We’ve all probably received those “continuation notices” or “reminder notices” from vendors that look amazingly like an invoice statement. After a while you get used to seeing them, and quite frankly you just get a little numb to the practice. It isn’t until you see someone else’s comments after they were confused by these ‘notices’ that you remember what a slimy advertising stunt these notices are. Take this comment from yesterday by a public librarian who came across a notice from West:

Our little public library received what seemed at first look to our accounting clerk to be a bill from WEST entitled “reminder notice – library update – – action required” complete with what initially seemed a customer number – but closer inspection showed this was “not an invoice” & the customer number was accompanied by an “offer #” It was for Quinlan’s Zoning Bulletin.
If memory serves me right from my law library days, this was originally a Callaghan publication that was at one time part of the subscription to their Zoning & Land Use set.
Our little public library never owned that publication nor had our Town in the past decade.
What’s most amusing is the “reminder – new edition” part – West has recently released an updated edition of the title below… Hmm, isn’t that what a “newsletter, twice monthly” does … twice monthly?
The “reminder notice” looked so hokey, that I initially considered it was a scam company posing as the West Publishing I remember – (w/ some very wonderful Reps back then I might add) but a Thompson Reuters tm at the bottom assured me this was in fact THE West Publishing Co…
I hardlyyknew yer!

To be fair, West puts in big letters that it is “not an invoice”, and there are some other publishers out there that are much worse about this type of marketing of their products. The fact that it seems that West is expanding this practice to public libraries seems to be a little strange, but not all that unexpected (one commenter wondered if vendors were going to start sending these to High School libraries next.) These types of ‘confusing’ (I’ll stop a little bit short of ‘deceptive’) practices are probably going to be more the norm in the future, especially with the fact that print subscriptions are being cut in significant amounts by law firms and even at academic libraries. So, once again, be vigilant in reviewing your invoices. I’ll warn my kids’ elementary library to be on the lookout for any strange looking “reminder notices” from certain publishers that are looking to expand their client base.

  • Greg, West and the rest.of the publishing industry is dealing with sagging market share as users move towards online and, soon, e-pub formats. Paper is a costly enterprise, and reduced profits make the publishers behave like scared animals. Perhaps it is time for West to consider electronic delivery of texts at lower costs, which would lower their production costs and enable easier means of distribution. The time came long ago as far as I can tell.

  • Anonymous

    West sends similar notices to my library frequently. At the top of each notice is the following disclaimer:

    Library Update Notice

    My interpretation of that somewhat questionable disclaimer is:

    As we are letting you know about the new edition described below, please be advised of the following:

    (1) This is not an invoice even though the product described below might in some way resemble a West product that you subscribe to, or may have purchased in the past

    (2) If this is in fact a product that you now wish to purchase, you will not receive it automatically and, thus, action is required on your part (see order form below for the means to take such action)

    Is the eight-word header a confusing statement? Probably, especially for those recipients who do not otherwise receive a lot of this type of correspondence from West. Does this constitute the same level of misleading-ness that other, lesser publishers engage in (e.g., a "statement of continuation" being sent after an unsolicited free sample was earlier sent)? I think not.

    Raleigh, NC