Former P-I Subscribers Get Overdose of Seattle Times

By Sandeep Kaushik March 18, 2009

I did not really believe this would happen, but sure enough it did: I received two copies of the Seattle Times on my doorstep this morning.

Until today, I subscribed to three different newspapers: the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, theSeattle Times, and the New York Times. As of this morning, though, I was apparently still the proud owner of three newspaper subscriptions, but to only two papers. I seem to own two subscriptions to the Seattle Times

We have had confirmation since Monday that the Times Company intended to automatically switch over P-I subscribers to the Seattle Times, forcing those who might not want the Times to opt out of the switchover. Obviously, a fair number of P-I subscribers are not going to like that. My own opinion is that it is not a very classy move on the part of the Times Company, but given their desperate financial situation, perhaps an understandable one.

But until now I had assumed that the Times circulation department would at least automatically weed out those P-I subscribers that already subscribed to the Times, cancel those (second) subscriptions and refund the balance of their money. It is not a small number of people involved – published reports have said that some 15,000 to 20,000 households subscribed to both papers —so doing the right thing and correcting the subscription duplication would certainly cost the Times some money.

When I called the Times’ subscription line to inform them that I received two copies of theTimes this morning, the person on the other end assured me they will correct the error. But they did not offer me my money back on the second, superfluous subscription—instead, I was told my existing Seattle Times subscription will be extended to account for the balance I am owed on the remainder of my P-I subscription.

In response to my inquiries, Times Company corporate spokesperson Jill Mackie says that my experience this morning “was likely a first day error. We have heard a couple of reports of that [i.e., two copies of the Seattle Times being delivered to the same household] occurring and will work with carriers to correct.” Mackie added that the number of home delivery subscribers that take both papers is actually closer to 4,000 – the rest of the 15-20K number comes from a separate Newspapers in Education program. 

Mackie also seemed to indicate that if I had demanded my money back on the old P-Isubscription, I would get it (which I am not going to do). “Our circulation department will work with individual subscribers to handle their accounts to their satisfaction,” she wrote in an e-mail.

So, bottom line: if Mackie is correct, maybe this double delivery situation is just a minor glitch that only inconvenienced a handful of people. And apparently I assumed too much in thinking that the balance on my P-I subscription would automatically be refunded to me -- at least it is being credited to my Times account. But I’m curious: did any other PubliCola readers who subscribed to both papers get two copies of the Times this morning?
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