Book of the Month Club. If you love books, you may have seen their ads. Is it legit? Is it a scam?
So, I tried out a Book of the Month subscription a while back, and thought I’d share my cautionary experience. I’ve seen other reviews of it around, but BoTM has a referral program (i.e. the reviewer benefits when you subscribe) so please take those with a grain of salt.
Book of the Month Pros
– Easy to use
– Shipped on time
Book of the Month Cons
– Poor Quality Books
– No Returns / Refunds (unless damaged/defective)
– Must log in each month or be charged (no refunds if you forget)
– YA-focused Book Titles (may be a pro or con for you)
– Bad Business Practices
– Charged my credit card without consent (see below)
Book of the Month: The Good Stuff
Ease of Use
So, on the plus side, their website is easy to use. It’s easy to choose your books, and the whole process of ordering is pretty simple.
Shipped On Time
In terms of the shipping, they shipped on-time. I received all my shipments in the time-frame that was promised. It comes in a blue BoTM box, and my books were packaged properly so they were not damaged in shipping.
Book of the Month: The Bad Stuff
Poor Quality Books
Initially, my biggest issue was the poor quality of the books. (Later, I had other issues with them, as you can see below.)
Both the cover and paper are much lower quality materials than are used in general retail books. The covers are cheap materials, usually prone to bending, lack details like embossing or gloss, etc. (It’s like the difference between a trade paperback vs. mass market paperback, except with hardback books.)
The books they sell also have their logo on them, which I don’t love.
The poor quality of the books and the logo means that if any of the books ever becomes a “classic” then your first edition is worthless. As long as I’m buying new books, I prefer to get ones with potential additional value someday.
No Refunds / Returns
Note that Book of the Month does not allow returns or refunds (unless books are damaged or defective) of either credits or books.
For credits, that means that if you have credits in your account, but you don’t like any of the titles, their policy is not to give you your money back. Once you hand them your cash, it’s theirs. (Same rule applies even if you cancel your account.)
Another issue is that they changed their subscription policy to a less customer-friendly one at one point. Before, it would automatically skip months if you didn’t log in.
Now, they will automatically buy more credits for you if you don’t log in. There’s no way to opt out of this other than to either a) cancel your account or b) log in every month to manually skip. I assume this change was made so they can profit off customers who don’t want to spend their time actively managing their BoTM account.
And as mentioned above, if you forget to log in and end up with too many credits, you can’t get your money back. If you cancel your account, you also lose your credits.
YA-focused Book Selection
This may be a plus or minus depending on your tastes. Their books often have a YA-slant to them, so if you are looking for non-YA titles, you may be waiting awhile to use your credits. And remember that they will automatically bill you for additional credits every month if you don’t log in to manually skip each month.
Poor Business Practices and Fraudulent Credit Card Charges
Finally, my problem with BoTM is their poor business practices. I had an issue with them regarding fraudulent credit card charges (see below), though perhaps your mileage will differ.
My Experience: Fraudulent Credit Card Charges
So, here’s what happened with me. When I signed up, way BoTM worked was that you bought a certain number of “credits” for books at a time. Simple.
I bought a handful of credits many years ago, but I didn’t like the quality of the books and never finished using them. Time passes. One day, I log on for five minutes to see what’s new, and forget about it. Months later I realize they’ve been illegally charging my credit card for the last few months.
After I contact their customer service, the message below is what they claim gave them authorization to start charging me every month.
Basically, at some point they changed their business model. Instead of people buying specific numbers of credits at a time (like a set of 3 credits), it now charges you each month.
According to them, by logging in and showing me the pop-up above, it authorized them to opt me into that subscription plan. See how it’s just a notification and there’s no way to say no? Here’s Book of the Month’s defense:
“All members were notified about this change; in your case it was in prominent messaging when you logged into the site (see attached image).”
Ummm, what? It very clearly says nothing about a new subscription plan with automatic monthly charges. Furthermore, I had no way of knowing and no option to say no.
I checked my e-mail. They never e-mailed me to confirm that I was on the new plan. They also didn’t email me each time they charged me. I can only assume they purposefully wanted me not to notice because their policy is not to give refunds for credits once they’ve charged you.
Even if BoTM knows that “month-to-month” means a subscription plan with automatic charges, as someone who signed up years ago based on a different system, I have no way of knowing that. And on a pop-up notification. They claim that this was sufficient for them to use the credit card information that I inputted in YEARS ago in order to start charging me every single month.
In sum: I logged in briefly, there was a vague fly-by pop-up and then they secretly started charging my bank account.
This is a very simple case of credit card fraud. If you charge someone without proper authorization, it is incredibly scammy and totally fraudulent. The money was not a huge amount, but I am just horrified that a reputable company would act like this.
How were the unauthorized credit card charges resolved?
After I called them to complain about unauthorized charges on my credit card (see below for details), they did give me a refund (but only after they initially said it was against their policies to provide refunds, and I caused a fuss).
Of course, they probably relented because it’s worse for them if I would have filed a chargeback. I would’ve been well within my rights to do so, so I was going to get that money back either way.
Is Book of the Month Legit? Is it a Scam?
As much as I dislike this company, yes it is a business, and no, it is not technically a scam. They’ll definitely sell you books, but just be aware that they might also try to steal your money in the process. I think their business practices are very scammy. Charging people without proper notice and hoping they don’t notice or don’t complain is extremely sketchy.
I also think you should be wary of any company that has very non customer-friendly policies. Even if you don’t end up in my especially sketchy situation, in general their policy is to charge you if you forget to log in and skip a month, and then they do not offer refunds in that situation. And beyond that, just remember that they may decide to change their policies without properly notifying you. And they will purposely not e-mail you notifications about major changes in hopes you don’t notice.
This company went under the name Bookspan for a long time. If you Google “Bookspan reviews” you can probably understand why they changed their name and wanted to wipe their slate clean.
What to do if Book of the Month tries to Scam You, Too?
Contact their customer service. If it’s a similar situation to mine, they will likely give your money back if you make a fuss because they’re afraid of credit card chargebacks. Don’t accept anything less than the full amount they owe you, since if they say no, you can always file a credit card chargeback.
If someone files a chargeback, then Book of the Month needs to prove that it’s legitimate (and they may get hit with a small fee — them, not you). So, it’s a hassle for them. Plus, if they get too many credit card chargebacks, then the issuers (Visa, Mastercard, etc.) may consider them a “high-risk merchant” (which means they get worse rates and terms). And if it gets really bad, those issuers may threaten to cut off their charging privileges (which is very very very bad), so it’s something they are not going to play around with.