Two years ago this month, I bought my wife a physical subscription to The New York Times, the kind where they throw the paper onto your driveway. She loves reading it the old-fashioned way, with the ink on the paper. As do I. It’s better than online. You walk down your driveway every morning. The Times rattles when you unfold it. It rattles again when you turn the page to read the next article. It’s ready when you are to read where you left off.
Prior to this, she’d sometimes pick one up while shopping, at Damark’s Market Deli or the East Hampton IGA. But it was usually just once or twice a week. It was Valentine’s Day 2020. It made a good gift.
Things went along fine for a while. But then, suddenly, in October 2021, it stopped. It wasn’t there for two days, then a week, then a week and a half.
The New York Times puts you on hold to transfer you to “delivery.” The music they play is jazz – Gerry Mulligan, I think. Very cool.
And then you are talking to somebody. No delivery yesterday? We’ll credit you for that day. Oh, a week? I can credit you for no paper for up to a week. What’s your address? Twenty-seven Three Mile Harbor Hog Creek Road in East Hampton? Call us back tomorrow and let us know if it’s better. Glad to help.
But there was no paper the next day, or the next. I got more credits. But still there was no paper.
I learned a lot about how they handled delivery problems. They really want you to call back every single day to report a nondelivery. I mentioned I like Gerry Mulligan, but being on hold 20 minutes a day was a hardship. They said the more you call, the sooner we’ll open an investigation about it.
“We have about 32,000 distributors,” an agent said on one call. “It’s not easy to do.”
I asked for our delivery boy’s number.
They said no.
I then told this agent I’d founded Dan’s Papers in 1960 and always took delivery seriously to fix any problem.
This didn’t go anywhere.
This went on and on. Months went by. They could give me more credit. Did I want to cancel my subscription? No?
This kept up through the end of 2021 and into the winter of 2022. Making matters even worse was the fact there were no credits being deducted on my Amex account. It was $84 a month. They were still charging me as if I got the paper.
An agent spent half an hour looking into that. He found that my wife had ordered a free crossword puzzle from Apple and Apple was now overseeing the billing. When I told my wife she’d have to cancel that for the credits to go through from the Times, she took it well enough. But I still saw no credits.
My calls were now an over-the-top whine. I have paid $600 to The New York Times for you to not deliver my paper. And we pay more when we buy it at the store anyway. Do something! They did nothing.
Then something going on in East Hampton gave me an idea. East Hampton Town owns the East Hampton Airport and wants to make it less noisy, so, on May 17 they will close the airport for two days and then reopen it with the town still the owner, but now it will have a quieter noise level designation.
I’m going to cancel our subscription for four days, I told my wife, then get a new one four days later but in your name instead of mine. Maybe then they’ll deliver it to the right place.
Good luck with that, she said.
I called the Times and in two minutes an agent talked me out of it. If you do that, he said, you will lose all the credits we’ve put into your account. No, we don’t refund the money for nondelivery. We credit your account forward. Future deliveries will be at no charge until the credits run out. How about I give you another month of credits and let me fix it?
So I agreed to this. A month free! For a newspaper I pay for but haven’t seen in five months. I was stunned that I did this. And this didn’t work either.
Now we come to the grand finale of this story. A week ago, we were four miles into the Northwest Woods to meet up with some friends for a beach walk. On the way we passed a road with a street sign that read Three Mile Harbor Drive. We took a detour. Number 27 was an estate with an iron gate. About a dozen copies of a newspaper were sprinkled on the lawn just inside. Newspaper delivery people had been throwing them over the gate and onto the lawn.
I was convinced these were our newspapers but my wife was not so sure. She stopped me from opening the gate to slide out a paper to see if it was The New York Times. You’ll get in trouble, she said. They could be newspaper subscribers, too. We drove on.
Later, I found the estate owner’s name, address and phone number. Don’t ask how I did this.
We’re trying to get The New York Times to stop, they told me. We come out about once every other weekend. We don’t read it and we don’t want it. We’re not getting anywhere either.
So here’s what happened. On a rainy day Sunday, three days later, we drove over, opened the gate (they’d given us permission) and removed the blue plastic bag with a 6-pound Sunday New York Times in it and drove home.
Sliding the paper out of the plastic, a white envelope fell to the floor. On the front was printed the following: “Happy Valentine’s Day. Your delivery boy, Anthony.” And there was his phone number. He was hoping to get a tip.
We called the number, he identified himself, and next day he delivered The New York Times to our driveway, and he’s been doing it since then. That first day he also delivered the New York Post, Newsday and The Wall Street Journal just to be nice.