by Mike Masnick

Don't Renew Your Wired Subscription -- Debt Collectors Will Bang Down Your Door

from the oops dept

It's been a long time since I last subscribed to paper magazines. For a while, I kept them around. The letters they sent as the expiration date of the subscription got closer and closer were more and more pleading (and the prices got lower and lower) and eventually I figured it was fine to pay for another year. However, at some point I realized that I wasn't reading them at all, and let all the subscriptions go away. The one exception, by the way, was Business 2.0, which kept sending me the magazine for years after I stopped sending them money. It's become pretty clear that I'm not the only one who's given up on paper magazine subscriptions, as the retention strategy is apparently getting nastier and nastier. Apparently, Wired Magazine has been upsetting a number of subscribers who thought they'd let their subscription go by sending them to collections agencies who hound the (former) subscribers to get their $12 -- and threaten legal action against those who don't subscribe. The details of the story show that certain promotional subscriptions from Wired Magazine included some fine print that says that, by accepting the promotion, you agree to automatic renewal. And the people who weren't paying up that automatic renewal got sent to a collections agency designed to scare them into paying. Of course, considering that most people know that magazine subscriptions require manual renewal, this seems a bit heavy-handed -- and, to their credit, when confronted with it, Wired Magazine admits it's a mistake and has promised to stop the practice. Still, from the sound of the article, this went on for a few years.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Chris, Jul 8th, 2005 @ 4:25pm

    No Subject Given

    I got a very real looking collection notice today addressed to my 9 year old daughter for one of her horse magazines. I was 99% sure it was a resubscribe scam, but it was a good enough fake that I actually called to make sure it wasn't really a collection notice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Tony Lawrence, Jul 9th, 2005 @ 3:26am

    Nothing new about that

    First, I also have dropped almost all my subscriptions. But there's nothing new about being threatened by collection agencies over magazine subscriptions. I had that happen to me years ago over one of those "Try it free for three issues" thingies. I tried it, didn't like it, and sent in a cancellation.

    The magazine kept coming. I sent another cancellation letter, and after a few months got a call from a purported collection agency telling me that I had to pay up. I think it was $19.95 or something like that. I explained that I had cancelled. They said I had not and had to pay.

    I laughed at them. They said they'd take me to court. I laughed louder, and explained to them that I'd be happy to meet them in court for a $19.95 bill dispute. They then said they'd "ruin my credit rating", which just about put me into giggles: I have a long history of impeccable credit: there's no way a $19.95 dispute could affect it even if I didn't immediately dispute it with the credit bureau, which of course I would.

    That was the end of our conversation, and sure enough, the magazines stopped coming, making me wonder if the "collection agency" was just the magazine's overly aggressive circulation department.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    JJ, Jul 9th, 2005 @ 4:43am

    No Subject Given

    I let my Wired subscription lapse in 1996 (maybe 1997, I am not sure). And I really hadn't missed it at all until a couple of weeks ago when I found an interesting Wired article online and I actually was going to subscribe (you know, the "hey, it's just $12" thing).
    In fact, I had only been too busy but now I am glad that I was. Apologizing really is too little, too late. They should have had enough sense to never try this kind of stuff in the first place. If they feel like they need to strongarm their paying customers, I'll happily spend my twelve bucks elsewhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Director Mitch, Jul 9th, 2005 @ 8:39am

    Personal Experience with this One

    I had my own personal experience with this in Feb. Even after Wired told me the letters would stop I got a few more. My take is that their statement that they would discontinue the practice is a lie, especially if they get enough people to renew. Those who get pissed off are people who already decided not to renew, and they don't care if they get pissed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    zipsa, Jul 9th, 2005 @ 9:49am

    No Subject Given

    what wasnt clear from the story was whether wired continued to send the magazine after the subscription was automatically renewed. If the person was still receiving the magazines then there is _some_ leg to stand on for wired. After all the subscriber did agree to the terms with the special offer and is still getting the magazine, so they would owe it.

    BUT! if wired wasnt continuing to send the magazine after the lapse, then it is a totally bogus scam and they are rightly being crucified by this little story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Bob, Jul 11th, 2005 @ 12:19am


    Most things like this aren't the fault of the company as a whole. The magazine and company itself run a brisk business and should be given the benefit of the doubt.

    The fault instead lies with a few specific, key individuals within the company who first came up with the scheme, then moved it forward through the company to implement.

    All that is needed to solve the problem and restore the credibility of the company in the public eye are the immediate terminations of those individuals responsible. Truly, it was unethical behavior beneath the reputation of the company, and the firings should be publicized accordingly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    eeyore, Jul 11th, 2005 @ 4:52am

    No Subject Given

    Some years ago I received a complementary subscription to Network World magazine. I don't ever remember subscribing to it since I get five or six other complementary (free) magazines and I don't read them all anymore. Since then I have ignored all of the "final notice" letters telling me my subscription is running out and routinely told the cheerful operators who call me that I do not want them to renew my subscription because I do not read their magazine but every week I receive another copy and every week I toss it in the trash can unread.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Dan Janzen, Jul 15th, 2005 @ 12:30pm

    they're still doing it

    I got a letter today saying they were going to renew my subscription automatically unless I called 1-800-SO-WIRED and asked to cancel. Well, I called that number. Guess what? It's inoperable! Oh, clever, clever Wired ... the things you can come up with when the content itself isn't enough to keep circulation up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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