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Jun 21, 2008 07:44 AM

Cooks illustrated question

It took me a couple of years to get my magazine subscription canceled, It took about that long to get out of their book club I didn't know I'd signed up for, their website says I have successfully (a year or so ago) extricated myself from their revolving credit card charge for the honor of using their website.

So just now I have a $19.95 charge on my card from them again - I mean like YEARS after I have purchased anything from them knowingly. Not to say they may have charged my card and I missed it. I know for sure I have gotten their charges removed from my card before.

The phone number they provided the credit care company is useless - I don't know what the charge is for, so it really does not help, then after listing some numbers it just says "goodbye". And I can find no place on their website to deal with this. Wow, they really don't want to talk to anybody.

It is sad really, I love their show, I love their cookbooks, I love their magazine, but I want more and more to have nothing to do with them.

Any tips or tricks here?

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  1. Yes, protest the charge with your credit card company -- it's an unauthorized charge, end of story.

    1 Reply
    1. re: purple bot


      I have come to the same conclusion as you have re the Cooks' Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen treatment of their "customers". I have posted before about their sneaky deal on the website that says you can look at x and y if you accept a complimentary copy of CI. I did so and then started getting a bill for my subscription. I ignored it. Then I started getting "your credit is in jeopardy" letters from a "credit company" advising me that I must pay up or risk bad marks on my credit rating.

      I finally go ahold of somebody there and they said "Oh, that's not a REAL credit reporting agency, it's in-house." I told her I failed to see what difference that made and, even if it did, why didn't they mention it in their dunning letter? She was quite friendly and said she'd remove the charge. That actually took care of it, but it left a very bad taste in my mouth. They advertise themselves as such a folksy, no-nonsense operation but turn out to be as sleazy as Vegematic salesmen.

      I stopped buying their magazine and using their website. Yuck! At least my problem was taken care of. Sounds as if they've gotten even worse.

    2. Uh oh. This is troubling news. We purchased a book and video a couple of years ago, and it came with a subscription to CI. After a year, we cancelled, but the magazine kept showing up sporadically. I figured it was a promotion. I don't remember ever seeing a charge on our credit cards. Then yesterday, a video showed up. I didn't open it - I marked it "refused - return to sender" and dropped it off at the post office (they don't charge you to return things if you haven't opened them, but I still had to pay for the gas to drive to the post office!). I've just checked our credit cards and there is no charge yet, but I will keep a close eye on it. Thanks for the warning!

      1. Also, if they send you books that you didn't order, you can legally keep them. After protesting the shipments with no luck, I sent them a note saying that I'd be keeping any unsolicited books from then on, and included a copy of the federal reg that says you can.


        They never sent me one again.

        9 Replies
        1. re: dockhl

          I know I can legally keep it but how do I prove I cancelled the subscription two years ago? Just not worth the hassle. Maybe I'm just a sucker, but Chris Kimball comes across as such a decent, honest guy, and hey, it airs on these sleazy tactics just don't make sense to me.

          1. re: dockhl

            I ordered a book from them once, it was the annual compilation. A year later, surprise- they sent me the next year's compilation and commenced to bill me for it with ever-escalating threats until finally the next August I sent a check, (which is a pain in the butt because I never got any checks for my current bank account and had to draw from the joint-account we use for bills and I don't like to do that).

            They have no secure way to pay online, or didn't back then, and therefore have what I think is a real passive-aggressive way of forcing you to do transactions the way they want.. Stupid for a company that maintains an online database, I think. That's the reason I haven't subscribed to their site- I don't really trust them. But if they get their shiz together I will probably do that one day. I hope they read this, My opinion is that they hav e a digital troglodyte running their business somewhere that they need to dump and get into the 21st century- not like we haven't already been there for ten years plus. Chris Kimball promotes himself as the Ultimate Yankee, which dosn't figure in to sleazy business practices. I hope he catches on one of these days

            1. re: EWSflash

              well, as of last year they still hadn't gotten their "shiz" together. i was getting bill after bill, & past-due notices up the wazoo...for a book i never even received. i *thought* i had finally taken care of it when i actually got a letter from them confirming that my "account" had been closed and there were no outstanding charges. lo and behold, several months later i started getting threatening notices from a collection agency, so i called CI for the umpteenth time and explained what was going on. the kicker? their system showed that in fact my account had been cleared, and he had NO IDEA why their outside collection agency was hassling me! of course, for some insane reason they couldn't just call the collection agency and tell them to stop - i had to fax the cancellation letter *back* to the guy at CI so he could pass it on to the collection folks. totally bizarre. that entire operation is a disaster.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                Yikes, that's nightmarish! Hope they haven't effed up your credit!

                1. re: nofunlatte

                  fortunately they didn't screw up my credit - that was my biggest concern (you should have heard the way i freaked out on them over the phone)...but it still left me with a bad taste in my mouth about their business practices.

              2. re: EWSflash

                I no longer subscribe to CI because they seemed at the point where they just repeated previous recipes with minor and superfluous tweaks. Having seen and liked a trial issue of Cook's Country, I bought the annual compilations on eBay for less than half of what the cover price would be. It's not Newsweek; you don't need to be up-to-the-minute on just-published issues.

              3. re: dockhl

                I received just a few days ago a book which I never ordered. When I called them, the fellow said that I was on his "list" to be sent these books for viewing for 21 days. He said that since I was on this list, I could not keep the unsolicited book. He said he would take me off this "list."

                I will try to find a box to pack up the book and take it to the post office to return. I certainly don't want to 'buy' a packing box from the post office.

                I have bought Cook's Illustrated books and DVD's for 10 years, only a few with consequence in ordering. But I doubt if I'll buy anything from then again. Really, how many businesses could/would send a product to one's home, with a billing statement, and expect the customer to return it if they don't like it before 21 days!!!

                  1. re: Rella

                    If you didn't order it, you don't have to pay for it - despite whatever this arseholio is saying at Customer Service.

                1. For some companies, such as Cooks Illustrated or Dish Network, in order to stop them from making unauthorized charges after you cancel service, you just have to cancel the credit card.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Antilope

                    NO, you absolutely should NOT have to cancel a credit card. That's putting the onus on you, whereas the onus is actually on CI to *stop* the charges and the harassment for payment that is not due them.

                    Send them a letter -- certified, return receipt requested -- to their customer service address requesting that they stop billing you and remove you from any and all mailing lists, or you'll report them to the Attorney General's Consumer Group in your state:


                    You can also call us at 800-526-8442 inside the U.S.

                    Our customer service address is:

                    Cook's Illustrated
                    P.O. Box 7446
                    Red Oak, IA 51591-0446

                    Copy Christopher Kimball and any other senior officer of the company at:

                    Cook's Illustrated

                    17 Station Street
                    Brookline, MA 02445

                    Fax: (617) 232-1572

                    And has names listed for their CFO, and VP of New Technology Development. Send it to everyone you can, making sure you copy their names on the letter, and hopefully, that will help.


                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      Linda, you go girl!!!!!!

                      I've said before in another thread that folks should also contact the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) as their practices with the magazine and other things are mounting over and over. They are either going to end up with the FTC slapping them with one big fine or there's going to be a class-action suit at this rate.

                      I agree, I love the show. And the books are good. The website lies and the magazine billing seems more and more like a scam.

                      Listen to Linda! Call the FTC too! And your credit card company for sure. But no, don't cancel a credit card for anyone.

                      1. re: HarryK

                        Even MORE interesting is their Better Business Bureau rating (they are not an "accredited business" with the BBB - meaning they don't pay dues to belong in the BBB organization).


                        More phone #s and names are listed there - 9 complaints re: billing/collection issues, and 10 no responses. Print this out and send copies to everyone you write to, including the Attorney General in your state.

                        Baffle 'em with the amounts of information you have about their practices, and eventually they'll get tired of you and remove you from their "collections". I cannot believe that CI can get away with this crap, when Christopher Kimball pretends to be such down-home person.

                    2. re: Antilope

                      That doesn't work. I had a few recurring charges on one card that I couldn't get rid of so I just cancelled the card, and moved not long after that. Well what do you know - I checked my credit report a year or so later and that CC company was none too happy with me because they were *still accepting charges*. They explained to me that auto-ccharges are still allowed even after you cancel.

                      1. re: jgg13

                        >>> They explained to me that auto-ccharges are still allowed even after you cancel.

                        Um, your credit card company said that? That's, frankly, I'm sorry to say this, but it is absolutely impossible. The cc company IS the bank. They control all. They are not some weak little company at the mercy of someone's billing. Oh contraire, they hold your destiny and any company -- from Mom and Pop Candies to a multinational's like ATTs -- life in their hands. A credit card company is basically "God".

                        They would never allow automatic charges after cancellations; they would lose money that way and since they are in control of the money, it would never happen.

                        1. re: HarryK

                          Nope, that's exactly what they told me. This was about 10 years ago so I don't remember what bank it was issued from, if it was a MC/Visa, etc but I was definitely on the hook for the recurring charges that hit after I cancelled.

                          1. re: HarryK

                            That happened to me some years ago before I knew better with another magazine subscription. I cancelled for the same reasons, and had automatic renewals continue regardless.

                          2. re: jgg13

                            That is a true statement. You have to fix the problem - not just cancel the card.

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