Dis-Rik of Columbia? (Pt. 1)

From the slight rolling of Jen's eyes, I could easily tell that she not only thought that I was standing on the brink of yet another mire filled with financial quicksand, but also that merely the slightest push would find me waist-deep in the money pit before I had even half-considered the situation. The reason for her concern? The cause of the gyration of the ocular orbs? I had received an offer from Columbia House in the mail just minutes before, upon which I was informed of these words: "Own Any 6 DVD's for 49 Cents Each!"

There aren't many phrases in this world that can make my head spin a 360 quicker than "Own Any 6 DVD's for 49 Cents Each!" The Super Cheap DVD Offer is the adult version of those comic book ads from my childhood where you could buy not just 200 army men for ONLY $1.99, but also an entire FULLY ARMED BATTALION! They would show you a picture on the back cover of the comic (not all the time, but quite often enough) of a trunk with soldiers pouring out from under the lid, while the bulk of the page showed you an awesomely detailed (but bloodless) Normandy-like battle. Your head would be filled with a vision of the postman having to struggle while lugging a regulation-sized, army-issue trunk down the street full of howitzers, jeeps, tanks and all of the other accoutrements of war, in addition to your fully-armed and ready-for-action division of willing dog soldiers. 

In reality, as I had a friend who actually purchased one of these kits, the cardboard box the "battalion" came crammed in was about eight inches long and the soldiers were each about half an inch high, though just as tall as any of the machineries of war that were also jammed in the box. Before I discovered the results of this japery, I remember laying awake at night studiously determining exactly how many allowances it would take to build up an army of 5,000 soldiers to take on any and all enemy generals across the neighborhood. (Answer: ten allowances at that time, but the money always got spent on bubblegum cards and comics before I could ever send off anything. Plus, I would have never cut an ad out of my precious comics, so that horrible scenario prevented me from making good on my plans for world domination as well.)

Once I stopped the Tilt-A-Whirl in my noggin from jumping its moorings, I noted the additional information that my only obligation was to "purchase 3 more DVDs at regular club prices (approx. $19.99 each) over the next two years". As my head slowly careened to a halt in its original position, it finally allowed me the oxygen to puff out "Two more years! I can do that time standing on my head!" I then proceeded to fully expand the accordion-section of DVD stickers placed inside of the envelope, from which I was to select my choices which would begin my servitude to the House of Columbia. I figured that all of the choices would be the same generic pap that you could find at any Wal-K-Target-Costco-Sam's-Mart, and that this being the obvious case would provide me with an out, allowing me to toss the offer into File 13 without any further delay. I could then move on with my life.

And I was right. They were mostly the same movie fodder that you can find in any national chain or grocery store: those ubiquitous titles (and their inevitable, generally abominable sequels) that everyone and their brother are expected to purchase or rent without fail in the best knee-jerker American fashion. There are no Criterion Collection wonders here. No foreign films unless you count the odd Americanized Jackie Chan entry (I don't). Nothing remotely outré or even fashionably bizarre. Just good ol' fashioned Grade-A, Hollywood strip mall blah-baroo. It was going to be tough to find enough films to fill the offer.

And I was wrong. Because I couldn't simply move on with my life. No matter how much eye-rolling it caused, I just had to send in for this offer. I just had to do it!

This is the problem... When I lived in Alaska, I would be relentlessly inundated with mail offers for Columbia House, which would always piss me off because no one in Alaska could actually send in for that offer! The fine print always read, "CONTINENTAL U.S. ONLY!" Residents of Alaska and Hawaii could not reply to the offer stated. Columbia House, why the hell did you bother to send me the friggin' offer in the first place? Over and over and over again? I know I was on your mailing list somehow, but surely you could have someone look at the list once in a while and purge all of the Hawaiian and Alaskan addresses from off of it so you didn't pay the extra, wasted cash on a useless mail-out. Then you could take the non-continental addresses and slam them into another mailing list, which you would use for the "separate offer" that you asked "Customers from Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Territories, APO and FPO addresses and Canada" to write in to request, since they couldn't partake of the regular offer. Why wouldn't you just send that separate offer to those addresses in the first place? Because it was a much suckier offer from your sorry-ass company? I never found out, because when I did write in (BOTH TIMES!), I never received any reply from the House.

BMG allows Alaskans to sign up for the same offer as the rest of the country, so why couldn't Columbia House? While living in Anchorage years ago, I joined BMG, and except for receiving a Tiffany CD in lieu of the Kinks album I ordered and a Keith Urban disc rather than Pavement, I had nothing but fine service from them, even if I think my monthly Featured Selection was wildly off the mark rather consistently. (I don't believe that my Purchase History, with the rare exception, showed that I was an eager connoisseur of urban/hip-hop music, nor do I believe that I ever ordered anything that would cause anyone to think that I was the target audience for whatever garbage Ashlee Simpson was pushing. Even though I believe the term to be shite, I had chosen "alternative" long ago as my catalog preference, yet I rarely seemed to receive a catalog that was focused toward that genre.) But I digress...

So, now that I actually live in the Continental U.S. (and boy, do I feel so much more special), do you think that I'm not going to test this offer out? 6 DVDs at 49 cents apiece? Less than 3 dollars for six DVDs, and I, of whom it is most clear that madness reigns in these circumstances, won't finally get my shot at the Super Cheap DVD Offer? Of course, I am doing it! The only question is "What could I possibly order?"

(To be continued...)


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