Tuesday, March 30, 2010

West pokes itself in the eye again

Thomson Reuters has done it again! Another black eye in librarian relations.

They have announced that they will be changing their invoice system for West materials. The Technical Services listserv has been buzzing with this recently. Apparently, monthly invoices have been turned into a select benefit available ONLY to those libraries willing to accept the LMA contract. Any other library, either those dropping the LMA contracts or those not willing to sign or not ABLE to sign LMA contracts (because for instance, they have state budgets that do not allow long term commitments), will no longer be able to get monthly bills. Instead, we will get weekly bills for each of the zillions of subscriptions we have with the West behemoth. To make matters worse, the invoices will be mailed separately from the item, so that the Acquisitions department will have to verify receipt and be sure it was the correct item as a separate step.

Here is the letter Anne Ellis sent the Acquisitions listserv on the matter:

Early this month, West included a statement in the invoices of all its subscription print customers who weren’t on a predictable pricing plan that they would be invoiced for print products at the time of shipping. Our goal is to help reduce the time customers spend accumulating, matching, reviewing and handling paperwork, as well as ease the process of managing invoices.

This program will be implemented in phases, with the current phase including only those customers who receive on average fewer than four products per month. We will be talking to a cross section of customers who average four or more shipments per month to determine the optimal billing interval before introducing the process to these customers later in the year.

We want to work with you to make our business relationship as easy for you to manage as possible. To this end, we offer invoice formats and billing options to best suit your business, including mail, e-mail and electronic options. Also, West offers options through My Account that can reduce the number of paper invoices customers receive. Customers can download a PDF of their invoice by logging on to My Account and signing up for e-billing. You will then receive e-mail alerts when your invoice is ready to view, copy or store. Payments also can be made through My Account. This option is a convenient way to manage your account and reduce paper documents. Log on to myaccount.west.thomson.com for more information.

I would also like to take this opportunity to remind you that West offers a variety of predictable pricing programs, including Library Maintenance Agreements. These programs provide a great way to simplify the administration and processing of your print account and manage your print budget. We have a model for everyone, and you can contact your sales representative or account manager for more information.

Thank you for your question and best wishes,

Anne Ellis
Senior Director, Librarian Relations
Thomson Reuters, Legal
You can see how they are trying to herd us into the LMAs, but it's not really very subtle. Some representatives WILL say out loud what Anne does not put into writing: this is what you get for dropping out of your LMA. Some folks have actually been told that to their faces.

What Anne does not address is that many of our libraries CANNOT take advantage of the billing alternatives they offer (which they very likely understand). Our universities do not allow us to set up electronic payment systems per vendor. Even those of us with credit card payment systems will be bogged down trying to manage separate billing statements each week for the West bills, rather than monthly. And cutting checks on a weekly basis is not going to be a very viable solution for paying as many different bills as the average library has with West. This is pretty clearly a punitive action designed to drive libraries into the LMA program, NOT to "...make our business relationship as easy for you to manage as possible."

The only solution is to replace West with a vendor that will serve better.

And to ask our state Attorneys General consumer protection divisions to investigate the Thomson-Reuters business practices.

General Outrage (from Boston.com) expresses my feeling perfectly. you tell'em kiddo!

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