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REMEMBERING THE COLUMBIA RECORDS & TAPE CLUB

iTunes, Beats Music, Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM…these are only but a few of the ways that music is available to the melody junky today and for that, I am eternally grateful. But even though I can create customizable playlists based upon my mood or favorite band, there is still a part of me that will always be partial to being sent to collections by a music company for not following through on our agreement for payment.

And if you know what I am talking about, then I’m pretty sure that you too have red in your financial ledger from the Columbia Records and Tape Club…and if you don’t, well let me educate you.

CRTP was basically a mail-order music club (started back in the 50s) that made you an offer no reasonable person could refuse (like 12 records or cassette tapes for a penny, or, later, 8 CDs for a penny, with the caveat that you purchased 2,3 or 4 more products through them at full price). Since most people at that time didn’t have credit cards or automatic payments through their bank accounts, these offers were basically a gentleman’s agreement…you chose your music and Columbia fully believed that you would give them money.

But they would be wrong…basically it was the Luddite equivalent of downloading music illegally.

You see, most of these “agreements” were taken on by minors who had no intention, nor the ability, to actually “pay” for their purchases. In fact, it wasn’t unusual that upon receiving their package of music from Columbia Records and Tapes, that the “thief” would lie low for a couple of weeks before grabbing another CRTC insert from the Sunday paper and filling it out under a different name to start the whole process over again, accumulating a grand music collection for “free”.

Of course, there was also a downside to ripping off a huge company…the collection letters. Like deleting your browser history after every disgustingly depraved internet search, the Columbia Records embezzler had to be cunning. In order to keep the ruse from becoming known to the ‘rents, you practically had to live next to the mailbox (or mail slot) in order to intercept every pink enveloped notice. And, if your mother did manage to get to the mail before you, your only defense was to ask “Who’s this Ima Pigg and why is her bill coming to us?” and feign complete and utter innocence…which would only work once or twice before your mother caught on to your grift and berated you for being an asshole.

But really, it wasn’t my our fault. You can’t just dangle a prize that good in front of someone who loved music and expect them to just sit there if they had no money did you?

Look at how they enticed you:

Who could resist?

Do you know how much CDs were back then?…like $20 and we are talking about late 80s money here! Twenty bucks back then was at least 3 weeks of allowance money and I we had movies to go to and Blizzards to buy at the DQ!

Fuck the Man! Fuck Columbia Records and Tapes Club (and their competitor BMG Music Club to which I also owed money to)!

ALL THE MUSIC IS MINE BITCHES! MINE! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

But then they caught on (after twelves orders under various names) and simply stopped shipping orders to me, my reign of financial terror ending almost as quickly as it started. And I was sated and exhilarated by my deception.

I wish I could say that this excursion into the dark waters of badness became a part of me, but it didn’t. Today I pay for my music or get it free via those little cards at Starbucks, but sometimes I miss those Sunday afternoons spent licking stamps imprinted with the cassette or CD cover that I want and giggling about giving the finger to corporate America and on those days, I just steal money from my husband’s wallet pretending that it is the physical embodiment of Columbia Records and Tapes and smile.

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