An Open Letter to the Narcotics Anonymous Fellowship from the UK Service Office

In the NA fellowship, questions often crop up about buying NA literature – can literature be purchased more cheaply elsewhere? Why does the UKSO charge what it charges? What are the consequences of not buying from the UKSO? In this letter we hope to provide some answers.

So, the facts: yes, you can buy some literature from WSO Europe for less than you would pay at the UKSO – on average about 20% less. So, why does the UKSO charge more? And, more importantly, what does the fellowship get for that extra 20%?

Firstly, let’s look at the literature side of things.

What if you want to buy literature with a personal cheque? Or a postal order? Or postage stamps? (Yes, some NA members serving prison sentences pay for their orders with stamps.) Or with cash? What if you need a medallion for a birthday at tomorrow’s meeting? The Service Office can get it to you the next day – you can even call in person. Can anywhere else offer these services?

Where would NA conventions get their sale-or-return literature?

Where would ASCs get free credit?

What about the things you can’t get from Europe? Our Where To Find? All our Public Information literature? How to Deal With Inappropriate Behaviour in Meetings? What To Expect At Your First Meeting? All our merchandise, things like badges, fridge magnets, door signs? All produced and distributed exclusively by the UKSO.

And that’s just the literature. What else does the fellowship get for ‘that extra 20%’?

The Service office is:

  • A contact point for the UK Fellowship.
  • A postal address for UK Regional Committees.
  • A contact point for professionals.
  • A contact point for prisons and other institutions.
  • A postal address for Convention Committees.
  • A place to call if you can’t get through to the Helpline.

It also

  • Collates and publishes the WTF.
  • Manages the on-line ordering site.
  • Prints PI, H&I and other assorted UK literature and merchandise.
  • Provides office services for both UKPI and UKH&I.
  • Provides initial response to both PI and H&I enquiries.
  • Deals with enquiries from serving prisoners, including supplying free Basic Texts.
  • Facilitates the Prison Sponsorship Scheme.
  • Manufactures and distributes UK Region approved audio CDs.

Who does all this, and how much does it cost?

The costs of running the Service Office are the same as any other business: there are the running cost of the premises – rent, rates, utilities etc. and the wages bill. We have a staff of two: a full time Office Manager and a part time Special Worker. The office is located in Preston. It’s nothing grand, we’re in a basement!.

The average monthly cost for all this is £5681 (Jan/Dec 2017). And not one penny of this comes from the money you put in the pot, we are fully self-supporting.

And now a question for you… consequences?

What happens if you or your ASC decide not to buy from the UKSO? Think of it this way: if five people decide to start a car pool and one of them pulls out, then each of the remaining four have to pay that little bit more – the cost of the car hasn’t changed, only the people paying for it. It’s the same for the Service Office, for every order that goes elsewhere the contribution lost has to be made up from those who are still committed to the UKSO – and what if those who order elsewhere still take advantage of all the services the UKSO offers, is that fair? Or is it – to continue our car pool analogy – like that fifth person asking for a lift? And if everyone did it? The Service Office would close, and all the benefits listed above would be lost.

And it’s not just what you would lose, it’s what might return.

Some History

When the fellowship first started in the UK it was obviously very small, just a few meetings struggling to get going and getting their literature from anywhere they could. Then as things started to grow there were more and more groups hungry for the written word. There was no Service Office, so the supply of literature was arranged by NA members as a service commitment. The World Service Office in California was very supportive and gave all sorts of help, including allowing us to print, royalty-free, some of its copyrighted literature. As more and more meetings opened, more and more individuals were ordering from America, obviously this didn’t make much sense and it was at this point that some NA members decided that, in order to overcome the problems of ad-hoc supply, the best bet was to set up a service centre as suggested in A Guide To Local Services (pp102/3) and the UK Service Office of NA was born. Those early days were a struggle for the UKSO, and, because sales were slow, the service office ended up owing the WSO nearly £25,000. But eventually Service Ltd got itself established and once the volume of literature orders got large enough it became what it is today – a fully self-sufficient resource for the whole fellowship.

The debt we incurred in those early days was eventually written off by the World Service Office, but the UK Fellowship considered it a point of honour to repay this money. Over the years we have been chipping away at it and in December 2013 the UKSO repaid the final instalment so that today’s burgeoning fellowships can have the support that we once needed so desperately.