Received a package today with some random massive books on health-related stuff. Oh, and an invoice for same, with a claim that I’d ordered the books online. I never did and had never heard of the outfit before. The name on the “account” was off, too; looks like a bad scan of a rented mailing list or something.
So, I tried to figure out what to do with this. Went online to do a little research, and bingo! We have a scam artists here. Boardroom, Inc. dba Bottom Line Books have dozens of claims against them on rip-off report and other sites, claiming that they sent bogus books to people who hadn’t ordered them and then gave them the royal runaround with late fees and other assorted shit when they tried to deal with the matter. Most people even bothered to send the stupid books back, to no avail — they still got slammed with fees and invoices.
So, fresh from a few months of dealing with my wife’s identity theft and the ensuing mountain of bogus debt and debt collectors, I decided to look into this one. First of all, the law: USC Title 39 pertaining to Postal Service, §3009 (see excerpt below).
So, not only is it clear that Bottom Line Books can’t do this and expect to get paid, I’m not even obliged to bother sending their stupid books back again. The FTC does recommend that you send the sender a note, so I did:
Dear Bottom Line Books,
A package was delivered to my address earlier today, containing merchandise that was not ordered nor requested by anyone in our household. Enclosed, too, was an invoice made out to account #XX. You have the name on the account as XX.
I draw your attention to chapter 39 of the US Code pertaining to Postal Service, specifically paragraph 3009:
Mailing of unordered merchandise
(a) Except for
(1) free samples clearly and conspicuously marked as such, and
(2) merchandise mailed by a charitable organization soliciting contributions, the mailing of unordered merchandise or of communications prohibited by subsection (c) of this section constitutes an unfair method of competition and an unfair trade practice in violation of section 45 (a)(1) of title 15.
(b) Any merchandise mailed in violation of subsection (a) of this section, or within the exceptions contained therein, may be treated as a gift by the recipient, who shall have the right to retain, use, discard, or dispose of it in any manner he sees fit without any obligation whatsoever to the sender. All such merchandise shall have attached to it a clear and conspicuous statement informing the recipient that he may treat the merchandise as a gift to him and has the right to retain, use, discard, or dispose of it in any manner he sees fit without any obligation whatsoever to the sender.
(c) No mailer of any merchandise mailed in violation of subsection (a) of this section, or within the exceptions contained therein, shall mail to any recipient of such merchandise a bill for such merchandise or any dunning communications.
(d) For the purposes of this section, “unordered merchandise” means merchandise mailed without the prior expressed request or consent of the recipient.
Let me therefore make clear that:
1) I am not obliged to pay your invoice for merchandise I did not order. I dispute the charge in its entirety and request that you document in writing and within five (5) business days your claim of an “online order” of your merchandise.
2) As per federal law, I am not obliged to return your unordered merchandise, and my refusal to do so shall not be construed as acceptance in any way shape or form of an obligation to pay.
3) Given your track record in these matters (viz. the rather substantial evidence available publicly that you apparently undertake these unsolicited mailings as a matter of routine business), I will request that you confirm in writing within five (5) business days that this matter – and any and all accounts associated with my address – be considered closed.
4) Any additional solicitation or unrequested merchandise from Bottom Line Books, Boardroom, Inc., or any of your affiliated brands and companies is unwelcome. I request that you promptly remove our address from any and all mailing lists and refrain from selling or sharing our address with 3rd parties.
5) The submission of additional invoices or financial statements pertaining to this matter by you or a 3rd party will be considered harassment and/or a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Act, and I will not hesitate to report Bottom Line Books and its parent company to the Vermont Attorney General’s office and the FTC if you do not cease and desist with your unwarranted claim.
I will be more than happy to return your merchandise, provided you send me, within five (5) business days, a completed, pre-paid return shipping label along with appropriate packaging.
I CC’ed this to Boardroom, Inc. in Connecticut, which apparently is where the actual marketing morons behind this scam reside. I can’t be sure that this is going to be the end of it, but I really don’t want to waste my time with this guys. From what I’ve read here and here and here, they tend to prey on older people who are intimidated and confused by invoices they receive in the mail, and I’d really like to see these suckers shot down once and for all. What’s really hilarious is that Boardroom, Inc. also publishes a bunch of newsletters and books on “how to avoid being a victim of scams” — how’s that for a double standard? Only in America — or maybe Nigeria.
Strikingly, according to this piece from 2007, the publisher of Bottom Line Books, Martin Edelston, supposedly is a decent guy who doesn’t like telemarketers. Of course, here Martin is referred to by his own lackeys as America’s favorite consumer advocate, and on his own site he raves on about how being inducted into the Direct Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame (one of Dante’s circles of hell, I believe) is like getting the Nobel Peace Prize, so I’m not sure he “gets” how offensive his line of business is, but still. I wonder if he has any idea how badly his company is being run?
Update May 2009: In the end, Bottom Line Books sent me a pre-paid mailer to return their books. I did that, and never heard from them again. So, stand firm and insist that they take back their unsolicited crap. You’re right, they’re wrong.
Update December 2009: Just got a nice note from someone at a senior center who had found my rant while trying to help a patient who is being harrassed by Bottom Line Books — so, apparently they’re still at it, in spite of the fact that their online credibility is right up there with your average Nigerian mail order Prince…