A few weeks ago, I received the following letter from Scientific American magazine.
FROM: Brian Eldridge/Associate Publisher
RE: Unpaid Invoice
After repeated unanswered billing efforts, we have been forced to suspend service of your subscription to Scientific American. And we are now in the awkward position of asking you again to pay for the subscription you ordered.
So please take a moment now to pick up a pen and indicate your credit card payment information. You may also write a check for the amount shown on the enclosed invoice.
Then return them together in the enclosed reply envelope. Your subscription will resume upon receipt of payment, and you will receive the remainder of issues without penalty.
P.S. If something about your order is incorrect, PLEASE let us know. We can quickly resolve any error or discrepancy -- but NOT unless we hear from you."
I responded thusly:
TO: Brian Eldridge, Associate Publisher, Scientific American
FROM: Aliza Worthington, Errant Subscriber
RE: Unpaid invoice
DATE: January 7, 2013
Thank you for your SUSPENSION NOTICE. You seem quite put out that we haven’t renewed our subscription, yet, and appear to be laboring under quite a few misconceptions. Please allow me to disabuse you of these.
1. I called to ask how many “repeated unanswered billing efforts” I’ve so callously and irresponsibly ignored. Your customer service representative (Jasmine) was unable to give me that information, as it is not something of which you keep track. Considering you and so many other of your print cousins begin sending out “urgent” renewal notices 3 or 4 months into a brand new year-long subscription, I hardly think I can be blamed for ignoring one or two.
2. You seem to feel coerced into no longer sending us magazines (“we have been forced to suspend service of your subscription…”) I think, perhaps, the tone is a bit Nora Desmond, don’t you? All that has happened is that in September, I hadn’t sent you a renewal check, and you are now no longer sending me the magazine. This is a standard business relationship, no? I wasn’t aware I was awakening the Scientific American Drama Queen by waiting until January to catch up on my magazine subscriptions.
3. I highly recommend therapy for your deeply passive-aggressive attitude. “…we are now in the awkward position of asking you again to pay for the subscription you ordered.” Actually, according to your phone representative, I did not send in a renewal form asking you to “bill me later”, so technically, I did not order anything. You’re clearly resentful of that fact, and instead of asking me politely to reorder, or notifying me politely that the subscription is cancelled, you feel the need to blame me for putting you in an awkward position. Dear me, how over-sensitive and angry you must be! Really, again, I can’t tell how how effective talk-therapy can be for someone with such issues.
4. “So please take a moment now to pick up a pen and indicate your credit card payment information.” This is the business version of saying to your family members, “Would it KILL YOU to PICK UP THE PHONE and call me once in a while???” Interpreted another way, it could be the teacher saying to the student, “Is it THAT DIFFICULT for you to find your pen and write down sixteen digits, you moron?” Thank you, but I already suffer from plenty of guilt and self-doubt, so forgive me if I don’t allow your tone to add to my burden.
5. As I am continuing my subscription (my husband really enjoys the magazine) I am so relieved to discover that once you receive my payment, my subscription will resume, and that I will “receive the remainder of issues without penalty.” How I could be penalized for legally allowing a magazine subscription to lapse is a mystery to me. If you chose to not renew it at the discounted price I received last year because I didn’t not renew in a timely fashion, I’d just consider that the price of doing business, not a penalty. I’m a grown-up like that.
Thank you for your time, and I certainly hope this has cleared up any misunderstanding you may have about our relationship, and your ability to shame, guilt, or intimidate me in any manner whatsoever.
This post available in its original form on my blog, The Worthington Post.