The year was 1983. I was 12 years old. My parents were out one weekend night and a super-cool 16 year-old boy from down the street was our sitter. I relished having male teen-age boys as our sitter because I could learn about popular culture, dating, music, etc. Out of nowhere the sitter told me about this awesome service whereby I could sign-up and get 13 records for just a penny. A Penny! And if I joined, he’d get an album for free. WIN-WIN right?
I browsed the catalog looking at the flashy album covers with visions of me driving a muscle car and blasting tunes with the windows open. Mind you I had no personal music taste at this point in my life. I simply enjoyed what my parents enjoyed and what we listened to in our custom-conversion-van on long trips from Miami to the Adirondack Mountains (Big Moose Lake) each summer. Our familial playlist consisted of easy adult contemporary greats such as Anne Murray, Christopher Cross, John Denver, Kenny Rodgers, Billy Joel, and still a favorite of mine, Harry Belafonte (Live at Carnegie Hall).
When the sitter showed me the catalog I really had no idea what records to pick so he helped me pick some – some AC/DC, Foreigner, Ozzy Osbourne, Cheap Trick, Styx, Journey, etc. Little did I know however that I would be on the hook to purchase additional albums at inflated prices for the remainder of my natural born life. After a year or more of me not following directions and sending back albums or tapes I had no interest in, my attorney father stepped in and with a nice letter on his letterhead was able to release me from a lifetime of Columbia House servitude.
Columbia House Still In Business
Much to my surprise, Columbia House is still peddling the same business model – only now with DVD’s. I imagine it took them ages to move from CD’s to DVD’s and it looks like the game may be up for them as even the DVD and home video market has become so thoroughly disrupted by Netflix, et al. Despite the rising cliff of market-force opposition to their model, they still cling to the same pitch. Get 3 DVD’s for only $2.99 and then be on the hook for a new DVD each month for the exorbitant sum of around $25.
I wonder how many other kids learned from a Columbia House experience?