--Once You Check In, You Can Never Check Out.

By Jeff Smith

THE POSSIBILITY exists that BMG Music Services is not a den of thieves. I say this in the spirit of journalistic objectivity, a basic sense of fairness, and an abiding desire to avoid litigation.

Smith Despite dolorous personal experience with the firm, and a preponderance of evidence to the contrary, I am willing to concede that my victimization by BMG may be the tragic confluence of random misfortunes, focused by uncaring fate into a maelstrom of harassment and injustice.

Then again, the sons-of-bitches may just be out to screw me and laugh about it.

I could be convinced of either option.

A bit of background may be in order:

It began, as many sad tales do, with my brother. Dave wanders the planet under a cloud, much like that guy in Little Abner with all the consonants in his surname. Joe something. I think it's a sort of literary device Dave employs to remind himself his folks came from New England. Anyway he talked me into signing up for this record club so he could get five free albums. He said I'd get a bunch of free or cheap music and then after a while I could either talk my kids into signing up so I could get more, or just quit. It sounded like a pyramid scheme and I wasn't sure whether it was Dave who was running the scam, or the music service itself. I talked to a couple of other people who had joined such clubs and they said they just paid for a couple of albums and then quit paying and kept the albums and eventually they quit and then rejoined and got a bunch more free stuff, and so on. Over and over.

One of the people who told me this wound up stiffing me for three months' rent, so I ignored her advice.

I signed up with BMG and over a period of three years got just about every country CD I ever wanted and a lot that I didn't, and finally got my initial contractual obligation paid-up, and wrote on my monthly invoice that I wanted to quit, and that was that.

Until a few months later when I got a huge packet of stuff from BMG, saying they missed me and had been crying themselves to sleep at night since I quit, and would I please rejoin so they could give me five free CDs? So I did. And went along like a good little customer for another year or more, until I was getting down to ordering stuff like Homer and Jethro Play Rachmaninoff on the Ocarina and decided it was time to disenroll again. For good.

So I wrote a little note and returned my monthly invoice, and didn't hear from them for many moons. I did get a bill informing me there was this matter of a CD they sent that I had not refused or returned and the matter was going to be referred to collection, so I grudgingly paid up and went to sleep again...

...Until, out of the blue, I get another monthly letter from BMG, asking what I want to buy this billing cycle. I zipped the invoice back, re-stating my resignation. A few days later an unsolicited CD shows up in the mail. I look all over the paperwork and can find no 800 phone number to call. I go through my files and find a number I can call, but it costs money. I try it and get stuck on hold for 10 minutes and hang up in disgust. I decide the hell with them: I've notified them in writing that I quit, so my legal and moral obligations are at an end.

Next month the same rigmarole. This time I find an e-mail address, so I compose a curt note of resignation and hit send.

Next month, same old shit.

But a week later I get a phone call from BMG, offering me this terrific opportunity to get something else cheap. I interrupt to tell the telemarketer that I know it's not her fault, but that since she represents BMG, I'm going to burden her with the Classic Comics version of this long and tedious tragedy, and will she please FOR THE LOVE OF JESUS let BMG know that I really, really, really do quit, and if they want their fucking CDs back, they can drive out to my house and pick them up, because I'm not wasting my time or money mailing back a bunch of crap I didn't ask for, and specifically informed them I would not accept.

She said she would. I invested very little faith in her assertion.

This morning my mailbox held a letter "politely" reminding me that BMG thinks I owe them $21.37 for a CD sound track to The Horse Whisperer.

Twenty-one-dollars-and-thirty-seven-cents. Even if I were a club member and actually had ordered this album, this would be a ripoff.

But I decided to take one run at getting through their thick skulls, so I called the non-toll-free number, and waited on hold for five minutes. And hung up. And got madder and madder and gave it an called again. And got nowhere. So I sat breathing deeply for a half hour and tried a third time. After eight minutes on long-distance hold, at ruinous cost--which you and I both know is calculated by BMG to make it such a pain in the ass to call and complain that you finally just give up and send the bastards the money, and keep on sending the bastards the money until you die, whereupon your heirs have to start sending the bastards the money--I finally heard a human voice on the other end of the line...

...So I told her the whole story. And she said she would immediately disenroll me. And I believe her.

But she said I owed BMG for three CDs they sent me. And I told her again that I had notified her company on three separate occasions that I quit; and that I feel no legal or ethical obligation to return or to pay for merchandise they sent me, against my stated wishes to the contrary, and that they can hound me until we are no longer young, but that I will not pay.

And that I will make them wish they never heard of me.

I don't know if she believed me. But her employers will.

Art You Can Eat

WHILE WE HERE in Patagonia suffer the outrage of gourmet pizza, you in Tucson enjoy the real thing--actual pizza--with uplifting aesthetic accompaniment thrown in for free. Norma at the Yankee Doodle on Grant near Campbell continues her fight against traffic congestion and an uncertain future by trotting out the entertainers and artistes. She's turned Tucson's protean pizza joint into a weekend rock club, featuring no less than Howe Gelb and other luminaries; but come next week, she's going entirely off her nut and throwing an art show. Multi-media, no less.

This is not some macramé and drip-candle crafts fair of the kind you find at the swap meet. Norma and Susan Delaney, who occupies the odd niche of curator for a pizzeria, will be featuring art of the challenging and impenetrable sort, plus music of both pre-recorded and live varieties. It's happening Saturday and Sunday, November 7 and 8, from 9 a.m. to sundown for the art part, and 9 p.m. to closing for the rock and roll.

And if you wonder why I'm shilling for this shameless promotion, it's because I've been going to the Yankee Doodle for 45 years, ate there on my wedding night, 30 years ago, and the pizza is just as wonderful as it ever was. Plus I get a free one for this. TW

 Page Back  Last Issue  Current Week  Next Week  Page Forward

Home | Currents | City Week | Music | Review | Books | Cinema | Back Page | Archives

Weekly Wire    © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth