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Is Cook's Illustrated a Scam?


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Showing 1-25 of 298 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 23, 2009 12:40:44 PM PDT
Bill Conerly says:
I bought a book from Cook's Illustrated as a Christmas gift for my wife. Then I received another book from them unsolicited. When I called, they said that I had not just bought a book, I had agreed to receive a series of books. I guess I should have read every last paragraph on their web page. I returned the unwanted book, but they continue to bill me, even though I have returned the book. Now I'm wondering if the company is really on the up and up, or if they just have poor customer service.

Posted on May 26, 2009 10:07:18 PM PDT
Noelle says:
Weird. They're pretty well-respected in terms of their magazine; wonder if they need to work out some kinks in their other product offerings? You should call them again and let them know you're still getting billed...

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 18, 2009 3:17:49 PM PDT
Fortunella says:
I believe it IS a scam. I received an UNSOLICITED book with a "sold to" bill. The information stated that I could keep the book for 30 days or return it. They would pay the mailing.

But why should I have to take time out of my life to mail them back a book I didn't order. I believe the law states that I can keep it under those circumstances but I have heard that they sell the account to a collection agency which duns you forever!

I am sorry I've ever said nice things about them. I certainly will not subscribe to their page any more or buy another book from them or read one of Christopher Kimball's idiotic emails about his aristocratic peasant life in Vermont, tramping through the snow with his rifle. They are unscrupulous.

I did buy a book recently from them and it may be that like Bill Conerly (above), I have been suckered in by their distorted ads which cannot be understood without a careful reading. How infuriating! I need to hire a lawyer to buy a book?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 18, 2009 3:53:24 PM PDT
Fortunella says:
Noelle ... We've gotten so accustomed to calling the Telephone Company, the computer vendor, software vendors and all the electronic companies, etc. to correct THEIR mistakes. Why should we have to do this? They treat us like naughty children. I even resent the time I'm spending here complaining about a not so savory tactic by a so-called trustworthy vendor ... but I want others to know that it isn't all right to prey upon people this way.

For about five years, I felt just as you do before they pulled this trick on me.

Posted on Oct 11, 2009 6:09:30 PM PDT
I am livid. I've been a CI subscriber for a few years and even sent a subscription to my brother-in-law, but this week I received an unsolicited cookbook. I sent it back but the post office returned it, saying I needed to pay $3.94 in postage. I am canceling my subscription immediately.

Posted on Nov 19, 2009 1:14:28 PM PST
J. Brown says:
I checked them out on the Better Business Bureau's website. They get a C rating for 68 complaints filed against them for customer service and billing issues. I very strongly urge anyone who has had this experience with Cook's Illustrated to file a formal complaint with the BBB.

Posted on Nov 30, 2009 3:49:14 PM PST
A. Boron says:
Cook's Illustrated - great content... WORST Customer Service ever (
unauthorized renewals, no response to inquiries. Stay away.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2009 8:06:37 AM PST
Yes, if you are considering a subscription, BE WARE!

I have gotten a friend a subscription to Cook's Illustrated for several years. This year, I got an email offering a $22.95 renewal of the subscription and any additional subscriptions for $19.95. I went through the online subscription renewal, it asked me for my information as the billee, and certainly tried to get me to add other subscriptions for $19.95, but since I was not interested (and recently laid off!!), the only subscription I authorized was for my friend.

When I got to the confirmation page, I was informed that my credit card had been charged for a subscription for my friend and one for myself (information it had since I was the billee!)

No where in the email, or online did it state that the $22.95 deal was contingent upon me getting a subscription for myself. And no where did I have the option of selecting or unselecting a subscription for myself. The customer service link on the confirmation page is dead. You will sit on hold for at least 20 minutes on the 800 "customer care" line. When I finally got someone, she informed me that she could see the renewal for my friend, but could not see the subscription for me. Therefore, she could not get rid of the subscription for me.

I am taking advise here and contacting the FTC and the BBB.

This is VERY unfortunate. They are good mags and books.

Posted on Dec 24, 2009 6:39:57 AM PST
Music Lover says:
Cook's Illustrated is nothing but a scam. Buyer beware.

Posted on Dec 27, 2009 4:27:48 PM PST
B. Marino says:
Google search "Cook's Illustrated scam". Pretty amazing what shows up.

Posted on Dec 31, 2009 12:13:00 PM PST
Paulgeek says:
scam scam scam do not purchase anything from this company. there are on the exact same level as video proffessor. you will be billed for yearly subscriptions and not be notified and will be unable to cancel or receive refunds. stay away

Posted on Jan 27, 2010 10:56:28 AM PST
BEWARE
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!

Posted on Apr 3, 2010 7:15:54 PM PDT
Wife received postcard from Cook's Illustrated saying her credit card will be billed for $24.95 to extend her subscription even though she did not request an extension. This is definitely a scam. Good magazine, but marketing is at least misleading, similar to car companies who make a good car and turn it over to unscrupulous dealers. Filed formal complaint with FTC and provided information on her experience with Consumer Reports. Will also contact BBB as others have suggested. Noticed that postcard came from same location ( Red Oak, Iowa ) as another shifty outfit called Reader's Digest. For information, publisher of Cook's Illustrated is Boston Common Press, 17 Station St., Brookline, MA 02445. Telephone 617-232-1000. The outfit that will try to collect from you is National Credit Audit Corporation. The phone number for Cook's Illustrated ( I had a little trouble finding it) is 1-800-526-8442. Good Luck to all.

Posted on Apr 10, 2010 10:20:34 AM PDT
I subscribed to cooks illustrated online but everytime I tried to get a recipe I got a message that I need to upgrade my membership!! either to the Editors' Choice Cookbook Collection or the country.cooks, etc etc. So far, I was only allowed to see 2 recipes!! I hope I don't have any issues cancelling it next year. I will never renew it

Posted on Apr 14, 2010 4:27:31 PM PDT
Spanster says:
I love America's Test Kitchen, but I think this cooking show should be taken off the air due to their connection to companies who practice in unscrupulous ways.

I've been billed twice for cookbooks not ordered. FYI, if you didn't order something, you don't have to pay for it. That's the law. Make Cook's Illustrated prove you ordered the book. If they can't prove it, keep the book. You don't have to pay for anything not ordered.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 21, 2010 5:53:18 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 21, 2010 5:54:09 PM PDT]

Posted on Apr 21, 2010 5:54:34 PM PDT
Kschles says:
I too had problems with Cook's Illustrated. In late 2009, I ordered a couple of cookbooks from their website. The books were on sale, and I received them. I actually liked them. About a month ago, I received another book from them, telling me it was the latest book club selection, along with a bill. A note in the package said I could return the book if I didn't want to keep it. After checking out a couple of websites (like this one), I found this seemed to be quite the little scam. I did not knowingly join a book club. Even though I was supplied with a mailing label, I had to supply a mailing envelope. I returned the book, but I was so mad I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Today I was received an e-mail that Cook's Illustrated had responded to my complaint. They claimed that when I ordered the two cookbooks, it was made clear to me that this was part of a book club offer. They also claimed that I received a post card in February telling me about the new book club selection. If I didn't want it, I should have returned the card. Frankly, both these claims are lies. They did, however, say they had received the returned book, and my account was canceled. I hope that's the end of it. I think it's a shame that a company would act this way. Although I liked their cookbooks, I will never order anything from them again.

Posted on Jun 3, 2010 2:05:00 PM PDT
C. Gross says:
I'm freaking out a little off all these posts. I get the magazine and I love it. One just came last night and I was so excited to start reading it. I have made several receipes and i actually started eating Tuna Steaks because of the receipes in the Mag. Earlier this year I ordered the two annuals from 09 and 08 to get all the back issues. So help me, if they try and send (and bill) me a 2010 compilation of all the magazines I ordered I will go balistic! I have looked at ordering some of the other "best of" books, but I will resist so that I don't fall into a trap. Maybe I can find ones people are off-loading on ebay.....

Posted on Jul 15, 2010 1:47:35 PM PDT
C. McGrath says:
Yes -- I saw this thread because it's impossible to find their number on their site. Thanks to the person who put the number on this thread. We are loyal members and have sent gift subscriptions, etc, and got an online membership too. Just noticed that my credit card was charged $34.95 for an online renewal without letting me know at all. Also my husband got billed last year for one of those cookbooks without our asking. This is unbelievable.

Posted on Aug 4, 2010 2:32:32 PM PDT
I have dealt with Cooks Illustrated for years, and am in business for myself, so have some experience "serving" customers. I think they are hard working, talented folks, whose organizational skills outside the kitchen are pretty dysfunctional, not at all evil. When you see the crazy layout of their products, and the difficult layout of their website, and receive email from them trying to explain themselves to you, you realize that organization, outside the kitchen, is just not on their list. I forgive them all these things. The terrific service they provide, with good cheer, quite balances their lack of other things...anybody who freaks out over being billed for 34 dollars when they did not read their contract has never dealt with Sears, phone companies, irs....you pick.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 4, 2010 3:17:22 PM PDT
B. Marino says:
If "serving" customers includes sending items that were not requested as a matter of routine, then this business is providing a "disservice" to its customers. Dysfunctional would be losing orders, shipping orders to the wrong person, shipping the wrong product, etc. Billing someone for something they didn't order and hiding, or omitting, the details needed to return the unwanted item for immediate credit is dishonest business. Sears, phone companies, and the IRS do not hide their contact information. Pick up any phone book and there they are, unlike Cooks Illustrated. Like I said in my earlier post google "Cooks Illustrated Scam" and see what you find.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 4, 2010 4:52:52 PM PDT
Kschles says:
Sorry, I can't agree. Their business practices aren't just disorganized, they are down right deceptive. It's really a shame, since I think they put out a good product. However, I will have nothing to do with their organization ever again. I have told a number of friends about my experience and the experience of others. In business, if you squander your reputation and good-will, you are throwing away a valuable asset. Our car companies learned this painful lesson, and so will Cooks Illustrated. Check out the national Better Business Bureau website and see how many disappointed and angry former customers have filed complaints.

Posted on Aug 13, 2010 6:54:03 AM PDT
B. Brandt says:
I LOVE Cook's Illustrated magazine and some of their books. I DO think that they are being purposely deceptive though. After ordering my first book I got another (unordered) in the mail and called them to say take me off this automatic book mailing list. They did, but when I bought another a year or so later I was back on the list again and received another a month later. I called back and said do not EVER send me any products unsolicited again or I will cancel my subscription and never buy another book again. I have never received another (yet), but I'm not holding my breath. Unlike the others who have commented, I have never had an issue returning anything, or getting my bill taken care of.

Posted on Aug 16, 2010 11:16:28 AM PDT
rocketman3 says:
I too have had a bad experience with Cook's and will not renew. I'll miss the mag. I decided to test out their web site in April 2010--two weeks for free, then $ 24.95 charge. After 4 (four) days I decided it was over priced so called customer service, canceled,got confirmation number with promise of no charge-my Visa was then charged. Called back, they promised a credit in two or three biiling cycles. Now, four billing cycles later, I am still waiting for credit on my Visa. So far I have talked to Cameron, Sonya and Dana. The latest ploy is: We will mail you a check --in 2-3 weeks. Its just a rip off technique to get your money as an interest free loan, through Visa, for as long as they can drag it out. Don't deal with them.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2010 3:53:43 AM PDT
J. J. Murata says:
While the videos are good, their email solicitations are indeed very craftily done.....I will not subscribe any more....deception is not ever wanted or needed....Cook's Country
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Discussion in:  Cook's Illustrated forum
Participants:  138
Total posts:  298
Initial post:  May 23, 2009
Latest post:  Oct 16, 2014

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