Chances are, if you’re an AmEx cardholder at one time or another you have been pitched the American Express Food and Wine companion ticket offer, connoisseur club, or the cookbook series. Are these offers worth taking up or something you should pass up?
Over the years I have received all of the above offers, and today, I received this one in my inbox…
I don’t really have much time for cooking myself but for $2.99 I figured “Hey, this could make a great gift. I’ll check it out.” I clicked on it and was taken to a page where I’m told to hurry because “supplies are limited.”
The email said $2.99 and the page I was taken to shows $4.95; I’m assuming that must be a typo. Regardless, I filled it out and then scrolled down to the bottom to submit when I saw the fine print:
YES, please send me the 2011 Food & Wine Annual Cookbook FREE! My cost is $2.99 shipping and handling, which will be billed to my American Express® Card account. I will also enjoy the convenience of receiving advance notice of future books (never more than five per year). If I wish to accept the book being offered, I will do nothing and the then current retail price (currently $29.95) plus shipping and handling will automatically be billed to my American Express Card account.
Translation: I would be signing up for a continuity program in which my credit card would be automatically billed for future orders unless I opt out of them. The most notorious business that uses this marketing technique is probably the Video Professor, but a number of subscription services and supplements do too.
Are the American Express Food and Wine Magazine/book offers a scam? No, they’re not. American Express appears to be very upfront with how these offers work. For the right person, they do make sense. For example, the American Express Food and Wine companion ticket offer might save you a bit of money if you had a need for it.
However I think I will pass on their free cookbook offer. As mentioned, I would have little need for it and have no interest in receiving an ongoing shipment of $29.95 books. I admit, getting the first one for $3 would be nice, but I don’t want to hassle with the cancellation process after.
On a side note, if I were American Express I would be careful with these offers, because sometimes they might reflect negatively upon the American Express brand. Here is a thread on Credit Card Forum that touches on this subject: American Express $100 Restaurant Certificate