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Cook’s Illustrated Non-Sticks It To ‘Preferred’ Subscribers


cooks_preferred_no You always hurt the ones you love. This morning we got an email from Cook’s Illustrated with a ‘Special Thanks’ offer to preferred subscribers. Its a letter ‘signed’ by Kimball himself in which he says ” I really do go over our records and note our “repeat customers” like you” (and it was underlined so you know its true).

A special offer just for me? With all the enthusiasm of Ralphie from Christmas Story deciphering Little Orphan Annie’s coded message I scanned the email for the love I was sure to receive.

And there it was.  A ‘one-time opportunity to lock in tremendous savings with our early-renewal offer’. Again with the underlining. The excitement was mounting.

The seriousness of the matter is confirmed in bold-

P.S. This is the one and only time you will be offered this early renewal deal.

Better scan the fine print. Offer expires in 5 days? Five Days?! Now this DOES sound serious. Better ACT NOW!

Half ready to renew at an insane rate, half ready to see how much Kimball and Cook’s loves us I clicked into action.


$28.95? Save 19%? That didn’t exactly sound as ‘preferred’ as I thought it would. Well lets head on over to Cook’s Illustrated web site and see what the regular non-preferred schmucks have to pay for the same yearly subscription.

What was Christopher Kimball trying to save me. Getting closer now. The tension was terrible. How much was it? The fate of my subscription could hang in the balance.

Almost there . . . my fingers flew . . . my mind was a steel trap . . . every pore vibrated . . . it was almost clear . .

Be Sure To Drink Your Ovaltine

As it turns out if you’re not a preferred customer a subscription is only $24.95.


Son of %$#!^&*.

I went out to face the world a little bit wiser.

UPDATE:  So everyone can see this in context, here is a copy of the ‘special’ offer we received.

UPDATE 2:  I was just going through my personal email and last night I received an offer for one free magazine and $19.95 for a year subscription.

For those keeping score at home, Cook’s ‘Exclusive Offer For Our Preferred Subsribers’ is about $10 per year more (yes MORE) than anyone off the street can get.

Update 3: Contacting Cook’s through their customer service has been amazingly frustrating. In response to the question ‘Why is the preferred rate higher than the regular rate?’ the first response was from an editorial assistant who explained the value of the online database of recipes(!) so I asked the question again and another person offered to honor the $24.95 price (gee thanks since anyone else gets it for $19) and said I’ll receive an invoice.  Sigh . . .

Popularity: 3% [?]


  • Jose said:

    I guess they r tryin to take advantage of people that aren’t paying attention.

  • Anonymous said:

    Kimball acts all cool on TV and in the letters from Vermont but they are just like anyone else trying to get all the money they can by jerking their subscribers around. They wanted over $25 for online website telling me how much they valued me but anyone can get it for like $12.

  • sheree said:

    Has anyone tried to contact them, maybe its a mistake? I would hate to think they would do this deliberately, I like CI!

  • chowhound (author) said:

    Good point, Sheree. I’ll email them and see what they have to say about it.

  • Judge Judy said:

    And this is different from every other publisher how? Every magazine charges those who’ve been there the longest the most. That’s why you should always look online for the lowerst price.

  • Jacqui said:


    I read your post and wanted to send you a note.
    and my contact information.

    If you would like to email directly at:, I would be happy
    to check on this offer you received!

    Please be sure to include your name and complete
    mailing address.

    Thanks so much and sorry for any confusion
    regarding the magazine prices.

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Jacqui Valerio
    Customer Service Manager
    Cook’s Illustrated

  • Mike said:

    I agree with Jose. They’re just hoping people aren’t paying attention and will believe they are getting a special rate just because the email says they are. Typical shell game of corporate greed, the only difference is that they masquerade as a small caring company.

  • Miss Chef said:

    Well sure there is more of a business aspect than people want to believe but I have been a happy CI subscriber for many years and I do not think they are a ‘typcial greedy’ company.

  • chowhound (author) said:

    The article has been updated to include a copy of the offer email.

  • sheree said:

    I still think it must be a mistake like one hand don’t know what the other is doing. Of course they gotta know a preferred subscriber who took this deal would see on the website that it wasn’t a special deal at all then be pissed off.

  • Greg Kittner said:

    Actually Sheree that seems to be exactly what happened here 😀

  • Southern Chef said:

    I just got this same PERFERRED offer. What a joke.

  • ABigFan said:

    Geez, all of this controversy for a 70 cents difference per magazine!!! On top of it, how many advertisers have you seen in this magazine? Haven’t you noticed magazines failing right and left during these hard economic times?

    I’m a big fan of writing to companies that I like and dislike—and respect what blogs have done to level the playing field—but this is way over the top. I hope you have at least invested this much energy going after the companies (AIG, BofA, Citibank, etc…) that have taken our tax money and show no signs of changing their big bonus ways.

    Cook’s Illustrated is a great company that I’ll support for years to come.

  • Miss Chef said:

    What does CI being a good magazine have to do with screwing their supposed ‘preferred’ subscribers? I for one don’t like being lied to whether I like the mag or not.

  • Anonymous said:

    <<<<<<<<<<Cook’s Illustrated is a great company that I’ll support for years to come.

    I'd say they were a sorry ass company for pulling stunts like this.

  • forumsglobe said:

    Has anyone tried to contact them, maybe its a mistake? I would hate to think they would do this deliberately, I like CI!

  • cuilumeiyu said:

    Why people say that they made mistakes?

  • spoonzie said:

    I worked for many years at a major magazine and the idea behind this set up is that subscribers who have been subcribing like the magazine and will be ready to renew at the price shown (they don’t usually see the other offers) whereas a new person off the street will be more willing to subscribe to a new magazine at a lower price rather than a higher one.
    Most magazines even print two versions of subscription cards int here magz…the one on the news stand is a lower subscription price. the ones sent to subscribers, say to offer them a “special rate” to buy their friends subscription is higher than the newstand rate.

    People who love the mag are willing to spend more money (that’s the psychology behind the varying rates)

  • Gene said:

    My girlfriend just received a “good for the next 10 days” offer from Cooks Illustrated with a 44% savings off of the cover price and a free bonus gift of “All-Time Best Recipes” Special Collector’s Edition. Total cost, $19.95. I guess the recession has had an affect on magazine sales/subscriptions, too. Still, for a publication that is void of any advertising, even the usual subscription price is not a bad deal.

  • Tom said:

    That the magazine made such an offer is no surprise to me, since I have seen many others do the exact same thing and many other comments also confirm this. But I also wanted to compliment you on the excellent (and seasonally apropos!) reference to “A Christmas Story”, a movie I love. If I ever develop my own recipe for meatloaf, I have already decided to call it “Meatloaf, Beatloaf.”

  • Jake said:

    I stopped subscribing to most magazines via their website, and call them to ask that they remove me from renewal notices since they normally start warning me that subscription is “about to expire” three months into a yearly subscription (they will do it if you ask).

    Also, surf the ‘net. There are dozens of companies offering substantially discounted rates for the same magazines. Just google the magazine name + subscription.

    The exception to this is New Yorker – I can’t find it anywhere less than the CN site. Now if I could only get them all read…

  • Web templates said:

    Looks cool 🙂 They are trying to catch people attention, that’s all

  • HeyChef said:

    “Cook’s Illustrated is a great company that I’ll support for years to come.”

    How naïve.

  • Grahamboat said:

    Before ordering anything from Cook’s Illustrated/American Test Kitchens or using their “free website, do a Google search using “cook’s illustrated/american test kitchen scam”. There you will find a host of complaints outlining their illegal scheme of sending out unsolicited cookbooks. You can send them back post-free if unopened and marked “return to sender”. Of course, you still have the hassle of taking them to the Post Office and they will still invoice you and send you letters threatening your credit rating. WHAT A SCAM!

  • sharry said:

    They are taking advantage there..thats all the company’s goal isnt it

  • peteformation said:

    Marketing gimmick! LOL!

  • Larry C said:

    Yep, I got taken by them! I made the mistake of ordering the magazine subscription and ordering a single book. Now I’m receiving unsolicited cook books in the mail that they want to charge me for! And before you even think about it, I carefully read all of the fine print: no “and by clicking here you authorize us to send you books,” and no post cards informing me that I’d receive a book unless I “opted out.”

    Stay away from these folks! There are a lot of reputable cook books and cooking magazines out there.

    I’m ashamed of America’s Test Kitchen. I’m even more ashamed of the USPS for letting scams like this persist, and of PBS for supporting this organization.

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