Saturday, September 02, 2006

Hello, Dwell Magazine? Roll yourself up and ...

. . . stick yourself up your ass.

What is it with magazines? For years, they've been marketing themselves via the old "free trial issue" gambit. For years, I've been taking those free trial issues and writing "cancel" on the invoices. That usually works, but of course there is the odd exception like the lunkheads at Consumer Reports.

A little while ago, I got another of these offers from Dwell magazine. It seemed interesting enough, so I requested my free issue. In late July or early August, I received, on the same day, the current (at that time) issue, plus the one that came before. OK, trick number one with these guys. Assuming I sign up for the full subscription, they're going to say they already sent me two issues, even though one of them was out-of-date.

Now, in this case, I actually enjoyed the magazine enough that I decided to go ahead and pay for the subscription. I don't yet have the cancelled check in front of me, but I know it cleared my bank on 8/21, and from a phone call earlier today, I know that they processed it on 8/17.

Today I get a letter, dated 8/17, telling me that my subscription "remains unpaid after three months." WTF? I didn't even know what Dwell was three months ago, I've only received two issues (one of them outdated, as mentioned above), so they must have some interesting calendars there at subscription HQ. This letter goes on to blather about their "good faith" and how they offered me this "grace period." In other words, they pretty much am saying I'm a lousy deadbeat.

I immediately checked my bank account online and saw when the check had cleared, then I called the number on the letter. The young woman on the phone tells me my payment had been received on 8/17 (same day this letter was generated) and wants to get by with just the old "they must have crossed in the mail." I'm not buying it. First of all, even at their worst, it doesn't take two weeks for the post office to deliver mail. Second of all, I don't like the tone of this letter. I tell her to cancel my subscription and refund my money. She starts to tell me something about when the next issue will arrive, so I have to cut her off and repeat myself. Then she says I'll still receive the November issue (WTF?) and get a pro-rated refund after that. Not acceptable. She says there's nothing she can do, it's up to "the refund department." Not acceptable. She finally gets a "supervisor" on the line, who promises me he'll take care of things, but I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Do I get to send a letter to them in two weeks impugning their integrity?

Here's the thing. I know these magazines are using some subscription service place. I know that it's in Harlan, Iowa, because that's where the payments all go to. These are the same people that were "handling" the Consumer Reports subscription. Some dickweed with an MBA is probably crafting these letters, and providing scripts for the phone reps.

The problem for all these magazines is that they keep this all transparent. They oursource this "service" to Chuckleheads, Inc, Harlan, IA 51593, and allow the magazine name to be used. So who do I get pissed at? Dwell. Consumer Reports. Whoever.

This letter was signed by a "George Frost, Business Manager." I went to the Dwell website and of course there is no sign that such a person exists. Dickweed MBA probably decided it was an authoritative sounding name and title to put at the bottom the letter.

Look, I work for an outsourcing company, but I am quite careful to never imply that I represent Large Insurance Company, Inc. My mom was always big on the saying "a person is known by the company he keeps." I'd have to say that a company is known by the people it keeps, directly or not.

It's just as well, I don't need any more extra paper coming into the house anyway.


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