Perhaps the “F” and “Y” stand for something else…


I might as well have said, “The crow flies at midnight.”

It felt that cloak-and-dagger.

“Can I help you, sir?” asked the manager.

“Hi.  I just want to cancel my membership.”

She frowned, nodded, walked behind the counter, grabbed a coupon and wrote on the back of it, handed it to me and immediately walked away.

I looked in my hand and there it was.  The first step on my long journey out of The Stupid Tax.

Financial expert Dave Ramsey has some great stories of how we’ve all made some silly decisions that end up costing us lots and lots of money.

My Stupid Tax story began over a year ago when I was picking up a number of DVDs for a project.  I needed to get short clips of some classic films and couldn’t find what I needed at the library or the local Blockbusters (which may have been my last trip into a local Blockbusters since they’re now as common as Burger Chef in our neighborhood).

I stopped at the local FYE store (which used to be the great record store, Harmony House–seen below with The Romantics for those readers in the Detroit area).


I got a little nostalgic as I wandered the aisles, my brain time-morphing the Blue-Ray displays into rows and rows of LPs. 

When I was ready to pay for the DVDs, the trap was sprung.  

“Would you like to become a “Backstage Pass” member and save immediately on these DVDs?”

My knee almost popped up reflexively as I censored the  ”Hell, No!” into a smiling “No thanks.”

I’d had too many experiences in my teenage years being convinced by the slick salesmen at Highland Appliance that I really ought to invest another $30-$100 in the five year extended warranty for my new speakers, equalizer, turntable, tuner, perhaps even power cables–I was that gullible with too much liquid cash in my hand from my paper route.  But I was a wise consumer at fifteen.  Who knows?  Maybe those $150 speakers would suddenly fall apart in four years and eleven months.  Perhaps that extra $100 is a good idea.


(Above:  The corpse of the original Highland Appliance.  Likely cause-of-death due  to extended warranty over-exposure.)

The stupid tax.

But this time, I was 47.  And immediately after my “No thanks” the salesperson started in on her routine with the option that no shiny salesman at Highland Appliance ever offered me in the dark ages before the internet.

“You can cancel online at any time in the next thirty days for no charge.”

I just smiled and shook my head.  I knew my amnesiac self well enough by now to realize I’d forget.  

“You can even cancel right when you get home.”


I’d give her one better.  I’d get my giant discount for the four DVDs and cancel right in the parking lot in three minutes on my smartphone!  Ha!

I walked to my car with the same smug smile that she was probably giving me through the window.

No luck on the smartphone.  The site listed on one of the colorful pamphlets that accompanied my new “VIP” status didn’t seem to work on the phone.  Oh well.  I’d try again right when I got in the house.  And I did.  I was able to get to the site, but couldnt’ find a single link to cancel my account.  I tried the phone number and the offices were closed on the weekend.  I’d try again on Monday after work.

Sure I would.

Nearly a year later, we were driving by FYE and I remembered.  But I hated to ask the question.  Maybe FYE was kind and had cancelled my account due to inactivity.  Maybe some kind corporate overlord said, “Say, let’s save that Walsh guy some money since he’s not using our VIP Backstage pass options.”  That had to have been what happened.

“Err…do we have any charge on the credit card under FYE?”

“Oh yeah.  It’s about $12 per month.  Is that one of your website hosting bills?” my too-trusting wife asked me.

I paused, looking for a quick exit in the 50 mph vehicle.  ”Umm, no.  That’s…umm…for that store we just passed.”

I’d paid an extra over $100 for those four DVDs. 

Embarrassed, I tried to find the paperwork and it was nowhere.  (Do they have auto-dissolving paper like they do in Get Smart?)  I went to the website and tried to log-in with my usual e-mail and fourteen possible passwords I always use.  They replied back that I was not a member.


Skip Get Smart.  This was a Twilight Zone episode.  $100 surely made me a member by now–right?



On the site of another Harmony House location, in the “new” section of the Oakland Mall (built in 1978) I was killing some time with my son when I decided that today was the day I would escape Rod Serling’s probable wrap-up to my story:

“Kevin Walsh thought he was being clever.  He thought he’d save a couple coins.  He thought he’d outsmart the system.  He thought wrong.  Instead, he finds himself running in circles, chasing his tail in the land of — the stupid tax.”

I took the cryptic phone number, sat on the comfy mall-bench just outside the store and called.

“Hello, is this Mr. Walsh?” came the voice from across the Pacific.


“What can I do for you and your VIP membership today, Mr. Walsh?”

So I did exist in their universe!  ”I’d like to cancel my membership.”

“Certainly sir, but are you aware of [fill in thousands of benefits I missed, including travel discounts over the last year, but I was still eligible for if I would only change my mind].”

“No thanks.  I want to cancel right now.”

“Certainly sir, but may I just say [fill-in a $40 gift card that I can apply to any family member that I would like to include in the VIP family].”

I had to interrupt him.  I certainly wasn’t going to share this experience with any family member.  No one deserved that–and I’d never get another birthday present.

“Stop.  I just want to cancel right now.”

“Certainly sir.  I understand.  I want to thank you for your loyalty and if you reconsider…”

“Excuse me!” I shouted, causing three shoppers to look my way, startled, at the crazy man.  ”I need to cancel this minute.  And I want to point out [fill-in Kevin whining about his stupidity but blaming it on their company’s questionable behaviors].  

There was a long pause as the guy probably finished his Solitaire game or switched me off the speaker-phone that his co-workers were laughing at.

“Sir.  Are you ready?  I’m going to give you your cancellation number.  Here it is…”

“Wait.  I’m in a mall and don’t have anything to write with.  Can you send me an email with this information?”

“No sir.”

“Why not?”

“It’s against our policy.”

“Really?  That’s weird.  Can I get the confirmation sent to me via U.S. Mail?”

“No sir.  That’s against our policy.”

“Let me talk to your manager right now!” I huffed.  By this time, all the shoppers had given me a wide berth.

“Certainly sir.”  

Five minutes of music later, I spoke with the manager.

“Sir.  I’m sorry for any inconvenience.  I want to let you know that your cancellation is effective immediately and that you will receive a letter confirming this information in 7-10 business days.”

“Why can’t you e-mail me the information?”

“That’s against our policy.”


“It’s against our policy.”

I could almost hear the Twilight Zone theme song beginning.

“Never mind.  Can I have your name?”


“Because I find this entire situation frustrating and pathetic and figured I’d write a blog about it and at least get the facts right.”

“My name is Sharon.”

“What is your title, Sharon?”

“Pardon me.”

“Your job title.  What is your job title?”


“Of what?

“Pardon me?”

“What do you supervise?”  Besides crazy calls like mine, I thought.

“Sir?  Is there anything else I can help you with?”

I had to say it.  ”Are you aware that there is no link on your website to turn off your membership?”

“Sir, it’s right there on our website—”

“Wait?  It’s not”

“No sir.  Our website is”

“But the FYE logo is on the website.  Isn’t that you?”

“Not for the VIP “Backstage Pass” members.”

“But how would I know about…?” I whined.  I might have as well have stomped my feet, crying “That’s not fair!:

Far, far away, to the background of an entire call-center chuckling, Rod Serling and Dave Ramsey say in unison…

“The Stupid Tax.”

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About Kevin Walsh

Kevin began in 2013 as an experiment that was as simple as "What's a blog?" and ended up becoming a forum for fellow writers. He's been a high school teacher for 28 years and worked as an administrator and instructor in colleges for 10 years since then. Contact him at: He is also the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His high school media production text, "Video Direct," has been used in 40 states--and he occasionally still sells a few. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two kids Aidan and Abby who have all graciously allowed him to write about them on occasion.

11 Responses to Perhaps the “F” and “Y” stand for something else…

  1. Jo Anne says:

    Thank you so much for this post!!!!!! I came across this while search for answers to how am I going to cancel my membership at any time, as the website says, if the number posted isn’t open on the weekend. That’s because I too was on fye . Com and not!!!! Once I went to the correct web address, I registered my acct and immediately cancelled it! And I received a confirmation email of my cancellation! You just saved me heartache and money! And it’s funny that you wrote this post the same day that I signed up for my VIP pass! We were destined to meet! 🙂 Thanks again!!!!

  2. Natalja says:

    That happens to me every timeI get a discount at Kohls by paying with the credit card and then not paying that credit card on time! And you just reminded me… Darn it!

    • Kevin Walsh says:

      My wife speaks of Kohls dollars as well. SHe’ll get the dollars and go and spend them immediately, otherwise they drift out of our memories, Natalja, right where they want them to be!

  3. Judy Herman says:

    The membership, the clairvoyant requirement for the special cancellation link, the non- supervisor supervisor… I too have been there too often. Thanks for the laugh common.

    • Kevin Walsh says:

      Thanks, Judy! Sadly, I’ve got too many stories like this. Maybe I’ll learn some day.

  4. Al Maurice says:

    I reached the “Blinders” level long ago when it came to registers, Kevin.
    “Phone number?” No.”Zip code?” Same as yours. “Would you like..?” No. And off I go.
    I got what I came for and you got my money. I shall give no more!

  5. Jenny Stanczyk says:

    I think I still have backstage pass membership.

  6. Jim Edwards says:

    Glad I never bought a DVD player.

  7. Kevin Walsh says:

    It’s funny how an experience like mine will probably keep me from every stopping in there again, Dick. Similar to my experience at Belle Tire, when they fixed the non-flat tire and then tried to tell me it was my fault–that I told them the “front right tire” (my right, or yours?).

    With all the money that these companies spend on call-centers and avertising, you’d think that a few workshops on “common sense” wouldn’t be a bad idea either!

  8. Dick Rockwell says:

    Glad I’ve always avoided that come on and just waited for frequent sales.