CD Clubs: Good deals or Rip-offs?

I got another application for a CD Club (BMG Music, this time) in the mail and this time Iactually took the time to read it. Their plug is 7 CDs for free (I assume you pay S&H at inflated prices) then you buy one within the year at regular club price ($15-18, + S&H) and you get 3 more for free. There’s no obligations beyond that.

There are easily 7 CDs I could select from the lovely sticker collection they sent along, so I don’t imagine I would have any problems finding enough choices for the remaining 4.

It seems like an OK deal, probably not as good as it sounds due to high regular prices plus killer S&H charges, but on the whole it seems like a favorable deal if I want the music they are selling.

So, the questions:

  1. Do they still make you send back a card to cancel the default selection each month? There was no mention of it on the literature and I couldn’t find a web site for them. I heard that the CD Clubs had gotten away from this dubious practice.

  2. Are there any hidden fees that I’m not taking into account? How bad are S&H charges?

  3. Are the follow on deals (buy one get two free, etc) on regular music or just Slim Whitman collector editions?

  4. Anyone out there a member of one of these clubs and are there any major differences between them?

Its usually a better deal than buying 7 (or 12 in the case of ColumbiaHouse) from the music store at $17.00 a pop. I figured it out once and with Columbia House (12 free, buy 5) it came out to $7-$10 per CD (with S&H).
The shipping and handling for the single purchase is only a couple of bucks. The free CDs usually come in one or two shipments and total S&H is usually less than the full price of one CD.

The trick is, you need to cancel your membership as soon as you meet your obligations. Continuing to order the CDs will eventually cost more since you pay $20 (that includes S&H) instead of $17.

The only downside is that it takes about 4 -6 weeks and you don’t always have the best selection.

I used both BMG and ColumbiaHouse a lot in college to quickly build my CD collection. It ends up saving you a some money.

I once calculated the total price for one of those music clubs (BMG I think, but I don’t really remember) to complete the minimum obligations of the contract. It worked out that I would be saving about 50 cents per CD over the local Best Buy. I decided not to join myself because for me, it was worth the extra half buck to have the CD immediately in my hands, rather than waiting on shipping, and I didn’t think the selection was very good. So it’s not really a rip off, just I didn’t think the savings were big enough to bother. YMMV, though.

The selection is not as good as in a music store, but I found plenty of CD’s I wanted. As stated above, it works out to about 7+ dollars for each CD.

I received my orders in less than 4 weeks, and have been quite happy with the service. I will recommend that you complete your obligatory purchase asap, and then contact the company requesting you be taken off the automatic mailing. This will keep you as a member, but you won’t get the monthly CD that you need to send back if you don’t want it.

Another thing is to request thier complete catalog, instead of relying on the monthly special flier to choose from.

later, Tom.

I agree with the above. They have very few ‘new’ selections (most of their stuff is 2-5 years old). I also noticed that the CD’s I got seemed to be of poor quality (very thin, and they were ‘made by BMG under license’). And to cancel is a pain in the neck. You either have to save the paper that they send you when you first sign up, or sit forever on hold to cancel. Then they call you back to offer you an incentive (like 3 free CD’s) to re-enroll about 2 days later. And you stay on their mailing list forever. Not worth it.

Actually, the situation is probably even better than some of the other posters have mentioned. Columbia House used to hardly ever have sales, but, these days, every single magazine comes with a special offer.

The situation in the '80s (when I was in college and racking up multiple memberships in both clubs) was that BMG was much more promotional – to make up for the fact that their selection was noticeably crappier – while CH tried never to give a price break. They must have gotten more competitive in the past few years, because CH is now doing price promotions just as much as BMG does.

For example, I’ve got a CH order form in front of me right now, and the offer is “Buy One, Get Two Free.” Of course, you pay s&h on the “free” CDs, but let’s look at the total:[ul]
[li]$17.98 for the first CD (that’s the top end, many are cheaper)[/li][li]$10.50 for s&h (I think it’s still about $3 apiece, but let’s call it $3.50 to be safe)[/li][li]$2.85 for tax (estimating 10% sales tax on everything)[/ul][/li]It comes out to $31.33 total, or $10.44 per CD. And that’s estimating (I think) high in all areas.

The offers tend to rotate; sometimes it’s “Get Everything for 1/3 of the Regular Price,” sometimes something bizarre like “Buy One at Full Price, Get Two Free and One at Half Price.” (BMG likes that latter, for reasons I can’t imagine.) You do have to remember that only the “full-price” purchases count to fulfill your commitment, but if the clubs have a bunch of CDs you want, it’s a great way to get them cheap.

CH is still a bit more expensive than BMG (which gives the store away all the time), but you can wait for the better offers – they give you (IIRC) two years to buy six CDs.
So, Telmek, you can get 7 CDs for about $30 or so (about $4 apiece), buy one more when you can get more stuff free or cheap, and then get four more CDs “free” (at about $4). You can quit then to rejoin if you want, but, honestly, that can be more hassle than it’s worth. If you wait for the sales that are best for you (both clubs also do periodic promotions on box sets, which may be of more interest), you can get bunches of CDs for less than $10.

(Of course, the big caveat is that you have to like what they have – after a couple of decades in and out of the clubs, I’m finding it hard to find things they have that I want to buy.)

Going straight from memory here, but I believe this is right. Columbia House, I think, no longer sends you the automatic CD each month if you don’t return their card. They made it out to be a big customer relations thing, but my guess is that they ate a LOT in return postage.

As for building up your collection, don’t both CH and BMG have a “and nothing more to buy” line now? Or even “one more to buy”? Your problem is going to be when you have to buy four more over the course of a few years, or whatever. If you can find one where you get, say, 12 for a penny, then four more when you buy ONE, then by all means it’s a GREAT deal. And if there’s nothing to send back each month, you can either cancel right away, or just throw out their junk mail.

I was a member of CH a long time ago, when they had you buy seven more over three years and send back the card each month. I was also lazy, however, and never sent back the card (or very rarely did). One extra purchase into my “contract” – which was about 10 “return to sender” CDs down the line – I got a letter from CH telling me that THEY were breaking my contract because I kept sending back CDs rather than cards. So I got something like 15 CDs for the price of two. Worked for me!!

I was a member of bmg, if you use their online site you get a much wider selection of cds to pick, and also if you send an email stating you will NEVER buy the selection of the month, and will just cost them postage if you forget to return the card, they will agree to stop sending you the selection of the month.

I just joined columbia’s new club,, 12 for the price of one, and with a better selection than bmg. You do have to return the cards every month though.

That’s no joke, folks. A relative of mine was a Columbia House member back in the days before CDs, and she still gets “We want you back!” mailings. I think it’s been about 20 years since she was actually a member, and she’s moved at least twice since then, but CH doesn’t give up.

I used to belong to the Columbia group back when it was Columbia Record and Tape Club, and you had to check off whether you wanted your selection on a record, an 8-track or a cassette.
I was getting cassettes, and the quality was also poor. The little liner inside just had the cover art, and was blank on the other side, no lyrics or liner notes. And the tapes seemed to break and get “eaten” more than store-bought tapes.

I’m a member of BMG and I think it’s great. I figured out that the total price of my first 12 CD’s was $50, including tax, s&h, etc. That’s about $4 per CD, a much better deal that you’d get at any store. Subsequent CD’s work out to about $7-8 each (including the absurdly high s&h), still a pretty good deal.

There’s a “paperless” option now where everything is done through computer. I haven’t received anything in the mail since I signed up for it. I get one e-mail every time I have a new featured selection (about once every three weeks). All I have to do is go to their website, click no, and I’m set. They even sent me a reminder one time when the deadline was only a couple days away and I hadn’t responded yet.

At one point, I was a member of BMG and columbia house. I was getting tired of BMGs constant “featured selections” where if you don’t say no, they send it to you automatically.

I figured out how to cancel BMG, and it doesn’t involve waiting for hours on hold. Just go to their website. It’s Hard to find because they don’t want you to find it, but it’s there.

About the OP, it’s not really that much savings if you just buy one CD at a time, although they usually have deals such as “buy 1 cd, get another at 3.99”, which means you get a CD for about 6.00 including shipping. Although, since you have to pay for shipping, maybe that costs more than if you bought it at a store. I’ll have to look into that.

I found a way out of that. After forgetting to send in my card probably a dozsen times–and then sending back the CD marked “Refused–Return to Sender,” BMG sent me a card, the gist of which was “we don’t want you as a member any longer. Bye.”

They haven’t sent me a damn thing since :slight_smile:

This won’t work with Columbia House, though, since they no longer automatically send stuff.


Slight hijack here, sorry…

I’ve been trying to balance my Napster downloads with actual CD purchases, and let me tell you, it can be frustrating.

I placed an order online for John Lee Hooker’s album Don’t Look Back, released in about '95 I think. Not all that obscure, right? Well the order went through on the 5th of this month and has been on “back order” ever since.

I’ve signed up for these clubs in the past, and yes, there are some problems with all of them, but I’ve never encountered this much of a delay with any of them.

It also depends where you live and how patient you are. I can get used CDs for 3.99 or 4.99. But I live in a major city. These are the real CDs not the ones with the BMG logo on them. BMG sells CDs (mostly) made under licence these are NOT the CDs you get in the stores.

Tower Records last week had EVERY cd priced $12.99 or $9.99 in the store on sale for $8.99. The whole place was practically on sale.

But when I lived in FL the CD stores were slim pickins (mostly KMart or Wal Mart) So if I lived in FL again that may be a good idea.

I would say it also depends on what type of music you listen to. I like jazz and classical, mostly, and BMG has a decent selection of those. I’ve been really happy being a member. Really, that’s how we’ve built up our CD collection to what it is today.

If you’re looking to start a collection and have a lot of stuff that’s been out a while to buy, go for it.

Join the club, just don’t do what I did. I owe both of them alot of bucks. I think they’ve put a price on my head. Don’t doublecross the BMG mafia or you’ll be wearing concrete golashes.

In a related question, how is Columbia House’s DVD club? Right now their deal is you get 3 for 49 cents each (plus 1.99 shipping each) to start. If you buy a fourth one for $14.95 (plus another $1.99 shipping) at the start, you only have to buy 3 in 2 years from the club instead of 4. I personally think this isn’t bad, especially if my 49 cent selections are the more expensive DVDs (like Clerks for one, which I always see in stores for at least $29.99 and has an MSRP of $39.99) than the rather new, cheaper ones like The Matrix which can easily be found for $20 or less. Anyone in this club? How are the DVD selections? Are the club prices outrageous? Is it worth it overall? It might also be worth adding that my DVD collection pales in comparison to my VHS library; I pretty much only have my very facorite movies on DVD. Is this a good way to build a collection?

From the CD club web server FAQ:

I also read somewhere (sorry, can’t remember where) that the club CDs are pressed at the same time in the same plants that the standard CDs are, they’re just custom printed for the clubs. Think about it: it wouldn’t be cost effective for BMG or CH to gear up CD production for the several thousand CDs (plus artwork) they carry in their inventory. Yes, I know that sometimes the booklet is different, but I have bought some CDs (box sets in particular) that included the same booklet that I would have gotten if I’d bought it full price. No way that the clubs are going to go to all that effort.

Thanks for all the replies. I think the real question is do I want to buy 12 CDs right now; I’d probably join, meet the obligations, then quit. The cd-club site is great, it answered most of my questions that weren’t answered here.

I’ll probably hold off joining, since I can get some great deals on CDs in the city (Boston) at small and used CD stores.