The Renewal

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: “Be sure to read the fine print.”

I must have heard or read it a hundred thousand times in my lifetime. (Yes, that could be an exaggeration.) It’s often flashed up during television commercials but the five plus lines of tiny print shoot by faster than you can say, “What?” Small print has become a joke in our society. The joke is on the consumer. It certainly was on me and my wife.

We were subscribing to our local newspaper . It’s not as easy to decide as you think. We’re a small town. It’s a small paper. To fill the paper, they publish some news articles from other towns and countries. It’s not greatly valuable to us in this Internet era. Most of our friends don’t take the local daily, the ‘Ashland Daily Tidings’. They take the newspaper from our larger neighbor, Medford. Medford’s paper is ‘The Medford Mail-Tribune’. Editorially, both papers are conservative, and they share owners and publishers.

ADT is published Monday through Saturday, except for the big holidays. You can guess them. For Sunday, we received ‘The Medford Mail-Tribune’.

We liked receiving the paper despite its paucity of local news. So after a brief debate last December, we renewed, paying for a year’s subscription, $124. Cool. Done.

October comes. Notices arrive. Our newspaper subscription is about to expire. My wife pulls out the paperwork. No, they’re wrong: we renewed in December, 2015, for fifty-two weeks. They’re probably just trying to get us to renew early, we reasoned. Periodicals are always following that practice.

But no. Last Sunday came a notice with the delivery: “Your subscription has expired.”

Nah-uh, we answered. Pulling out the paperwork with new fury, my wife re-affirmed her earlier understanding. Then she saw the small print. Here is the actual small print, copied from their website:

“Up to $3 is charged to all subscriptions for each premium edition. Premium editions are not included in the subscription price and your expiration date will be accelerated and adjusted accordingly. There will be no more than 16 premium editions per calendar year.”

What is a ‘premium edition’? It seems to be the normal paper enlarged by extra advertising inserts. That means we’ve paid an extra $48 for our paper for the ‘year’, which, because of the ‘premium editions’, has been truncated to about ten and a half months. And it’s curious, because even if you select online only, to save paper, you still pay $3.00 for each premium edition. You pay for it regardless of your subscription term – year, month, quarter, whatever.

(Paperless, BTW, is another burgeoning joke in our society. We get more paper in our mail than ever before, usually stuff we don’t want but that we must recycle – which we pay to have done. How many ‘special offers’ are received each week by wireless service providers, ISPs, Dish and other satellite providers, followed by insurance, cleaning, and credit cards offers…and let us then begin to talk about the Explanation of Benefits and bills that accompany every doctor appointment and prescription.)

We were floored.

We were angry.

We wondered…does this apply to its sister paper?

You betcha.

We wondered: do our friends know this about this their subscriptions?

No, they didn’t. They were sure we were wrong so we printed out a website screenshot to show them.

They were floored.

But here is the kicker that prompted me to post: yesterday, a plastic bag was delivered to our house from ‘The Medford Mail-Tribune’. There wasn’t any newspaper; just the advertisement inserts. Which, to us, means that we’re subsidizing the newspaper’s advertisement revenue by paying for these circulars to be delivered to non-subscribers.

We could be wrong about that. It was our snap insight, and they’re not always right. Regardless, we’re angry, and we’re not renewing.

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