I Like The Times, But Not Enough To Pay Double The Subscription Fee

Newspaper workers like to think their news gathering skills keep readers interested in their product, but no matter how well they do their jobs, crummy billing and delivery execution drive readers away from the struggling industry.

Gary had a go-round with the New York Times customer service department, which he says refused to offer an adequate refund after it more than double-charged him the promised rate.

He writes:

We appreciate reading the Sunday NY Times and have been enjoying sequential runs of this newspaper at 50% off for over a year. At current subscription rates, this amounts to $3.75 per issue for delivery in the state of Michigan. Unfortunately, I let our subscription offer run out over one Sunday – the one Sunday in July that I submitted a vacation request for to not have the issue delivered (July 4). Luckily I remembered to call them the next day to accept another “half-price” offer for 6 months.

As such, my records show that I owe the NY Times $11.25 for July delivery. However, you can imagine how I reacted when my credit card was charged twice on July 27 for the month of July — $ 22.50 and $33.75 for a total of $56.25. Fortunately, I called them right after I noticed this charge posted to my credit card and informed them of their error. The customer service rep said that they could not do anything for me, so I canceled my NY Time services, seeing as a big problem was about to brew. She did indicate that I was scheduled for an $18.75 refund, but could not explain to me why!

I took delivery for one more week, so I should owe the NY Times $15.00 for delivery for the period July 1 on until I canceled service. Later in August, I called a rep named H who went over my bill in detail to me. She explained how the charges should work, and admitted that I was overcharged. Yet, suddenly, she simply said, “everything is correct,” and wouldn’t do anything for me. When she experienced this sudden twist of reality, I insisted that she turn this matter over to me to an advisor. She attempted to do that, but her advisor was so busy, that the advisor simply said to me that they would issue an immediate credit of $24.99 to me, and then they would review this matter more thoroughly and get back to me.

That sounded real good! As I waited over 3 weeks for my refund, I began to realize that this was not going to happen! However, in the meantime, I did receive the $18.75 refund, but never received the $24.99 refund or a full explanation. I spoke to several other rep(s) at the NY Times during the month of September who reassured me that my $24.99 refund was in the system, and that I should be receiving it shortly. [N, 9/27, for example!]

Finally, one last attempt was made! I was connected to a supervisor named M at extension XXXX on October 8. She assured me that I would be receiving my refund, and that she would call me back to notify me of such by the end of the next week!

Guess what? M, the supervisor, never called me, and repeated calls to this extension were never returned.

If you’ve canceled a magazine or newspaper subscription, did poor customer service play a role in your move?


Edit Your Comment

  1. oldwiz65 says:

    Just dump the subscription and get your news on the web. I tried to subscribe to the Sunday Boston Globe some years back, and in the first 4 weeks, they missed the delivery THREE times. Finally I called them and said “Hey, I don’t mind paying for the subscription, but you’ve failed to deliver three times out of the first four weeks, so I am canceling.” They weren’t happy, but state it is not their problem; it is the delivery person’s problem. They did only charge me for one week’s service though.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      If you’re paying them and not the delivery service, then it definitely is their problem.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I agree. They contract out to newspaper delivery people – that’s fine, and standard for most newspapers, but the newspaper is ultimately responsible for providing the newspaper to your door.

    • TheRedSeven says:

      I really enjoyed getting the Chicago Tribune for a while. I got delivery on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. And it cost something like $8.00 for 3 months worth. It was cheap!

      But then, for some unknown reason, the delivery started getting sporadic. At least once a week, a paper would go undelivered. Sometimes I’d get the previous week’s paper (i.e. I’d get the Oct 17 newspaper on Oct 24), other times they’d deliver all 3 papers on Sunday, or it would be delivered at 2pm (I sometimes worked from home, and saw the delivery). Each time a paper was not delivered properly, I’d call and get a credit for the missed service–but since the subscription was so cheap, it amounted to only a couple dimes…

      Each time, customer service said they would ‘train’ or ‘re-train’ the delivery person. After several complaints, they started claiming that they would assign a different delivery person to my route. But the service never improved, and I got sick of calling on a weekly basis and checking to ensure that the account was actually being credited by $0.20 each time.

      So I cancelled. I don’t get as many features in the online version, and I miss the comics. But the delivery never fails. And the price is unbeatable!

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    In an industry that isn’t getting new customers, it’s probably best to treat the current ones better.

  3. Cantras says:

    I canceled paper delivery to my place recently — I’m a fan of print, but I’m not a fan of calling them 5 times to try to explain that I live *inside* the building and I need it delivered to *my* doorstep or else the neighbors think it’s a free paper and they swipe it — and it was like pulling teeth. I don’t want to give it one more week, even if you will personally call to make sure it’s there. Yes I know I’m subscribed under X package. I know I can use the web form for redelivery but I’m sick of it and half the time I don’t get it redelivered anyway.
    When she finally canceled it, i got an email not that I’d canceled, but that I’d been credited for the missed paper. I held on to it and her name until I got my credit card bill showing the refund for my subscription, because as well as it had gone, i did not doubt that she might have left it.

  4. sonneillon says:

    Newspapers give me something to read when I’m going to the bathroom, and they give me material to use for various types of pre-cleanup.

  5. dryfire says:

    My dad still has the newspaper delivered mainly to look at the ads. I find it funny because on weekdays he could easily get one for free from work for an extra minute walk.

  6. kmiles says:

    I must be very, very tired – this article/letter is confusing as hell. None of the numbers/refunds add up to me. I’ll take a nap and come back later…

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      No, it’s not just you. I must be tired as well because none of this letter really made sense. For instance, did the OP assume that if he called the day after that they would offer him the same subscription rate (50% off)? How come he didn’t ask the customer service rep to explain why he was billed twice? Was there no record of him being offered the discounted rate?

      Confusing letter is confusing.

  7. dolemite says:

    Maybe newspapers could quadruple their price and become a status symbol. “Did you see? The Johnsons had the Times AND the WSJ delivered today!” “I had no idea Steve made that kind of money….Julia is a lucky woman!”

  8. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    I want to have my extension at work changed to XXXX.

    • TPA says:

      Mine actually is! 3825 also redirects to my extension as well.

    • rpm773 says:

      When someone calls you, just answer the phone saying :

      “Hello, Long Dong Silver here…”

      Done and done.

    • bravohotel01 says:

      1) Turn on your DND,
      2) turn the beep all the way down,
      3) shove the phone into the back of the bottom drawer,
      4) pile old papers and obsolete binders from “training” on top of the phone, and
      5) close (and lock if you can) the drawer.

      After a while, they will learn to IM or email you.

      Done and done!

  9. Macgyver says:

    What the hell is this guy talking about. None of this makes any sense.
    He wanted a 6 month extension, but yet when he got billed for it, he got mad. And they billed him for way less then 6 months anyway.
    3.75 a week for 15 weeks comes out to what he was billed for.
    It sounds like it wasn’t 6 months that signed up for, but only 15 weeks.

    • George4478 says:

      If you were expecting to pay $11.25/month and got billed $56.25/month and no one could explain why, wouldn’t you be a bit mad too?

  10. Scamazon says:

    I actually prefer the print news for several reasons. I got a subscription to my local paper for $75. for a year at a home show. They have been sending me a thing for auto renewal via credit card but don’t list a price. What am I, stupid? Auto renewals are a farce for people who don’t pay attention under the guise of convenience…

    • PLATTWORX says:

      Auto renewals work WONDERS. Just like any promotion you get for cable, wireless phone, etc. Do any of them call and say “Gosh, you’re contact is up… so you want to stay or leave?”

      MANY people do not like reading news on a screen and prefer to hold something in their hand. It is also the cheapest way for retailers to get their weekly inserts into consumer’s hands… newspapers are not going anywhere soon.

    • bravohotel01 says:

      Yesterday’s news, today!

  11. slim150 says:

    i always thought magazines were double dipping with having ads and charging for it. they should be free.

    • dolemite says:

      I subscribed to 2 game magazines a year ago, and my wife gets all of those “US” etc star-centered mags. I swear about 65% of the magazines are advertisements.

    • PLATTWORX says:

      The ads don’t pay the full cost of production and mailing of a magazine. And yes, newspapers are normally 40-50% ads, magazine about 60-70% depending on the title.

  12. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    My local daily paper has outsourced delivery complaints to what I think is a national company not located in our city. Complaints are handled by an automated phone system that does not allow contact with a human. Much of the time pushing their buttons does not result in delivery of a missing paper.

  13. Sleepingbear says:

    I used to get the Sunday NYT delivered. But after numerous missing deliveries I cancelled it. It’s a shame as when the wife and I go out for breakfast we enjoy reading and talking about the paper.

  14. Daverson says:

    I subscribe to a smallish regional newspaper which not only gives me excellent local news coverage, but free online access to 40 years of their archives. And the customer service is pretty awesome, too. I don’t think their carriers have screwed up my delivery more than twice in about 10 years.

  15. JiminyChristmas says:

    I have been getting home delivery of the NYT and the local paper for many, many years. For some periods delivery is flawless, others not so much, and it all depends on the carrier.

    It’s a fact of life that newspaper carrier is a low-wage/no benefit, high-turnover job. It’s not neighborhood kids with a paper route anymore. There aren’t as many subscribers as there used to be, so routes cover more area and are done by adults with a car. Many are hired as independent contractors, so they don’t get reimbursed for mileage on their vehicles. Deliveries have to be complete so early in the morning that it’s basically a 3rd shift job.

    In other words, you have to be pretty desperate for work to deliver newspapers. To tell the truth, I’m happily surprised when anyone does the job conscientiously.

    • DjDynasty-Webology says:

      I am a delivery carrier. I get paid $0.10 per local paper, and $0.05 on every national paper. Lord Help me if your a bitchy customer who calls because the same Jewel-Osco ad you get for free at the store was missing because the machine didn’t put one in there, because I get charged $10.00 for you to pick up the phone and do anything with customer service, OTHER than renew your subscription. I deliver nearly 1,000 papers daily, and while I would love to porch every single person’s paper, or make sure they are on the corner of the driveway, it’s not possible, then again, neither are speed limits.

      People who don’t tip their newspaper carriers, or otherwise act like their carriers are stupid, or retarded go to a special place in hell. I’m college educated, 14 years as an IT manager until my position was outsourced to Geek Squad on an as needed basis. I’ve looked for other employment for nearly 2 years, it’s not happening, So now I’m just enjoying the tax free money I’m making, being written off entirely on using a BMW to deliver newspapers in. Once my mother passes away, everything will be sold and I’m moving to Europe, where jobs like mine aren’t allowed to pay this crappy, and everyone makes a livable wage.

      P.S. Tipping for carriers should be 10% of cover price of your subscription level. So if you’re sunday only on the tribune, $7-8 is acceptable. Multiple that amount by number of days a week you get service, Anything less, and your porch request will be the roof of the porch, and your tube will be up your ass.

  16. bravo369 says:

    This is exactly this reason why I think federal wiretapping laws for phones need to be updated so that every state is a one party state. This guy should be allowed to record all these phone calls where he was repeatedly told he was getting a refund. Since it never happened, he should be able to use those recordings in a small claims court for the $24.99 plus 10X that amount in damages for wasting his time and giving false information. The reason I say that needs to happen is so that multiple lawsuits and/or court decisions get some of these companies to start taking customer service seriously. It seems too often they will just say whatever they want to get you off the phone but have no intention of making it actually happen.

    • bravohotel01 says:

      Not to worry:

      1) (illegally, secretly) tape phone conversations
      2) Transcribe recordings, complete with times and dates
      3) Present transcriptions to court
      3a) Do not mention step 1
      4) Profit!

  17. miprofessor says:

    Yes, the numbers are confusing because no one who works at Times cust. svce understands their computer system.

    but here are the facts:

    NYT charged me $56.25 for the month of July, & not for 6 mos.

    They refunded me $18.75- no one can tell me why?
    1st cust svc supervisor promised me an immediate refund of $24.99, which I never received, and I do not how she came up with that figure.

  18. Gizmosmonster says:

    Gary wasn’t being asked to pay “double the subscription fee.” He was getting a half price newspaper deal, and got he upset because he was asked to pay what everyone else has to pay for his out of state subscription. He got a great deal for a while. The deal ended.

    I gladly pay for my subscription to the New York Times and to our local paper because I get a lot out of it. Most importantly, I know that I am paying for quality news coverage. And I believe the people writing and editing are getting paid a living wage, and that means something.

    We pay through ads in the papers, through ads on web sites, and through paid subscriptions in order to get the good stuff. And it is worth it. Those “free” sites- are aggregating the news, not reporting it. What happens when the aggregators drive the reporting sites out of business

    Every time a news outlet closes because everyone was getting it for free, we lose the information that paper or website or television was gathering and putting in context for us.

    You get what you pay for when it comes to news. Think about it.

    *disclosure- My husband is an investigative reporter/editor for a major (not NYT) metropolitan newspaper.

    • psm321 says:

      I think he’s more upset that they’re not properly refunding him for a cancellation of the full-price subscription. From what I read it sounds like he’s ok (just a bit annoyed) about paying the full price up until he noticed it.

  19. chemmy says:

    Even the AJC is in on the action. I buy 2-4 Sunday papers every week (for the coupons). However, to subscribe means it’s $4/paper whereas I can walk 2 min down to the gas station and get them 2 for $3.50 (list price is $2.00 on Sunday).

  20. PLATTWORX says:

    Sadly, the days when you can “just dump the subscription and get your news on the web”. are coming to an end. News costs millions for a newspaper to produce each year in salaries, etc. that no blog can duplicate. Those reading their newspaper online for free are enjoying a temporary free ride until most newspaper switch to a paid model in coming years.

    You don’t have to pay for print or online….. but if you want local news… you need to pay something. The fact that people expect their local news to be a free gift is amazing.

    • dg says:

      Bullshit. Information on the Internet wants to be free. So if ONE person subscribes – the information will be out there for all to see – somewhere. If the price is too high, several people will go in on a subscription and all will read it. They’ll share it with their other pals too.

      And what’s news? What one set of fools can discover and report, so can another. And that other may have a lower cost structure and decide to publish it for free. In which case, the paywall version doesn’t get any money and the free one does.

      The only way newspapers make any money is from classified ads, and regular ads. Classifieds used to be a freekin cash cow for them – now due to craigslist and their ilk, they’re not. So they get legal notices, and other ads.

      They need to survive on “legal notices” and “other ads”, and give the paper away for free. Yeah, they’ll make less money – but they’ll still make some good coin, and they’ll have a readership that will attract paying advertisers that want to hit that demographic. But if consumers can get something for free – they will – so they’ll pick up the Onion, or the RedEye and get their legal notices and ads there, and the rest will continue to die a slow, horrible death.

      Local news is nothing special – the reporters go to the meetings of various local councils and boards and whip up some 2 paragraph story. They show up and take pictures. People call them with their latest agenda item that they want to drive people to. Big whoop. Any retiree with a blog can do the same thing. So can any high school journalism student. So can anyone who goes to a meeting once in a while and contributes to a blog. So can a college student. Nothing special or in-depth about any of that.

      When’s the last time you saw an in-depth analysis of jack shit in a local paper?

  21. crazydavythe1st says:

    The only reason newspapers still have life is the fact that there are millions of people that still are used to reading news in print.

    For most people under around 25 or so, they’ve been able to access news via the web for the entire course of their lives in which they actually have cared to read the news. I don’t know anyone in this age group that gets the paper. Inevitably, someone will comment saying they know someone that does but I think it’s fair to say in general younger adults aren’t regular newspaper readers. For most twenty-something year olds, news has been and shall always be free. Newspapers don’t fit into that.

    Of course, the usual response of older people caught up in their romantic vision of “days gone by” is that people of my generation aren’t interested in the news and that young adults are too caught up in themselves to care about what is going on in the world. Despite all the evidence against this idea, it doesn’t really matter. It’s fun being in an underestimated demographic :)

    • Powerlurker says:

      I’m 26 years old, and I read the NY Times pretty much every day, but never in printed format. No amount of incentives could convince me to pay someone to bring a big pile of paper to my door every day; I’d prefer to read it online even if the paper edition was free and I had to pay for online access. Printed newspapers are a pain to read, the ink smudges on your hands, you’re constantly playing scavenger hunt and flipping back and forth because the first part of the article is on the front page while the rest of it is in the middle of another section. Online, I can open the newspaper’s website, skim the contents, open a new tab for every article that interests me and have the whole article right there without turning my hands gray.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I only subscribe to the Sunday Washington Post for the coupons. We browse the newspaper, but the biggest problem I have is that anything I read in the Sunday print edition is on the website by Monday – so I’ve basically read half the new content on the website already. What’s the point?

  22. Not Given says:

    I used to get the Sunday Oklahoman delivered, but after months of having to call the district manager and/or automated line every Sunday, sometimes I would call three times a day until he brought the thing to me. There were also multiple emails to customer service, which resulted only in having my subscription extended to make up for the missing paper, I gave up. When it finally came up for renewal again I dropped it. I took that paper for years and the last couple of years just sucked.

  23. MeowMaximus says:

    Hmm? The New York Times still exists? Curious…

  24. AllanG54 says:

    My wife buys the paper most days and I enjoy reading it quite a bit. Though it’s cheaper to subscribe to daily delivery we don’t do that because the people who deliver the paper expect weekly or at least monthly tips and something around the holidays as well. By the time all is said and done it’s no cheaper at all. May as well just get the paper when we want to.

  25. dg says:

    Just dump the subscription entirely, charge back the amounts put on your credit card, and if they dispute the chargeback and re-charge you – charge it back again, then call up an hour later and report your card lost so you get a new card number assigned. Just tell them what’s a valid charge on your account when they do the # change, and tell them that the NYT charges aren’t valid…

    Finally – just go online and get the news. No need to pay for news any longer…They can, and should, make all their money from advertisers…

  26. Jerem43 says:

    New York Time subscription services suck. I got the Boston Globe (The times owns the Boston Globe and Worcester Gazette) delivered to my house and the automatic billing would fail and I would stop getting the paper for lack of payment. I had been issued a new card due to a possible fraud issue with a card processing company. I would call Globe/Times customer service and was told each that the card had been declined to to an invalid number. When I asked them to read me the number back, it was a the number of a card that had been canceled. They would then process my current card and assure me that the card had been updated in the system, only to have the same thing happen again on the next billing cycle.

    I finally gave up on this and canceled my subscription, only to receive a collections letter six months later for failure to pay. It seems that their system never accepted the cancellation and kept trying to robo-bill the canceled card and eventually sent me to a collections agency for failure to pay a canceled account.

    On top of that, their delivery guy refused to get out of his car and put the paper in the walk way as requested. Every time it rained, the paper would get soaked as the cars driving on my street would hit the giant puddle that formed in the worn out rut in the asphalt. It turned out that the delivery guy, a Brazilian immigrant, couldn’t read English well enough to understand the instructions and didn’t ask any one to translate them.

  27. FrugalFreak says:

    1.Gets paper for half off =$180
    2.has to renew, Renews 6 months for $90
    3.OP owed $11.25 prorated for july subscription
    4.OP gets billed $56.25 instead of $11.25
    (doesn’t realize they are billing for 6 months OP had ordered *prepaid*)
    5 OP gets mad, wants full refund, talks to CSR, she says yes, then no, then yes, she says supervisor will call, Supervisor never calls.

  28. gman863 says:

    Hearst Newspapers (The Houston Chronicle) screw their subscribers over so badly it’s pathetic. Here’s a list of the shit that has personally happened to me over the past year:

    * When I initially subscribed, I specifically asked not to be put on an auto-renewal. While I was away taking care of my father for several weeks, I let the subscription lapse (or so I thought). Hearst kept delivering the paper for SIX WEEKS and had the balls to send me a “Past Due” bill! They claimed that, even though I stated I did not want auto-renewal, the fine print allows Hearst to deliver and bill me for it unless I specifically call to cancel.

    * The District Delivery Manager made several calls to my house in an attempt to get me to resubscribe. I finally made a deal to get the paper Thursday, Friday and Sunday only for $1.50 a week. Three weeks ago, I received a letter from The Chronicle telling me I would now be receiving the Saturday paper whether I liked it or not, my rate is being upped to $2/week and the 26 weeks I paid in advance will be shortened to reflect this change.

    * I receive an e-mail every morning (7 days a week) stating “Your Houston Chronicle e-Edition is ready for viewing at 5:30 AM”, although my login only allows me to view the online editions for non-delivery days (Mon.-Wed.). When I sent an e-mail to the Chronicle’s customer service department, they said they would fix it. It’s been three weeks – NOT!

    It’s obvious Patty Hearst wasn’t kidnapped by the SLA – her bank robbery spree was just an internship for her current position as the head of Hearst’s subscriber services.