Friday, 26 November 2021

WHEN IS A YEAR NOT A YEAR? WHEN IT'S A FANDERSON YEAR (UPDATED)...


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Let me now tell you all about Fanderson, the Gerry & Sylvia Anderson Appreciation Society.  They make great items for their members that aren't available anywhere else.  These are top-notch quality items at reasonable prices and I have no complaints about them.  I do, however, have a complaint about the way they run their fan club and the manner in which they make their members part with their money when it comes to renewal.

Let me give you the facts.  On March 16th of this year I joined Fanderson so that I could have access to the exclusive goodies they make.  I received confirmation of my membership which said that it would expire on March 16th 2022 (see below).  Fanderson refer (or did until recently - more on that shortly) to the membership as lasting a year, which any normal person would take to mean 12 months.  Imagine my surprise then, when I received an email sometime in August telling me that my membership had now expired (after a mere five months) and that it was time to renew.

See?  A full year.  This is now casually dismissed as a 'system limitation'

I contacted chairman Nick Williams to ask what was going on, and received a dubious attempt to justify their request for me to renew.  Apparently, in Mr. Williams' world, a year doesn't mean a year, but only the time it takes for the member to receive his three FAB magazines, the publication schedule of which is increasingly variable.  Therefore, if you receive your trio of mags in five months, then your membership has expired.  You see, they've lagged behind in their publishing schedule, so this is an attempt (according to Mr. Williams) to get things back on track.  (At members' expense and inconvenience, not their own.)

Hello Gordon, and thanks for getting in touch.

As we can't publish FAB magazine to a strict schedule, a Fanderson membership doesn't run for a year, but for three issues.  Normally, we publish in Spring, summer and winter, so three issues does roughly equate to a year.  For this reason we never say anywhere that a membership is for a year.  (Not quite true, and conveniently ignoring that a 'year's membership' implicitly suggests a year.)

Thanks for bringing this to our attention and all the best.

Note, however, in the following extract from their terms and conditions, that a year's membership is said to include three magazines, not consist of them, which is entirely different.  Why shouldn't a year mean a full year (as stated on their membership confirmation), which would entitle the member to only three magazines, regardless of how many are published?  So, for example, if Fanderson were to publish only two during any given year* and your membership expires, they could send on any delayed mag when it appears, and if they publish four or five during a year, you're still only entitled to three, but can buy the extra mags from their online shop if you so wish.  This seems an eminently more sensible way of doing things than the rather elastic way they seem to prefer.

(*In fact, this actually happened one year.  Was membership extended until the next mag was published the following year?  I very much doubt it.  Talk about double standards.)

When you join Fanderson we'll send you a welcome letter, your membership badge and card and the latest issue of the club's own magazine FAB.

Your membership includes three issues of FAB per year (nominally in spring, summer and winter) and each full colour issue features the latest news of Anderson productions... etc., etc.

However, is it any wonder they prefer a more 'flexible' approach when it means that renewing members have to stump up a total of £62 in a five month (or whatever) period, as opposed to £31 every 12 months?  It's a sure-fire way of doubling their income.  Another thing to consider is that because my membership was curtailed prematurely, I could no longer purchase anything from their online shop as I was no longer a member.  By no stretch of the imagination can this be described as a fair and satisfactory scenario, as everything led me to believe I would have a full year's membership, despite Mr. Williams gymnastic reinterpretation of what a year means.

Not helping matters was the fact that the first FAB mag I received was from last year (November 2020), meaning that I received what was essentially a back issue.  As the next new one came out in May 2021, I maintain that it better qualified as the 'latest' issue (being only 2 months in the future as opposed to its predecessor being four months in the past of the previous year) and that I should've been sent the first one produced in the calendar year that I joined, not the calendar year before.

Mr. Williams unconvincing attempt to justify this was to claim that new members would complain if they didn't receive a magazine immediately after they joined.  I doubt it - not if it was explained in the terms and conditions that their membership was effective immediately (thereby giving them access to the online shop), though they'd only receive the first new mag of any given year when it was published.  

Had the first mag I received been published in 2021, that would've been acceptable (even if it was a couple or so months old) as it would qualify as the latest issue of that specific year, but it's just not on to send me one from the year before I joined when it prematurely terminates the duration of my membership, requiring me to renew after only a few months.  So let me be clear: a previously-published magazine from the year before a new member signs up would be a 'no-no', but one from the same year a membership starts would be okay.

Mr. Williams was tenacious in his refusal to acknowledge any merit to my observations, saying that I didn't understand the terms of membership.  Strangely, he then went on to say that the current situation was not usual, being a result of them getting behind schedule, so for some reason he expects me to know, seemingly by osmosis, the rather elastic way the club has when it comes to the way they do business.  Essentially, he's admitting that a year's membership is normally a year, except when they mess things up and get behind with things.

Thanks again, Gordon.

Thanks for pointing out the place where it says "per year", which shouldn't be there and has been corrected.  (Remember, he'd previously said that they 'never say anywhere that membership is for a year'.)

As I've already said, (and as I'd already demonstrated wasn't quite so) memberships do not run a calendar year, but three issues of FAB.  We make this clear: on the Members benefits page - on the join the club page - in our Terms and Conditions.  (As all three pages had been hastily amended to remove any reference to a year since my first email, this was tantamount to changing the rules after the match had started, therefore rendering any such claim of clarity redundant, to say nothing of dishonest.) 

The fact that the terms and conditions have since been comprehensively rewritten (that's at least twice now) amply demonstrates the validity of my observations, otherwise why would they need to retroactively change things (in response to my emails) if everything had been crystal clear to begin with?  Mr. Williams even thanks me at one point for bringing the matter to his attention, and admits that he has 'corrected' the relevant information so that no one else thinks they're getting a year's membership when they take out a year's membership.  Crazy or what?

Fanderson might be a "club for fans, by fans", but that shouldn't be an excuse for ripping off members by moving the goalposts whenever it's expedient.  If they're going to take people's hard-earned money, then they should be prepared to give people what they're paying for.  Mr. Williams said that if I rejoined, he would give me an extra FAB mag for free (wow - charged twice in one year for one extra mag), but eventually gave me a partial refund after I'd worn him down a bit.  Naturally, I won't be renewing my membership as I've no wish to be part of something that treats its members with such contempt.  Shame about missing out on their nice goodies, but they're missing out on my dosh.

So if you're looking for a well-run, organised club for Gerry Anderson fans - one which treats its members' intelligence (and wallets) with respect - then Fanderson isn't it.  "Not well done, Parker." 

******

(Update:) On consideration, although I was originally prepared to ascribe their haphazard way of doing things to nothing more than incompetence, I'm now left with the conclusion that this "membership doesn't last a year" thing is a calculated act to prise more money out of members at a quicker rate.  (Might not have started as that, but they 'wised up' pretty quick.)  As I said above, why shouldn't it be a full 12 months membership which entitles subscribers to three FAB mags a year, as and when they appear?

To reiterate, if they only publish a couple of mags one year, they can send the third mag on when it appears, and if they publish four or five, members are entitled to only three of them as part of their membership.  That's surely the simplest and best 'value for money' way of doing it, so the fact that they don't, preferring instead to ask members to renew after only a few short months (variable from 'year' to 'year'), is highly suspicious.  Call me cynical if you will, but something sure smells fishy in Denmark, don't you think?

If you're a member of this club, tell them you won't renew until membership is for what it was originally intended to be, before they realised they could fleece you for more money by asking you to renew on receipt of your third issue of the mag.  After all, should that mag not be published until several months after the previous one. your membership isn't extended until you receive it, is it?  You're being ripped off!

4 comments:

McSCOTTY said...

Well I have no interest at all in Gerry Anderson stuff but if I was they could stick it with that attitude. Totally ridiculous excuse they made there.

Kid said...

Beggars belief, McS. While saying it's an exception, they're defending it as if it's the norm and I should somehow have known that. Why go to all the trouble of rewriting the terms and conditions, etc., if it's just a blip they hope to overcome?

N said...

Bad service. You'd be better off spending the £31 on some nice Anderson memorabilia from the 1960s.

Kid said...

I've got a few good Anderson items from the '60s, but the club reissued the Century 21 mini-albums with facsimile covers. Only club members could buy them, which is why I joined. As you say though, bad service.



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