I’ve Got a Bone to Pick with USA Today

I have always loved the USA Today newspaper. This irritated my father (RIP) to no end. He thought I should be reading the NY Times or the WSJ. Just like he thought I should have dumped my subscription to Rolling Stone and picked one up for the New Yorker. He may have even thrown out that line about it being time to “give up childish things”. I ignored him, of course.

The USA Today had/has the best sports section of any newpaper. Certainly it was light years beyond anything ever produced by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and that is/was a fine paper. But I am a man who loves his sports, and so I insisted on getting that paper delivered. I also enjoyed the other sections, although not quite so much. I liked the “purple section” (Life) on Fridays, because it had very well-written movie reviews and I am a big fan of the movies.

I subscribed to the paper for home delivery for well over 20 years. But the internet, as we all know, has been the death knell for many printed publications, which is why we see more and more newspapers and publishing companies going out of business. I fought giving up my subscription for a long time, but ultimately, I decided it had gotten too expensive, and I could get all the sports infomration I needed in a nanosecond from the internet.

So when my subscription was starting to run out, they started sending the obligatory notices “Renew NOW for the best rates!” or “Your subscription will run out shortly, so we suggest you renew it today”

I did what I have always done when I no longer wanted to receive a publication. I simply ignored the notices. I said to myself “Well I am not renewing, so they’ll stop sending them when the current subscription runs out.”

But the date came and went, and I kept getting the paper. I thought,”well maybe my carrier hasn’t gotten the word. USA Today will figure it out though, and it will stop soon”.

Only it didn’t. So after a few more weeks, I called the paper and told the guy in subscriptions “I just wanted to let you know that I let my subscription lapse, but you’re still sending me papers.” The guy on the other end of the line tries to talk me into renewing, saying things like “I see here you have been a long-time loyal subscriber Mr. Beeland. We can spread the payments out if you would like.” And I just said, “No. No thanks. I just want to end the subscription. But it’s been a great run, and I have really enjoyed reading it all these years.”

Kind of a melancholy moment as I said goodbye to an old friend.

Then about two weeks later I get a bill for something like $26.47.

So I called the subscription department, and the conversation went something like this:

John: Yes, I just received a bill from you for $26.47, even though I stopped my subscription at the ned of the last cycle. Why is that?

USA Today: Well I see here that you still received a number of papers after the subscription lapsed.

John: Yes, that’s right, I thought that was simply an oversight on your part. I figured you would catch the error and stop sending me papers when you didn’ get my renewal.

USA Today: No sir. When you kept receiving papers, you should have notified us.

John: No, that’s not the way it works. When you sent me the renewal notices, multiple times, and I didn’t respond, that meant I no longer wanted to subscribe.

USA Today: Well you can’t just continue getting free issues like that, sir.

John: I never intended to get free issues. As I told you, I intentionally let the subscription lapse. So the fact I kept getting them was your fault, not mine.

USA Today: Well I will make a notation on your account, sir.

John: So you’re taking the charge off, then?

USA Today: Well, no sir. You continued to receive the issues and didn’t notify us.

John: May I speak to your supervisor, please?

Supervisor gets on the phone, and we basically go all the way through the same rigmarole all over again.

Supervisor: We can’t just give you these free issues, sir.

John: You don’t seem to understand how the publishing industry works. If you send me a renewal notice, and I don’t send it back with my check, the subscription then comes to an end. The fact that you kept sending me papers is your error, not mine.

Supervisor: Well we will make a notation on your account, sir.

John: So you’re removing the charge?

Supervisor: No sir, we are making a note of how you feel about the situation.

John: How? By putting a little frowny face next to my name? I guess I need to go up one more level.

Supervisor’s Supervisor: How may I help you sir?

Explanation (with sharp tone of agitation) ensues.

SS: Well it was really on you to call us.

John: Baloney. I have been subscribing to this newspaper for over 20 years. It is quite clear who is in the wrong here, and it is not I.

SS: Well sir, I can remove the charge this one time, but I will have to notate that on your account.

John: How are you gonna do that? With a big growling dog emoticon and the number 1 next to it?

SS: There’s no need for sarcasm, sir.

John: I have been on the phone with you people for over 20 minutes, so I think there is an excessive need for sarcasm, actually.

SS: So will that be all, sir?

John: It will if you have removed the charge? Did you remove it?

SS: Yes sir.

John: Then yes, that will be all.

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