Subscriber rights are sacrosanct

CONVENTIONAL wisdom has it that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I can't argue with that. Recently, I had an earful from one murderously annoyed lady, who rang to complain after she found her home-delivered newspaper in tatters, thanks to her savage dogs. She was fury personified.

CONVENTIONAL wisdom has it that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I can't argue with that. Recently, I had an earful from one murderously annoyed lady, who rang to complain after she found her home-delivered newspaper in tatters, thanks to her savage dogs. She was fury personified.

Such has been the passion behind the frequent complaints from readers who either do not get their newspapers delivered, get them later or in a bad shape.

Why would newspapers give their most valuable readers such shabby service? After speaking to several aggrieved subscribers it would appear that newspaper companies seem to derive sadistic pleasure from skyrocketing the blood pressure of hapless subscribers.

Not so, says Clifford Fram, Avusa Newspapers' circulation tsar. "Every customer is important and every mistake is serious.

"But we do make mistakes. The issue is how efficiently we resolve them when the customer brings the mistakes to our attention. We are very proud of our service."

I was astounded to learn that delivery problems amount to less than 0,2percent, given the sheer volume of newspapers that are delivered on time.

I grudgingly accepted his explanation that slip-ups are bound to occur, given the logistical challenges of making5million home deliveries a month. Their goal is to have the newspapers reach subscribers by 6.30am on weekdays and 7.30am at weekends.

The company's circulation department delivers Sunday Times, The Times, Sunday World, Sowetan, Herald, Daily Dispatch, Saturday Dispatch, Weekend Post,Business Day and The Weekender, regionally and nationally. Sunday Times accounts for 140145 of Sunday deliveries, while 139595 copies are delivered daily.

Though I now have a better appreciation of the work done by the people who afford us the convenience of having our favourite newspapers delivered to our homes and offices at a fraction of the cost, I think it is equally important for the media houses to remember that they are not doing subscribers any favours.

They benefit handsomely from having a hostage market. The subscribers do not have the option of giving a lousy edition the slip, like the impulsive buyer.

Such dedicated readers are the lifeblood of the newspaper. They also save newspaper companies a bundle from not having to spend money collecting unsold copies.

Such readers are entitled to expect superior service, without fail. It might be fair to expect them to accommodate a few mishaps here and there, but having to put up with frequent non-deliveries is too much.

Equally bad is that subscribers are sometimes expected to pick up the phone to report non-deliveries.

If such newspapers as the New York Times can automatically credit the non-deliveries, without waiting for the negative feedback, why can't ours? Where problems persist, such subscribers should be able to cancel their monthly debit orders without a hassle.

lPraise to Judge Sandile Ngcobo for his ruling that section 78(2) of the Promotion of Access to Information Act was unconstitutional. He ruled last Thursday that the section, which gave people who had been refused access to information only 30 days to challenge the refusal,was inimical to freedom of expression and of the media.

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