I remember as a teen hurrying home from school to check the mail, hoping it would contain a large parcel from the Columbia Record Club. Inside would be ten or eleven records that had cost me only a penny (plus shipping and handling). What a deal!
It was a fun and exciting way build a music collection. The ads in magazines and Sunday newspaper supplements had dozens of album cover photos (or tape cassettes, as in the ad at the right), and all you had to do was check the ones you wanted. A whole world of music was right there on the page. And after you got your free records, you only had to buy a few more at full price (plus shipping & handling) in order to qualify for a free record of your choice.
Part of the fun was the anticipation. It usually took 7 - 10 days between placing the order by mail and actually receiving the records. I suppose I paid with a check -- I can't recall. This was before the days of Pay-Pal or online credit card payments.
Members would get a catalogue every few weeks with pictures of all the hot albums of the day. If you didn't respond by a certain date, you'd automatically get the monthly album pick, along with a bill. This was called a negative billing option, which ran into some controversy in the 1990s.
Those memories came back to me today as I read that Columbia House (the current name of the old Columbia Record Club) filed for bankruptcy yesterday. It was formed by CBS Records in 1955 and in its glory days, they probably had a membership in the millions. Today, according to the story in The Wall Street Journal, they are down to about 100,000 members, and they only sell DVDs. No LPs, cassettes or CDs -- no music downloads.
Today's teens have no idea what the Columbia Record Club was. Many probably don't know what a record was. And imagine kids today -- or anyone for that matter -- waiting a week for music. We're used to getting it immediately, for 99 cents or less.
It was a different world back then.