Starting with just one magazine: The New Yorker.
I’ve subscribed to The New Yorker for most of my life. As an adjective, loyal doesn’t cover what that magazine means to me. But wholly shit, they sure make subscribing a pain in the ass.
So here goes just one accounting of just one of the series of attempts on my part to make subscribing to The New Yorker work for me, and not just for their @#$%^& subscription system. Let’s start with this email a couple months ago from The_New_Yorker@e-mail.condenast.com:
Why did they “need” a “confirmation” to a subscription that, best I could recall, was last renewed early this year?
So I looked at the links.
The “renew,” Confirmation Needed” and “Discounted Subscription” links all go to a page with a URL that began with https://subscriptions.newyorker.com/pubs/N3/NYR/ob_renewal_prem.jsp, followed by a lot of tracking cruft. Here’s a screenshot of that one, cut short of where one fills in a credit card number. Note the price:
I was sure I had been paying $80-something per year, for years. As I also recalled, this was a price one could only obtain by calling the 800 number at NewYorker.com.
Or somewhere. After digging around, I found it at
https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/N3/NYR/account_summary.jsp, which is where the link to Customer Care under My Account on the NewYorker website goes. It also required yet another login.
So, when I told the representative at the call center that I’d rather not “confirm” a year for a “discount” that wasn’t, she said I could renew for the $89.99 I had paid in the past, and that the deal would be good through February of 2022. I said fine, let’s do that. Then I gave her my credit card, said this was way too complicated, and added that a single simple subscription price would be better. She replied, “Never gonna happen.” Let’s repeat that:
Never gonna happen.
Then I got this by email:
This appeared to confirm the subscription I already had. To see if that was the case, I went back to the buysub.com website and looked under the Account Summary tab, where it said this:
I think this means that I last renewed on February 3 of this year, and what I did on the phone in August was commit to paying $89.99/year until February 10 of 2022.
If that’s what happened, all my call did was extend my existing subscription. Which was fine, but why require a phone call for that?
And WTF was the “Account Confirmation Required” email about? I assume it was bait to switch existing subscribers into paying $50 more per year.
Then there was this, at the bottom of the Account summary page:
This might explain why I stopped getting Vanity Fair, which I suppose I should still be getting.
So I clicked on”Reactivate and got a login page where the login I had used to get this far didn’t work.
After other failing efforts that I neglected to write down, I decided to go back to the New Yorker site and then work my way back through two logins to the same page, and click Reactivate one more time. Voila! ::::::
So now I’ve got one page that tells me I’m good to March 2021 next to a link that takes me to another page that says I ordered 12 issues last December and I can “start” a new subscription for $15 that would begin nine months ago. This is how one “reactivates” a subscription? OMFG.
Note that this is just one subscription inquiry. I’m not going into the hell of moving the print subscription back and forth between the two places where I live. Nor will I bother now, in October, to ask why I haven’t seen another copy of Vanity Fair. (Maybe they’re going to the other place. Maybe not. I don’t know, and I’m too weary to try finding out.)
I want to be clear here that I am not sharing this to complain. In fact, I don’t want The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wred, Condé Nast (their parent company), or buysub.com to do a damn thing. They’re all FUBAR. By design. (Bonus link.)
Nor do I want any action out of Spectrum, SiriusXM, Dish Network, or the other subscription-based service providers whose customer disservice systems have also recently soaked up many hours of my life.
See, with too many subscription systems (especially ones for periodicals), FUBAR is the norm. Pro forma. Entrenched. They are boxes outside of which nobody making, managing, or working in those systems can think. This is why, when an alien idea appears, for example from a loyal customer just wanting a single and simple damn price, the response is “Never gonna happen.”
This is also why the subscription fecosystem can only be turned into an ecosystem from the outside. Our side. The subscribers’ side.
[November 2022…] Since I wrote this, Rocket Money (formerly Truebill) and Trim have emerged as the leading competing services in this space. A review of the former here lays out the kinds of services both offer. My two problems with both are 1) they seem to only work on phones, and 2) they deal with the status quo (of companies out to screw us) rather than with the need for new customer-based solutions to the whole systemic subscription problem.