If you ever want to see a law librarian blow his or her top, then do to them what Thomson Reuters (West Pub and Warren, Gorham & Lamont (WG&L))  is doing right now. It seems that someone at TR Legal decided that it would be a great idea to start sending out new print publication titles (specifically the new “KeyRules” titles for the state court rules series.)  For any law libraries that currently subscribe to the West’s State Court Rules series, you will be automatically sent the new volume of that series and it is up to you to either keep it and pay for it, or send it back (postage pre-paid by TR Legal).

This is an old trick of hoping that law librarians are either too busy to notice that they’ve just received unsolicited material, or that they simply give in and decide that it is too much of a hassle to open up all the boxes, reattach the return labels and have the items shipped back to West.  Just do a quick Google search on “law-lib unsolicited West” and you’ll see complaints going back to 1995 (probably earlier) complaining about this very practice. In a letter attached to WG&L’s new title Transfer Pricing Strategies, TR Legal makes it sound like they are doing me a favor by sending this $135.00 book (plus shipping and handling) to me without my being asked.  And, they make it sound like it is no big deal that they’ve burdened me (and hundreds of others) because we could just simply slap a return label and ship it back.  Here’s a copy of the letter I got from WG&L telling me how lucky I am to get this unsolicited title.

I understand that print sales have fallen off a cliff over at TR Legal, but stunts like this will only serve to make customers angry. Hopefully, AALL’s CRIV (Committee on Relations with Information Vendors) is looking into the practice and asking TR Legal to stop it.  I noticed that something like this has happened in the past where West claims that because they sent out an email alerting everyone that they were going to ship these, that makes it “okay” and not regarded as “unsolicited”.  Even if that ‘technically’ make is okay, it still smells of trickery and desperation to me.

I talked with my West publication reps about this and they are taking care of it.  So, I appreciate what Ann and Terri are doing to make this right.  I also don’t personally blame either of them for this happening, but did ask that they pass the “chewing out” that I gave them up the ladder to those that made this stupid decision.

  • I think this type of activity is pretty typical of TR but not unique to them. For years, I've received unsolicited copies of the latest legislative analysis from both RIA (owned by TR) and CCH, a practice I've continually tried to discourage. It's wasteful of staff time to process and return these types of shipments. Besides, I don't know why they are worried. The folks selling the electronic resources have set the pricing at such an unreasonable level that libraries are starting to realize that it is actually cheaper (not to mention more efficient in some cases) to subscribe to the print instead. And yes, this does take into account the space required to house the print collections.

  • Another aspect of all of this is that it's not very "green." Think of all the unwanted volumes that are being printed, let alone the energy used in and pollution generated from transporting them from West to libraries and then back again when the libraries reject them. There's also all of the cardboard boxes, etc., etc. Makes me cringe when I think of all the waste for something we didn't want to begin with.

  • Here's the letter I send when I receive unsolicited books. It usually stops the practice. In addition, we get a free book. BTW, the last time I sent this letter, it was to Aspen in 2003, but I've had the same problem with West over 10 years ago.

    We were sent a copy of the following book without having ordered it:


    Pursuant to 39 U.S.C.A. § 3009, we are exercising our right to keep this book without paying for it. Please make sure that we are not sent any books that we do not order. Please credit our account for the amount of this book. In making this request, we do not intend to cancel any standing orders. We simply do not want to receive titles we have not ordered.

    We hope that this action on our part will motivate you to make sure that our account is marked so that we do not receive any similar mailings in the future.