The New York Times on Sunday, maybe?
December 14, 2008 10:04 AM   Subscribe

How do I tell if my newspaper is being stolen or not delivered?

I have read these three threads regarding this issue, but my question and problem are a bit different.

I subscribe to the NYTimes Sunday edition. In the past twelve weeks, I've received it three times. Of the three times I've actually received the paper, once it was the Wednesday edition. Each time I have what the NYT calls a "missed paper," I call in Monday morning and complain and my account is credited. I can also request a credit online.

My NYT, when it is in fact delivered, has always been placed on my doormat.

I've spoken to the property manager and her assistants in the office. They confirmed that the local delivery person usually comes through between 5:30 and 6:00 on Sundays.

I suspect that the delivery person can't be bothered by taking one NYTimes to the back of a multi-bloc apartment complex. I know most of my neighbors by name and don't suspect any of them. Plenty of people get other local (Akron and Cleveland) papers and those sit on their doorsteps until the early afternoon on Sundays, sometimes.

I am considering canceling my subscription and just buying it every Sunday. I don't mind the extra $2 at the newsstand, but I do mind the hassle of having to drive to get a paper that could be delivered.

Aside from tormenting the courier with a special bag/bell/secret handshake, posting possibly haranguing notes, or waking up at 5:00 in the morning to ply the courier with coffee or tea, what else could I do?

Have any of you decided to cancel a subscription because of a similar situation, or subscribed to a theft-proof e-Paper instead?
posted by vkxmai to Human Relations (19 answers total)
 
I'd wait one morning to meet the delivery person. I'd sit outside my own door, on a chair, with a cup of coffee and wait. Then you know for certain if they never come (and you can relate that info instead of your usual complaint), and if they do come...

"Hi! Yeah, I hate calling and complaining every single week so I thought I'd better make sure nobody stole it today."

Then he'll probably come the next week.

Also, those fake security cameras with the red LED? $3.99 in Chinatown.

A paranoid delivery person is a GOOD delivery person.
posted by rokusan at 10:52 AM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can sympathize with your frustration. I've had to cancel subcriptions in the past because of unreliable delivery. As an alternative, you could sign up to receive the paper by mail. Your Sunday NYT would arrive on Monday or Tuesday, but at least you'd be sure to receive it (but it's not a good alternative if you're wanting the pleasure of actually getting to read it on Sunday).
posted by amyms at 11:02 AM on December 14, 2008


When I still got the paper delivered, I called and complained every single time. On average, I received a paper twice a month, though sometimes I'd go a few months with good delivery before it fell off again. Yes, this was ridiculous and annoying. Each time, after a number of consecutive complaints, they'd contact the local delivery dispatch, who would call me to confirm that I received the paper for a week or two. All would be fine for awhile, and then I'd start missing papers again, and I'd start calling again.

I considered canceling over this issue, but I really wanted to receive the paper, so I just considered it part of the process of getting a paper. When I canceled, it was mostly because I was paring down household expenses. But I have to admit that thinking about how high-maintenance this business was softened the disappointment of deciding to discontinue something that I enjoyed.
posted by desuetude at 11:11 AM on December 14, 2008


To answer the first question, buy a copy of the newspaper. Fold it the way your delivered paper was. Put this day old paper on your doormat, headline side down, along with a "gotcha" note inside. If it's being stolen, it's highly unlikely that the thief is going to check the date of the paper s/he will be hustling away. A real delivery person is unlikely to take it and probably would look at the date.
posted by Neiltupper at 11:16 AM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not a solution, but if you haven't received your paper by, oh, 9:00 AM, call immediately. They may be able to get you a replacement copy in time for your morning coffee. Worked for me when I took the Times.
posted by adamrice at 12:31 PM on December 14, 2008


I agree with adamrice. We had trouble with our Sunday times not getting delivered week after week (fenced yard, quiet neighborhood - no one was stealing it). I would call on Sunday morning and we alway got a "redelivery" by the afternoon.
posted by robinpME at 12:35 PM on December 14, 2008


There is no good solution to your problem. Any choice has you doing a lot of work, to get a paper or not getting one. Neiltupper's solution is a good way to check if a neighbor is screwing you. I took the route of just 'wasting' some paper and printing of a newspaper style news blog mashup. I get the top news and the topics I want to read. It does take some work, I setup a Yahoo Pipes thing, but regardless anyway takes more effort than subscribing to the NYTs. I hope you find a good solution.

Good Luck
posted by RobGF at 1:03 PM on December 14, 2008


Also, those fake security cameras with the red LED? $3.99 in Chinatown.

real ones can be got on the cheap too. Not as cheap as 3.99. But it might be fun to play with a real one, even after you figure out what is going on with your paper.

Is there a front desk or anywhere else closer to the road that the delivery person could leave it at?
posted by silkygreenbelly at 2:06 PM on December 14, 2008


ugh. part of the problem is probably due to the fact that newspaper delivery is an incredibly low-paying, crap job. there's probably high turnover, and the people delivering are either kids or other people who don't give too much of a crap about you and your paper. unfortunate, but i suspect newspapers lose enough money as it is and can't afford to pay them a lot more.

i used to deliver papers as a kid, although things may be different now, here's my advice based on that perspective. first of all, you ARE (usually) allowed to make special requests on your account (i.e. please put my paper in my mailbox.) in fact, you can even say 'due to the fact that my paper is often missing i would like it to be placed in my mailbox from now on.' these requests are noted on the info that the delivery person receives. although i know you live in an apartment and probably have a locked mailbox, you can buy a mailbox at menard's or home depot and stick it right outside your door. in fact i think you can get ones specifically labeled 'newspaper.' but this way, when the delivery person sees the note on your account, they will know that you are pissed enough about the lack of delivery to have called, and you'll probably call again if you aren't satisfied. or, if by chance it is being stolen, this should also discourage whoever is doing it.

also, this is a perfect time of year to deal with this issue because christmas is coming. do you tip your newspaper delivery person? it IS customary. although i agree this person probably doesn't deserve it, i believe in using tips to guilt people in some situations. this way if they get a tip even after giving you crappy service, they may feel bad about it and start doing a better job. i guess it depends on the person, but often times when i've gotten a good tip for shitty service it makes me work harder. out of guilt. this may not work at all, but i think it's worth a shot. try ten bucks in a christmas card (in which you can write, 'i think my neighbors have been stealing my paper, and i would be eternally grateful if you can put them in my mailbox from now on!')

if none of this works, then it may be time to cancel your subscription with a bitchy and detailed letter.
posted by lblair at 2:08 PM on December 14, 2008


first of all, you ARE (usually) allowed to make special requests on your account (i.e. please put my paper in my mailbox.) in fact, you can even say 'due to the fact that my paper is often missing i would like it to be placed in my mailbox from now on.' these requests are noted on the info that the delivery person receives. although i know you live in an apartment and probably have a locked mailbox, you can buy a mailbox at menard's or home depot and stick it right outside your door. in fact i think you can get ones specifically labeled 'newspaper.' but this way, when the delivery person sees the note on your account, they will know that you are pissed enough about the lack of delivery to have called, and you'll probably call again if you aren't satisfied.

Just a clarification on my previous reply regarding this -- one of my previous apartments was on a street with more foot traffic, and thus theoretically a higher possibility of paper theft. I had "a note on my account" specifying that the paper be put through my (yes, large enough for the Sunday Times) mail slot. It was extraordinarily difficult to get them to leave it on my actual doorstep (not just flung in the general direction of my door,) let alone through the mail slot.
posted by desuetude at 3:16 PM on December 14, 2008


yes, call first thing the same morning to get redelivery. that way the delivery supervisor will be aware that there is chronic non-delivery of the paper. (also, they are often the ones who have to deliver replacement papers, so if you become a frequent caller, they will have an incentive to make sure your paper gets there in the morning.)
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:59 PM on December 14, 2008


I had "a note on my account" specifying that the paper be put through my (yes, large enough for the Sunday Times) mail slot. It was extraordinarily difficult to get them to leave it on my actual doorstep (not just flung in the general direction of my door,) let alone through the mail slot.

Man- that does suck.

Though I still maintain that my advice MAY work. it may not. But I think it comes down to the attitude of the delivery person. When I delivered papers, I dutifully followed requests (ie mail slot) the best I could. but obviously that's not the case with everyone! Tipping probably helps.
posted by lblair at 6:56 PM on December 14, 2008


Not a solution, but if you haven't received your paper by, oh, 9:00 AM, call immediately. They may be able to get you a replacement copy in time for your morning coffee. Worked for me when I took the Times.

The NYTimes subscriber services only has an automated 800 number on the weekends. I'll call tomorrow and ask for a local number for the delivery company.

you can buy a mailbox at menard's or home depot and stick it right outside your door.

That's a good idea, except that I'm on the third floor of a three-story apartment building and my door is farthest from the entrance on that floor. (This is a good thing for me as a tenant, because my apartment is quieter.)

do you tip your newspaper delivery person? it IS customary. although i agree this person probably doesn't deserve it, i believe in using tips to guilt people in some situations.

I'm definitely a 20% tipper in restaurants and I always give a GC to the mail carrier personally around New Year's Eve, but I'm not sure where I'd put a note/letter with a GC for the paper courier. I'm wary of leaving anything of value near the mailboxes. I'll contact the management office to ask for more information about the logistics of that.

I'll add that I live near a large university, but not in the university town itself. There is a mixture of university students and young professionals (mostly med. school students and teachers). After talking over the scenario with my friends tonight and re-watching “The Seder” episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, I'm going to really press the matter with the local distributor. I'll write about my experience tomorrow.
posted by vkxmai at 8:43 PM on December 14, 2008


The NYTimes subscriber services only has an automated 800 number on the weekends. I'll call tomorrow and ask for a local number for the delivery company.

Report it every time via the automated number (if for no other reason to log a pattern and history of the issue with the company to whom you pay your money.) If it's early enough in the day, they'll still do a redelivery. I obviously have no idea how the phone system works, but it does somehow seem to dispatch to the local carrier.

The NYTimes may or may not give you the number for the local delivery service. If they do, you can obviously try contacting the local directly, but remember that you are just one person who is not putting a ton of money in that local delivery company's pocket. But the NYTimes has a contract with them for the area.
posted by desuetude at 6:50 AM on December 15, 2008



you can buy a mailbox at menard's or home depot and stick it right outside your door.

That's a good idea, except that I'm on the third floor of a three-story apartment building and my door is farthest from the entrance on that floor. (This is a good thing for me as a tenant, because my apartment is quieter.)


yeah i also live on the top floor of my building :) if the stairs are outside could you put it at the bottom of the stairs?

or, and i realize this may not be allowed, but if the entrace is inside a lobby maybe your management/landlord would allow you to put a box for your paper (with your name on it!) in the downstairs area where the regular mailboxes are. or just anywhere that would be easily accessible. i think that the problem with apartments is that when a newspaper is left downstairs or in a common area, well, it's easy for your neighbor to 'accidentally' grab it and act like they thought it was theirs. but if you had your very own paper box, it would take a lot more audacity for someone to steal from you again!

as far as tipping them, the best way to do this may actually be to catch them while they are delivering. if you can stand to get up that early. plus that'll kill two birds with one stone (the other one being the suggestion from a few people that you actually watch to see whether it gets delivered at all or not.) plus i think if you give it to them in person, the guilt tactic would work much more effectively, especially if you act super nice.
posted by lblair at 10:03 AM on December 15, 2008


As a circulation director for a small newspaper, my guess here is that the carrier isn't taking it to your door. I have no idea what the pay is for a Sunday NYT, but probably less than a dollar per paper, possibly a lot less depending on how many people are in the delivery chain taking a cut. Most newspapers pay on a per-piece basis, but they are contracting with the local distributer to get those papers out. So, if the distributer is getting $2 a paper and he's paying someone $1 a paper to cover several areas, and that person is then hiring actual carriers at $0.40 a paper. . . . This might not be the case, of course, but it could easily happen.

Then, comparing to the local papers you mentioned: Those carriers probably have a few dozen people in the building, so it's worth their while to take each paper to the door. Their compensation per unit time is much better because they're tossing papers at, say, 50% of the doors. Your NYT carrier might have 1 or 2 customers in the building. Now, for 40 cents or even a dollar he has to climb two flights of stairs and go down a long hall or whatever it might be to drop your paper. He only does this once a week. Where's the money in it? Add in the fact that the chain of communication from the customer back to the carrier goes through so many levels. . . . It doesn't look good.

I would second the recommendation to try and catch the guy (or girl) and personally deliver a tip. The extra money will make it much more worthwhile for them and they will hopefully put out the effort to win future tips from you. Even if you're pretty generous, it's probably less than paying the newsstand price and driving out there to get the paper.

Unfortunately, your carrier may be a deadbeat. In that case, the more complaints they get the more likely they are to finally fix that squeeky wheel and just hire a better person. In this economy there are more people willing to do what is, essentially, a pretty miserable job.
posted by dellsolace at 1:32 PM on December 15, 2008


I called the NYTimes again. The CSR said that all she could do was credit my account and apologized again for the inconvenience.

I am going to try and meet the courier this Sunday morning and give them a $20 tip. I have no plans to mention the missing papers to them, because I'm still not 100% certain that some cretin isn't stealing it immediately after the courier leaves. If the courier claims not to have a paper for me, I'll just play dumb and apologize for interrupting him or her.
posted by vkxmai at 5:57 AM on December 16, 2008


vkxmail: Escalate. Very nicely ask to speak to a supervisor about an ongoing issue. Firmly and politely insist on it. The rank-and-file CSR can't do much for you besides credit your account.

(Try to meet your courier too, of course.)
posted by desuetude at 6:25 AM on December 16, 2008


Update: I waited from 5:00-9:30 today looking outside, etc. The courier never arrived. I'm canceling my subscription on Monday morning. So long printed media!
posted by vkxmai at 7:43 AM on December 21, 2008


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