Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Why I no longer subscribe to BusinessWeek magazine

I used to subscribe to BusinessWeek magazine, but I dropped them two years ago. Why did I drop them? Here's why: I find their subscription policy to be very misleading and quite sleazy.

Two years ago, ...

I called the 800 number to renew my subscription. I placed the order and everything was fine. Then, they told me my "new" expiration date. Huh? I renew for a full year (or maybe it was two, I'm not sure), so all that should change should be the year. So I thought. How ignorant I was.

Instead, the "new" expiration month was about a month earlier (I don't recall exactly, but it was definitely earlier). So, I ask them: but I thought I just renewed for a full year? It says "the low annual rate". Doesn't "annual" mean "year"?? Next, I get "the story"...

First, it's no secret that the renewal is for 51 issues. That's clear, and I assumed that was simply because they have a double-issue at the end of the year. Ahhhhh... not quite.

To cut to the chase, here's the current "pitch" from the BW web site:

51 issues at the low annual rate of $45.97

That's what I'd expect.

Now, here's the current fine print from the BW web site:

BusinessWeek is published weekly, except for two double issues and one expanded special issue. The double and expanded issues count as two subscription issues each.

The first sentence is also expected. And my interpretation of the first sentence is that three times a year they "skip" an issue. That's where I went wrong. Or, I should say that BusinessWeek goes wrong.

Now, try reading that second sentence for its true meaning:

The double and expanded issues count as two subscription issues each.

Got that? Is that clear? Well, it wasn't to me. Let me explain...

First, I assumed that these seemingly simple English statements meant that I got an "annual" subscription that covered 12 full months.

To cut to the chase (again), in actuality, you only get 48 magazines. Got that? Oh really? If you didn't already know that, would a quick reading of the two sentences by a non-lawyer/journalist have quickly caused that 48 number to pop out? And, the fact that an annual subscription doesn't cover twelve calendar months?

To explain the specifics, yes, you get 51 issues, but that translates into 48 magazines over 11 months (not a year), 45 of those magazines count as 45 issues, but 3 of those magazines count as 6 issues. 45 plus 3 equals 48, and 45 plus 6 equals 51.

But no matter how you do the math [remember the recent BW issue on math, "Math Will Rock Your World"?], the so-called annual subscription cheats subscribers of an entire month.

Ah, but then BusinessWeek does offer a special deal: "Get Four Free Issues":

Send me 4 RISK-FREE issues of BusinessWeek, plus full BW Online access. If I like BusinessWeek and choose to continue, I'll receive 47 more issues (51 in all) for $45.97. That's an 82% savings off the newsstand cover price! Otherwise, I'll return the bill marked "cancel" and owe nothing. The 4 FREE trial issues are mine to keep no matter what!

Quick math test: If you accept that offer, how many actual magazines will you be paying for since 4 of the "issues" are "free"?

I just noticed... there is no difference in price between the normal subscription price ($45.97 for 51 "issues") and the special deal (4 free issues plus 47 "issues", a total of 51 "issues", for $45.97). So, these "free" issues aren't free at all! Unless you cancel your subscription. So, if you don't cancel your subscription, the 4 "free" issues are now suddenly no longer free. How strange.

Even now, two years later, this misleading and sleazy policy offends me. And it offends me greatly. I'm still furious that such a seemingly professional outfit could stoop so low.

Sure, there are probably any number of interesting and useful articles that I've missed out on over those two years, not to mention the coming years, but in a free and open market, we do have a democracy of sorts to cope with such injustices, and it's called your wallet. So, I voted with my wallet two years ago, last year, and am doing so again this year.

Message to BusinessWeek: stop this misleading and sleazy practice now. Don't offer any excuses. Just do it!

Can any of the BusinessWeek staff justify why BusinessWeek can't simply offer an annual subscription that actually covers one full annum?

For what it's worth, I never found any of the "double" or "expanded" issues to be useful enough to want to receive them in exchange for losing three weeks of normal coverage.


-- Jack Krupansky


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