Dear Magazines: please quit screwing loyal subscribers

When my main credit card got yanked for some kind of fraud activity earlier this month (as it seems all of them do, sooner or later) I had the unpleasant task of going back over my bills to see what companies I’d need to give a new credit card number. Among those many (Amazon, Apple, PayPal, Dish Network, EasyPass…) were a bunch of magazines that get renewed annually. These include:

My wife, who is more mindful of money and scams than I am, urged me to stop subscribing automatically to all of them, because all their rates are lowest only for new subscribers. So I looked back through my last year’s bills to see what I was paying for each, and then at what they pitched new subscribers directly, or though Amazon.

Only Consumer Reports‘ price appears (at least in my case) to be lower for existing subscribers than for new ones. All the rest offer their lowest prices only to new subscribers.

Take The New Yorker for example. It’s my favorite weekly: one to which I have been subscribing for most of my adult life. Here’s my last automatic payment, from July of last year:

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 6.06.55 PM

Now here is the current lowest price on the New Yorker website:

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 6.11.01 PM

That doesn’t give me the price for a year. So I hit the chat button and got an agent named Blaise B. Here is what followed:

New Yorker chat

Meanwhile, here is the New Yorker deal on Amazon:

NewYorker-amazondealIt’s the same $12 for 12 weeks, with no mention of cost after that. Nor is there any mention of the true renewal price.

How is this not about screwing loyal subscribers? That it’s pro forma for most magazines? No. It’s just wrong — especially for a magazine with subscribers as loyal as The New Yorker‘s.

So I won’t be renewing any of those magazines, other than Consumer Reports. I’ll let them lapse and then re-subscribe, if I feel like it, as a new subscriber.

Meanwhile I will continue to urge solving this the only way it can be solved across the board: from the customer’s side. I explained this three years ago, here.


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9 Responses to Dear Magazines: please quit screwing loyal subscribers

  1. Good morning, Doc. You might want to check with your local library. Mine offers magazine checkout for free via Zinio. They have maybe 150 magazines for checkout and will send you an email whenever a new issue is available. You need to read them on a device screen, but free isn’t bad.

    • Doc Searls says:

      Thanks, Gary. I appreciate what libraries do, and take advantage of them as often as I can. The point of the post, however, is about bad acting by most major magazines — and good acting by one of them.

      By the way, when I started to write this post I had a pile of research accumulated in the form of many open tabs, but lost them when they scrolled off Chrome’s history, which only goes back a few days. I should have opened the tabs in Firefox, which keeps them for as long as one likes. Live and learn.

      • I think I neglected to make my point well, Doc. It was that you could perhaps eliminate the bills altogether without having to leave your home. The addition of Zinio to the mix was a difference maker for me. I still spend a fair amount of time in my local library, but being able to check out magazines from home electronically is pretty cool.

        I used to subscribe to Bloomberg Businessweek, but haven’t for perhaps two years. They still try to woo me back from time to time. The offer (with a complimentary copy of the magazine) earlier this week was the special “financial advisor’s rate”. That was good for a chuckle. I’m an engineer!

  2. Stephanie Schweighofer-Jones says:

    hey Doc
    Dare I say that I think the problem is far more serious and incredibly bad than what you outlined here… I had a recent experience with Uber in LA that turned into an inane exchange of emails with a customer service rep where as I got more and more irritated and demanding re their lack of proactivity the customer service person responding continued to be extremely nice and respond in directly to everything I was saying. And then the light went on for me when I realized that I was emailing with a machine.

    If that’s the relationship that they want to have with me, which means no relationship at all, then fine it will be no relationship at all… Your story reminds me of that…. Your txt session sounded like it wasn’t a real person

    • Doc Searls says:

      Hey Stephanie.

      Bummed to hear that Uber service failed the Turing test. Not surprised, though. I also hadn’t thought that my New Yorker chat correspondent wasn’t human. Could be he or she wasn’t.

      But things can turn around. We had awfu experience with AirBnB a couple years ago, but we’re back dealing with them now.

      And, for what it’s worth, I’ve now had (lemme check…) 35 Uber rides: in New York, L.A., Santa Barbara, London, Melbourne and Sydney, and all of them have been fine. But, bad things sometimes happen.

      It helps to remember that it’s all experimental.

  3. dani ramdani says:

    usually risk anything if we use a credit card?

  4. Eric says:

    This has been going on for years. I used to play the let-it-lapse then re-subscribe game, until I decided that I just didn’t care enough to re-subscribe.

    It was a bad policy then, and it’s a bad policy now.

  5. earnedlinks says:

    “By the way, when I started to write this post I had a pile of research accumulated in the form of many open tabs, but lost them when they scrolled off Chrome’s history, which only goes back a few days. I should have opened the tabs in Firefox, which keeps them for as long as one likes. Live and learn”

    …uggh don’t get me started on the shortcoming of chrome. Firefox is my staple brower as well 🙂

    Thanks for the comedy relief DOC


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