Search this site:


January 10, 2007 12:03 AM

Broken: Cancellation process for the New York Times electronic edition

Nytimesunsub Brent Toellner points out:

This is a screen shot of my instructions when I tried to cancel my subscription to the electronic edition of the New York Times.

I registered for the paper online.  I read the newspaper online. Now, knowing that I obviously prefer the online experience, they want me to cancel my subscription via the phone.

An online option to cancel my subscription should be available instead of requiring me to talk to a customer service representative over the phone and then having to provide all of my information to them again, when all my information is saved on their website.


Sounds like the same "Trick" AOL used to do to people when they wanted to Cancel the Service...

You spend 20-minutes on the phone with a person that spends all their time trying to talk you out of it...

Very sad that some businesses have to resort to this...

Posted by: Keith L. Dick at January 10, 2007 12:48 AM

Given that receiving a toll-free phone call is much more expensive than receiving an online form entry (even without taking into account what they're paying the phone rep), I can almost guarantee you that number will take you to someone who's going to try and talk you out of canceling.

It's not just them and AOL that do it, too. A friend of mine was a phone rep for Verizon Wireless, and this was one of his jobs. It's called "retention". It's a step a lot of services put you through when you cancel.

Unlike that infamous AOL rep, though, most won't argue with you if you're firm, and it shouldn't take you too long. Having to enter your info just to reach a message that tells you to call a number sucks, though.

...Wait, does that say "the next unpublished issue"? Shouldn't that be the next _undelivered_ issue?

Posted by: Kalthare at January 10, 2007 03:55 AM

If you're going to singularly call out the New York Times for making cancellation difficult, you obviously have not tried to cancel many services. Making you call in isn't just common, it's more or less the standard.

No, it's not a good standard, and yes, it is broken, but the New York Times isn't the only company that does this, and they're not the worst.

Posted by: muldster at January 10, 2007 12:00 PM

On the plus side of "retention", such calls do allow the company to gather information about the reason for the cancellation.

Is it because you hate the New York Times? Is it because of money issues (you got laid off, etc.)? Is it because you're the spouse of a subscriber who died? Or most important, is it because they aren't providing you a feature or service your want, and you're going elsewhere?

While such can be gleaned from an online form, too, being asked verbally by a real person is more likely to generate useful and usable feedback.

None of which excuses the hard sell "retention" conversations where you get progressively more upset that they won't just cancel you and you end up screaming into the phone that you'll never user their service again and will in fact post about the bad experience to usability blogs on the web.

Oh, um, yeah. Heh.

Posted by: Jim at January 10, 2007 04:47 PM

You could just suspend your subscription for 100 years....

Posted by: inspired at January 10, 2007 06:34 PM

Just because something is standard does not mean that it isn't broken. When I have to call to cancel something, I prepare myself for the hard sell to retain me. I find that a polite yet firm approach works best. I will even tell them why I am canceling, but at the end of the conversation I expect the service to be canceled.

Posted by: ebob at January 10, 2007 08:13 PM

An attempt to retain a customer is not intrinsicaklly a broken experience. It is the way it is handled that makes a difference. Two examples:

The first example is my cancellation of a low cost long distance plan. I callde them up. They asked why I needed to cancel and I simply explained my long distance calls have been reduced and no longer needed the plan. They verified with me that there was no other plan that I might want, and then thanked me for my business and reminded me I could sign up with them again any time. And if I needed to, I would. No hard sell. No obstinate attemtps to prevent me from cancelling the plan.

In contrast, Citibank issued me a MaasterCard when it bought ought a small credit firm that I had used for one of those don't pay for a year deals. I already had enough credit cards and certainly did not need a nother. It took 20 minutes on their hold queue with the abysmal music before my call was answered. As soon as I indicated I was cancelling, the rep informed me they could not do it and needed to transfer me to an agent who could. That transfer ended up having me on hold for another 2 minutes before I reached a rep who did the hard sell and wouldn't take no for an answer. Even att he end, he said he would hold the card open for another month in case I changed my mind. My response what he had better close it right away because I would not be responsible for any charges placed against the account as a result of Citibank's refusal to close out the card.

Any chance that Citibank had to gain me as a customer was completely obliterated by that interaction with them.

Posted by: Carlos Gomez at January 11, 2007 08:50 AM

I disagree with the posters who think this is anything but broken.

The experience promises to be online: subscribe, enroll, participate.

They do not deliver on the promise all the way: they ask you to go offline simply to cancel.

Why? So they can try to convince you to stay.

As a customer, that is not an optimal experience, and it doesn't live up to the expectations set by an online service.

Posted by: mmcwatters at January 11, 2007 09:41 AM

Tell them that if they try to talk you out of it then you will sue them. And if it isn't clear on the web page that you need a phone to cancel, before signing up then you will also sue them.

Posted by: zzo38 at January 28, 2007 03:21 AM

My experience with the Customer Service at NYT's has been mediocre at best. I had generally found the Customer Reps to be less than helpful most times, even bordering on rude or hostile. At work, we had a great deal of trouble dealing with the billing for a subscription. We also found the website was difficult to use to get information about payments or to track them. We finally decided to go back to the delivery service we had been using previously, even though it was more expensive.

When I called to cancel, of course I was asked why. I just said that I had found certain aspects of the service, particularly the billing to be inconvenient. Of course now that I was canceling the person I spoke to kept asking if there was anything they could possibly do to make me change my mind. Could they adjust the billing period...? Anything...? If all their reps responded in this manner anytime you called, and actually followed through in resolving issues in an expeditious manner, I wouldn't have been calling to cancel.

Posted by: sestinaverde at February 23, 2007 09:30 AM

Comments on this entry are closed

Previous Posts: