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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

      Betty:

      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.
        (http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-b...

        )

        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 PBS...so 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:

                    http://www.cooksillustrated.com/cs_fa...

                    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:

                    Editor
                    Cook's Illustrated

                    17 Station Street
                    Brookline, MA 02445

                    Fax: (617) 232-1572
                    E-mail: cooks@americastestkitchen.com

                    And Hoovers.com 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.

                    http://hoovers.com/boston-common-pres...

                    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).

                        http://reports.bosbbb.org/Boston/Publ...

                        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.

                        2. Have you tried this number, Betty?
                          (800) 611-0759
                          (800) 526-8442

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

                          I believe Cook's Illustrated is published by:

                          Boston Common Press
                          17 Station St
                          Brookline, MA 02445
                          617-232-1000

                          http://www.yelp.com/biz/boston-common...

                          All that may or may not help you - but I hope it will.

                          1. We just refuse to sign up for any magazine subscriptions "automatic renewal option".... and send a check. They try to sell this as convenience, when its really just a pain in the **** to cancel.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: firecooked

                              Back in 2005, I noticed that my membership renewal date on my subscription was year 2010! I asked my husband why we renewed for so long into the future and he said he didn't do it. I just let it go, assuming that I'd suscribe that long anyway, but now I'm suspicious. Hmmm....

                            2. FWIW, was just talking to a friend of mine and I found out she had the web membership. I've been considering it (and owuld have already done it if it weren't for this thread and some resulting research). It is worth noting that she said that while she was happy with it that there have been some oddities about stuff they've been sent and billed for.

                              1. I just got a "complimentary" issue of Cook's Country -- same publishers I think. I will not be sending in my RSVP card to get further issues. Wonder if I'll be subscribing anyway!?

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Sarah

                                  I'd be sending something to them that says CANCEL.

                                  1. re: Sarah

                                    Yes, it is the same people.

                                    DT

                                  2. Thanks for the warning! I picked up an issue at Borders..was thinking about joining, but I think I will greedily paw through at the cafe, now. Thanks, all.

                                    1. Hey, so a bit off the main topic here but can anyone tell me if I'm correct in my belief that the content on cooksillustrated.com is a superset of americastestkitchen.com? IOW, is there any content one can access on ATK that isn't available on CI?

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        I believe you are correct that CI is a superset of ATK (IOW ATK is a subset of CI). If you subscribe to CI online, then you get the recipes on ATK.

                                        However, I've never done a side-by-side comparison.

                                        [edit] More info... from CI website.

                                        What is the charge for online membership?
                                        ... [blah blah blah]...
                                        Additional recipes, equipment ratings, ingredient tastings, and other content never published in the magazine, including:
                                        ... [blah blah blah]...
                                        All of the recipes, equipment tests, and ingredient tastings from every episode from all seven seasons of our highly rated public television show, America's Test Kitchen...

                                        1. re: dave_c

                                          Ah, thanks. I could have sworn I had seen that line on their website (the last sentence you posted) but couldn't find it just now.

                                      2. Reading all this yesterday made me so angry I went right to CI.com and cancelled my membership. I signed up years ago and although I hardly use it at all never bothered to cancel / stop the auto-renewal. What I found interesting was the fact that when you cancel mid-subscription (mine would expire in March) your access is immediately cut off BUT a pro-rated refund is not automatic. Buried in the cancellation confirmation is a note that if a refund is desired an email should be sent to such and such address with the account number. Of course I sent the email.

                                        It seems to me that when a subscription is canceled there are two options:

                                        Allow access to continue until the expire date since that is what was paid for.

                                        OR

                                        Discontinue access immediately and automatically issue a prorated refund for the unused, PAID for subscription term.

                                        CI is taking the combo of the two that is most advantageous for them.

                                        Am I being naive in my surprise that this was not the case?

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: heathermb

                                          I've got to add that CI, or the entire CI machine, greatly disappoints me. If you read the magazines or watch the show, Chris Kimball comes across as having so much integrity. But the completely aggressive marketing techniques the company uses have turned me off. Sending you books you didn't order, and your option is to pay or send it back. Why is the hassle mine to bear? You can't get access to on-line recipes unless you join...that kind of thing bugs me. Just hoping someone from there is reading here.

                                          1. re: ptrap

                                            They have no right to charge you for things you didn't request, you do not need to cancel as they claim you do.

                                            Simply send them a letter informing them that you thank them very kindly for the gifts that they are sending you and that they're welcome to continue to send you the free gifts. I bet you they'll go away.

                                            1. re: jgg13

                                              I went through Cooks Illustrated hell as well, which was disappointing because I like the magazine. They kept sending the (unrequested) yearbook and charging me for it and then when I'd send it back they'd get nasty about it. Finally I just exorcised them completely from my life.
                                              I do still watch their TV show but I always check my satellite bill to make sure their secret police haven't charged me for watching.

                                              1. re: tofuburrito

                                                As jgg said - if they send it to you without your requesting it, it's a gift. They cannot charge you for it. Well, they can try to charge you for it, but you don't have to pay for it. A letter sent back to them and copying the Atty. General's Consumer Protection office in your state stating you didn't order the book and don't intend to pay for it, but thank you for the gift should get the point across and get you off their mailing list. Especially when they see the AG's Consumer office copied on the letter.

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  The only thing to watch for, which I didn't think of until after I posted, is that it is possible that in the fine print of whatever you sign when you join might say "we might send you some junk you don't want, you must explicitly cancel or be billed".

                                                  But if that is not the case you most certainly can pull the "thanks for the free gifts, guys!" letter tactic - I've done it a few times and it definitely stopped the unwanted stuff from showing up at my door in the future.

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                    American Express had the same "gift" program with Food and WIne. For several months jfood received cookbooks "Best of..." with the note the they were send him a gift and if he would like to keep it, his Amex account would be charged ~$20.

                                                    Each month jfood called the number, thanked them for the gift and told them he did not order the book and did not authorize the charge to his account. When they asked him to send back the book, he told them "no, a gift is a gift." It took a few months but the "gifts" are now going to more worthy people who like to pay for gifts?

                                              2. re: ptrap

                                                What jgg13 said. If you didn't request it, you're not legally responsible to pay for it. I had that problem once with a different company who kept sending unrequested books and demanding payment. As soon as I put in writing that I knew I had no obligation to pay for them, the unsolicited shipments stopped.

                                              3. re: heathermb

                                                Update: I have had no response to my request regarding a pro-rated refund for the remaining 8 months of my subscription to CI.com.

                                                I'm getting renewal notices for my print subscription and if I don't get a satisfactory result on the online cancellation I'll be canceling the print as well.

                                                1. re: heathermb

                                                  Update: I re-sent my original email of July 8th on July 23rd and received the following reply on July 24th:

                                                  "Thank you for your note.

                                                  Our records indicate that on 7/15/2008 a request was received from this email address to cancel your Cook's Illustrated online membership. This cancellation was processed immediately and a refund was issued back to your credit card."

                                                  They also made sure to explain just how easy it would be to reinstate my membership at any time...

                                                  1. re: heathermb

                                                    Good luck getting your refund of the unused portion of your online subscription. It took me months and months - lots of phone calls, emails, letters and threats - finally they issued a refund and it wasn't even in the right amount. Seriously, I hope these guys get hit with a major class action. . . apparently hitting them in the pocketbook would be the only way to get them to change their business model.

                                              4. when it happens to me, i'll join in on the grievances.

                                                until then, i can't help myself: i love cook's illustrated and i love their recipes. if they've got a few mafia-style tactics that's a shame. i'll be vigilant not to let them stick it to me while still making their amazing blueberry pie.

                                                12 Replies
                                                1. re: beelzebozo

                                                  Any chance you know what issue the blueberry pie recipe is from? (Now that I've canceled my online membership I have to find it the old fashioned way!). Going to be in Maine in a few weeks and expect to come home with loads of blueberries!

                                                    1. re: beelzebozo

                                                      Thanks! I have that on my pile of mags to read...

                                                  1. re: beelzebozo

                                                    I gave up on CI some years back. I subscribed for several years after being given a gift subscription by a friend.

                                                    The tone of the magazine got increasingly imperious, with everything being "The Absolute Best"; I particularly found it a sign of hubris that a bunch of New Englanders were going to tell me how to make the best southern fried chicken.

                                                    Then, their taste tests got weird; picking an American dijon over Maille, one of the best generally available true Dijon mustards?

                                                    Finally, they stopped reviewing cookbooks and started pushing their own -- book after book after book.

                                                    Kimball himself seems to have wanted to be a celebrity. Frankly, I kind of got tired of his editorials -- precious writings about how great it is to be a cranky New Englander and make your own maple syrup and shoot your own game. (I think the last straw was one about how a REAL Vermonter wouldn't wear sunglasses or apparently obey the simple rules of mannerliness. I retitled it "Real Vermonters Act Like Assholes.")

                                                    I don't miss it. The recipes I used from it were good, but sometimes waaaaay toocomplex for the minutely better results. Mashing lemons with a potato masher to make lemonade? Come ON. CI has become an island, really disconnected from both professional cooking and home cooking.

                                                    1. re: jmckee

                                                      I, too, love their books, but realized that they are all rehashes of each other. ATK, Best of ATK, Quick Foods, whatever, and then the recipes all turn up in the magazine. Now I buy just the one book a year, ATK 2007, 2008 etc.

                                                    2. re: beelzebozo

                                                      Hahaha, I love CI too. I've had the opposite problem. Last year I didnt get 4 issues of the magazine that I paid for. I made numerous( like over 15) phone calls.

                                                      I got a book once I didnt order. I sent it back and was issued a refund. No biggie, this isnt the end of the world. So, you make a few phone calls or a few emails. Big whoop.!!

                                                      1. re: Calipoutine

                                                        Yes, but based on posts here, it's *not* just a "few phone calls or a few emails" - it's a constant barrage of bills from them, even when you don't owe them anything.

                                                        And you actually had to make FIFTEEN phone calls to get those magazines you had paid for and didn't receive - you don't see a problem with that?

                                                        Very poor customer service practice and very deceptive on CI's part. I'll stay away from them and warn everyone else away from them. Just not worth the aggravation.

                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                          I exaggerated a bit when I said 15, it was probably about 4 or 5. I really want the magazine though so I put up with it. If it would have been any other magazine, I would have cancelled it. And, I get my mail at a PO Box type of place so maybe it wasnt the magazines fault. I dont know, I have received the last few issues with no problems.

                                                          1. re: Calipoutine

                                                            And yet don't you think one call should have fixed the problem if they actually had decent customer service? They're obviously relying on you to not call back 4-5 times. Not many people would do that. Again - poor customer service.

                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                              I believe their attitude is more about maximizing cash management. Customer service has never concerned them all that much.

                                                              1. re: embee

                                                                Which, to me, makes them a very poor company to deal with. A satisfied customer is more likely to continue to "maximize cash management" by continuing to renew their subscription(s) - which Kimball and the CI folk seem to have never learned or, if they did, have forgotten.

                                                            2. re: Calipoutine

                                                              Any more than one is uncalled for.

                                                              DT

                                                      2. It's really too bad since I enjoy the magazine, but whoever is in charge of their distribution is awful.

                                                        My boyfriend got a subscription along with some recipe book deal they had going at the time. Had HUGE issues with getting them to send anything out, and had to try multiple times to get it to cancel. They kept trying to charge for a while afterward.

                                                        Like I said, it's really a pity since it's good stuff but we'll never get a subscription again.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: mumblety

                                                          i did the "free issue" thing and returned the thing with cancel marked all over it and they still kept sending issues and bills-they finally got the message but it was pretty annoying

                                                        2. Thanks everyone for the useful information. I subscribed 3 months ago, and just in case...

                                                          1. I want to jump on the pile, too! I couldn't even remember the details, but all the posts brought the unpleasant memories back somewhat. A book I didn't order. Bills, bills, bills. Paying for the postage to send it back. And still more bills--as if they never got back what I didn't order in the first place.

                                                            I'd like to see Mike Wallace (Steve Kroft?) corner Christopher Kimball. :)

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Angela Roberta

                                                              I seem to remember in the early 70's that the US Postal Service ran ads that stated if someone sends you unsolicited packages that you can keep them without having to pay for them.

                                                              However, I bet they (CI) would argue that subscribers had an "opt-out" button select when you signed up... which I consider to be a shady business practice.

                                                              The way they're dealing with people/customers I'm becoming disillusioned with Cook's illustrated and I've had no problems with them.

                                                              For other companies, I've heard of people have filing complaints with the postal inspector, the company's State bureau of corporations and dispute charges with the credit card company. I bet if enough people complain. I bet CI's business practices would change quickly.

                                                            2. I am kind of glad to hear that I am not the only one having these problems with CI. And, the real shame is that I really do enjoy their magazines, as I subscribe to both CI and Cooks Country (I am a bigger fan of this one than CI. The recipes seem to be more accessible.) However, I have also experienced the whole issue of being sent books that I did not order, and "starter" issues of CI, when I already subscribe!

                                                              In calling CI to complain, they informed me that the reason I received the book (one I already owned, by the way. Bought it independent of them, at Sam's Club) was that they had sent a postcard saying that they would send me the book unless I returned the postcard in X amount of time. 1st of all, I never received this postcard. I go through our mail every day, and file things accordingly, and would have noticed. 2ndly, that is a dirty tactic, and I told them as much. I also said that there is no way that I would send back their book at my expense, so they directed me to their website where you can print off a pre-paid return label. I still had to make a trip to the post office to return it, which sucked, but I was able to return at their cost.

                                                              Since the 1st incident of receiving unsolicited books from them, it has happened 2 other times, and I have printed off the pre-paid return label for both of them. The last time, I sent them an e-mail insisting that they remove me from any cookbook promotions, and that I intended to keep any more that I received, and would not be paying for them. So far, I haven't received another one, but I am sure that I inevitably will.

                                                              One of the reasons that I really like both CI and Cooks Country is that I feel as if I can trust their product and equipment reviews since they accept no advertising (although, if you have ever received an e-mail from them, you know this is BS since there is always an ad at the bottom for Scott Paper Towels or something). And since they do not have advertisements, the price of subscriptions is higher than most. But, I still don't think that it makes their guerilla tactics okay. In fact, it turns me off. They need to let the magazine and cookbooks be available for those that actively seek them out, and not tarnish their reputation by having so many subscribers unhappy with them.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: ddiff

                                                                I just had to call them for the second time about a cookbook I didn't order. They said I'd been on a list to automatically get cookbooks. I said I'd already asked to be taken off the list. They said, oh, there were two lists, and now you'll be taken off the second one.

                                                                Sleazebags! There is no way the person who answered the phone when I objected to the first book could have come away with the impression I wanted to be on any of their stupid mailing lists.

                                                                They claimed I'd opted-in to this when I bought a cookbook some time back. I'm pretty careful about these things and am pretty sure they're lying, but no way to prove them wrong, I guess.

                                                                I am just waiting until I get a chance to go take a couple hours and print out all the recipes I might ever want from their website, then I'm cancelling my membership on that and will NEVER have anything to do with these faux-folksy jerks again.

                                                              2. If Cook's Illustrated is like most small to midsize magazines, they don't handle their own subscription services. They contract it out to a company that will take care of it for them. (Look at the subscrition reply cards, and CI's goes to Iowa, which is one of the places where those kinds of businesses tend to be based. There's another cluster of them in Florida)

                                                                So while Chris Kimball should be aware of the business practices of the company he uses for their subscription services, and you would have thought many people would have complained directly to him by this point in time, there is a layer of bureaucracy and several states between him and what happens with subscription renewal.

                                                                As for me, all of my magazine subscriptions get paid by paper checks because I know how hard it is to cancel an auto-billing situation for some media companies. (The only way we could get AOL stop charging us was to get Citi to change our credit card number. And it worked. If your credit card issuer tells you that they've got to keep charging your for something billed to the old number, it's time to find another credit card company) And I've gotten the fake collection threat from Conde Nast because I didn't mail in a renewal check for Architectural Digest, which is why I refuse to subscribe to Bon Apetit or Gourmet because I just don't want to deal with CN's 'customer service' again.

                                                                1. As Harry K suggested, please contact the FTC regarding your unordered merchandise and unauthorized credit card charges. Writing letters to Cooks Illustrated and their affiliates isn't going to stop this abuse. However, they will get in trouble with the government if enough people file complaints with the FTC.

                                                                  For those of you who received unordered books, etc., here's a good link -- http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consu.... Also, look-up 39 USC 3009, which tells you your rights with regard to unordered merchandise.

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: delilah12

                                                                    Delilah12: thanks for the link to the FTC. I logged a complaint with them this morning.

                                                                    I've been an avid reader of Cooks Illustrated and CI.com. In 2007 I ordered their annual cookbook. To my surprise I received the 2008 in Dec 08 with a note that I could either pay the bill or return it. I was quite ticked off. I didn't expect such tactics from such an organization. I called their customer service and go no where. They informed me that when I ordered the 2007 I agreed to receive addtiional items. I sent an email (and copied Christopher Kimball) and advised I would not be returning the book, free postage label or not and that this is an unethical and sneaky practice well below the standards of such a good publication. I have received no further notices from them. But I'm planning to send another letter to them advising of my complaint and requesting confirmation of receipt.

                                                                    1. re: keeks71

                                                                      While I find CI very useful (despite the pedantry and Kimball's inane eccentricities), their business practices are often disorganized and can be overtly sleazy. The one semi comforting comment I can offer is that they don't generally use a real collection agency or follow through on their most dire threats.

                                                                      You almost certainly agreed to receive additional items. This is sometimes stated close to the "order now" button and says something along the lines of "automatic preview privileges". While usually quite visible, these "agreements" are sometimes buried in unexpected places and in smaller point type.

                                                                      Here's an example from a recent CI email solicitation:

                                                                      "We will send you a notification postcard in advance of each cookbook. You may decline your preview copy by returning our notification postcard within 30 days. Otherwise, you will receive your preview copy at our lowest prevailing price plus shipping and handling. If you ever receive an unwanted cookbook, return it at our expense. You may cancel at any time."

                                                                      Since you can return it postage free, this isn't illegal, but you were supposed to get a notification a month in advance. Whether or not you did (depending on where you live), you probably have no legal or ethical obligation to either pay for or return the book. The folksy Kimball does not deal with readers, however serious the issue.

                                                                      Before they started selling cookbooks, they published some of the best cookbook reviews available. Now the presumption is that their cookbooks are so perfect that there is no need for any others. A few are quite good, and some even include original material not previously printed in the magazine. Most simply rehash CI recipes, in different combinations, while omitting much of the associated reference information.

                                                                      CI used to reply to queries about the proportion of recycled recipes in any book, but stopped doing that several years ago.

                                                                      While I subscribe to the website, I carefully monitor when it is up for renewal. I will no longer order a book or magazine subscription from CI. My credit card company, to date, has been good about charging back unauthorized debits, but it's just too much hassle. The books are sold in bookstores and online, often for much less than the CI price.

                                                                      1. re: embee

                                                                        About receiving an unwanted book mailed to me.....
                                                                        I talked with customer service this week and got very clear information and fortunate for me, the rep was very professional. Here's the detailed information:

                                                                        I had ordered a single book, online, last year. I received the book with no problems. But, I thought I was just buying the one book. Apparently, when you order any book online, you are automatically signed up to the book's series program. The customer service rep confirmed that they do not give you an option, when you order online, to opt-out of this. They said they mailed me a postcard a few months ago and it said the first "series" book was coming and if I returned the postcard, they would cancel sending it to me. I never got a postcard so, last week they sent me a book to review for 21 days with an invoice of $24.50. If I returned the book within 21 days, I wouldn't be charged for it. When I asked how, in the future, to order just a single book, as on Amazon, without being automatically signed up for their series book mailings, they said the only way to avoid the "series" would be to order by phone and purposely state I do not want to get additional "series" books.

                                                                        This is amazing to me. They give us online capabilities which are more convenient and less expensive operationally for them but do not give online purchasers the complete set of purchasing options - so, in the case of wanting to order a single book without further annoyances from them, you have to make a phone call.

                                                                        Also, I found and wrote to this email address Jacqui.Valerio@americastestkitchen.com to complain and she replied by saying I didn't have to return the book and she would remove me from any future mailings.

                                                                        Oh, and I also had them change my online subscriptions from auto-renew to manually renew. This is another case where they don't offer the option to manually renew if you subscribe online, for online access. It takes a phone call.

                                                                        This will definitely decrease the future purchases I make with them. As they say - buyer beware!
                                                                        mickey

                                                                      2. re: keeks71

                                                                        Hey keeks71 - you might want to try calling again (PITA, in know). I had the same thing happen, and got the same response. So I hung up, called back, and got a different operator. This time I told her I hadn't received the book (technically I hadn't, they'd sent it to my old address, and the new owner told me about it), so she canceled my payment, and I haven't gotten harrassed since.

                                                                    2. I let my CI subscription run out - I meant to renew, but just forgot. Now I keep getting reminder re-subscribe notices from them, which is fine, except that none of them have a *price* for the subscription. It's really strange.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: akq

                                                                        We let ours run out and never hear from the. I wonder if it's because we're in Canada.

                                                                        DT

                                                                        1. re: Davwud

                                                                          I finally got a price on a renewal notice - what was interesting is that it was about $5/year HIGHER than the subscription price on the postcard inserts in the magazine. Hmm...

                                                                      2. I have never subscribed to CI, but have had similar problems with Saveur. They start sending renewal almost a full year before my subscription ran out!
                                                                        I think the magazine subscription industry has gotten more aggressive along with the fact that print media is hurting. I prefer magazines and books to digital, but think I may go back to buying individual copies of magazines at the newsstand. Dealing with the subscription companies is waaaaaaay too annoying.

                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                        1. re: poptart

                                                                          That's a scam I noticed on one of my other magazine subscriptions. I got a renewal notice and was just about the write the check when I noticed that my subscription end date was printed on the magazine mailing label. And I still had 10 months left!

                                                                          1. re: akq

                                                                            I just have a small list of when my subscriptions run out on the side of my fridge. When a new "RENEW NOW FOR BEST SAVINGS BEFORE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION RUNS OUT!" notice comes in the mail, I refer to the list. Most of the renewal notices are tossed in the recycle bin. :-)

                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                              That's a great system! I wish I were that organized...

                                                                              1. re: akq

                                                                                EXCEPT when you discover that two of your magazines (owned by Hearst) haven't been coming for several months, and when you log on where you pay for your subscriptions (same C/S site for both magazines) it seems the USPS has decided to tell them that your address is now "undeliverable" and until you "correct your address" in their system, your account is suspended.

                                                                                WTH? I've been living in the same place for 14 years and the local P.O. is now telling Hearst Magazines I no longer live there?

                                                                                Stoopid USPS. Now I have to deal with the local post office on Saturday morning, and they're old and cranky there and very unhelpful. Grrrr......

                                                                          2. re: poptart

                                                                            Yeah. It's industry-wide. My subscription to Opera News runs the same way.

                                                                            1. re: jmckee

                                                                              The New Yorker is the same. Also Preservation (the Historic Trust mag). They start bombarding you even if you have two years left to go on your subscription. Wonder how much these subscription services cost the magazines in postage (not to mention consumer growling)?

                                                                            2. re: poptart

                                                                              Wow- I wish there was a way you could broadcast that to the universe.

                                                                            3. Just signing up for their e-mails was frustrating enough. How sad this thread is - it's bad when you'd buy a publication for its content but are prevented from doing so by the rough sales tactics.

                                                                              1. Lucky for you, I paid for my subscription and it NEVER shows up.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. BEWARE
                                                                                  Before ordering anything from Cook’s Illustrated/American Test Kitchens or using their “free website, do a Google search using “cook’s illustrated/american test kitchen scam”. There you will find a host of complaints outlining their illegal scheme of sending out unsolicited cookbooks. You can send them back post-free if unopened and marked “return to sender”. Of course, you still have the hassle of taking them to the Post Office and they will still invoice you and send you letters threatening your credit rating. WHAT A SCAM!

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: grahamboat

                                                                                    Jfood received some of these "gifts" from credit cards and the like. He called them and told them he never ordered them. They told him to just return them. He then explained to them the definition of a "gift" was and if they would like to pick it up they had his address. They stopped sending him gifts and he never had to open the door for them to pick the gift up.

                                                                                    1. re: grahamboat

                                                                                      Ummm.....that's pretty much what this entire thread is about. And as jfood said - if they send it to you unsolicited, it's considered a gift. You can keep it without paying them for it.

                                                                                      And as oakjoan said WAY back in 2008 - "I finally go a hold of somebody there and they said "Oh, that's not a REAL credit reporting agency, it's in-house."

                                                                                      1. re: grahamboat

                                                                                        <You can send them back post-free if unopened and marked “return to sender".>

                                                                                        I am a retired mail carrier - take it from me that when you don't want ANY unopened piece of mail, you should, using a bold marker/pen, draw a line through your address and write "refused", rather than "return to sender". Depending on the class of mail and the sender's endorsements (endorsements are stuff like "address correction requested), the piece may or may not require postage to return it to the mailer. If it is returnable without you paying the postage, the PO will do so. If it's not, the PO will either return it to you indicating that postage is required, or dispose of it. That's why you keep receiving charitable solicitations from groups whose letters you have marked "return to sender". In order for that to happen, you'd have to pay to return the envelopes.

                                                                                      2. The latest insulting marketing tactic: When scrolling through the recipes in the recipe library *that you have already paid for* you have to look at recipes that you don't get access to... unless you subscribe to the "advanced" (read: another way to get more cash) library. So you have to look at recipe titles you can't have until you're so sick of looking at them you finally pony up the money.

                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: observor

                                                                                          That's peeves me off about CI... What was originally part of the the regular subscriptions is now an "editor's choice" with another level of payments to gain access.

                                                                                          I've been a long time subscriber and will cancel when my current subscriptions runs out.

                                                                                          1. re: dave_c

                                                                                            I don't think those recipes were part of the regular subscriptions because I have been seeing a lot of recipes that I would like and hadn't seen before. It is completely insulting to force the buyer to view items they don't have access to on a site they have paid for.

                                                                                          2. re: observor

                                                                                            Yeah that's really pissing me off too. Why am I paying for a site and not getting all the recipes on it?

                                                                                            1. re: observor

                                                                                              Yay! It appears you can now hide the "editor's choice" recipes when doing a recipe search on cooksillustrated.com. I don't think that was the case before. Maybe they are listening to the masses!

                                                                                            2. My husband died in March and had an automatic debit to his bank account. When I discovered it in May, I ask for a refund for the three months since he was sick and died. Three people refused and said they NEVER give refunds for subscriptions - even if people are dead!!!!!

                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: overbeck

                                                                                                I'm sorry about your loss. I would ask to speak to a manager--that is just plain cold.

                                                                                                1. re: overbeck

                                                                                                  Not a new business practice, sorry to say. Many years ago a family friend noticed that her phone service had been slammed. She called the company and was told that her husband had authorized the change. In a major huff, she gave them his address and told them to call him up there since he'd been buried in that cemetery for the last year.

                                                                                                  Sorry for your loss and trouble.

                                                                                                  1. re: overbeck

                                                                                                    SERIOUSLY? I'm so sorry - first for your loss, but second being treated this way after losing your husband is reprehensible.

                                                                                                    Perhaps if you try writing them - I have a lot of information further upthread, including their Brookline headquarters address, where you could copy Christopher Kimball. Keep in mind their subscriptions are probably being managed by a clearing house, so writing directly to the company or calling them directly at headquarters might help.

                                                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5312...

                                                                                                    Again, I'm so very sorry for your loss.

                                                                                                  2. I had hoped my experience with Cooks Country/Cooks Illustrated was an isolated instance, but decided to do a search and see what came up. Sadly I'm not alone and my opinion of this organization has diminished greatly.

                                                                                                    Don't ever give these people your credit/debit card info. I finally had to get my credit union to refuse the charge after 4 phone calls over a two month period. Each time I was cheerily told the charge would be credited back and each time it wasn't..

                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Calamityville

                                                                                                      That's called theft, Calamityville. And that's what I would have told them when it happened repeatedly. And told them that the State's Attorney General's office would be informed as well.

                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                        I stopped renewing a few years back. Last week, I received a CI magazine with an "Order Confirmation/Invoice" included. I almost threw it out but I was suspicious. I called the 800 number (had to find it through this board) and they told me I had filled out a subscription card and mailed it in authorizing the subscription. That is patently false. I told them they were thieving liars who went through their old subscriber lists and sent out invoices to them in order to trick them into paying, and that I would report them to the BBB and FTC. I asked for a copy of the so-called subscriber card and they said they would send it next week. We'll see if they REALLY cancel my subscription, and if they REALLY ever send that mysterious card. Fortunately, they no longer have my credit card info, so they could not just auto bill me. I never game them that info, and now I am very grateful for that decision. Ugh -- I liked this company, but they are behaving reprehensibly!

                                                                                                        1. re: OneMoreCindy

                                                                                                          Well then - the magazine and any others you get are "gifts" - I'll bet it was a one-off send of the latest issue to see if you'd pay up.

                                                                                                          Really slimy sales practices.

                                                                                                          1. re: OneMoreCindy

                                                                                                            Since it's a mail order service, I would also contact the US Postal Inspector and their State Department of Corporations.

                                                                                                            1. re: dave_c

                                                                                                              And/or the Better Business Bureau and your state's attorney general.

                                                                                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                Food & Wine recently fake-subscribed me. I had paid for a 6-month subscription (it cost something like $4 so I gave it a try; turned out it wasn't worth even that) and after that was up I got a payment notice in the mail saying I had subscribed for a new year. TOTAL LIE! Luckily I had paid the first subscription by check. Lesson: Never give your CC#!

                                                                                                      2. Yes, I will buy nothing directly from CI. I live in a remote area without anything close to a newsstand or bookstore, so I usually rely on subscriptions and mail order. But for CI I wait until I can find the issues used on eBay. I hate that I have to wait until the issue is no longer current, but I will not deal with that company directly.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. I think it might be useful to cc PBS as well. The wordage used about obtaining recipes from their website during the shows is deceptive as well. I sometimes enjoy their shows but their tactics are predatory and deceptive.

                                                                                                          1. glad I saw this post, I just got an issue of CI today I didn't ask for in the mail.

                                                                                                            I'll be sending back the bill, without payment, with a note thanking them for their free gift of a magazine I didn't ask for.

                                                                                                            That said, their stir fry of green beans and flank steak is one of my favorite dishes to make for dinner...so good and easy too.

                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: TheFoodEater

                                                                                                              Regretably, this has been discussed ad infinitum on the CI Board, as well.

                                                                                                              When you order a book, you are evidently joining a book club. They send you a post card, and ask you if you want the book. Most of us order our books from Amazon, just to avoid this.

                                                                                                              You might have signed up for their newsletter, and the free issue was included. I Several of us who enjoy CI/CC just get the online subscriptions.

                                                                                                              1. re: The 1st and only KSyrahSyrah

                                                                                                                I don't have any freakin clue how they even got my address......

                                                                                                                1. re: TheFoodEater

                                                                                                                  Mailing lists are sold all the time - that's part of direct mail. You probably subscribed for a similar magazine. That magazine sold it's list to a list management company, and in turn, THEY sold your name/address to CI when CI's marketing group wanted more unsubscribed names to market their magazine/book club.

                                                                                                              2. Was an online subscriber. It was about to automatically renew so I went on their website and clicked on the "Cancel Subscription" button and it said it would not automatically renew.

                                                                                                                Let's see how well this works.

                                                                                                                DT

                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                  "Let's see how well this works."

                                                                                                                  LOL! Good luck.

                                                                                                                  I always save a web page in printed form to prove to them that I did click the "Cancel Subscription" button (or had made my payment online).

                                                                                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                      A little late but here's the follow up to this.

                                                                                                                      NO PROBLEMS!!!

                                                                                                                      DT

                                                                                                                2. I know this an old thread. I'd like to hope that somebody from Cook's will see these and realize how much this practice is hurting their business. I subscribed to CI for some years, and then purchased the bound magazines for a couple of later years, and as a result of that purchase ended up on their unsolicited cookbook list. After a number of phonecalls and letters I finally resolved the problem by returning the unopened package. But it sure wasn't worth the aggravation. Now I don't even dare to register my email address for the free recipes on their website, and it leaves me with a bad feeling about the entire enterprise. Which is too bad, because I like the general approach of trying a lot of different things and reporting what happens. Chris Kimball (or somebody) you are losing your base with this practice; revise your business plan.

                                                                                                                  1. After subscribing for several years and purchsing many of the annual cookbooks I lost interest and stopped subscribing. Along came annual book after annual book that I didn't order. Eventually I stopped paying because I hadn't ordered, and they stopped mailing the books.
                                                                                                                    This morning...after a very long absence...there was the 2010 annual in my mailbox. I did not order this book. So I called the federal trade commission, had a long delightful conversation with an ftc staffer. She pointed me to the online complaint form which I filled out. I now have a printed copy of my complaint and will send it to Cook's Illustrated along with an article about the Illinois attorney general's lawsuit against a company using a similar scam to the one CI uses, and an online article calling the public's attention to the CI scam. The book is their gift to me -- the federal trade commission says so -- but I'll send them the invoice and the articles as a courtesy. I hope others will do the same.
                                                                                                                    File a complaint:
                                                                                                                    http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consu...
                                                                                                                    the link explains about unordered merchandise

                                                                                                                    www.ftc.gov
                                                                                                                    consumers can file complaints online

                                                                                                                    1. I purchased a ".com" service from them. I was recharged every year until I lost my credit card and was issued one with a different number. Then I couldn't be charged again. End of story---I hope!

                                                                                                                      1. Signed up for regular online subscription for ATK and Cooks Country,Oct 2013, not an insubstantial amount, and immediately got hit with the premium option. Can't get into anything without the premium upgrade. These people will take pennies from dead people's eyes they are MERCENARY to the extreme.
                                                                                                                        STAY AWAY FROM ALL THEIR PRODUCTS AND "SERVICES". They are a gyp.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: Terriergal

                                                                                                                          Because of their terrible business practices, as many have already described in this thread, I pay the basic online access for CI and Cook's Country and that's it. My account is not set to auto-renew. I have my calendar marked to contact them, by phone, and renew.

                                                                                                                          NOW....If I find a listed recipe that locks me out of accessing the detailed recipe unless I upgrade first, all I do is search for the recipe on the Web. I always find several other websites that show the detailed recipe and reference that it is an ATK or CI recipe. Every time I do this, it feels so good to have beaten them out of squeezing any more money out of me.

                                                                                                                          Hope the rest of you are doing the same!!!