I Am Joe’s Blog:

October 9, 2006 • 3:59 PM

The price of a Wired gift subscription

I have subscribed to Wired Magazine continuously since 1995 (it was first published in 1993). During that time, I’ve seen the cost of subscriptions rise and fall, and I’ve gladly and unflinchingly paid whatever it cost (even back when I was living in Canada and international delivery was extra). It’s a fine magazine, and I’m happy to give Condé Nast my money for it.

Wired gift renewal noticeA couple of years ago, I decided to share the love by buying a relative a gift subscription. Of course, that also means each year I get a reminder to renew the gift subscription. This year, I’ve received (so far) three such reminders by postal mail (the first in August and the most recent a couple of days ago), plus one reminder by email (arrived last week). All of them have said exactly the same thing: I’m being offered a “special” rate of $12 to renew the gift subscription.

In the postal version (click thumbnail to read), it says:

Special Gift Rate: only $1 an issue

and

Lock in your $1-per-issue gift rate now

and

Renew…at the lowest gift renewal rate—just $1 an issue

In the email version, it says:

…renew…before the holidays at a special holiday rate.

When I click the link, it takes me to a Web page that says “Renew your gifts now! All gifts only $12.”

Now here’s the thing. Regular subscriptions to Wired cost $10. That’s what their Web site says, and it’s also what’s on all the little cards that fall out of the magazine when I open it. Furthermore, the same site says that gift subscriptions also cost $10. And yet, renewing a gift subscription somehow costs 20% more. The “special holiday rate” is higher than the normal rate!

How is it that a new subscription (or a new gift subscription) costs one price, but renewing a gift subscription costs more? In my opinion, this is not merely wrong but downright slimy: taking advantage of people who are presumably Wired’s best and most loyal customers (those who buy subscriptions for other people) by expecting them to pay more for renewing subscriptions, when they could buy new gift subscriptions for the same people at a lower price!

Let me be clear: I’m not saying $12 is too much for Wired. Honestly, it would be a bargain at $24. And all things being equal, $2 is a pretty trivial amount of money to quibble over. But that’s just what infuriates me: Condé Nast knows that a $2 delta is too small for anyone to waste their time complaining about, and that by sliding that in, they can earn a few easy bucks. (To add insult to injury, the notices generously offer to let me renew my own Wired subscription at the same “special” rate!)

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to return one of the renewal notices in its postage-paid envelope with a check for $10, a copy of this blog post, and a short, polite letter saying that I object to this practice and ask that they quit charging more for gift subscription renewals than for any other subscription. I’ll also reply to the email with basically the same letter and this URL. We’ll see what happens—and I’ll update this page if I learn anything interesting.

My educated guess: they’ll renew the gift subscription for $10 without saying anything further, and next year, I’ll once again get a series of $12 renewal notices.

Update #1 (10/11/2006): I received the following form-letter reply to my email message:

Our basic rate for one year is $24.00.

Thank you for contacting us concerning a lower subscription price that you have recently seen. We have many different offers to attract new subscribers. These offers can also be available to you. Please respond with your special offer information and we will be happy to enter your subscription.

If you should need further assistance, please be sure to include all previous e-mail correspondence.

Thank you for subscribing to Wired.

Sincerely,

[name redacted]

Yes, of course…I understand all that. But I object to it. Everyone knows (don’t they?) that it’s cheaper to keep a customer than to get a new customer. People who willingly pay for your product again and again are among a company’s most valuable assets. You do not want to make these people unhappy. And charging them more for your product than you charge people with whom you have no business relationship is an unwise tactic. I realize, too, that Condé Nast is hardly the only company doing this—banks, for example, are notorious for this kind of thing. I’m arguing that companies would actually benefit themselves financially by considering their customers’ feelings. An odd concept, I know.

The form letter as much as said that they’ll honor a lower price if someone complains. Why should I have to complain, though? Why not simply offer repeat customers the same rate as new customers? You’ll lose a few (very few) dollars now, but you’ll gain goodwill—and that pays significant dividends later on. It’s also good karma.

Update #2 (10/13/2006): In reply to my response to the last email message:

Your paid renewal has not yet been received.

Please accept our sincere apologies concerning the various subscription rates. As an existing subscriber, you may always take advantage of any better offer you may see directly from Wired.

Your comments are being forwarded on to our home office for consideration.

If you should need further assistance, please be sure to include all previous e-mail correspondence.

Thank you for subscribing to Wired.

Not to beat a dead horse, but if subscribers may always take advantage of any better offer, isn’t it misleading not to make them the best offer in the first place?

Update #3 (11/01/2006): Just as I predicted, I received the standard thank-you notice by mail, confirming that my gift subscription order has been placed (“Total Due: PAID”). Inside the envelope was a gift postcard I can send to the recipient (which seems sort of silly, considering that it’s a renewal). But this was a computer-generated mailing, and no personal reply to my letter was included. We’ll see what happens next year when the subscription is up for renewal again, but my crystal ball tells me it will be the same thing.

Update #4 (11/02/2006): I guess I spoke too soon. A day after receiving my “thank-you” notice, I got yet another “don’t forget to renew your gift subscription” reminder in the mail—my fourth or fifth now, I’ve lost track. Their timing is impeccable.

Comments

  1. October 19th, 2006 | 5:42 pm

    Hi Joe Good for you! The world would be a better place if just a few people said what they meant clearly and stuck to simple common sense. I would call it good business sense, too. There are too few people speaking up about dishonest annoyances as this. Anitta

  2. October 19th, 2006 | 10:42 am

    Hi Joe Good for you! The world would be a better place if just a few people said what they meant clearly and stuck to simple common sense. I would call it good business sense, too. There are too few people speaking up about dishonest annoyances as this. Anitta

  3. October 24th, 2006 | 5:17 am

    Anitta:

    Thanks for your comment. Let’s hope the message gets through!

    Joe

  4. October 23rd, 2006 | 10:17 pm

    Anitta:

    Thanks for your comment. Let’s hope the message gets through!

    Joe

  5. Andrew Laurence
    November 2nd, 2006 | 5:28 pm

    A decade ago, a friend worked at PC World and taught me the secret of magazine subscriptions: the fall-out cards always have the cheapest prices.

    (And yes, I had some serious deja vu when I recently visited the Macworld folks in San Francisco, and the process visited the IDB building for the second time.)

  6. Andrew Laurence
    November 2nd, 2006 | 9:28 am

    A decade ago, a friend worked at PC World and taught me the secret of magazine subscriptions: the fall-out cards always have the cheapest prices.

    (And yes, I had some serious deja vu when I recently visited the Macworld folks in San Francisco, and the process visited the IDB building for the second time.)

  7. Joey Kissell
    January 9th, 2007 | 4:07 pm

    we have the same name!, i typed my name into yahoo “im feeling lucky”. and this came up. joey

  8. Joey Kissell
    January 9th, 2007 | 8:07 am

    we have the same name!, i typed my name into yahoo “im feeling lucky”. and this came up. joey

  9. February 1st, 2007 | 12:10 am

    Joey: Nice to make your virtual acquaintance! I’ve run across a few other Joe Kissells, and my dad also has the same name. However, no one has called me Joey in a very long time (thankfully!).

  10. January 31st, 2007 | 4:10 pm

    Joey: Nice to make your virtual acquaintance! I\’ve run across a few other Joe Kissells, and my dad also has the same name. However, no one has called me Joey in a very long time (thankfully!).

  11. paul
    September 17th, 2008 | 7:43 pm

    Several years ago, I was given a gift of wired magazine. It was for an offer for a ten year subscrioption for ten dollars. Yes. One dollar per year. No brainer, right? A steal. I have been a periodic subscriber, but a reader since the very first issue. I figured this would be a way for me to avoid having my sub run out…

    well, every couple of years, my magazines have suspiciously stopped arriving. The first time, I thought it was a mistake. I called, got my sub reinstated. The second time, I got annoyed, started to get suspicious. But I called. My sub got reinstated, and I bitched, and they extended my sub by three months.

    It just happened again. Not only did my issues stop arriving, I got a renewal notice this time. I called wired, they said they didnt understand why my I got the notice, because Im scheduled to receive issues unti november 2010. Trouble is, my ten year sub is supposed to last til 2014. I balked. They referred me back to the original agent who supplied the sub. The original agent no longer has any record of my subscription. When I told them that I am still on the Wired books until November 2010 they had no idea what to say.

    This business is worse than trying to comparison shop for mattresses…

    ;-)

    Now certainly, even if I only got three years out of the sub, which I did, that is still a bargain. But that is NOT what I singed up for.

  12. paul
    September 17th, 2008 | 9:43 pm

    Several years ago, I was given a gift of wired magazine. It was for an offer for a ten year subscrioption for ten dollars. Yes. One dollar per year. No brainer, right? A steal. I have been a periodic subscriber, but a reader since the very first issue. I figured this would be a way for me to avoid having my sub run out…

    well, every couple of years, my magazines have suspiciously stopped arriving. The first time, I thought it was a mistake. I called, got my sub reinstated. The second time, I got annoyed, started to get suspicious. But I called. My sub got reinstated, and I bitched, and they extended my sub by three months.

    It just happened again. Not only did my issues stop arriving, I got a renewal notice this time. I called wired, they said they didnt understand why my I got the notice, because Im scheduled to receive issues unti november 2010. Trouble is, my ten year sub is supposed to last til 2014. I balked. They referred me back to the original agent who supplied the sub. The original agent no longer has any record of my subscription. When I told them that I am still on the Wired books until November 2010 they had no idea what to say.

    This business is worse than trying to comparison shop for mattresses…

    ;-)

    Now certainly, even if I only got three years out of the sub, which I did, that is still a bargain. But that is NOT what I singed up for.

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