Tuesday, May 11, 197+6
THE MICHIGAN DAILY
War and Columbia Records
By JENNIFER MILLER
My story begins long ago, before bu-
reaucracy bore my sanity away to ob-
livion. With great difficulty I look back
through the mists to the evil day almost
a year ago when my private war with
the Columbia Record Club (a pox upon
its name!) began.
A friend of mine (a former friend of
mine, now) persuaded me to associate
my name with the club. You know the
one - it offers you fourteen albums
for $1.98, provided you agree to buy a
certain number of albums at "regular
price." I soon found out that "regular"
in this day and age is a synonym for
"outrageous." The agreement bound me
for three years.
My friend snared me by explaining
that anyone who enlisted a new member
would receive three albums - their in-
sidious, if necessary, method of expan-
sion. Sounds like imperialism, doesn't
it? A sucker from birth, I joined.
The selection cards lets you know
how many more albums you are obli-
gated to buy in order to "complete your
enrollment agreement," your contract,
in other words. With Columbia, as with
the Mafia, a contract is a contract. They
never forget, even if you pay up.
"They let you know horn
to fulfill your contract. With
Columbia, as with the Ma-
fia, a contract is a contract.
They never forget."
During the first, ignorant months of
my association with Columbia, I ordered
three albums, and they delivered. But
in September they sent me a card say-
ing I still had to buy eight albums, a
suggestion I regarded as strange as I
had only agreed to buy eight in the first
place. They were wrong, I told myself.
I only had to buy five more. Eight minus
three is five - it wasn't that complicat-
ed. I ignored the notification, believing
in my ignorance that this true-blue com-
pany had simply made a true-blue, ex-
I bought another album in January,
and soon received another bit of corres-
pondence. This time they were gener-
ous enough to say that I now only had
to buy seven more albums, when I was
as sure as before that I only owed four
purchases. (Isn't it interesting to be in
a position in which one "owes" a pur-
chase? Is this how loan-sharks begin
I called Columbia. (They had already
ripped off enough of the unwitting to be
able to accept my collect call.) In re-
sponse to my demand for a correction,
their computer dashed off a little note
that told me I still had to buy. six al-
bums. Not four, six.
of the Month" cards washed up at my
door, stating that I still had to buy two
more albums. In a fit of passion I sent
the cards back with "Bullshit" inscrib-
ed across them, then decided not to give
them the benefit of my postage money.
I took a long, hard look at my life
and decided it wouldn't be worth com-
pleting if I let these scoundrels intimi-
date me. It was time to roll out the
heavy artillery. I called Legal Aid.
Jim Allen, a law student, and I, de-
would be without permission.
In the meantime a reply to my letter
arrived, declaring that I had been mis-
taken, that two of my purchases didn't
count since free albums had come with
Well, maybe I had been wrong, Allen
and I decided, but if I had been it was
because the Colunbia malefactors had
misled me. We sent off a letter and a
check, and settled back into our deadly
I was tortured day and night by vi-
sions of losing every penny of my sav-
ings because of two celluloid circles
which I had never even seen. But Allen
reassured me that all Columbia could
get was the cost of the records and a
few bucks in court costs. And Columbia
would have to hire a lawyer at $50 an
hour. Was it worth their while? Perhaps
not, but it certainly would have suited
the style of their ruthless, worthless ex-
istence, the canards!
"I ivas torture( (lay ( (
night by visions of losing
every penny of my savings
because of two celluloid cir-
cles which I had never even
One day I opened my mailbox to find
a letter lying in wait, like a cobra. It
referred to my phone call of a few
weeks before, claiming that I still-still,
for God's sake - owed them two pur-
chases, and also made a crafty refer-
ence to free coupons if I agreed to fork
over the money for the records.
My friends and I were driven to in-
sane, sick fantasies of destroying Co-
lumbia, conjuring up schemes of tor-
ture and deprivation for its executives.
The time for a climax was near; it was
win or die.
Allen called me. "We won," he said.
The computer and its masters had sur-
rendered, agreeing to close my file but
insisting still that I was wrong.
It had ended as all wars end - great
forces colliding never maintain equal
resolve. A sigh of relief, the cool of the
evening - I was calm in victory. The
retired warrior, I hung sip my typewrit-
er. The blood-red battlefield was quiet.
Columbia had me worn out, and I de-
cided to exercise my right to give up
- the right of anyone in any situation-
to buy the four albums and be done with
it. Leafing through their corrupt cata-
logues, I found some albums worth own-
ing and mailed in my order with a
curse. Two albums arrived at my door-
step and I assumed the other two were
on the way. Sweet relief enveloped me.
But, like a swarm of locusts in sum-
mer, a brand new deluge of "Selection
cided to send Columbia a blistering let-
ter along with a check for the final two
albums, which had meanwhile arrived.
The back of the check would say, in ef-
fect, that acceptance of the check meant
my agreement was over. We agreed to
wait a few days while Allen checked a
few statutes on contracts and my right
to keep anything sent through the mail
without my request. We figured that since
the contract was fulfilled, in our hum-
ble opinions, any more albums sent
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