Hell Call(This story is true; no names were changed to protect the innocent.)

“This is Jim Nowakowski, I’m returning your call.”


“Jim Nowakowski, you called me.”

“When did I call you?”


“A little while ago.”

“Who are you with?’

“Now, this is interesting. I’m returning your call, and I know who you are, but you don’t know who I am and you called me first.”

(laughter) “I’m sorry!”


“I’m with Interline Creative Group.”

“Interline…yea… right! Just a moment…There you are. You downloaded our media kit and I was wondering if you had any questions.”

“Well, yes. As a matter of fact I do. Your media kit doesn’t mention if you are audited. Are you?”

“Oh yes. BPA. Would you like me to send you a copy?

“No thanks. We are member of BPA. Give me a moment…I’ll get your statement.”


“There, I have it. Wow. That’s quite a circulation – 112,000.”

“It’s the largest in the market!”

“I see…but wait, in paragraph 3a, it says you have 144,000. Shouldn’t that match the first page?”

“No. The first page is the average circulation for the audit period – six months, which is 112,000. Our real circulation is 144,000 – half digital and half print.”

“But, it says ‘copies’ in paragraph 1. That is suggesting that you sent out, on average, 112,000 copies each month. But, your paragraph 3a says your print copies are 72,000. Something doesn’t add up.”

“You’re not listening.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re not listening. Look. We averaged 112,000 each month for six months, but if you look at paragraph 2, you’ll see that in April, we added 75,000 into the circulation and kept that number up for the next two months. The average is 112,000 for six months.”

“Do you know what an average means?”

“Of course I do!”

“So where did the other copies go?”

“I don’t understand.”

“You’ve got 40,000 unaccounted copies . It says you mail on average 112,000, but you are reporting 72,000 in 3a. Where’s the 40,000?”

“No, it’s like this. We added these people into the circulation, and the average is 112,000 each month for six months.”

“So you are sending out 112,000 copies each month on average, right?”


“Then why does it say in paragraph 3a you only mail 72,000 copies? Where are the others?”

“There are no others. That’s the way BPA is. There are no other audit bureaus out there.”

“What about ABC?”


“Audit Bureau of Circulations. Or what they call themselves now, the Alliance for Audited Media.”

“Never heard of them.”

“I’m not saying BPA is better or worse. I’m saying that there are other alternatives out there if you don’t like what BPA is doing. But from what I see, BPA is doing their job. But, let me ask you another thing. I noticed in paragraph 3b you have a three-year file of 5%, a two-year file of 19%. That’s almost a quarter of your circulation you haven’t touched in two or three years. That’s a lot.”

“No it isn’t. It’s what other statements have.”

“But I’m looking at your statement, not others. And I assure you not all publications have the three year percentage.”

“So what’s the point?”

“Well, the point is, besides having 25% of your circulation in doubt, if you look at 3b further, you show 88,000 in ‘Sources other than above’ listed in the one-year qualified. Who are those people?”

“These are the people we added. We use a direct mail list broker.”

“But, where did the 88,000 come from? That number is not mentioned before this. It was 40,000 before this, or 72,000, or…”

“Listen! It’s the segment of the market that wanted our magazine for many years, and we finally are going to give it to them!”

“So are you saying all of these 88,000 asked to receive your magazine this year?”


“That’s impossible.”

“No it’s not. We kept e-mailing them until they accepted.”

“Tell you what. Can you send me a couple of issues of the magazine?”

“Of course!”

“Also, ask your circulation manager to give me 100 random names from your circulation.”

“I don’t know what you are asking.”

“I’m asking you to request your circulation manager to give me 100 random names so I can see your circulation.”

“We don’t give out names.”

“I’m not asking you to give me them to use them. I want to see them as part of our evaluation. I’d like to call them up. After all, the numbers we are throwing around don’t inspire confidence.”

“I don’t give out names. You can get leads by running ads in the magazine.”


“So you’re saying that of the 72,000 – I’m not interested in the digital – you can’t give me 100 random names?”

“I can give you titles.”

“No, I want names – the complete record. You can’t ask for 100 random ones?”


“Do you have a reader service card?”

“What’s that?”

“It’s the card that you bind into the magazine that –“

“You mean a business reply card, a BRC. I can tell you that we don’t. Our audience doesn’t really use that.”

“So let me ask one last time: do you think I get the 100 random names?”


“Then you might as well keep the issues you were going to send me.”


(Click. She hung up..)

Moral: If you forget who the customer is, you will always lose the sale.

Got a similar story? Give me a call. I promise not to ask you for a 100 random names. I can be reached at 847-358-4848. We love talking to people about calls from hell. You can also contact us here.

For more insights follow interlinejim@twitter

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