September 1st, 2010

Before the internet, there was mail-order and C.O.D.

Years ago, I would leaf through the back of Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and Mechanics Illustrated magazines and wonder over the nifty items that were available through mail-order.

I always wanted the GIANT weather balloon from Edmunds Scientific, or the Struck kit Mini-Dozer but couldn't afford either of them. Instead, I opted to purchase (at a suspiciously low price) collectible coins from the Littleton Coin Company. Of course, I didn't tell my mom I was doing this and I certainly didn't even begin understand what an approval service was.

So in four to six weeks, I received the coins. And then in another four to six weeks, a second batch arrived with a bill, and then another and another. I was afraid to tell my mom but I couldn't keep hiding these bills so I eventually had to involve her. She wasn't as upset as I thought she might be, but certainly wasn't very happy about it.

A few years later, I joined the Columbia Record Club and had fun pasting 13 stamps on a card and getting 13 albums for 1 cent. Naturally, greed always has a price and trying to cancel these things is, by design, never a simple task.

Today we have Free credit reports, Free dietary supplements, and the like. I suspect most of them are anything but Free