Where’s my copy of The New York Times?

Brian Jackson/Shutterstock
Brian Jackson/Shutterstock

Question: I’ve been subscribing to the Sunday New York Times for years. No one can explain why I was able to get the paper delivered until September 2012 (when I left the country) and can’t get them delivered in November 2012 (when I returned and re-subscribed).

My address has been the same since I’ve been subscribing. The city I live in has over 80,000 people. They couldn’t have taken all the subscribers off the route. Why me?

I’ve had endless phone calls and emails with “customer service,” to no avail. The representative has asked the supervisor, who also can do nothing. They have four different addresses for me in their system, my correct one and three others which are similar but not correct. No one can seem to fix this, either.

If it wasn’t such a fine paper, I’d give up, but I really would love to have my Sunday Times. Can you help me? — Mary Jenison, Merced, Calif.

Answer: If you’re paying for the paper, you should be getting it — not excuses. But in reviewing your lengthy correspondence with the Times, it appears that when you re-subscribed to the paper, they told you they couldn’t deliver it. So you weren’t, or at least shouldn’t have been, paying for something you didn’t receive.

When I moved to Manhattan after graduating, I also subscribed to the Times. It seemed like the thing to do. Someone kept stealing my paper from my front door. I called the paper to see if there was any way they could address the issue. They seemed uninterested, and eventually, I canceled.

When you think of bad customer service, a newspaper isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. But numbers don’t lie. As a group, newspapers scored a 65 out of a possible 100 on the latest American Customer Service Index scores. The Times did a little better, with a 70, but that’s hardly a passing grade for the “newspaper of record.”

As I examine the back-and-forth between you and the online “customer care” department, I’m confused. It looks as if the system allowed you to subscribe eventually and pay for your subscription, but then flagged your ZIP code as being a problem. Apparently, the Times no longer delivers to that area, at least according to its system.

Appealing to someone who can get beyond these maddening form responses isn’t easy. Sure, the Times lists its executives on its site, but its email naming convention is all screwed up. I ought to know; I spent four years working for the paper in various roles. (Hey, I was young and I needed the money!)

Emails might follow a firstname.lastname@nytimes.com convention or firstnamelastinitial@nytimes.com simply lastname@nytimes.com. Why? Because they can. Use the email verifier to triangulate the correct address when you appeal.

I contacted the Times on your behalf, which I admit was a little awkward. A representative called you and promised your ZIP code issues have been fixed. As a gesture of goodwill, the Times offered you a 50 percent discount for the next six months of your subscription.

That assumes, of course, that there is a Sunday Times six months from now.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • $16635417

    Had a similar experience with Papa John’s. Called the closest store and was told I have to call another store for delivery. Called the other store and was told I had to call the first one. Called the first one back (seemed to make sense, since it was much closer) and they insisted I was out of their delivery area, but WAS in store #2’s. End result was, it isn’t worth the hassle and I’ve been using other pizza places for about the last 12 years.

  • TonyA_says

    Off Topic. Disqus not working on Firefox for Windows or Android now. Also not working for Android base Chrome. Not working IE8 Windows.
    However, it is working on Chrome for Windows. Grrrr….

  • kalpal

    You are a consumer advocate like the scientists paid by the oil industry are global climate change advocates. You advocate for the businesses not for the consumers. You are like Fox News, fair and balanced, just not in this universe.

  • calbff

    News flash: this isn’t Youtube. A statement like that without some sort of intelligent justification makes you sound like a fool.

  • cscasi

    What does this have to do with the price of tea in China?

  • TonyA_says

    Nothin. This is the way to tell CE what is going wrong with his site (technically).

  • EdB

    Nothing. That is why he started off with, “Off Topic”.

    And to continue along that line, I also have problems with Disqus when access it from any of the Android based browsers. I remember one of the items mentioned with the switch to the new server was better access from everywhere. Doesn’t seem that it has happened yet for Android.

  • EdB

    Really sounds like Kal has not been following Chris’ blog much to make that kind of statement.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Message received. We are doing our best to fix it.

  • $16635417

    Tough crowd today. BTW…say “Hi” to Sean Hannity for me up there at Fox News. ;)

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Kal is probably upset about my last post. I understand.

  • emanon256

    What? No Poll?

  • emanon256

    I had that happen with Dominoes once too. I hate buck passing.

  • emanon256

    Back in the 90s I lived in a small town of about 90,000. I tried to subscribe to the Times, but they said they did not deliver to my area. They offered to mail it to me instead at their expense. That was back when people actually cared about customer service.

  • EdB

    But part of the problem in cases like this is franchises may be restricted on where they can deliver to so one franchise doesn’t encroach on another’s territory. Unfortunately, they sometimes have to rely on a computer system that has not been updated with correct or updated information and they end up in this type of situation.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Can you suggest one?

  • emanon256

    This one comes to mind. But I would be happy to come up with more. BTW, I am a big fan of your polls even though some call them sensationalist.

    Is good customer service a thing of the past for all
    Yes – The good old days are gone.
    No – There are still some good businesses out there.

  • $16635417

    I realized it was exactly the problem you describe, however both stores were aware the other one refused service to me, yet neither wanted to help. Result? Papa John’s is not in our “pizza rotation”.

  • Meghan Guilford

    Carry out!

  • EdB

    Yeah. That’s what happens as a result. The franchise owners are more worried about the repercussions from the mother company than providing customer service.

  • tio2girl

    Yes, clearly he advocates for the NYT. (insert eye roll) That’s why the problem was solved in the consumer’s favor complete with a 50% discount.

  • Carrie Charney

    The Times is currently offering a 50% subscription to everyone. They have been trying to woo me back. I also canceled for poor delivery service, but years ago.

  • Carrie Charney

    What better way to alert the “company” that they are not reaching their customers?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Happens consistently with our area Pizza Huts. Nobody has any clue who’s supposed to deliver to our house. (And it’s not new construction.) What’s even funnier is the two small local pizza places we order from all the time not only can keep it straight but have phone systems where they instantly know who we are when we call. Yet the big guys at Pizza Hut can’t even figure out which of their stores is supposed to cover our neighborhood.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    My guess is that the carrier changed from the first time the OP subscribed. I’m not letting the Times off the hook for not being able to figure out this situation, but it’s very common for there to be disconnect between customer service and the people who actually deliver the paper in the middle of the night. Most places contract that out any more, so they’re not even employees of the newspaper. Get a good carrier who knows the way around and is diligent and you’re set. Get a lousy one who doesn’t put as much effort into and you’ll never see your paper.

  • DavidYoung2

    Yeah, what you said Kal. Chris is nothing but a lemming for Fox News urging all to vote Republican. And buy guns. And cancel our subscriptions to The Times. And buy based on price and service, not on frequent flyer miles. And right wing stuff like that :-)

    Dude – you’re out in ‘left’ field

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Sure. I love nonsensical polls as much as you do. So here goes:

    Is there a point at which a customer should just give up and do business elsewhere?
    X Yes, Fuhgeddabout da bums
    X No, certain commodities are worth the fight.

    (Note: Sorry – fingers slipped and this posted w/o the question!)

  • Jeanne_in_NE


    (Dang! Fingers too cold to type properly!)

  • $16635417

    Several years after this happened, I actually sent an email to Papa Johns corporate describing the problem. No response…so not even the mother company cares.

  • PsyGuy

    Why don’t you just download the NYT app for your iDevice?

  • BMG4ME

    I remember many years ago having an issue with the New York Times, and I called and the publisher answered and we had a lovely chat. That left a lasting impression on me, as much as I disagree with their views on most things.

  • bodega3

    This made me laugh.

  • oldft

    The NewYorkTimes delivery? Really?

    “…Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils,
    Shrunk to this little measure? Fare thee well.”
    Act lll, Scene l:

  • emanon256

    Now it’s not working on Firefox. Have to go to my phone to use Disqus.

  • cahdot

    u are probably better off without the left wing times…their food section is great but their politics make me illllll….

  • TonyA_says

    I had to play the browser-OS musical chairs for the last 3 days.
    Wonder what will work tomorrow?

  • Grant Ritchie

    Come ON, Mike… Papa’s way too busy whining about Obamacare and pissing away millions on advertising to worry about you.

  • Danielle

    Meanwhile, I’m thinking of buying a paper subscription of the Times (comes with a digital subscription) because it’s cheaper than the digital-only subscription…

  • calbff

    Chris: I have yet to attain a level of maturity that would allow me to be that forgiving. Hats off to you.

  • $16635417

    Lol… The Papa has pushed my business to the local guys. Better to buy local anyway they say!

  • TonyA_says

    FYI Chris, Opera Mini browser for Android works. Disqus still does not work for chrome or firefox on Android. For the PC, firefox and IE8 does not work, chrome works. Wow, I had no idea disqus is that temperamental.
    Oh by working I mean no display of the comments.

  • Miami510

    I’ve had just the opposite experience with the New York Times…to which I’ve been subscribing for home delivery for 50 years. (Actually 52, but at a certain age it’s permissable to lie). A phone call to 1‑800‑NYTIMES (1‑800‑698‑4637), is all that’s necessary to suspend delivery for vacations or to order another copy if one hasn’t been delivered. On those few “no paper delivered” situations, they promise to have another copy by 11:30 in the morning, but sometimes that doesn’t happen and they credit the account for the charges. I’ve on rare occasions received an ink-smeared, partially unreadable paper and they send another copy.
    I’d give them a 100% rating for home delivery.

  • $25394585

    Another great job. it must be fun doing what you do. Hey I like the mail verifier tool.

  • Philip Brown

    I had a delivery problem with a daily newspaper in my apartment complex; someone was stealing my paper. I called the paper & they seemed to infer “go get another paper for $1.00…”.
    This wasn’t the right response; I contacted the local police – as this was indeed THEFT! Again, they couldn’t see that I was upset over a daily costing $1.00 & Sunday costing $2.00; they refused to get involved.
    Finally, I arose very ealry & left a note on my door with a check for $20 for the carrier (in addition to other tips I had been paying). The carrier agreed to slide under my door & the matter was resolved; then other people starting having their papers stolen – also.
    Should I have been treated better – ABSOLUTELY; did I resolve the problem with a minimum of aggrivateion – ABSOLUTELY. The carrier made a nice tip for taking a few extar seconds to slide under my door (which eventually became a policy for all papers in the complex). A true WIN-Win situation!!!
    Philip C. Brown

  • Davelsi

    When I went on vacation to New York City in March, I asked the Times to temporarily
    change my address and then to resume delivery at home in the Detroit area upon
    my return April 30. The transition to New York was seamless. But when
    I returned home to Michigan there was no paper for two weeks. I called or wrote e-mails daily. Finally I started getting the paper last Thursday, May 16, but that lasted only for two days. No paper was delivered Saturday. I did get the paper Sunday. Today, Monday, there’s no paper

    Before I left town the Times had its own dedicated delivery person and I got the paper
    early every morning on my doorstep for the 12 years I’ve been a subscriber. Service was impeccable, and I tipped the carrier generously. But now it appears that the Times is piggy-backing with the carrier for the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, because my Thursday and
    Friday Times came wrapped inside those papers. Problem is that the News and Free Press only offer home delivery on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Does that mean I’ll get the Times only on those three days even though I pay for seven-day delivery?

    I fear it’s a case of the Times trying to cut costs by outsourcing delivery. In so doing, it’s frustrating customers. One of my neighbors told me over the weekend that she had
    canceled her Times subscription because of problems with the paper. I hope that I don’t have to cancel, too.