A couple invoices came in the mail that have me questioning two longtime subscriptions to print publications I've read and valued for years.
Newsweek sent me a notice to renew the subscription I've maintained annually since the mid-1980s. Unless you've been in a cave recently, you know that Newsweek is up for sale. Its owners, The Washington Post Co., bluntly said in announcing the sale, "We do not see a path to continuing profitability under our management." Not a good circulation builder.
If Washington Post sees no future for the company, why would I want to renew for one year let alone three, as the invoice suggests to save money? It's sad because I think the magazine provides context to the craziness of our 24-7 news cycle. But I'm not stupid. Sadly, a 35-year relationship is about to come to an end barring some kind of last-minute rescue.
The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal sent me a invoice to renew my print/online subscription for $479.96, a savings off the full price of $759.20. Yep, that's no typo. That's serious change.
Here's what drives me crazy: I just got a WSJ subscription offer at work offering a $9.99 per month "professional courtesy rate" for print and online.
This latest $480 offer to renew my home subscription is part of a song and dance WSJ and I have had the last few years: I refuse to pay exhorbitant renewal fees so end up waiting for the inevitable "introductory" or "professional" offer, which I find to be a great value. Then, after a year, they send me renewal offers that are 60, 100, 200% higher than the introductory price (this latest one is the most egregious yet). So every year, when I refuse to pay what I consider an outrageous renewal, they cut me off (and only then a few months after my subscription has run out). At which point, I either re-subscribe using whatever work or home address I'm not currently using (so I can qualify for their introductory rate) or cash in frequent flier miles for an annual subscription.
It's crazy. If WSJ would just give me one fair deal year after year that's higher than their rock-bottom intro offer, I would be fine. I'd be willing to pay more than that if I felt like they didn't take me for a fool. But even when I call into customer service to reason with them, they insist on sticking to hard and fast rules that don't make sense. Playing this silly game every year does nothing to build goodwill with a subscriber who first signed on nearly 20 years ago. At my age, I'm starting to lose the energy for the fight.
I just re-upped for The Wall Street Journal in print and online for another year but had to play the same stupid game.
I called the Journal and talked with a very nice gentleman who politely told me that the $479 renewal price was the best he could do. This at a time when I have been getting email and direct mail offers for far less than half that price. As I've noted before, I am willing to pay more than the introductory price for WSJ but not a 250% increase.
So, as I've done in year's past, I mentioned those lower offers and said, "Surely you have a deal where we can meet halfway." Nope. Here's the sad part: He had obviously dealt with frustrated subscribers like me before because he told me, speaking somewhat in code, that with a little work I could find a better price elsewhere. He politely added that even after my subscription ended I would continue to get the paper for a month or so, just in case I needed a little extra time to find a better price.
In a world where businesses love for you to order direct -- and reward customers who do -- and avoid the high costs of obtaining new customers, I was being told to go elsewhere to subscribe to something I wanted.
So, within minutes after getting off the phone, I pulled up the email offer WSJ had sent to my work address several days before and resubscribed online for one year of print home delivery and online access for $140.
I hope, hope, hope that I'm not posting another follow-up this time next year.
Follow-up II: So it's been a year since I whined about WSJ trying to jack up my subscription by 80 percent.
Well, good news: WSJ hit me up for a sizable increase to renew at $210 a year for an "all you can eat" subscription. That includes six-day home delivery of the newspaper, online access and the excellent iPad app, which previously had been something like $17 per month just by itself.
That's a hefty 33 percent YOY subscription increase but within my expectations. So I re-upped without hesitation.
See how easy that was, WSJ?