Brilliant Irish satirist Jonathan Swift was said to have loved individuals but loathed mankind. Specifically, he wrote, “I hate and detest that animal called man, although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth.” In that spirit, I love Joan Vennochi, Scot Lehigh, Brian McGrory and other Globe reporters and editors, but I have come to loathe the institution. For the last two weeks, the Boston Globe has been making thousands of Boston area subscribers tear-your-hair-out crazy.
Since the paper fired its previous delivery vendor, [Publishers Circulation Fulfillment (PCF), which had been delivering our papers for probably 20 years with nary a problem], we have gone from getting no papers, to getting occasional papers hours late, to getting papers left unwrapped in the rain out on the sidewalk, and back to getting no paper. Yes, I can read articles online, but it’s a totally different experience. You miss things like, for example, owner John Henry’s letter of apology. Never saw it. Maybe it was with the letter apologizing for the Red Sox’ last place season.
I get crankier every morning, having to spend a good 45 minutes calling the Globe to report the day’s problem, waiting on hold (I usually draw the line at half an hour), having some poor “customer service” (now there’s a misnomer) representative apologize for the inconvenience, then -until recently – beginning the process all over again for the New York Times and Wall St. Journal, whose deliveries were affected by the Globe’s problems. Those two papers have finally gotten their act together, but not the Globe.
After CEO Mike Sheehan told Jim Braude on Greater Boston that the problem could take four to six months to resolve and that, no, they wouldn’t rehire the old vendor, subscribers were understandably apoplectic. The Globe recanted, and this morning the customer service representative said the old vendor will be back on Monday, perhaps even in time for the Sunday paper. California-based ACI Media Group will still do half the deliveries.
Under questioning, the poor phone rep acknowledged he has felt like a punching bag for the last two weeks. I’m sure many irate subscribers unload their anger on these low-paid agents who have been given little information and trained only to repeat, as many times as necessary, “we’re so sorry for your inconvenience. The Globe is working to resolve the problem as soon as possible.”
Reportedly, 75 percent of the Globe’s revenue comes from print advertising. The make-goods on this (if they have to compensate for failed airings as television has to) can’t help the newspaper already best by shrinking readership and revenues. It’s jaw-dropping that an institution of the Globe’s stature, which routinely criticizes other businesses and institution for their failings, could have been so stupid and insensitive to end-users whom they theoretically value.
One might ask that why not cancel altogether, given the serious deterioration of the Globe (editorial page reduced to one, often limp editorial; Saturday paper shrunk to little more than a super market advertiser; overreliance on other papers and wire services for national and international news). It’s tempting. But it’s still the Globe that gives us quality long-form writing and investigative pieces. From coverage of the Church abuse scandal years ago, to the intimate portraits of life on Bowdoin and Geneva Streets in Roxbury, to the outrages of concurrent surgeries at the Mass. General, the Globe is still the go-to source for local information and, despite all of its flaws, the Massachusetts paper of record. It’s among the ties that bind the community.
Word is that delivery in my neighborhood is going back to PCF, and I just hope that, when the former vendor is back on board, they have not lost too many experienced drivers so callously tossed aside in the change-over. Boston Globe ownership should be pleased that their readers value their subscriptions so highly and understand that $57 a month is a lot of money to pay for a kick in the teeth.
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