This is about a lot more than just the morning paper, so listen up. It all started a little over a week ago when our daily delivery of the Santa Fe New Mexican just stopped cold. Whenever the paper doesn’t show up, we call them, obviously, and they give us a credit. But this went on day after day. What in the world?
I started pressing the customer service reps for more information. At one point someone told me that the carrier had “gotten stuck” and couldn’t make it down our little road. Being told this wasn’t helpful, since my wife, the mail lady, all our neighbors, and yours truly were going back and forth just fine. Nothing in this world makes me angrier than injustice, and if I’m the persecuted one, you’d better dive for cover.
I did my best to get some help on this, but it wasn’t easy. I emailed the circulation department, the director, the publisher—anyone important who had a public email address on the website. I wailed and ranted on Twitter. And of course we kept calling Customer Service to report our missing paper every day.
At one point a subaltern called. To my mounting exasperation, he seemed to put the blame on me, at one point suggesting that I drive a mile away to a predetermined spot where I could pick up the paper every morning! His explanation was, “Well gee, looks like you’re the only subscriber in that neighborhood…” In other words, it was a burden on the carrier—a relatively new one—to come down our little road because he only had one delivery to make. Well, tough. I had a paper route when I was young, delivering the Dallas Morning News in Abilene. Hardly anyone in Abilene subscribed. I had to drive over 20 miles every morning in the dark: one paper here, drive my motor scooter half a mile, three papers there, and so on. It was hell and took me hours, but I did it. That was all I could think of while I listened. It made no sense that the Santa Fe New Mexican didn’t have the balls to call the carrier and say, “Just deliver the damn thing!”
By now I was getting seriously depressed. This pushed all my buttons. It wasn’t fair. What the hell was wrong? And why in God’s name didn’t the New Mexican take my side? Meanwhile no one with any authority responded to my emails. No one else called me on the phone. Every day, no paper, and contradictory reasons given. I couldn’t stand it. It consumed my every waking moment. I just couldn’t let it go. The question was simply “why?” Or rather, “why me?”
We decided this was all too painful and that we would cancel. In so doing, I found myself talking to a smart sane fellow who told me my account was actually inactive and had in fact been so since we stopped getting the paper a whole week ago, when—unbeknownst to me—the carrier declared the road to be “impassable.” What’s more, the address where we’d been getting the paper for eight long years was now in an “undeliverable area.” Like hell, but never mind. Remarkably, none of the other customer service reps I’d spoken to each day had thought to tell me this, although they dutifully credited my account. Perhaps they didn’t know. A click too far away on their monitors, I’ll bet. And isn’t it amazing how one individual can find stuff out and coworkers can’t, even on the same computers?
But then he let the dirty little secret out, whether he intended to or not. To wit, outside of Santa Fe, at least, the newspaper relies on contractors for delivery, private individuals who aren’t employees of the firm. This may be how it’s been done everywhere for years, how would I know? All I had was the memory of my experience with the Dallas Morning News. At any rate, hiring their own carriers is impossible because no one wants the job*, and even contractors are hard to find. (What their incentives are, I haven’t a clue, though the arrangement must save the company some dough.) The bottom line was, a contractor/carrier could arbitrarily decide that he or she didn’t want to deliver to a certain address, for whatever reason, and there was nothing the newspaper could do about it. It’s raining? Want to go home early? All the contractor had to do was make up an excuse—I heard several—and that was that.
But this explains why no one could give me an answer: subscribing doesn’t mean you really get the paper every day unless you’re lucky. If people realized this, they’d be less likely to sign up! The only way the company can discipline the contractors is to dump them, and then they have to find replacements—in other words, the lowest party in the operation calls the shots. Just think of the ill will this dynamic generates: hundreds of people saw my rants on Twitter, and I was ready to burn everyone at the stake. I would have, too, because by then I’d lost my mind.
That of course is my own burden and a thing I have to work on. Don’t tell me I can’t do this or that, I’ll make you wish you’d never been born. (And yes, I know the reason why.) It’s always something, isn’t it? Good Lord.
* High median age in Taos, way more geezers than kids. Could be relevant.