On Monday I got a call from a publisher asking me to check on the renewal status of several periodicals. This is an old tactic; we don’t work directly with publishers, we work with a subscription agent, and when we cancel, the publisher often calls the library asking if we’ll please go check to see if we really truly meant to cancel that because surely we meant to renew?
We never meant to renew.
But it’s a shaming tactic, and one that relies on librarians to be the kind of eager-to-please business “partner” who says, “Oh, dear, that must have been an accident.” I’m not that librarian. Also, I’m the Director, not Collection Development Coordinator, at least update your records before you call…
And then today I got this email:
You recently spoke to one of my colleagues asking for a list of [our] titles that might have been cancelled. I wanted to email you back to let you know which titles we were calling about. This way you can reach out to your representative at EBSCO and figure out the status of each title. Here are the titles listed below:
· American XXXXXX XXXXXXX
· Journal of XXXXXXX Research
Please let me know the status of the above titles. Thanks and if you have any questions please feel free to contact me.
This tactic should never have worked, and it won’t work with me. And I’m tired of it. So I replied:
Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough on the phone. I am the Director of Libraries. I am not responsible for the day to day operations of our serials office, up to and including whether or not we’ve chosen to cancel a title, and I did not ask for any information. Additionally, I have the utmost confidence in both my librarians and our representatives at EBSCO. If you did not receive a renewal, it is because we chose to cancel the title. Any errors will be caught by our processes in-house. I have no question about the status of these titles, and I will not be checking on the status of these titles, as I have faith in my staff and their work. If you have a legitimate billing concern about our business relationship, please send the appropriate documentation so I might follow up with the appropriate staff.
Generally speaking, I have always viewed calls from publisher sales staff asking about the status of a subscription as cold calls in which you are attempting to “encourage” me to renew a subscription we have cancelled. I see no reason to view this call differently, and would appreciate it if you never call me without details of a legitimate financial concern again.
Carol replied promptly with an apology and revealed the best bit of the whole thing: She doesn’t actually work for the publisher. She works for an outsourced call center that is, it appears, cold calling all the people who canceled subscriptions, and assured me that while she will ensure I don’t get any more calls during this “campaign”, she can’t promise I won’t be called by the publisher after her company has done their part. I can only assume, then, that I’m correct: the purpose of their campaign is to “encourage” libraries who’ve cancelled titles to renew them.
If you still think that by and large the publishers are our partners, and that they have anything but their own best financial interests in mind, please think again. They are not. They are not our partners, and they are not acting in the best interests of library users. They are vendors with whom we have a business relationship based on money. In this case, just one more example of that, a publisher is paying an external company to make guilt and confusion-based sales calls to libraries in an attempt to overturn our collections decisions. If this was about internal bookkeeping of subscriptions and sales, the call to “clean up” the records would come from in-house. That’s not what’s happening: this is not an internal control or customer-relations exercise. This is sales, and it’s dirty sales, too, based in an assumption that we will question our cancellation decision when asked about it directly.
No. I won’t.
You shouldn’t either. Don’t honor these calls. Don’t listen to them. Don’t spend your time following up on a sales pitch you didn’t ask for, and which directly contravenes your reasoned and rational decisions about your subscriptions and collections. Don’t play their game. Don’t let them set the terms.
Note: Names have been changed to protect the innocent, and the vendor has been obscured because I’m not in the mood to fight about it.