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Actually, if you can deal with sending a "I'm not interested" card once a month, and you're good at reading legalese, joining a CD club can actually save you money. Make sure you pick one that sells a lot of your favorite music; not all artists are available in all CD clubs. They usually ask you to purchase x (usually 1 or 2) CDs at regular price (around $16 + S&H), and then you'll get y (y > x; usually 11 - 15) CDs for "free" (only S&H costs, about $3 per CD). The catch: every month they send you a "Based on your musical preferences, we think you'd like the following album (at regular price)" card; you have to check "No, thanks" and return it if you don't want to be charged. Once you get all of your y CDs, cancel your membership, and the hassles will go away.

My mother had been a member of Columbia House's music club for about 6 or 7 years now. They stopped automatically sending their recommended selection about 3 of 4 years ago, if I remember correctly. My guess is that either someone caught them on some postal law or too many people were not paying the bill and they couldn't collect on all of them, or some other non-cost-effective problem. She had fulfilled the obligation quite some time ago, and perks started to accumulate.

Columbia House offered long-standing members a 2-for-1 deal on all purchases (except clearance items, and double/box sets count as 2 albums). So even at full price, with shipping and handling, CD's would come out to around $12 apiece. Each purchase also earns points, and a certain amount of points results in a free album. Each month, the club has a special offer, which varies from buy-1, get 1 for half price, or 2-for-1, or free shipping. Combined with the automatic 2-for-1, this results in 3 albums for the price of 1.5, 3 for the price of 1, or 2 for the price of 1 with no shipping.

Columbia House also introduced a web interface to ordering, which expedites things, but also has an interesting side effect. Since the mailings overlap timewise, the site lets you choose your special offer (between last month's mailing and the current month's mailing). A smart shopper would look at the offers and choose the one that benefits their situation the most..

The point of all this? Well, a little more than a year ago, my mother got a letter from Columbia House asking her to please re-enroll as a new member. She would get 12 CD's for the price of 1, and be obligated to buy X amount of CD's over the next Y length of time. Of course, the letter didn't say, but she would lose her perks. It seems my mother had gotten to the point where Columbia House was not making as much money off her as they could. Finally, the system had been beat.

The downside to all of this, is that while Columbia House does have an extremely extensive catalogue (I think it has the biggest one out of all the clubs out there) it is not complete, and new albums take some time before they get offered. However, this situation is perfect for my mother, who takes a while to catch on to the new pop songs, and buys oldies most of the time anyway. So, if this situation fits you or someone you know, and you or someone you know has a lot of patience, it could work out. Good luck!

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