I love the Tampa Bay Times (formerly St. Petersburg Times). I grew up reading this newspaper, learned to respect it even more as a journalism student and then became an ardent subscriber when I relocated to my hometown in 2005. I’m not talking Sunday-only delivery or the digital-only version of the newspaper. I’m talking the seven-days-a-week old-school paper version arriving on my driveway every single morning of the year.
When my annual subscription renewal notice arrived, the bill was for $247. Normally, I’d have no problem with this. As a former newspaper reporter and copy editor, I want to support traditional newspapers despite having online access to content for no charge. I get that producing a print newspaper is expensive and that print ad revenues generally suck.
When I went online to renew, I discovered I’d be eligible for a one-year subscription for $195 – IF I were a NEW subscriber. After more online sleuthing, I found the same subscription for $104 via discountednewspapers.com – IF I were a NEW subscriber. What?!
I called the newspaper’s subscription services phone number, and a representative said he was authorized to give me a slight discount of around $25. Even with the discount, my cost was not even close to that of a new subscriber. He then explained that if I canceled my service, I’d be considered a new subscriber after 30 days and could take advantage of the deeper discounts.
At this point in the conversation, I’m completely pissed because I am, in effect, being punished for my loyalty. So I tell the guy on the phone to cancel my subscription. Since that day, I’ve begun logging onto the paper’s website once a day to check out local news. To be honest, I’m getting used to this mode of operation and chances that I will return to paid subscriber status are diminishing daily.
“Every client you keep, is one less that you need to find.” ~ Nigel Sanders
You probably have plenty of examples of other businesses that offer great deals to new customers only. Cable companies and credit card providers are notorious for this type of behavior.
Even my beloved Tampa Bay Rays are T-H-I-S close to losing my business because of this sort of unfairness. As season ticket holders of the Ray’s weekend package, my husband and I are proud of doing our part to help a team that continually ranks at the bottom of all MLB teams in game attendance statistics. I’m not even that upset that they have raised my ticket package price every year because I do understand that the team has to make money. Then last month about the time my renewal package arrives in the mail, I read in the newspaper (online, of course) how the Rays are proud to be one of the most affordable teams in the MLB and that “prices for nearly 75 percent of their seats have been maintained or cut for next season.” And whose ticket prices have risen for 2013? Mine. A loyal fan who buys a season ticket package.
You can probably guess how I felt when I saw that the Rays were giving discounts to three-fourths of the fair-weather fans who occasionally buy tickets while my ongoing allegiance would cost me more money. Moreover, I found no explanation about why 25% of ticket prices, including mine, had to increase while most were status quo or lowered. This lack of info irked me even more as I likely would be more understanding with some sort explanation.
I also might be a bit more accepting of customer loyalty disparities if I was rewarded in some other way for my repeat businesses (i.e., My Starbuck’s Rewards). Instead, I don’t get anything from my cable company or the Tampa Bay Times for my loyalty — no discounts, no rebates, no coffee mugs, etc. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. Well, nothing except a virtual slap in the face in the form of new subscriber discounts for which I’m not eligible.
(In all fairness, I do get the opportunity to buy post-season Rays tickets as a perk of being a season ticket holder. And I do receive a discount on merchandise at stadium’s team store, though this discount has little meaning to me as the minuscule savings on my few purchases certainly does not compensate for the difference in ticket prices or the feeling I have of being unfairly treated as a loyal fan.)
“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends.
If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” ~ Jeff Bezos
I know companies have data to support business decisions that effectively punish those who have shown brand loyalty. They know most people simply pay their bills and renew out of habit. In this case, though, I’m pissed and the Times has lost a subscriber because of its decision. Petty? Maybe. Will my one subscription make a difference to the Times? Not likely. Now to re-evaluate my Ray’s ticket package…
What do you think? Am I over-reacting or completely justified in my outrage?
Artwork courtesy of www.sxc.hu.