An Ode to Logic

April 16th, 2008 by Bob Bly

Copy has to make logical sense, so readers may be a bit confused by the direct mail promo I received today from Ode magazine.

The order card gives two choices. You can select either “payment enclosed” or “bill me.”

But in all-cap red letters, the copy says “DON’T SEND MONEY.”

If I am not supposed to send money, why are they telling me I can enclose payment?

I think what they MEANT to say was something like “You need not send money now. We’ll bill you later, if you like.”

Right?

Or do you see absolutely no disconnect between “payment enclosed” and “don’t send money”?

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2008 at 11:14 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

40 responses about “An Ode to Logic”

  1. Bill Perry said:

    I’ve been studying hypnosis and stuff for a few years.

    Depending on HOW the thing is layed out, they might have been going for a state of confusion to try and bypass the critical factor. Or they could also have just FUBAR’d the thing.

  2. Sean said:

    I would think they meant do not send cash. They want you to send check or money order to spare themselves from liability in case the envelope got lost in the mail. Clearly what they intended was lost in the copy. They thought they were saying one thing (whatever that was) and they ended up saying nothing at all.

    I’m sure most people would elect the “bill me” option (if the confusing copy didn’t turn them off altogether).

  3. Trisha Bartle said:

    Maybe they mean that you shouldn’t send cash? That’s confusing, though.

  4. Brandon W said:

    I think it’s confusing. My best guess would be that they mean “don’t send cash”, but I don’t believe people equate the term “money” with “cash” these days. It’s something someone should have caught and fixed.

  5. Bob Bly said:

    Sean: They do NOT mean not to send cash. The order card says not to send “money.” They are encouraging you to take the “bill me” offer instead of enclosing payment with order.

  6. Jodi said:

    It seems illogical to me. Why would they prefer the extra time and expense of billing someone, not to mention waiting longer to receive payment?

  7. Philip McLean said:

    Instead of saying “Payment enclosed”, they could have said “I’m convinced! Here’s my payment”.

    They probably tested mailings with and without the “bill me later” option and found that they got enough extra orders to justify the expense.

  8. Bob Bly said:

    Jodi: the standard offer in selling magazine subscriptions is the bill-me offer. Even with a large percentage of those who order cancelling or just not paying, it is more profitable, more times than not, than a hard offer asking for payment with order.

  9. Bapes said:

    I deffinitely think you should never send cash

  10. Elizabeth Adams said:

    Hello, Bob …

    From my experience in running a direct-mail operation out of the basement of my home for many years, if there’s one thing I know about, it’s how many ways there are to interpret what you say on your order form!

    No matter how carefully — how precisely! — I worded my order forms, there was always *somebody* who got it wrong and messed it up.

    That said — and bearing in mind that the language you’re quoting here is open to interpretation — my best guess is that when they say, “DON’T SEND MONEY,” they mean, “DON’T SEND CASH.”

    But dey shuda sed what dey ment!

    Regards, Elizabeth …
    Guide to Writing Headlines

    P.S. If, as you say, the standard in the magazine industry is to send out a “bill me” offer because it’s been proven to bring in more subscriptions than a “pay me” offer, and if that’s the sort of offer they meant to send out, then you would think they would *not* have said “You can select either ‘payment only’ or ‘bill me.’” You would think they would have provided only one choice, “Bill me,” and then used the word “payment” instead of the word “money” in their all-caps red-letters caution, “DON’T SEND PAYMENT.”

    But like I said, you just wouldn’t believe how many ways there are for people to misinterpret what you say in your order forms!

    :)

  11. Bob Bly said:

    Elizabeth: The standard offer is bill-me, for which a standard copy line is “Send no money now,” which means do not enclose payment with order — cash, check, or credit card. They decided to add a “payment with order” option, not realizing it logically conflicts with “Send no money now.” Someone should have changed it to “No need to send money now; we can bill you later,” but they overlooked it.

  12. Jodi said:

    Bob, what I meant to say was not that I didn’t see the appeal of “bill me” but that it seemed odd that they would ONLY want the bill me option – and have no interest in immediate payment.

    I agree with your initial opinion. The ‘send no money’ should be removed and the card should offer two choices:

    1) payment enclosed (get the money now)
    2) you can bill me later

    Apparently the coffee hadn’t kicked in yet when I wrote my original reply. That will teach me to post things at 7:17 AM!

  13. Michael said:

    I think they probably meant “Do not send cash.”

  14. Michael said:

    Ack! How stupid is that!? I should have read all the other comments before I wrote comment #13. I would have realized that nearly everyone else said what I said.

  15. Bob Bly said:

    Michael: Trust me: It does NOT mean “do not send cash” but pay with credit card or money order instead. It means it is not necessary to send payment with order because they will bill you later.

  16. Michael said:

    Ah, I get ya, Bob. It does seem confusing, because my first thought on reading it was that they didn’t want the prospect to send them cash.

    I’m wondering…how effective is “bill me later” as part of the response mechanism as opposed to only offering immediate payment options (i.e. send a check, give us your credit card number and sig)?

  17. Elizabeth Adams said:

    Well, Bob, I guess it just goes to show that you can’t be too careful … especially on the order form!

    I guess they didn’t have what I used to keep handy: a nine-year-old boy.

    If you ever want a no-holds-barred assessment of your most cherished passages, show ‘em to a nine-year-old boy! They’ve got built-in B.S. Detectors!

    I remember one time I started a letter off with the word “we” and my nine-year-old said, “Who’s we? The king and queen?”

    He was amazingly quick at math, too. He would have picked up on that boo-boo on the order form in a flash.

    Regards, Elizabeth …
    Create Quality Sales Pages with CSS

    P.S. I’ve found that the only way I can reliably spot things like this in my own work is to read it slowly out loud to myself. Vocalizing the words on the page seems to force my eyes to slow down and really *look* at what’s *actually* there instead of what my eyes trick me into *thinking* is there.

    Maybe that’s what happened in this case. Maybe whoever proofed the copy just sort of slid over that bit about the payment without actually seeing it. It is *so* easy to do!

    :)

  18. Erik Sherman said:

    Could it be that they were trying to create an unconscious sense of getting something for free as a way to increase response rate? (Of course, whether that panned out, and whether the people they induced had a high fall through in payment, would be another question.) Or maybe they were testing a different response card?

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