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I don’t see as much of it as I used to, but book clubs always used to advertise like relentless fiends. I couldn’t open a magazine without having something falling out offering me ‘5 books for £1’ or similar.

The books wouldn’t be bad either. Then you’d read the small print, where the offer continued that having given you those 5 books for £1, you then needed to just purchase another 5 books, at preferential rates, over the next 5 months – and you’d get a newsletter with an Editor’s Pick. If you didn’t respond to the note in the newsletter, the Editor’s Pick book would be sent out automatically.

Oddly, you’d find in the future newsletters that the good books you’d like to read were more than you expected to buy, or you’d find the selection never really met your expectations. After one or two newsletters, the Book Club envelope would sit unopened for a few days until you finally found yourself in the situation where you’d missed the deadline to turn down the Pick of the Month book. They’d send it to you and you wouldn’t be in, so then you’d have to pick it up from the local Post Office. On getting home you’d open it to find that the Editor thought you’d like ‘Cauldron of the Bloodkind’ or ‘The Elder Hammer of the Outer Gods’, which would be the sixth volume in an epic new fantasy series to rival Tolkien and Moorcock in the magnificence and grandeur of its anally detailed setting.

So, you’d send the book back at your own cost and make a mental note not to forget to say no the next month. You’d forget… this time or the next; and, you’d also forget that you need to write – giving 30 days notice – to cancel any further commitment to the Club. The books and newsletters would keep coming, until you finally found a phone number and engaged some poor customer service advisor in a tirade of frustrated anguish. Spent emotionally, the advisor would finally cancel the subscription, warning you it takes 4 weeks to process and you might possibly get another newsletter in the meantime…

Anyway… what got me into this line of thought? Abel & Cole.

We got a leaflet through the door for this organic food supplier. The offer – get £30 of free shopping with your first order. The small print – you need to make a weekly order in the following four weeks, with a minimum order value of £15 each time. You have to set up your account with a weekly fruit and veg box, which accounts for the £15 minimum (as that’s the cost of the box). My wife said, “I’d never buy fruit or veg without handling it first.” And you know, she’s right, which put me in mind of the Editor’s Pick. You’d be committing to receipt of at least a box of fruit and veg that you won’t have hand-picked yourself. You may well find yourself with the ‘Cauldron of the Chard’ or ‘The Elder Cauliflower of the Outer Gods’. Unless the box turned out to be really rotten, you wouldn’t even get the chance to send back the Editor’s Pick if you didn’t fancy the look of it. Yes. it’s organic – but, maybe you end up with a selection of fruit you’re not going to eat and then it simply goes to waste.

Still, I might step around the special offers and go straight to the shopping. A pie or two with a jar of organic Seville Marmalade works for me.





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