Back in September, I received a marketing letter from Handyman Club of America. The letter was offering me an opportunity to test tools and give them a review of what I thought of the tools. As compensation for my time to test and review the tool, I would be allowed to keep the tools free of charge. There was a $12 a year membership fee, that included a subscription to Handy magazine, with a money back guarantee if I was not completely satisfied with any aspect of my membership.
I thought wow, what woodworker doesn’t like to get free tools to play with. Now I figured the tools would probably not be the high quality tools I was use to from Lee Neilson, or Lee Valley tools. However, they advertised that they have given away more than 4.5 million dollars’ worth of free tools. The advertisement showed pictures of an array of tools featuring a very expensive looking generator.
I also figured that I would be subjecting myself to their email-marketing department getting newsletter emails trying to sell me additional products, but hey, that is what my spam filter is for.
To sweeten the deal they offered two free gifts, a 35-pocket bucket organizer, and a 3-pc screw extractor. So I thought to myself, for $12 I get two free gifts with no obligation to return them and a 100% money back guarantee, I mine as well give it a try. I filled out the send no money now flyer and sent it back.
The first thing that came in the mail was a welcome letter with instructions on how to set up my membership account and pay my membership fee. I paid the membership fee thinking they are being a bit sneaky with it. They advertised $12 a year, which was true, what they failed to mention, was that they bill for two years at a time. Now my $12 risk just went up to $24, but I thought to myself “whatever” and paid the $24.
I continued reading through the welcome package and came to the part on how to get my first free gift, the 35-piece bucket organizer. From the original information they sent me, they made is sound as if they would ship the two free gifts as soon as I signed up. Not so, I had to go to a webpage, be bombarded by pop up ads, and fill in my information again, to get them to ship the bucket organizer. By the time, I completed all this I was starting to get a bit irritated.
I continued on reading more of the welcome package, looking for what kind of other hoops I would have to jump through. After all, there was supposed to be two free gifts, where was the 3-piece screw extractor. Well as I read, I found out. “You will be sent your first product to test a 3pc screw extractor”. What? I have to give a tool review on the 3-piece screw extractor. How tacky is that? They said it was a gift for signing up. My mother always taught me to give without the expectation to receive. Apparently there mother did not teach them the same level of manners. Asking me to work for the free gift they promised, how tacky.
A week or two passed and a package came in the mail. I opened it up and in it was the 3-piece screw extractor and a how to do home repairs book. Let’s talk about the screw extractor before we get to the book. The screw extractor came with a post card to review it. If I remember right, the card had three questions on it, two of which were multiple choices. The first one was “how satisfied are you with this product”, and had the standard choices ranging from unsatisfied to very satisfied. The second question was yes or no, “would you recommend this product to a friend”. The final question was for additional comments. Now this post card was so small that the additional comment section could hardly fit one sentence on it. Clearly, they do not want an actual, meaningful review. They really just wanted your information to try to sell you additional products, which brings me to the unexpected book that came in the same package. The book came with a letter stating, if I like the book I can purchase it now and agree to be sent additional books to have the opportunity to purchase, or send the book back and miss out on future opportunities. Now I was getting really irritated, I have to waste my time to package it back up and take it to the post office to mail it back or pay for it.
They failed to mention in any of the information they have sent me that, I would be mailed unsolicited products to purchase or be responsible for ensuring they are sent back. The occupy Wall Street protestors complained about predatory lending from banks, well this was predatory selling from unethical businesses. I read on another blog that a guy did buy the book, and when he wanted to ship the 2nd book they sent back, he discover that he had to pay for the shipping. He was under the impression that the club cover the shipping because the 1st book that he received came with a prepaid shipping label to ship it back. It was just more deception.
I dove deeper into the deceptive business practices of the Handyman Club of America to see how this tool review really worked. I wondered how do you get to review the big-ticket items like the advertised generator. As by now I`m sure you have figured out that getting to review big-ticket items would be extremely time consuming and difficult. Nowhere could I find any information on how many times I would be sent unsolicited products to buy or be responsible for sending back. I did find out, if you want to do further tool reviews past the 3-piece screw extractor, you have to sign up for a third party service. So yippy, you now get to be deceived by someone else! Once you sign up for the service you have a choice from some low-level entry-level tools to review. Each review you complete, you get points, and you can then use those points to buy more tools to review, to get more points. The point system in not clear on how many points you get for reviewing the different level items. However, it was clear to me that you do not get very many points per review. Scrolling through the different tools you can review, most of them are the type of products you would make fun of on the really stupid info-mercials. Their was not what I would consider high end tools available like what was advertised, only a promise that new tools come available to review on a regular basis.
Their whole operation seemed to be set up to send you unsolicited products, in hopes that you buy it from them or forget to send them back so they can bill you for the products at a later date. Their website, which they promote as a great resource for finding out information geared towards the handyman, is more advertising than quality information. Their magazine, as most magazines these days have more pages dedicated to advertising than actual content, and the content that is provided is of low quality. If you want a magazine subscription that is worth something, try subscribing to Fine homebuilding, Fine woodworking, Or Popular Woodworking. You will learn a lot more from them than from Handy.
I wrote them a letter explaining my dissatisfaction, asking them to honor their 100% money back guarantee, and refund my money. A few weeks later, I received and email stating that they have received my request and processed it. I no longer received the Handy magazine subscription, or unsolicited products to buy. I also did NOT get my money back. A few days later I received a letter from them that looked like a check was enclosed. I opened it up and it was not a check, but a voucher made to look like a check for $24 wanting me to change my mind and resign up. Over the next several weeks I received 3 more similar vouchers but still no refund. I went to their contact page on their website looking for a phone number to call so I could talk to a real person. No phone number was listed. Obviously, they do not value their customers enough to want to talk to them. There was only a contact form. I filled it out and got an automated response saying someone will respond to you within 48 hours. At this point, I felt that was not a sufficient response after all it has been five months. I went to their Facebook page and messaged them through Facebook. No response, so I went to their twitter page and called them out on twitter, again no response.
I guess I should not be surprised, as free tools sounded too good to be true. Overall, their sales tactics are deceptive and aggressive. I just do not do business like that. I have worked many commission sales jobs over the last 10 years and never have I had the need to use deceptive sales tactics. I just could never bring myself to treat my customers that way.
I consider companies like Handyman club of America to be scammers, and their business practices to be deceptive, underhanded, and unethical.
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I just found this web site. I became a life member in 2007. And have not received a magazine in over a year now . I found this customer service number 1-888-501-5752 ,they told me that they sent out a notice that they stop printing the mgazine. I asked him was I suppose to buy a lap top to be able to read the magazine and he would not answer me. So I hope someone else can get a answer
To Brian Benham and all others who commented,
I admit that I have not read all the comments, so please forgive me if I am repeating information.
At one point, the Handyman Club of America, in my opinion, was a great club to be a part of. Over the years, I joined in 1996, I received items well in excess of the dollar value I invested in the membership. My output was under $500 and I received at least $2000 worth of member gifts, tools and supplies from the club, sponsors and advertisers.
Unfortunately, like many good things, the club began to fall apart. At some point Scout became the controlling party of the club and changed the whole process for receiving and testing tools and other products. Instead of being a random lottery (members did not know what they would be testing until they received the item) it became a point system/bidding war (test a small item, and another, and another and get points for each review submission, then use your collected points to “purchase” a higher value product to review). I both circumstances, the members kept the products for free.
Then my magazines stopped coming which I understand was a budgetary move because of the cost of printing went up (or so they claimed). They continued to provide members limited access to the website content with some areas of the website limited to “Lifetime” or “Master” members (I was a Lifetime member who then became a Master member). I noticed a slow decline in the quality and quantity of the content. Eventually I sent an email to Scout to inquire as to what was happening with the Handyman Club of America. Below is the response, but before I show that I would like to end with saying again, the Handyman Club was a great club at one point. It disturbs me that it was diminished and destroyed, in my opinion, by the entity (Scout) that took it over.
Here is the text of the email exchange with Scout:
Member Id: 30039927 This is my member ID with HCOA
I have been a member since 1996 and upgraded to Lifetime, then Master Handyman. Many things have occurred in my personal life that took me away from keeping up on things happening with the Handyman Club. Please update me as to why my Master (lifetime paid) membership seems to be expired. It appears the “Scout” thing has taken over and is geared more toward Sports and Outdoor life rather than Woodworking/Handyman. Am I missing something? Have there been drastic changes since I moved to Master Member? Is the tool testing program still available, and if so how do I access it? Looking forward to reading your reply / answers.
This is the reply I received:
Jonathan Jacobino (SCOUT Member Services)
Thank you for your email. Please be advised that on February 7, 2017, CBS 247 Inc. (“CBS”) purchased certain assets from Scout Media Inc. (“Scout Media”) in connection with Scout Media’s petition for relief under chapter 11 of the United States Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. If you have any issues or concerns in connection with your activities relating to Scout Media, including with respect to subscriptions purchased from Scout Media, you may make an inquiry and/or submit a claim at: http://dm.epiq11.com/#/case/SMI/info or by clicking here: CLICK HERE.
So, upon reading this I gather that under the bankruptcy protection laws, we are SOL. Never going to recover the membership fee or the benefits therein, however, these rip off artists will not be able to scam anyone else in the future so, I just chalk it up as another poor decision in my past. Unless there is a class action lawsuit filed. But I believe the bankruptcy cancels that out also.
It’s just SO sad, because ‘Handyman’ WAS a good magazine for a long time! I received great news and tips, products to use and check out-n-rate – I still have/and use some of them nearly every day! When I rebuilt my van’s interior, Handyman AND readers were really supportive and helpful – DO miss the ol’ days… for sure! 🙁
i post to be a life member i dont get the magens no mor a rip off
I received a ‘snail-mail’ magazine offer today from “The Family Handyman” which looks suspiciously like a reborn “Handy” Magazine. Just sayin’ …
Nah, “The Family Handyman” is put out by the same people as “Reader’s Digest”. I used to have a subscription to that one, but let it lapse when my woodworking time got scarce. It’s not as good as some others, but it was a decent magazine back then. I think it was 8 issues a year, and I believe I subscribed through one of the school fund raisers where the kids go door to door selling magazine subscriptions. They probably have a website and might even be on facebook. It’s just a magazine, and probably pretty cheap.
I joined Handyman Club of America, Master Life Membership, March 22, 2010.
I paid my total membership, paid for the magazine subscription for several years, purchased several Hardback Books and purchased many tool items.
I think I received two small test items. I called periodically asking when I might be getting another test item. I was always told I would be receiving one soon but never received anything.
I have not received any literature, letters, magizines, correspondence of any kind in years.
I tried calling the number provided in my membership kit to find that it’s been disconnected.
I tried filing a complaint with them but I have no idea if it sent or was received.
If someone could provide a valid email address or phone number, I’d really appreciate it.
I feel like many others…..this was nothing but a scam. It’s really sad. I thought this was going to be a good investment but I was wrong.
In my opinion, they have not withheld their end of the membership agreement. Therefore, I feel I should receive a refund for all monies I’ve paid. Honestly, considering consulting an Attorney on my own or checking to see if there might be an open class action suit. It is mny opinion they should be head accountable for breech of contract.
I would love a response from anyone with any information they could provide.
Ya me TOO!!! they suck.
I joined Handyman Club in 2009, paid more money than I care to admit to to become a lifetime member. I received the first little gift items and got a very nice plunge router and then a box full of great router bits to go with it. After that the tools got cheaper and finally they just stopped. The magazine came for a while then they dried up as well. Then years pass and low and behold I started receiving offers to get the magazine again, for a price. I wrote back saying I should get the magazine for free as I was a Life Member, no response, just more offers to buy the magazine. I gave up, I figure the stuff I got just about added up to what I paid to join up. It looks like the whole thing was a kind of pyramid scheme, those who got in early did alright, those that got in later had simply paid for what those that got in early had received. Chalk it up to “live and learn”.
I was a Charter member since 1994. It was ok at first. I never got anything great to test, just little trinket tools I’d never use. I once got some life time warranty plug wires that didn’t last 3 months, the parts store replaced them but the second set broke down also. They would exchange them the second time because their “lifetime” was up! So I guess it’s whose lifetime Handyman was referring too, it was the club’s lifetime which was not very long.