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Finances & Money

Beware of Hidden “Bonus Gifts”

I guess I’m on a roll here. First I warned you of pseudo-closed credit cards, and then phantom savings accounts. Now I want to warn you about a more diabolic plot to get your money: Hidden “Bonus Gifts”.

We’ve been subscribers of Runner’s World magazine for a few years now, but apparently when we renewed this past year, we unknowingly signed up to receive a Runner’s World Calendar. We got the calendar in the mail a couple months after resubscribing, and I figured it was just a bonus gift at no cost.

Unfortunately, I was wrong. It wasn’t free.

When I opened a letter that was inserted with the calendar, I saw they were “asking” for $19.95 for the calendar. It didn’t look like an invoice, so I brushed it off and just stuck it in a drawer. We just stuck the calendar on a pile (Stacie loves piles of paper) and didn’t think twice about it.

However, a few weeks later, we get an invoice for the calendar for $19.95. I said “I’m not paying for this crap” and stuck it in a drawer again.  Two more invoices later, we get an “overdue invoice“. Uh oh.

So I called up Runner’s World, which I should have just done in the beginning, and explain I won’t pay $20 for something I didn’t order (or knowingly order) and that the calendar just isn’t worth it. Luckily I didn’t take it out of its shrink-wrapping, but unfortunately I threw out the original envelope. However, the customer service rep emailed me a return postage slip that I could affix to a new envelope.

I figured I could just go to the post office and use one of their free Priority Mail envelopes, but uh uh. I had to pay $2.29 for one of those plain bubble-wrap mailers because the return postage slip said “Bound Printed Matter”. I could have just cut up a paper bag and taped it together, but I didn’t have one handy so I shelled out the $2.29.

So the moral of the story here is:

  • Always pay attention to the fine print
  • Follow up immediately if you receive something you didn’t expect
  • Ask the company to reimburse you for shipping (or pay directly for it)
  • Keep all original documentation and envelopes in case you need to back up your claim or reuse the shipping materials

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I’ve run into problems like this with magazines where I’ve ordered for 2 free trial issues and kept getting them even when I canceled. Once I started getting a magazine I had never even heard of and kept getting it for a year. Luckily they never billed me. I’ve learned to avoid trial issues and only pay for what I really want.
    Thanks for the warning!

  • Isn’t this illegal? I think I remember from a while back there being a case where a company would send books to people then send them a bill. It would be costly to send all of the books back.

    I would have told Runners World to stuff it and thanks for the calendar.

  • What a pain!
    I don’t think they can make you pay for something you didn’t order, even if you keep it; they can try and harrass you into capitulation, though. Most of the time they would never even know if you really got it!
    My daughter used to get Seventeen magazine, never renewed it, and kept getting it for another year. Once in awhile they would send a billing notice, but I helped her write a certified letter to them after the first notice, kept a copy of the letter, then just enjoyed the rest of the magazines. Similar experience wirh Rolling Stone. I think a lot of magazine companies are hoplessly disorganized in their subscription databases.
    If you do realize you’ve gotten something you didn’t order, just write RTS [Return to Sender] on the outside (if unopened) and the Post Office will return it.

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