New York Times Accidentally Tells 8 Million Readers Their Subscriptions Are Canceled

Millions of people who had given their email addresses to The New York Times were incorrectly told Wednesday morning that they had canceled their subscriptions. The accidental email to 8 million readers caused confusion, leaving subscribers scrambling to see what was wrong with their accounts while befuddling those who didn’t subscribe. After initially declaring the email was a spam attack, the paper copped to the fact that an employee sent the email and apologized for the accident in a second mass email.

The paper reported no information was compromised.

The apology message read:

Dear New York Times Reader,

You may have received an e-mail today from The New York Times with the subject line “Important information regarding your subscription.”

This e-mail was sent by us in error. Please disregard the message. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

Sincerely,

The New York Times

Compounding an error with a falsehood is never a wise move, but at least the Times jumped on the problem and set the record straight before the embarrassment grew larger.

The Times E-Mails Millions by Mistake to Say Subscriptions Were Canceled [The New York Times]

Comments

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  1. JoeDawson says:

    YOU’RE FIRED!!

  2. TBGBoodler says:

    I have a pretty common name and get misdirected emails all the time. I often respond and tell the sender they have the wrong person (you’d be amazed at the confidential documents that are sometimes attached).

    This time, however, I figured my alter ego had canceled his or her NYT subscription and didn’t need the “please don’t leave” email anyway. Went straight to the trash can.

    • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

      Ditto, although I’ve stopped trying to correct the senders, especially the repeat offenders.

      This morning I got a spreadsheet containing “detailed wedding plans”. Sounds like it’s going to be a nice wedding, especially with the Saturday 10:30 AM “pick up beer” and 11:00 AM “put beer on ice” parts.

  3. GMFish says:

    Employee: “Someone accidentally sent out 8 million emails to customers saying their subscriptions have been cancelled.”

    Boss: “Let’s tell everyone our servers were hacked, our customer data was breached, and the emails were sent by spammers.”

    Employee: “Um, sure. Ok.”

  4. NurseTimLPN says:

    When Reply All goes horribly wrong.

  5. HomerSimpson says:

    Wait…so since I didn’t have a subscription to begin with and they say mine wasn’t cancelled, does that mean I now have a subscription?

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      Maybe :)

      I canceled my subscription to The Sporting News shortly after I began receiving it (because the writing is awful). I kept getting it. I reminded them a few times, but after that I gave up (is it really my obligation to repeatedly remind them?).

      Fast forward about four years. I was still receiving it. Then they announced a format change which altered how many issues remained on existing subscriptions. Apparently this change finally flushed my name out of their system.

  6. PunditGuy says:

    I stopped subscribing 4 years ago, and I got the email. I figured it had just gotten lost, and someone finally delivered it Castaway-style.

  7. tsukiotoshi says:

    I got that email, though I am not a subscriber. I shrugged and deleted figuring it was either a bizarre mistake or some kind of phishing attempt. I would have thought nothing more of it if I hadn’t received another email later telling me it was all in error. Bizarre mistake, indeed!

  8. aloria says:

    The thing that bugged me was, instead of immediately admitting the slip-up, they first claimed it didn’t come from them: http://twitter.com/#!/nytimes/status/152101947523088384
    That worried me that perhaps their subscriber list had been compromised.

    It’s also not reassuring when an entity tasked with news reporting can’t even get the facts straight about what’s happening inside their own organization.

  9. keith4298 says:

    They offered a reduced rate to keep you and then wouldn’t honor that rate to all the people that got the email. Goof or not, they should have stood by their first email.

  10. PLATTWORX says:

    I got one of these yesterday at my office e-mail account, which I never use for anything person. I also have never subscribed to the New York Times.

    I also for the apology e-mail. Gosh, someone has to be in huge trouble. Yikes!

  11. Klay says:

    Now the phone just has a recording that apologizes and then hangs up on you.

  12. Laughing says:

    I figured it was a hoax because I don’t have home delivery of the NYT, just online access. As such I ignored the message and was awarded for my laziness by the correction a few hours later.

    That said, this is embarrassing for the NYT in a few ways. There’s the obvious issue with how they dealt with the problem and their fairly slow response time. Then there’s the less obvious issue of why their system allowed sending messages pertaining to home delivery to customers who not only didn’t have active home delivery subscriptions but had NEVER had home delivery. That seems like it should’ve been restricted in their system.