Pay attention or Sandra Bullock awaits

Kevin Wilson: PNT Managing Editor

It was a bittersweet Tuesday at my mailbox.
After turning the key to my postal unit as I do most afternoons, I opened the door to reveal a pair of DVD shipments.

The first was the final season of Homicide: Life on the Street on DVD, meaning three years of collection has hit its apex.
But I said there were TWO shipments, and I also said it was a bittersweet day. That’s where the second shipment comes in. The box was marked with Columbia House and “Director’s Selection.”

Apparently, some director I’ll never meet thought that Miss Congeniality and Miss Congeniality 2 would be right up my alley. Please. I wouldn’t have a Sandra Bullock movie night unless my guest was Sandra Bullock, and even then I’d have to consider it.

For at least a day or so, these unwanted selections will be part of my collection, the result of the “automatic” shipment clause we’ve all come to hate.

One of our columnists, Helena Rodriguez, wrote Friday about how conveniences in many cases have become decidedly inconvenient. Allow me to piggyback onto Helena’s column five days later, with this concept of automatic being better for some reason.

I’ve been a member of many music and movie clubs during my life, and it’s rare to enter a club that doesn’t include the following fine print: “If you want the featured selection, do nothing and it will be sent to you automatically.”

Anybody who has been in one of these clubs know what it really means: If you only want to shop for and purchase items you want, log onto our Web site three times a week and send us every reply card that we hide inside an envelope containing about 30 pamphlets from our sponsors. Otherwise, count on getting something that you’ll have to jump through flaming hoops to return, most likely at your own expense.

Let’s also keep in mind the process of automatic bill payments. I’m sure this will be brought up in a divorce proceeding someday, as one spouse signed up for automatic checking account withdrawals while the other spouse continued to mail checks for the same bills.

These options are given to us as a courtesy, so we don’t have to write notes to mail off bills or other things. What ends up happening is we get lulled into convenience, and the end result — whether an overdrawn bank account or an unwanted movie — is quite inconvenient.

I’m all for truth in advertising, and I think we should give a new name to this “automatic” process. I’m thinking “pay attention or else” is a more truthful name.

I’m going to do my part by returning these DVDs, except that I ruined the Columbia House box and need a new one to send back the movies. Thank God for my first DVD shipment, and the still-shippable box it came in.