Friday, November 16, 2007

About Magazine Subscriptions

Most of the time, I don't subscribe to magazines.

It's not that I don't like magazines. I love them. Here and there, for about a year at a time, I've subscribed to The Nation, The Atlantic, The Sun, Harper's, Parabola, and others that don't come to mind. Then there are the magazines I buy when I'm prowling bookstores: Glimmer Train, Poetry, Paris Review, Brick, Zzyzyva. I adore them all. Lately, I don't read them as much because I don't prowl bookstores as much.

This is why, we are told, we should subscribe! Subscribe and have the magazine delivered to your house, by gum, and you just might save money off the cover price in the bargain. Well, that sounds nice. It's a joy to receive a fresh new magazine in the day's mail, stuffed with good reading.

There is, however, a "man on the moon" question here. You know what I mean, right? These are questions prefaced with the phrase: "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we....?" My man-on-the-moon question with respect to magazine subscriptions is, why are my magazine subscriptions always messed up?

For one thing, it seems like every magazine uses the same automated subscription service headquartered in Iowa. That's where your bills come from, and that's where you send your money. There seems to be one company doing the billing for all the magazines - and there is always a problem with my subscription.


  • Missed bills.

  • Double bills.

  • Double subscriptions (which means double billing, and the possibility of going into collections even though you've paid for a subscription).

  • Name problems, address problems.

  • Frequent billing for renewals - after I've renewed.

Recently I decided to subscribe to The Atlantic again. They just keep publishing articles I want to read, damn them. And the lunacy has begun right away: a couple of days after receiving my first issue, I get my first bill.

The bill says: "SECOND NOTICE" and relays a condescending message about how paying my subscription fee "must have slipped my mind."

Meanwhile, I've been trying to subscribe to their website to read the stuff they are putting up there. This appears to be a simple process: you just type in your 10-digit account number and your ZIP code. I can handle that. The problem is, the website looks over my 10-digit account number and tells me it doesn't recognize my subscription. It's sort of like the maitre d' who goes, "Hmmmm. I don't seem to have you on my list. Could it be under some other name, monsieur?"

So I wrote to the help desk: Hi. I put my 10-digit account number in correctly, but it doesn't recognize the account number and will not subscribe me to the website. Can you help?

And a few days later, I get this email back from them: Thank you for emailing us with your question. To subscribe, simply put in your 10-digit account number.

Are these magazine subscription people going to participate in the Iowa caucuses? If so, anything is liable to happen.

1 comment:

Praveen said...

Well stated! I wonder why magazine publishers don't get it. The only explanation I can come up with is that they are so desperate for revenue/ sales that customer service and experience takes a back seat.