Please, Just Let Me Go

Trying to reduce the volume of paper coming into the house, I just called to cancel subscriptions to Wired, New York Magazine, and MIT’s Technology Review.

The first two were easy to get rid of. The Wired and New York websites don’t let you cancel — they make you call to do that. So I called, and it took all of two minutes to become a former subscriber. Technology Review was another matter.

I can’t honestly remember when I first subscribed; I’ve been seeing the magazine for years, and it makes fascinating bathroom reading. Somewhere along the line, my subscription renewal became automatic, meaning the publisher just signs you up for another tour of duty as long as they have a current credit card for you. You can see the beauty of that arrangement from the magazine’s viewpoint, and how insidious it is for the subscriber: You get a courtesy notice that you’re getting another year of two of the magazine; you actually have to read the notice and get off your ass and make a phone call to stop it from happening.

I called the Technology Review number and got into an automated voice system that after a few questions and answers informed me that since my payment had already been processed, I needed to call another number. I called that number and was greeted by the same automated voice. This time, I had the option of canceling the magazine — but not before the voice offered me a series of bribes: first, a free extension of my Technology Review subscription; when I said no to that, my choice of a travel mug or 20 bucks in gasoline rebates — that’s five and a half gallons at current Bay Area prices; when I said no, the voice offered me free subscriptions to Wired and ESPN, the Magazine. When I declined — politely, but wondering how the voice system would handle a scream — the voice said, “I’m sorry you weren’t interested in more magazines today,” told me I’d get a refund, then said goodbye.

Next chore is tracking down the rest of the stuff I automatically pay for and getting rid of what I don’t use. I’ve thought of publishing the complete list but decided it’s both depressing and maybe a little more revealing than even I think prudent (lots of hot charity action on our debit cards — we give $25 a month to the American Red Cross, automatically).

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One Reply to “Please, Just Let Me Go”

  1. You’re lucky, Dan. I went through the same process recently to cancel my cable internet subscription. Like you, I had established automatic debit on that account. I spoke to a human, though, who also offered bribes to keep me on. Here’s the thing: I later called my bank to see how I could “un-authorize” the cable company from accessing my account in the event they fail to cancel my subscription for any one of the many reasons these things sometimes happen. You can’t. For a fee of $30 in my bank’s case, I can stop payment if I know the exact amount (I do). The only other alternative is to close my account and start over (Quite inconvenient since I have automatic debit set up with many of my accounts). I have to hope that the cable company will do the right thing even though they have every incentive to drag their feet on it.

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