It is official. As of this morning I am no longer a newspaper subscriber. This is a big deal for me. The paper has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
When I was young my grandparents would save The Mini Page for me since our paper didn't carry it. It is a special page of the newspaper just for kids with educational materials and puzzles and comics. I'd get about 10 of them at once and I would savor every one. My Christmas and birthday gifts from various family members (grandparents and goddaddy especially) were often wrapped in either the comics or "the pink section", a.k.a the entertainment section of the Sunday paper.
As a teenager I would grab the comics and the ads and look at each one whether I would ever shop at that store or not. And I remember reading our local columnist in The Argus every day (Ray Orrock), and on Fridays we had a special columnist in the sports section - Jim Murray. My husband grew up with the LA Times so he got to read Murray's column everyday (something he and his brother did regularly, or so I have been told). I only got to read him once a week, but I console myself with the fact that Friday's was usually the best.
My freshman year in college my parents got me a subscription to The Argus that was mailed to me everyday in Whittier. I loved reading the news from home.
As an adult I started reading more than just the ads, sports and comics. Before we moved here I read the real estate section every week so I would be prepared when we could finally buy our first house. The tips and tricks I picked up were invaluable in all aspects of the home buying process from affordability to financing to getting a home inspection to well just about everything. I felt more confident than most first time homebuyers because I had some knowledge of the process.
There were two papers to choose from one covered the whole county and one was based very locally, so I choose that. It was then that I really became aware of local politics. I probably knew more about the local political scene than what was going on in Sacramento or Washington. And that local news is the reason I cancelled my newspaper subscription.
About six months ago the local paper was sold to the nearest big city paper, The San Diego Union Tribune. Initially they kept a section for local news and many of the people that had worked at The Californian stayed employed. All kinds of promises were made about how important the area was and that coverage of the area would continue
I skimmed through some of the sections but most of the papers focus was on an area 60 plus miles from me. Heck, it is even a different county. I had all kinds of news about Mayor Filner, but next to no coverage on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. You know, the people that actually have some sphere of influence on my life.
Then out of the blue, two weeks ago they killed almost all coverage north of the San Diego County line. They claimed they were focusing on "regional coverage". Apparently Southwest Riverside County is no longer a region they wish to cover. And they laid off everyone from The Californian that had stuck around.
So, I decided to cancel. I went online and found out cancellations are only handled on the phone. I called and sat on hold. And sat on hold. And sat on hold. I probably was on hold 2-3 hours over the course of a week, calling at different times of the day hoping to get through. Every time, all I heard was "we are experiencing unusually high call volume" blah blah blah. The longest I stayed on in one sitting was over an hour and still I could not get through.
Finally, in frustration, I sent an e-mail to customer service. They promised a reply within 24 hours, 48 if they are busy. Amazingly, I got a real response within 2 hours! They wanted to know why I wanted to cancel and if there was anything they could do to keep me. My reply in a nutshell was NO! cancel immediately! I never got another response.
Five days later and the paper finally stopped arriving. I have another nine days to see if they will refund my money to my credit card and then I can sic Discover on them.
In the midst of all this, the Press Enterprise, which is Riverside based but has some local coverage, sent someone around to do this to all Union Tribune subscribers.
Well played, PE, well played.
For now, I am going to see if I can live without the paper. I am already going through withdrawals of not having any coupons or crossword puzzles to do on a Sunday morning. I have a feeling it won't be long before I take them up on their $13 a year offer.