We used to pick up The New York Times at the corner store every Sunday. We moved last September, though, and no store within walking distance carries it. So we signed up for home delivery. That was almost five months ago, and they haven’t yet figured out how to get us the paper.
We only subscribed to the Sunday edition, which presents a (very) slight challenge in that the Sunday paper is delivered over two days: the magazine and some other sections on Saturday, the remainder on Sunday. But still, it’s been five months, and their track record sucks: Sometimes no paper at all. Sometimes nothing on Saturday, then half the paper on Sunday. For a while we got nothing on Saturday and two identical half-papers on Sunday. For a few happy months we actually got the paper as expected, half on each day. Then last week we got nothing at all, and this weekend we got nothing on Saturday followed by two Sunday halves.
Before we moved our Sunday ritual was to sink into the paper (“like slipping into a warm bath,” as Tom Wolfe said) over a leisurely breakfast. Now our ritual is to call subscription services, wait forever, and then struggle with a sullen and uncooperative Times customer service person.
Though it isn’t perfect, I love the Times, and would really like to have it delivered. But five months of effort was too much, and after yesterday’s snafu we gave up and cancelled our subscription. Or tried anyway–I expect they’ll screw that up too.
Driving your customers crazy isn’t a good policy under any circumstances, but it seems particularly unwise when your industry is in a death spiral. I have no doubt that eventually the Times will figure out how to transition to a healthy online business model. But in the meanwhile you’d think they’d make it as easy as possible for people who want to give them money for the print edition to do so*, instead of shooting holes in the bottom of their sinking ship.
* The other possibility: this is all William Safire’s doing.