Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Is Cancelling The New York Times Today Like Cancelling AOL in Days Gone By?

I recently signed up online for a digital subscription to The New York Times, a newspaper for which I have great respect. In my opinion, The New York Times is the best written American newspaper. The paper has high standards.

Although I am happy to pay for a newspaper I have never thought that the paper's digital pricing was fair. If you are ok reading the paper only on the web and a smartphone the price is $3.75 a week. If you are ok reading the paper only on the web and a tablet -- but not a smartphone -- the price increases to $5.00 a week. And if you want to read the paper online, on smartphone and a tablet the price is $8.75 a week. This makes no sense to me. I feel I am paying for content and not where I read it. To me it's like saying the paper costs a $1 if I read it at home, $1.50 if I read it at Starbucks and $2 if I read it on the subway. But maybe that's just me. At all the prices offered there are ads galore -- and I find them annoying.

When I decided to cancel, I found that I could not do so online. I feel that if I buy something online I should be able to cancel it online. The system works well for Netflix. I have cancelled Netflix in the past online with no hassle whatsoever. And I have come back (mainly for House of Cards and Lilyhammer - but that's another story).

In the old days I could sign up for AOL online but to cancel I had to call a number and the rep would do anything to keep me including offering free or discounted service. Even if tempted at the time by the free or discounted service I didn't want to do that because it would mean having to call back again and engage in another tug of war. With AOL, I was reduced to repeating politely "I want to cancel" to whatever the rep said. It was time consuming, aggravating and humiliating. But I never thought AOL was a high class hoity toity institution like well The New York Times.

When I called the Times I first got a recording saying that call volume is high and asking me to be patient. So I was patient. Then the rep wanted to know why I wanted to cancel and tried to convince me to stay. I said I had limited time to read the paper. She then offered a discount that -- like AOL -- was tempting but the last thing I wanted to do was end the call still a subscriber because then I would have to call and wait again and then repeatedly express a desire to cancel. It is a hassle I did not expect from an "enlightened" entity like The New York Times. So after some convincing she eventually cancelled my subscription. I really don't want to go back even though I get email offers all the time.

I told the rep I signed up online and felt I should be able to cancel online. She had no interest in hearing that.

So, is The New York Times the new AOL? And if so, is this the best America's "newspaper of record" can do? Is the paper so desperate for subscribers that it wants to fence them in?

I hope this fine publication will open its eyes and let customers come and go as they please. It seems to work for Netflix. I am eager to see season 2 of House of Cards.