For the better part of 20 years, I have been a subscriber to The New York Times. Have it delivered, every day. I'm too busy for the whole thing -- I leaf through most of it every other day. Once a quarter or so I'll read a whole Saturday edition cover to cover, which is very satisfying. There are some truly wonderful discoveries to be made on those pages. When I'm through with the paper, about once a week I'll toss it to my next-door neighbor, an ex-New Yorker, who enjoys even day-old coverage.
It ain't cheap. It runs about $10 a week, and so when the quarterly bill comes, I write a check in the $130 range. Until a few months ago, I did it gladly.
But now my long romance with the daily Times is coming to an end. Why? Disagreement with the paper's editorial policies? A desire to switch all my news gathering to the internet? Loss of interest in the wide spectrum of events and trends that the paper chronicles?
Nope. Believe it or not, I'm quitting the Times over labels.
Several months ago, the trademark blue plastic bag in which the Times is delivered (typically double-bagged to protect against Oregon rain) started showing up with a label on it. A paper label, with my name and address on it. A label that's impossible to remove without ripping the bag.
For me, it's just another annoying security and recycling issue that I can do without. Having had my identity stolen once, I don't discard anything with my name on it without first shredding the item or obliterating my name and address. You can't shred a plastic bag in my shredder, so this means a daily trip to the drawer where the black marker is kept, to get the marker to blacken out my name and address.
Then where? The Times bag, which once was easily recycled at any number of Portland locations, can't be recycled with the label on it. And so it's got to go in the landfill, or be kept in a separate pile from our other plastic bags for kitty litter duty. As a religious recycler, I've already got about six or eight different piles going, and starting yet another one is not an option, for mental health reasons if nothing else.
So what is a customer supposed to do? I've called 800-NYTIMES on at least five occasions to complain about this. The folks who answer the phone (who have an accent, but it's not New York) assure me that I can have the labels omitted from my copies of the Times. The delivery person gets the message briefly, at least after some of the calls, but within a few days the labels are always back.
The last time I called, I specifically said I would cancel my subscription if the labels didn't stop. And today, I received not only today's paper with a label on it, but also yesterday's paper, delivered a day late, with a label on it.
The end. I'll pick up The Times at Starbucks once in a while, and I'm sure I'll leaf through the copy that's delivered every day to my workplace. But after a nice long run, my home subscription is history.
Just another one for my ever-expanding Grouchy Old Coot files, I guess.