I received a call yesterday from my newspaper (the San Diego Union Tribune). The nice young man on the phone told me that I had an unpaid bill, and if I liked, he could take care of that over the phone with me right then. I take a certain amount of pride in paying all my bills promptly, so my first impulse was to go ahead and get it taken care of asap. But after the first few seconds of surprise and confusion, I got suspicious.
Usually you pay for subscriptions like this up front, so I asked the young man if this was really a past due bill, and he had implied, or a subscription renewal. He sheepishly admitted that yes, he was trying to get me to renew my subscription. I immediately declined, and silently vowed to never subscribe to their paper again (we get most of our news on the internet anyway, so no big loss).
At first I thought it was just some kid free-styling with the script a little to try to bump his numbers, but then later that same day I get another call, this one from a young woman, using the exact same script. The newspaper folks must be getting desperate to sink to such tactics. It’s just sad to see such devious tactics from such a large and respected company.
Those poor newspapers, still struggling to cope with 18% profit margins. Thank heavens FCC Chairman Kevin Martin swept in on spectacled dragon of deregulation to allow papers to buy up other media outlets so they won’t have to rely on sneaky renewal practices.
Ask for an itemized bill if a company makes a questionable request for payment. Don’t forget to mention that sending baseless requests for money constitutes mail fraud, a federal crime.