Newspaper Foolishness

The newspaper industry is hurting. Circulation is in a long-term downward trend for almost all major newspapers. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram recognizes the problem and has a unique solution.

The solution is to cut back on customer service. Antagonize the customer in any ways possible and let them know they are unimportant.

Sounds insane, doesn’t it? But that’s what’s happening.

When my wife and I go out of town, we always call to stop the paper until we return. We used to talk to a live person when we did that, but, of course, it’s become de rigeur for all businesses to impersonalize everything as much as possible, so for several years now, we’ve had to press ‘one’ for this and ‘two’ for that in order to get it stopped.

Although impersonal, the system worked. They would stop delivery until the date we told them to restart, and they would credit our account for the cost of the days missed.

Sometime recently, they stopped this with no announcement. When we returned home from a weekend trip, we found three papers scattered on our porch, so my wife called the newspaper office. After several attempts, she managed to get through to a live person, who told her our only options now are either to have them saved and delivered when we get home or donate them to some program of theirs. Since she had not chosen either option, they ignored the stop.

They have a special aggravation for crossword and anagram users. They print them on page two of a section, so that the reader is forced to refold the paper to work them. I don’t know about you, but I can’t fold them exactly along the crease, so I end up with the paper all antigoggling.

It would be so easy to put them on page three so we could just slip that part of the paper out of the section, or—even better—on the back page, where they could be accessed without any problem, but they won’t do it. I’ve talked to the Senior VP/Executive Editor, a man named Dim—oops, Jim—Witt, and his attitude is basically that of Marie Antoinette who, when told the peasants didn’t have enough bread to eat, said, “Let them eat cake.” He made it clear that he was not concerned with the convenience of his customers.

I guess these people are all hoping the whole industry will go broke so they will lose their jobs and can draw unemployment or welfare or something.

What insane experiences have you had with your local newspaper or with other companies intent on cutting their own noses off to spite their faces?

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We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

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For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tab above.

For more information about his books, click on “Books” above.

Contact him at dnwalkertx (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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17 Responses to Newspaper Foolishness

  1. I was ordering a few magazines from outside the country. Even though they ensured me they would be delivered for a fix amount and be here within latest two days after publishing date, I got an invoice triple the prize of the Magazines only for transportation and hardly ever got it earlier than 7 – 10 days after publishing date. After three months I had it and cancelled the subscription.
    And then they called me to ask why… (?)

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  2. David – This post is so right on and captures the feelings most of us have regarding newspaper delivery and reading. Tom and I originally read 5 daily papers, each delivered to our home before 4 a.m. daily. When we weren’t at the residence, it was my secretary’s responsibility to act as my reading service and we’d been together long enough, she knew what I would want for my work and Tom for his plus general information we might both be interested in. That system worked well when we lived in California and DC but for other areas of the United States — not so much. There’s nothing worse than a day-old newspaper. If the paper is a day old, it best arrive with fresh fish wrapped in it for it has use for little else.
    My father read the local county seat paper daily from the time it started sometime in the late 20s I believe. My parents didn’t have a lot of money but they were both well informed their entire lives. It was difficult receiving world news where they elected to make their living in rural Kansas. Of course there was no home delivery and Dad would have to pick up the paper once a week or sometimes every other week when he made a trip by horseback into town to pick up the weekly supplies.
    I’m with other commenters who’ve posted above. Don’t ask me to read a newspaper or magazine digitally. Much of my work these days must be done digitally and I’m giving my eyes a rest when I open a favorite newspaper or magazine.
    I’m also with you and some of your readers – I dislike pushing a slew of menu buttons before I can possibly talk to a live person and then that person doesn’t speak English. Call me whatever you want but – if someone wants to live in the United States of America – I cordially invite them to learn our language. As you know, in the 20 years I worked for the US government, I worked in over 10 countries and didn’t expect my host to speak English. Likewise, when foreign agents were working a case in the United States, they spoke impeccable English.
    Finally, what I really stopped by to let you know is that on my next blog I’m quoting a comment you made on my Veteran’s Statistics blog.
    Tom has been seriously ill the past 7 months and I’ve been away from blogging and everything else for most of that time. I’m trying to catch up and you know how that goes when your world has been turned upside down.
    David, we are in need of prayers. Tom is medically ill and could lose his foot from a medical misdiagnosis. He’s been in excruciating pain since September. Thank you, Sheri

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  3. Sandra N. Allison-Holt says:

    The Austin Statesman lost my subscription. My neighbor and I share the paper and I pay her half of the bill. I read it in the am and she reads it in the pm. so far that has worked, I copy anything that I want to save when I see it in the paper. I understand that the subscription has doubled its bill, so don’t know if we will continue with our procedule.

    Sandra

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    • Hello Sandra, We have not doubled our subscription rates. The only way that would happen is if your neighbor was on a very discounted promotional rate and it has moved to our normal rate. Please feel free to give me a call to look at your subscription rate. 817-390-7182. Christian Lee, VP of Audience Development

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  4. They’re not the only newspaper with Customer Service Problems! People were just complaining about poor CS with a Denver newspaper too… I think they’re cutting funds from the wrong areas… What a conundrum for the poor newspapers cause CS is an expensive part, but if they don’t have good CS, customers will leave…

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    • Hello Jennifer, We take customer service very seriously at the Star-Telegram. We have re-organized an entire division to allocate more resources to customer service. We absolutely agree that good service retains good customers. My phone number is printed in the newspaper everyday. If you are not getting good service through our customer service representatives, please call me directly. Christian Lee, VP of Audience Development

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  5. Hello David,
    Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns about our customer service. Let me add some insight to your concerns. In August 2012, our subscription offerings changed to include our various digital products. This included unlimited access to our e-edition, website and various news apps. Subscriptions to the Star-Telegram content became available throughout the day and not just once a day with the printed product at your home. At that time, we changed our policy for temporary stop requests. You continue to have access to your subscription 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on any device that has web access. We will hold the printed newspapers and deliver them when you return to catch up on news, advertising and other information that was produced while you were away or you can donate the value of those newspapers to local school readership programs. This is something that other services, such as cable tv or other content providers, do not provide when you subscribe to their services. We do offer many ways to access your subscription for temporary stops, payments or general inquiries. I see that you use the telephone prompt option, but we also have a web portal and live agents Monday – Friday 7:00 am – 3:00 pm and Sunday from 7:00 am until noon. This option is available by pressing 0. In the next couple of months, we will be enhancing our automated telephone option to include voice activation and soon a mobile app. Again, working to provide solutions that readers demand today. We will continue to have live agents as noted above. Two points to end on, the Star-Telegram has more subscribers today than we had last year at this time. In 2014, the Star-Telegram supported over 120 local charities, non-profits, civic and social organizations with over $1.8 million in support. Over 300 local Star-Telegram employees work everyday to provide the best service and content to our community. You input is valuable to me, so I can continue to provide this. Thank you again. I hope my response provides some additional information. Christian Lee, Vice President of Audience Development

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    • Thanks, Christian. I mistook your first reply as being from Austin. I don’t like reading the S-T online, but you do make a valid point. I’ve read the S-T since early 1950’s and really care about it. Your reply makes me feel better. I’ll study the options you mentioned.

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  6. Donald Sneed says:

    Yep, it looks like the Star-Telegram is on the way down.A while ago they tried eliminating a part of the Crossword page and it resulted in such howl of protest they had to back down. Some time ago I called in about a missed paper.They gave me a choice: deliver a stale paper or get a statement credit.I opted for the latter and they never credited my statement. I guess the ST knows its the “only game in town” and “let them eat cake”. I’m feeling much better now and thank the dear ones at Primetimers for their prayers. Love in Him, D.S.

    Sent from my iPad

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    • Hello Donald,
      When a subscriber calls in a missed delivery – and it happens when we deliver papers to 117,000 subscribers – we offer them a re-delivery if available or credit them for the missed newspaper. I only see one missed delivery complaint on your file since 2013 and you were issued a credit for that day. You can always see your account status and any missed delivery credits on your account through our customer service site. Just go to the customer service section at star-telegram.com. You will see a link at the very top of the home page. If you ever have a question, please do not hesitate to call our customer service department or me personally. My contact information is always printed on page A2. Christian Lee, VP of Audience Development

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  7. Sharon K. Walker says:

    Alas, customer service is not nearly as good as it used to be. I am so tired of getting a recording with a menu, when what I desire is to speak to a live voice. Sometimes there is a rep, but often one with a heavy accent, which poses a communication problem. I realize that companies are trying to cut costs, but by doing this, they frequently end up cutting customers, too. The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram used to be home-owned, and it was much more customer-friendly. Now our newspaper is but a marionette, operated by McClatchy Co.

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    • Thanks, Sharon. Sad to see this paper, which I’ve read for 65 years or so, fall into this state.

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    • Hello Sharon,
      Although we offer a phone based automated system, we have live customer service representatives available Monday – Friday from 7:00 am – 3:00 pm and Sunday from 7:00 am until noon. Just press 0 with the menu options. My Audience Services Director audits calls every week. I jump on occasionally also. I cannot say I have ever heard anyone with a strong accent. Our call center is in the United States handling several of the McClatchy newspapers. Let me assure you that our business is run locally by people who live in this community. If you ever have a customer service issue that is not handled to your satisfaction, please call me directly. My contact information is printed every day on page A2. We will make sure it is handled correctly and coach the representative that did not hit the mark. Thank you, Christian Lee, VP of Audience Development

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