Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Me And The Mothership

Bad Break-ups, Customer Service, JSOnline, The Mothership

On Sunday morning I was riding my bike through Manitowoc around 7 AM.  I saw a couple of boys with large canvas sacks over their shoulders going door-to-door delivering the Sunday paper.  My guess is it was the Herald Times Reporter.  What struck me was that young boys were flinging the paper.  Reminded me of something from the past.

Anyway, I received a call from The Mothership last evening.  Ordinarily, it's because a reader of the blog wants to report me for something I wrote.  In which case the infallible occupants of The Mothership either brush it aside or ask me to edit my post or add a giant disclaimer.  They're big thinkers you know.

Last night was different. 

Get this.  The Mothership wanted to embrace me as a subscriber to the pulp wood edition of the paper.  You know - the one you can read while having a cuppa joe in the morning and actually turn the page.

Truth be told I was a subscriber of both the Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Sentinel and ultimately the combined paper since 1977.  How's that for customer loyalty? 

The trouble is the 'was' part of the relationship. The loyalty and goodwill dried-up only a few short months ago.  A consequence of the home delivery service self-destructing beyond all hope of repair.

It all started with a vacation hold.  Which was followed by difficulties getting delivery restarted,  Which eventually led to sporadic paper delivery.  Each morning was a crap shoot.  I am an exceedingly organized and punctual individual and to my aggravation there was no discernible pattern to the delivery breakdown.  Papers would be delivered when they shouldn't and would never arrive when requested.  When the paper was on the porch life was normal.  When it wasn't I would use the phone attendant or go on line to request a redelivery.  This rarely worked.  Seeking a fix I escalated to waiting until the appointed hour to call and speak with a real person.  Of course this always began with a lengthy wait - and while on hold I would sip a cuppa joe and take my bitter morning dose of mind-numbing Kenny G music.  After which the apologetic customer service person would promise a redelivery which ultimately would not arrive.

We called customer service, who sent us to people higher-up who sent us to people even further-up in the command center of The Mothership.  As it turned out - I could call to order a pizza and it would be delivered within the hour,  Guaranteed.  Call to have your missed paper redelivered.  It's not going to happen. In the end no amount of pleading or complaining could make a paper arrive on our porch.  Adding insult to injury The Mothership continued to dock our credit card for phantom delivered papers and never credited our account for those they kept.

Tired of my ritual morning rant Jill convinced me to cancel the delivered edition and accept the reality that only the venerable New York Times and quirky Door County Advocate could somehow successfully make a real delivery of a real paper to the proper address.  If I wanted to read the Journal Sentinel I would have to be satisfied to do so from the warming glow of a computer monitor or maybe fetch a Sunday paper at Metcalfe's.

It took Jill the better part of a month navigating the labyrinthine maze over at The Mothership before she found someone with the authority to credit our account for the bales of undelivered papers they kept.  

When the break-up was final and the credit issued we both breathed a sigh of relief and wondered how this house of cards could remain in business.  At least on the tree pulp version of publishing the news.

Back to the phone call.

I give a great deal of credit to the sales guy who reached out to me.  He patiently listened to my rant about our recent frustrations.  He offered this:

Look, Mr. Gaertner.  How about just trying a Sunday and Wednesday delivery.  You won't even have to put it on a credit card.  We'll send you an invoice.  You'll even get the coupons.

To which I countered - How about you deliver the paper for about a month to see if it can actually get here and then I agree to reactivate a subscription?

Oh no, sir.  We can't do that.  It requires an invoice to make the delivery happen.  But listen.  If you don't get your paper you don't have to pay the invoice.

Do I have to sign a contract?

No sir.  If you don't get your paper you don't have to pay the invoice.

From somewhere he tugged upon my heartstrings that harked back to 1977.  And I agreed to a Sunday and Wednesday paper.

This was a big sale.  $1.38 per week - 69 cents per paper - delivered.

Mr. Gaertner, I'm going to transfer you to my supervisor who is going to approve everything.  She's going to make sure I didn't promise you a trip or anything.  Have a nice evening.

Transferred to the supervisor she confirmed name and address.  She even tolerated my narrative about how I wasn't sure that a real paper copy of the Journal Sentinel would actually ever arrive on my porch.  Until I mentioned that the sales guy said that all I had to do if the paper delivery did not meet my level of satisfaction is not to pay the invoice.

Oh no, sir.  You have a six month contract.  If you don't get a paper you would have to call customer service.

Sorry Mothership.  Been there - done that.  You have to do better.  Either go all-in to deliver the pulp wood edition of the paper or abandon it in favor of online content.

You pick.

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