True Confessions: Columbia House Fiasco

This is one of those things that happened and like dominoes just kept getting worse and worse.

First Mistake – Never Sign Up in the First Place

A couple of years ago, I signed up with Columbia House to earn some MyPoints. When I was a stay at home mom living below poverty level, I had a lot more time to keep track of memberships I’d joined for one dollar and needed to cancel in thirty days.  But I know my limits and I know nowadays I’m too busy and these things often get overlooked. So it’s better to never join in the first place and avoid the frustration and the inevitable: their hope of making money off the service.

And yet this time I allowed myself to be enticed by the siren call of two free DVD series. AJ was watching 24 and I could get an earlier television series for just a couple dollars shipping.  He was also watching Walker, Texas Ranger. He was going to buy the series anyway, so I thought it would be easy to fulfill my commitment within a short period of time and cancel the membership.

Second Mistake:  Don’t Keep Track of Your Fulfillment Requirements

I fulfilled my commitment some time ago, apparently, so I should have cancelled, but had not realized that so I hadn’t canceled my membership.

I’ve done really good at rejecting each monthly offer as it came by email, until last month.  I know the procedure to return the materials is to write REJECTED RETURN TO SENDER on the package and give it back to the postal carrier, but Mr. A checks the mail most days.  One day he told me a package had arrived, but there were no identifying marks on the package so he tore open the flap to remove the invoice.  When he told me Murder She Wrote had arrived, I knew I’d failed.

Third Mistake: Forget to Return the Item

I brought the package to work with me to return it, but then I realized the invoice was missing.  I brought it back home and set it on the black hole table where things often disappear, and promptly forgot about it.

Until I got a notice by email that an account overdraft had occurred at Wells Fargo.  I hurriedly logged in to find that my account was okay, it was AJ’s account that had overdrafted!  I saw that the charge that overdrafted the account was $39 from Columbia House. Finally! I’d wondered why I hadn’t seen the charge come through my account and wondered why they waited such a long time to bill for a shipment. After all, it had been at least three weeks since Murder She Wrote arrived.

I couldn’t do much since I was at work, I’d have to wait until I was home to deal with Columbia House, but I moved $40 into AJ’s account to cover the overdraft, hoping for the best. Every once in a while I’ll have an overdraft and if I move money over during the night there won’t be any overdraft fees. I have my accounts linked so if an overdraft occurs it will be covered, but there is still a fee.  $12 if I remember correctly, as opposed to $35 if you don’t have the option set up.

So the next day, Friday, I get another email notification that an account overdraft has occurred. My name is on AJ’s checking and savings, so these notifications come to me also.  I check the account, and find to my chagrin that he has been charged two $35 overdraft fees.  His checking is linked to his savings, and he had nothing in his savings.  You get charged the higher amount if you don’t have the money to cover the overdraft fee, I now learn.

Great. Just great. I fuss at AJ for not keeping better track of his checking account, but he’s like many young people today who don’t think it’s necessary to reconcile the checking account.  Just check every day and see what’s in there works great, they say. Now his account has overdrafted, and it’s MY FAULT.


Thankfully I was home, so I could get this all straightened out.  My first response was to log in to Columbia House and change the debit card that this account was pulling from, since I don’t want to overdraft AJ’s account again.  I couldn’t get logged into Columbia House with my membership number so I had to call them.

As it turns out, they recently changed membership numbers from 12 digits to 9 digits (interesting – seems they anticipate less customers) so the lady gave me the new number.  Since my zip code changed last year, once again that created a problem. She said she would have technical support look into it and contact me. I told her since I couldn’t get logged in, could I change the debit card that was being charged.

Next I told her about the Murder She Wrote mishap, and that I have no interest in watching this series, and want to send it back, but I don’t have the invoice. She said that was no problem that she would mail an RMA. She then said she noticed that I have another shipment on the way.  Darn it!  I screwed up twice!  She said the recent charge to the account was for this shipment.  Oh! So that meant AJ’s account had been charged last month for Murder She Wrote, but he didn’t notice it.

She told me how to reject the shipment and then I asked her when would my membership be fulfilled.  It was fulfilled before the shipment of Murder She Wrote, she says. Agh!  So then I decided to cancel my membership immediately.

Next I called Wells Fargo. I called my personal banker, but she has once again left me without saying good-bye so I asked the guy who answered the phone if he could help me.  He said I would have to call the bank which opened the account. When I got them on the phone, they said I would have to call the 800 number on the back of the card.  So I texted AJ to tell him I was going to get this taken care of (since it was MY FAULT essentially) and I needed the numbers from his card.  I called the 800 number and asked them if I could get
some help with the overdraft fees
. They reversed the charges without any fuss.

I was so relieved.  One hour earlier, I’d cost our family $160 (two shipments from Columbia House and $70 overdraft fees) and now I’d reversed it all.

Whew. Close call.

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4 thoughts on “True Confessions: Columbia House Fiasco

  1. Hey,
    I’d forgotten about Columbia House. It’s been easily ten years since I last saw something in the mail from them. I didn’t know they still existed.

    I never participated, and considering your experience, I’m glad.

    Thanks for sharing,


    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Hi Guy: Yeppers, Columbia House is still around. Glad you enjoyed hearing about my experience. Best, Mrs. A


  2. I was actually a member with them for a really long time in their DVD and CD club. I actually never had an issue (maybe I was lucky). I did too forget to decline the monthly selections once in a while but when it came in the mail all I did was not open it and write on it “return to sender” and drop back in the mailbox and they would get it back and give me credit to my card.

    Other notes in case anyone wants to know. Sometimes its hard to find enough movies you like when you sign up but if you can its better to buy your first club purchase when you sign up bc you save money, about half and then you only need to buy 2 more to fulfill your membership. Then like Mrs. Accountability and I don’t FORGET to decline your monthly selection! Also not sure if they still do this but they use to have a bill me option so you would never get it automatically charged when you got a monthly selection so that’s something to look into. I personally never watch a movie more then once usually so I just use Redbox now, much much cheaper and Video Stores sell really cheap used DVDs so I don’t think this is as popular as it use to be. One thing it may be good for is for childrens Christmas gifts. They love to watch movies over and over and over again!


    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Hi Kari, thanks for your helpful tips! I thought the one about buying selections for children was brilliant! My son with Down Syndrome has always watched movies repeatedly and the funny thing is, I would often watch a movie with him at least a second time and I was always surprised at how much more I would learn having watched the movie a second or third time! I always “caught” something more, some innuendo that wasn’t there before, or just put something together I had not watching it the first time around. So if I really like a movie, I will try to make a point to watch it a second time, just to get more out of it. Thank you for visiting and commenting!


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