Closure For NYMag Sub Never Ordered, Collections Threatened

How would you feel to learn that not only had your household become subscribed to a magazine against its will, you were not getting threats that your account was overdue and was about to be sent to a debt-collection agency? That’s exactly what happened to husband and wife Keith and Stacy with New York Magazine. After our post went up about them, NYmag, wanting to defend what Communications Manager Lauren Starke called, “the good name of our circulation department—one of the most solid in the industry.” We put them in contact with Keith. After a flurry of testy emails between the two, here’s what happened.

New York Magazine pulled from their files the subscription card that authorized the subscription to New York Magazine (shown at the top of the post). The postcard was received on 11/19/2007. The card was sent to Keith’s house by first-class, meaning it should have gone directly to them.

Tova Abrahmov, New York magazine’s Retention Director, wrote via email, “Once the order was placed on the file, we then mail out seven invoices over a seven-month period asking for payment before threatening any collection agency action.”

Keith says he got the invoices. What is unclear to me,” he wrote, “is why I had a responsibility to respond to them at all. If neither of us initiated the “free trial”, there can be no foundation for a claim that we are responsible for canceling a non-request for your magazine.”

“I can not say with 100% certainty that she is the person who dropped that postcard in the mailbox,” said Abrahmov, “…[w]e cannot guarantee that your wife is the one who “authorized” this order or mailed the order back to us (versus someone else in your household or even a neighbor, for argument’s sake)…”

Keith wrote, “The proof that NY Mag sent was a blank postcard with two options (neither of which was checked) and no name or address on the card. Is this a joke?”

New York Mag was highly apologetic and canceled the subscription and waived all charges.

Then, two weeks after the parties finished corresponding, Keith and Stacy received another message in the mail from New York Mag. It was a letter thanking them for renewing their subscription.
After being notified of the error, New York Magazine’s Retention Director expressed her deep sorrow, writing, “In requesting a copy of the original piece of mail through our fulfillment company, a clerical error led to it being processed again and treated as a new order. Needless to say, this order is being removed immediately.”

PREVIOUSLY: UPDATED: NYMag: Collections Threatened For Sub You Think You Never Ordered


Edit Your Comment

  1. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Did they receive the magazine? Newsweek tried something along the lines of this with me but I knew I was in the clear because I had not received anything beyond the 8 trial issues. No product delivered, nothing to pay for. They need to lay the fuck off.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is all Will Leitch’s fault.

  3. blainer says:

    Will will be joining the collections group so that this sort of thing won’t happen again. Note that Deadspin NEVER suffered from collections issues under his reign.

  4. Lancer24 says:

    Hey why not report on something in New York that matters, like the environment?


  5. obonobo says:

    Is Gawker doing “Shame on You!” posts now? I suppose Arnold Diaz would do wonders for your page-views.

  6. SkokieGuy says:

    Amex sends direct mail offers to win a sweepstakes. It includes an offer to subscribe (risk-free!) to a travel magazine.

    I entered the contest, and checked the box that I did not wish to subscribe (and photocopied the entry).

    Big suprise, a $79.00 charge for the subscription appeared on my statement. When I called, the automtated phone tree has an automated option to cancel your subscription.

    So it seems pretty clear that that expect a huge number of cancellation requests. It also seems that they are automatically subscribing anyone who returns the contest entry, regardless of whether the indicated a desire to subscribe or not.

  7. Triborough says:

    I am still wondering how/why I am getting sent Architectural Digest. I never got any invoice and since I would have no reason to subscribe to Architectural Digest, I know I didn’t order it. Part of me thinks it may be a comp.

    @obonobo: Diaz’s segments are now called, “Shame, Shame, Shame” over on Fox 5 now.

  8. @Lancer24: And that article’s relation to empowering and informing consumers is….?

  9. lalaland13 says:

    Once, out of the blue, I got some shady-looking promotion card telling me that I was getting Maxim magazine as some sort of “reward.” Being a straight female, I had little to no use for it. Then, of course, I lost the number to cancel. So I was getting Maxim magazine for a year just randomly. At least they didn’t charge me for it, and I mostly just threw it in the trash.

  10. Seanibus says:

    My mother got about 10 years worth of Redbook after she canceled her subscription. They kept sending her threatening notices saying “This is your LAST issue unless you resubscribe,” which of course she never did. And the magazines kept coming until we moved. For all I know, the people who live in that house are still getting the magazine 30 years later, along with a stream of threatening letters.

  11. winstonthorne says:

    If they don’t get your social, they can’t do squat. Ignore them.

  12. cynu414 says:

    I had a magazine subscription for one year. After my year expired I got all this junk in the mail to renew, which I never did. Then, I got a letter saying to pay the $15 or I would be sent to collections. That was seven months after the last issue I received. I’m not about to pay for something that I never subscribed to or received.

  13. Gopher bond says:

    @SaveMeJeebus: What does it matter if they received anything? The local newspaper tried this scam with me once. I ordered (and paid for upfront) 6 months of Sunday papers. After six months, the newspaper continued to deliver Sunday papers for another 3 months before calling me up asking how I would be paying for those newspapers. I told them I wouldn’t be. I told them thank you but I never ordered it beyond those 6 months. They kept insisting that I owed them the money. I kept telling the guy that I entered into an agreement to pay them to delivery 6 months of Sunday newspaper to me. Those papers were delivered and that’s the end of our agreement. I then challenged them to show me proof that I ordered papers beyond those 6 months. Of course they couldn’t do such a thing and eventually gave up.

    But if someone sends me something and I didn’t order it, I’m sure as hell not paying for it, regardless of whether I read or use it.

  14. wgrune says:


    Um, I don’t think that is correct. I had a collection agency (wrongly) turned loose on me and all they had was my name and address.

  15. milk says:

    @Triborough: A couple people in my office set up a subscription to Working Mother for a guy they like to pick on. (They didn’t have it billed to him, though.) He had to call twice to get it canceled.

  16. milk says:

    @winstonthorne: My department sends information to collections with just DMV information.

  17. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    A magazine did this to me as well (Sound and Vision)…as I was getting to the end of my sub, they sent a card to the effect that they would renew my sub for my convenience unless I called an 888 number. I called the number, went through the phone maze “We can extend your sub for one year for half price. Press 1 to extend or 2 to continue.” followed by “We can extend your sub for one year for one THIRD the price. Press 1 to extend or 2 to continue.”

    Finally got to the end of the ride and cancelled, but I am still getting the magazine (no bill yet), but the expiry date on the label is now next year.

    How is it we are automatically opted in to these things?

  18. humphrmi says:

    This is especially problematic with trade magazines. Trade mags want people in the industry to read their mags (and advertisers) so they push free issues on us all the time, meanwhile sending invoices. I made the mistake of responding to one of those invoices once, stating that I didn’t order the mag and won’t pay for it. The mag kept coming (still free) but then a whole bunch more mags started coming too. It’s as if as soon as I acknowleged that I could leave condensation on a mirror, the deluge started.

    Maybe it sounds whiney to complain about getting free magazines, but these are mostly rubbish and ads that just end up clogging up our mailboxes and recycling bins.

    Anyway the point is, this is the reason I never respond to these “invoices” – as soon as they confirm that you’re alive, they’ll never stop.

  19. DallasPath says:


    “”If they don’t get your social, they can’t do squat. Ignore them”

    Apparently not true anymore. My brother decided to run a red light that had one of those #$%^#$ red light cameras. He’s in college and his car is registered in my dad’s name. My brother ignored the many notices to pay the ticket and it wound up on my dad’s (until then unblemished) credit report.

    I don’t know how they were able to put something on his credit report with basically only a license plate number and a car description (Extremely vague evidence that said person actually incurred the debt) but when he went to buy a new car, they told him he had a collection on his credit report. Further research traced it back to the red light ticket. So in this case, all they needed was the license plate to ding his credit.

  20. Dobernala says:

    @DallasPath: In those cases, the law has actually been changed to allow that to happen. They have actual proof that you broke the law (ran a light) from the photo camera, at which point you owe a fine.

    A magazine subscription will not appear on your credit unless they have some solid proof that you subscribed.

  21. AD8BC says:

    @DallasPath: I live near Dallas too… Those red-light cameras (as used in Texas) violate the due-process protections of the Constitution and turn a red light violation into a civil offense that is very hard to contest. The red-light camera companies mail the tickets, basically privatizing law-enforcement in this case.

    In other states, the police send out the tickets after the pictures are sent to them from the red-light camera companies.

  22. ColoradoShark says:

    @humphrmi: They push trade magazines on me pretty hard, too. Even when I explain that I have nothing to do with the industry in question they still want me to say yes.

    Why do they do this? Fraud. They charge their advertisers by the number of subscribers they have.

  23. endlessendres says:

    Typo… “you are ‘not’ getting threats” instead of ‘now’…

  24. OletheaEurystheus says:


  25. hypoxia says:

    Playboy does something similar. They automatically renew subscriptions without your consent or knowledge and then threaten to send the bill to collections if you don’t pay it.

  26. ogsoleysol says:

    “After our post went up about them, NYmag, wanting to defend what Communications Manager Lauren Starke called, “the good name of our circulation department-one of the most solid in the industry.”

    Is there a sentence here?

  27. MissPeacock says:

    Vogue sent me to collections once for a subscription I never renewed. They never sent me any new magazines (and I knew I hadn’t re-upped my subscription), so I ignored all the mail from Vogue, thinking they were just more offers to resubscribe. A quick call remedied the situation, but it was amazing how a service never rendered or requested was sent to collections.

    On the other hand, I’ve suddenly had year-long subscriptions to other magazines suddenly start coming to my mailbox and never been billed for them. Very, very odd.

  28. Kitteridge says:

    My head is hurting from this sentence construction:

    “How would you feel to learn that not only had your household become subscribed to a magazine against its will, you were not getting threats that your account was overdue and was about to be sent to a debt-collection agency? That’s exactly what happened…”

    How would I feel … if I was not getting threats? Well, I feel GREAT about not getting threats, every day.

  29. donopolis says:

    I also live near DFW and another nice trick they have pulled is that as soon as the red light cameras are active…They shorten the length of the yellow light. Thereby insuring a high number of tkts issued as well endangering the lives of their own citizens…classy


  30. humphrmi says:

    @DallasPath: Is it possible that the DMV in Texas has your dad’s SSN? I know in Illinois, even though they no longer print the SSN on the license anymore, they still confirm that it’s correct in their system when you renew.

  31. AMetamorphosis says:

    People have been filling out other peoples names for years on these magazine subscription cards and droppping them in th … ( oh wait, thats just me )

    Fact is if they do not have your social security # they can’t do anything.
    Its a horrible ” sales tactic ” to keep you enslaved to their idiot publication that can’t sell based on its own content …

  32. drjayphd says:

    @Seanibus: I just let my subscription to Rolling Stone lapse (issues with Zac Efron and the cast of The Hills on the cover will tend to piss off your readers), with that exact same wrapper on it. According to the mailing label, the most recent issue (you know how I know you’re gay? you put Coldplay’s singer on the cover) SHOULD be the last one, so let’s see if they automatically renew me for no reason whatsoever.

  33. drjayphd says:

    @Kitteridge: That made my brain hurt too, until I realized it should be “you were now getting threats…”.

  34. SkokieGuy says:

    Come on, you think it’s hard to get a social security number when you have someone’s name and address?

    Of course they can report you to collections, but in most case don’t bother and maintain an in-house faux-collection agency / department. Surely they are compensated for collection performance

    And since employees likely also get compensated for number of renewals, when you don’t pay your (unrequested) subcription, they (illegally) sign you up for other crap. So instead of the rep generating collections bonuses, s/he generates subscription bonuses!

    And the trees die~

  35. DallasPath says:


    The red light cameras in downtown Dallas are completely insane in regard to their timing and the shortness of the yellow. Last summer, when they first put them in, I got a red light ticket at the one on Commerce and Central Expressway going toward Deep Ellum. They have changed the timing of the light so that when you are coming south on pearl and get stopped by the light on commerce, once you turn onto commerce and arrive at the light it is just about to turn yellow. And it is a very wide intersection (4 or 5 lanes). I have been driving this route home for years and suddenly I found myself waiting at red lights or running yellows. But they hadn’t put a sign up saying red light enforced, so I had no clue.

    So I get a ticket in the mail…Second notice (Never got a first notice). Court date has already passed. The ticket says you can log on to see video…it tells me video not available. But there are three blurry pictures of my car in the intersection. The light in the picture is an orangish color, but I’m still not sold. I call and they tell me the video isn’t available. I say I want to see the video because I want to see if the light was red when I entered the intersection. Sorry, camera too new, no video. I’m not sure how what they are doing is legal, but I paid the ticket and changed my route home.

    I might be wrong, but if the light is yellow when you enter an intersection, I thought that wasn’t considered running a red light?

  36. PinkBox says:

    Same thing happened to me with Nylon magazine. They were nice and immediately cancelled my so-called account with them when I sent them a letter requesting that they do so.

    Still not sure how I got subscribed to them in the first place since I’m not interested in that type of magazine.

  37. PinkBox says:

    @DallasPath: Too bad you paid the ticket. If you took it back to court, I bet you could have had the ticket dismissed if they had no real proof that the light was actually red.

  38. DallasPath says:


    Thats what I told them on the phone, but since the court date had passed, it was going to take more time and effort than the 75 dollar ticket was worth. I consider it a learning fee…like when you stop going to a business because the service is bad. But if anyone ever goes after the Dallas red light cameras, either legally or vigilante style, I’ll be there to lend my support.

  39. wring says:

    @winstonthorne: not true if you REALLY owe money.

  40. lalinguist says:

    This TOTALLY happened to me with NYMag! I cancelled my subscription when I moved West and then started getting overdue threats from a collections agency at my new address.

    I called NYMag *twice* and both times they said there was no problem. After I got the third collection notice, I called again, and they said it was my problem, *I* had to call the collection agency and explain to them that I didn’t owe any money. WTF?! I went apeshit and told them to call. They refused, saying they had no phone lines going out.

    Turns out this is their cancellation strategy. When you call the collection agency you can press a button corresponding to “I never renewed this subscription, get off my ass” and they do. They claim not to f** with your credit rating, but I almost went on a killing spree.

  41. zigziggityzoo says:

    @SaveMeJeebus: Technically even if they sent it to you, you’d owe nothing. If you receive anything in US Mail from a corporation, it then becomes your property. If there is no contract between the two entities (sender/receiver) then you have no further obligations. It’s then a gift.


  42. miss_roxxan says:

    i’ve had a situation with NY Mag too! i actually had a subscription, but it ran out and i did not renew. i keep receiving notices of my past due account. i’ve returned some of the mail saying i canceled when my time was up, but i still get letters. threatening letters. it’s insane. they stopped sending me magazines when my subscription ran out, why do i need to do anything else if i don’t want the subscription!?

  43. dualityshift says:

    I’ve never read the magazine, but based on the perceived collective intelligence of the company, it doesn’t appear that I am missing much.

  44. darksunfox says:

    It’s interesting because I prepaid a subscription to Golf Digest – my last few magazines, I got renewal notices. Then my last issue came and I never renewed. Then I started getting the magazine – but no longer with renewal notices. I figure if they want to send me free magazines, they’re more than welcome to, and when they stop that’s their prerogative.

  45. Gopher bond says:

    @darksunfox: That’s what they do. It doesn’t cost them much to run off a few thousand extra copies and send them out for free. A percentage of those freebies sometimes turn into paid subscriptions. Plus, you can send a bill to all the people you sent freebies too and percentage of those people will pay the bill thinking they signed up or that since they received they must owe.

  46. newfenoix says:

    @AD8BC: I live in Arlington and both cities have been forced to change their policy after several lawsuits and the Federal Highway people got involved.

  47. newfenoix says:

    @humphrmi: In Texas and in most states, you have to give your SSN to the license people when you apply for a DL.

  48. keith4298 says:

    It’s just an amazing system – you say that you never renewed and ask for proof that you did, and they renew your subscription.

    But a better question is how they determine that you want to renew when NEITHER check box is checked on the alleged renewal card.

  49. wildness says:

    So subscription departments have moved to India as well? (This sure sounds like India-class customer service)

  50. hatrack says:

    I’m surprised that your brother got the notices at all. As far as I know those tickets are always sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. They naturally assume that the registered owner is the person driving and committing the infraction.

  51. Difdi says:


    People have been filling out other peoples names for years on these magazine subscription cards and droppping them in th … ( oh wait, thats just me )

    You do realize that’s mail fraud, right?

  52. coren says:

    @Lancer24: Wait, this is the Environmentalist now?

  53. jbiz123 says:

    i had new york magazine mailed to me all of a sudden about a year ago. i told them i don’t want nor need them. they stopped. it started back up a few months ago i told them to stop. they even mailed me a small check to refund my difference of the ZERO DOLLARS i paid them.

  54. Illiterati says:

    Subscriptions aren’t handled by the magazine itself, but by fulfillment companies, which are notoriously retarded and yet cleverly sneaky. I worked in editorial for a bunch of consumer magazines and occasionally got irate calls from readers and nonreaders about this stuff. I’d call the fulfillment company, and even as a manager of the magazine I’d have a hard time getting these dillweeds to stop hassling people.

    It costs a big magazine $35 on average just to get someone to subscribe, so you can imagine how irritating these practices are to the people who manage the money. But this stuff continues because there’s a wide gulf between the people who make the magazines and the circ and fulfillment people who devise these tactics. Plus, subs don’t make money, but the total number of subs is part of the rate base, which is how mags set advertising rates. Me, I buy my magazines of the rack just to avoid this bullshit. (And to get a bigger tax deduction.)

  55. mzs says:

    @SkokieGuy: You’ll see you still keep getting them. I got a free subscription to FHM or Maxim some dreck like that when I ordered online. Yeah I was buying porn DVDs. It was a thing added on at the end of the checkout process that I did not notice, sort of off the bottom of the page with a check box already checked. I think it was from CD Universe.

    I did the recorded message thing to no avail. Doing a bunch of 0s on the touch pad got me a person one time and that cleared it up. Then they started coming again. So this time I called the magazine and they told me the name and phone number of the company that subscribed me. Calling them, then it was surprisingly easy to get out of it.

  56. guymandude says:

    @Difdi: Virtually no one here has the marbles to understand this is mail fraud. I’ve been raising hell about such things being mail fraud for some time and no one seems to get it. It is quite refreshing to see that there is someone else out there who does get it. A little bit of research into consumer law would indicate that to just about anyone. But for some reason people steadfastly ignore this. Your comment is wasted on deaf ears(or blind eyes rather).

  57. jimmydeweasel says:

    Never pay with a magazine or newspaper subscription with a credit card. I made the mistake of signing up for a 12 week “introductory offer” trying to cancel has been a nightmare. Magazines are going the way of the steam locomotive so the publishers outsource the subscription department to pit bulls to keep the numbers up. Of course you can always go to the library find every subscription card you can , fill them out with your ex-bosses address and roll a double ………..

  58. keith4298 says:

    @guymandude: While you may be right that it is technically mail fraud, I would bet that neither your postmaster, DA or Attorney General want to have anything to do with this since there is no proof beyond a reasonable doubt (which is necessary in order to start an action).

    Congratulations for noticing, but I’m afraid it doesn’t make a difference.