Monday, December 28, 2009

Gotta love people!

Here's an email received in the Webmaster emailbox:

"new payment system is suck, i dont know what kind of stupid created."

Boy, do I feel dumb.

AZ Republic, Really??

I know. Times are tough for the print industry. Everyone is going online for their news - everyone thinks they can WRITE their own news - newspapers and reporters are hurting.

One would think they would really cater to their subscribers to keep them on board, yes? I get the AZ Republic in town. I've tried the daily, but while I have good intents most of it ends up in my recycle bin unfolded and I read what I can online with a few searches and quite a bit of skimming. I do subscribe to the Sunday delivery and occasionally the whole weekend delivery package. But I like to subscribe when I want to subscribe. I get the postcard deal, I subscribe and I pay in advance for usually a period of 5-6 months. Ideally, they may send me a NEW offer and ask me to renew my subscription OR perhaps call once or twice to upgrade me to a bigger package. I would go along with that. I might even put up with the calls in my oh-so-few evening hours.

What the Republic does instead of offering you the chance to re-subscribe is send you a BILL as if you already owe them for a service you haven't really asked for nor have you received any of it. And they hope you don't notice and just pay it and go on. I hate that. I didn't sign up for an autorenew, I made no commitment other than to receive what I already paid for. So I usually get stubborn and let it lapse and then sign up and pay in advance the next time I get around to it.

This last time I paid in July for a subscription that should have taken me into December. Sometime end of October/early November I stopped getting the paper. It took me a week or so to realize it wasn't a neighbor walking off with my Sunday ads - the deliveries just stopped. So I called them - it took me a while to get a person through their computer system (which did NOT have an account for me by phone or address and would NOT let me pass by until I entered information it liked!). The nice customer service boy discovered I indeed still had "credit" - he had no idea why the deliveries stopped and he put it back in motion. It took a full week or so to kick back in (so one would think I would be credited for the time lost and take my newspapers to the full end of year, right?). But no - the paper stopped around the first week in December. The new "bill" arrived in the mail and then the stalker calls began.

And by stalker calls, I mean the paper would call once a day and an agent would listen to my answering machine reminding callers I'm on the "do not call list" and then they would hang up leaving me a machine full of dial-tones or noises of a call center followed by dial tones. Then last week I got "the letter" - the letter which told me I owed them $22 and they have made efforts to reach me to no avail. Seriously?

So today I took a precious lunch hour and called them. I spent about 8 minutes wrestling with the machine who could not find my account. Each time the machine agreed to transfer me to an agent, it would hang up on me. 3 calls later, I went to the switchboard who had to transfer me (successfully, whew!) to an agent. This girl was a sweetheart. She looked at my account and told me I definitively owed them $22. I asked her to please read my record aloud and tell me when they last received payment and how long that should have taken me to. She then started reading starting with the July payment and then somehow my account showed I was down $92 and then even and then had a credit of $22 and then owed $22. After she got to that point she said, "You know? You're taken care of. I will even out your account and put a note in to stop the calls." I pointed out to her that the "attempts to contact me" involved nightly hangups on my machine, to which she said "oh, that's really bad."

She then tried to sell me on the much easier "Easy Pay" system (yeah, I'm giving you guys my CREDIT CARD to do whatever you will with!). I asked her to explain it better and this is what I got: With Easy Pay I agree to a $17/week fee. They take $17 from my account and each day the paper is successfully delivered, they remove an amount from my account. When the account gets to $0, they bill me again and I keep working my way to $0. If I want to cancel, I have to be sure to contact them BEFORE I get to $0. I asked if there was a tool to check my account balance - no. Seriously? It's this difficult.

She was very nice, I give her credit for that. I told her that while I enjoy the paper, the process is disturbing and for that, I cannot subscribe.

So long story short - don't blame the internet for the demise of the printed newspaper. I blame the muddy, poorly planned red tape. Sheeeeesh!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It's a Very Bearded Christmas

This year went FAST. And my nephews are growing up WAY too fast. It pains me. Thank God I'm not growing up so quickly!

In November I started hounding my sister for "the list" from my nephews so I could start the shopping. I long for the days when we bought just fun toys that took up lots of room, made lots of noise and were all sorts of colors. And well, I could play with them. Now it's all about the video games and I find myself wandering around the video department clutching a list and looking as lost as every other grown-up there. We all take turns with the poor kid who works there: "What's the difference between a PS2, a PS3 and this PSP thing?" - "What do you do with this?" - "What ELSE do I need to buy to make this work?" - "Do you have anything that doesn't involve mass murdering?"

Anyway, so I got my list this year and it was the usual list of games for various systems that I know I'm going to need help finding. But then I got to William's list and it filled me with pure delight. He wanted some spy gear (which I discovered was actually Spy Gear™), some Ben 10 Alien Force stuff, a Nerf Gun (yea! simple! that can't be hard, right??); a Spartan costume and a fake beard. Yes, a fake beard. How random is that??

The Nerf gun was NOT easy - I bought 3 before I found the "right" one in stock. I went to two toys stores, 3 Targets and TWO Game Stops before I finished finding all their loot. (And now I have a car full of post-holiday returns to make). But the most fun was my trip to the Mardi Gras costume shop for the fake beard. I bought two one for William and one for his younger brother in case they want to form a bearded gang or something.

I'm happy to say that every time I heard him on the phone - the beard was in his top 3 favorite gifts. Yea! Still some fun in the holiday. And NO, the boys didn't let me break any of their video games.