Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Paper It's Printed On

Remember a little while ago when I wryly observed that the people who deliver my newspaper every morning have a difficult time landing the paper on the driveway?

Well, things have gotten worse. It seems like just about every morning, I have to look around for a while before I find the paper. I don't mind that so much, since the daily challenge helps keep my mind alert. But on Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, I went out to get the paper and I couldn't find it in any of the usual hiding places. Mystified but undaunted, I continued my search and eventually located it in the street, by the curb, soaking wet in its plastic bag, and securely fixed under the tire of a big truck that was parked in front of my house while the truck's owner attended a yard sale across the street and down a few houses.

An hour or so later, when I went outside to check again, the truck was gone and I was able to retrieve what had essentially become a bag of papier-mâché pulp, but long before that happened I decided to change my subscription to Sundays only. (As you will recall, doing the crossword puzzle is part of my Sunday ritual. As a matter of fact, it is the only part of my Sunday ritual. After that, anything goes.)

So I went to the newspaper's web site and clicked my way to the subscription and billing section. What I found was that it was very easy to "upgrade" (their term) my subscription -- from weekends only to daily delivery, for example -- but it was impossible to "downgrade" it. For that, I would need to call the subscriptions department on the phone.

I didn't think I should have to do that, but it was just a minor inconvenience. And it was nothing like the annoying experience I once had with The New Yorker's web site for managing subscriptions. A few years ago, I renewed my subscription to The New Yorker online. I chose the two-year subscription, because the per-issue cost was less than it was for the one-year subscription. I entered my credit card number and chose the option for automatic renewal. In my naïveté, I assumed that after two years, my subscription would be automatically renewed for another two years at whatever the two-year rate was at that time. But it wasn't. After two years, I was automatically renewed for one year, at a rate that was almost as expensive as the newsstand price.

Fortunately, they notified me via email a few weeks in advance, so I had time to go back to their web site and change my preferences. Unfortunately, there was no way to change the setting for automatic renewal. And there was no way to cancel my subscription and resubscribe at the lower two-year rate. So I had to call up the subscription department and have them do that for me. Everything worked out fine, but I really don't like the idea of being able to set an option online and not being able to change it later.

Anyway, I called up the newspaper and navigated through their phone menu. I finally got to speak to someone, and when I told her I wanted to change my subscription to Sundays only, she immediately tried to get me to reconsider by offering me a lower rate for a daily subscription. I told her it wouldn't do much good if the paper was unreadable half the time, so she switched me over to someone else.

When I told her I wanted to change my subscription to Sundays only, she told me that she could do that, but Sunday-only delivery costs the same as weekend-only delivery, and that with a weekend-only subscription I'd actually be getting a paper from Thursday through Sunday.

Well, I like the idea of a four-day weekend just as much as anyone else, but something about this whole arrangement seemed sort of weird to me. The woman on the phone was used to dealing with customers like me, however, so she decided to give me a daily subscription at half the cost of what I was currently paying, and which was only a few pennies more than the weekend-only subscription.

So I suppose things ended up working out okay. I'm paying half of what I used to pay, and I'm still getting a newspaper every morning. Of course, I still have to play my little detective game every morning in order to find the paper, but as I said, it keeps the mind alert. And yes, sometimes the paper is sort of damp from being watered by the sprinklers, but as I pointed out before, I never read it every day anyway.

Of course, there's still the negative environmental impact of all those newspapers I'm getting and all those plastic bags they come in. I recycle them, but I'm aware that recycling isn't everything it's cracked up to be.

And then there's the incontrovertible fact that I don't really even need the Sunday paper, since I can do the same crossword puzzle online at their web site.