Columbia Record Club
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“It's music made fun again... for YOOOUUU! Buy one, get ten FREEEEE!”
“They used to send me so many records I didn't want... until I made them aware I didn't want them. In my own special way, if you know what I mean.”
“Columbia Record Club? I've never heard of that.”
The Columbia Record Club, sometimes abbreviated CRC, was an organization formed in the 70's to dabble in the black arts of early music distribution. Much of the actions that it took during its glory days were quite controversial, and this was quite often for more reasons than one. It managed to stay in business during the entirety of the 70's and 80's, but it was eventually put to a rightful stop after being bought out. Since then, it has been more or less inactive, which is most likely for the best, but rumor has it that secret face-to-face meetings are periodically being held in back alleys, all of them concerning the Columbia Record Club. The worst may not yet be over.
edit History up into the 90's
edit The Early Years
The Columbia Record Club was established originally as a warm and friendly service that marketed music by mail. It was created in hopes of attracting the attention and money of hicks out in the country, who could not get to the record store in the nearest town because their mules were not fast enough to get them there in less than a day. As additional bribery, the organization claimed that a free record was sent out to anyone who joined. This record was by Creed and usually ended up in the dumpster as soon as it reached the door of its recipient, but nobody knew this beforehand. People signed up by the thousands.
The organization first ran into trouble when record store owners became angry that their business was being impeded by this new service. Angrily, they began to protest with torches and pitchforks, and eventually the Columbia Record Club gave in. In order to appease the angry mob of ticked-off record store owners, they made the agreement to only make the records they offered available six months after they were released to record stores. After this, many people questioned the usefulness of being signed up to the Columbia Record Club, and they promptly discontinued their memberships. In an effort to win back their providers of money, the Columbia Record Club shortened the delay of release to 3 months, but this did not help. Eventually, the CRC was kicked out of New York because people no longer wanted them hanging around, and they were forced to relocate to Terre Haute, Indiana, a city famous for its large giraffe population.
edit The Controversy Begins
From Terre Haute, the CRC began scrounging up new members (many of which were giraffes) where they could find them, and soon business got back up to a good pace again. But this was not to last. The controversies that the Columbia Record Club would eventually be so famous for being surrounded by were already beginning to pour in.
Kapitol Records, a rival record company that had recently begun to offer a system similar to that provided by the Columbia Record Club, began to compete against the CRC soon after the move of the organization to Kapitol's home territory of Terre Haute. Neither company let records licensed by the other to be sold through their services, out of spite. Most of CRC's members, who wanted a wider variety of records available through the service, quit, leaving the CRC desperate once again.
In a desperate attempt to regain the members they had lost, the CRC reluctantly began to license records released under other labels, including but not limited to: Warner Bros, Kitten Records, the Disney Buyout Corporation, Kittenhuffer LLC, Japan Break Records, and Oscorp. These licensers ended up with a fair share of the pay, but the contracts they had signed to were a bit too restrictive to be in any way workable with. This, of course, made these companies very angry, and, specifically in the case of Oscorp, it's not a good thing to have that many companies going against you. Vicious legal action was taken, but the CRC was able to scrape past by spuriously claiming that the various companies' claims were spurious. The judges in the court rooms failed to realize the spuriousness of the CRC's spurious claims, so, miraculously, the Columbia Record Club came out without a scratch once more.
A membership in the Columbia Record Club was a notoriously demanding. Most of what it meant to be a member was to just constantly send in money to the CRC while they sent you nothing in return but stuff that you, as well as most other people, don't want. More on that later. Anyway, becoming a member was a bad idea for many, many reasons.
edit Becoming a Member
In order to become a member of the Columbia Record Club, a person would have to make a very specific agreement to their unfairly tight terms and conditions, which also happened to involve completing mountains and mountains of taxing paperwork that nobody even paid attention to once it was mailed in. The first of many catches of the membership required applicants to purchase a copy of the movie The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes upon joining, whether they wanted it or not. This would later be included as part of a "welcome package" shipped to your door after you've finished the paperwork and managed to get yourself applied.
edit Wasting your Money
As every organization does, the Columbia Record Club needed boatloads of money to keep itself up and running, and guess where that money was coming from. That's right -- all those hapless club members, including the hick rednecks and the giraffes. But they didn't just haggle for money like street beggars and then continue to do so if the members declined. They had a whole bag of nasty tricks that they would periodically pull on the hapless club members, slowly sapping them of all their money.
About once every week, the CRC informed all its members via a cold call (if this was not picked up, the corporation would simply call them over and over until they did) about the latest "Album of the Week!", which was being sold via their services for less than usual. The recipients of the call would then be forced to make a choice with only two ways out. If they actually wanted the album (a rare occurrence), the CRC would ship it to them after they paid the sale price. If the recipient didn't want the album, they had about a day to call the CRC and tell them that they didn't want it -- if they didn't do this in time, the CRC sent them the album and then forced them to hand over a bunch of cash for it. This whole deal was just a ploy for your cash, and all you got in return was a bunch of records you didn't want.
Also, if anyone who got tired of getting these records they didn't want decided to rant or respond negatively in any way, they were found dead next morning, with all of the valuable items in their house gone.V
edit Columbia Fun Cash!
The Columbia Record Club, having gotten many complaints from many people about how much money they had been forced to waste on CRC records, decided to come up with the system known as "Fun Cash" to alleviate the fury of the protesters that had gathered around their headquarters at Terre Haute. "Fun Cash" was a system of fake money that was accumulated on an account by buying more and more records from the CRC. At first, many people were quite excited about the concept of getting paid back with something that they actually wanted after wasting so much money for records they didn't want. But soon it was found out that the money wasn't actually real. This made them angry. Really angry.
edit Negative Billing
This was somebody at the CRC's really bright idea to offer an option of negative billing, which, in layman's terms, means continually providing a service and charging for it until it is deliberately stated by the customer that they don't freakin' want it anymore. Many people unintentionally signed up for this, and when they eventually found out the hard way just what they'd actually signed up for, boy, were they ticked off.
edit History from the 90's on
By 1999, several people had begun to realize that something was up with the Columbia Record Club. It was simply growing too powerful, and when an organization as controversial and unreliable as the CRC grows to powerful, world domination often ensues. So action was taken. A virtually unknown online music distribution company known as "CDNow" demanded a merger between the CRC and itself, and it was blatantly made clear that a horrible punishment involving frogs would come if the merger was declined in any form. The Columbia Record Club was forced into the agreement, and the two then-merged companies decided to call themselves "Music for Bees", later shortened to "BeeMusic".
It was later bought out by Amazon, and thus effectively done away with, for the betterment of humanity. Amazon, much unlike the CRC, is a company that can be respected and trusted, and they can distribute music without the need for a pricey membership. That was the deal... or so everyone thought then and still thinks today.
edit What the Better Business Bureau has to say
Overall, the BBB hates the Columbia Record Club with its heart and soul. This is mainly because of the fact that the organization paid no attention to the rants, hate mail, protests, and countless complaints that poured in every day. It was clear enough that they were universally hated. But did they make any efforts to change that? No! Also, there have been reports of the CRC giving out phony telephone numbers that people might call in order to help resolve the issues that were ticking people off for so many years of pain. When these numbers were called, according to reports, a Chinese food restaurant was there to answer. Said restaurant was also pretty annoyed with all the calls it was getting.
It's universally agreed on at the BBB that the Columbia Record Club sucks balls, and that's a fact that's been known there for years. Not a day goes by without somebody making a snide joke about the Columbia Record Club. As is deserved by those record-peddling, money-stealing turd burglars! Because, as I'm sure you now know, the Columbia Record Company just fuckin' sucks.