5 On Your Side

Premium papers, online access count against N&O subscription costs

Posted April 8

Some customers of Raleigh's News & Observer complained to 5 On Your Side that they didn't get what they paid for in subscribing to the newspaper.

John Tupman, a home delivery subscriber for nearly 18 years, said he was so frustrated with a recent billing discrepancy that he considered canceling.

"They keep it up and I'm just going to drop it," he said.

On Dec. 8, Tupman paid for his standard 13-week subscription. He thought he'd be due to renew on March 9. But his bill set his renewal date at March 1 – 8 days short of his 13 weeks.

The newspaper charges extra for "premium content days," special editions like Thanksgiving and President's Day. Those individual newspapers cost more and that cost is deducted from the total a subscriber has paid. When the funds run out, the newspaper moves up the expiration date.

"I think it's unfair," Tupman said.

Other customers also complained to 5 On Your Side about the date issue and the fact that the newspaper automatically charges subscribers for "plus" –access to online and mobile content. 

Even customers who never sign up for "plus" accounts are automatically enrolled. One subscriber saw that cost her $55 more a year.

Jim Puryear, vice president of circulation at the N&O, said customers who don't want "plus" can opt out.

Asked why the newspaper didn't allow customers to opt in, Puryear said, "We feel like this is a better process."

He said the premium content and plus charges are spelled out on the back of every bill.

"I feel like we do an adequate job of being transparent with our premium day charges with our bill," he said.

But customers like John Tupman say the additional charges could be more clear.

"If they'd just be honest in what they're charging," he said. "Just tell me for sure what it is."

Tupman and others also commented on the lighter shade of gray text used where the pricing policy is spelled out. Puryear says it prevents text from bleeding through.

Puryear said he would contact customers who reached out to 5 On Your Side. It wasn't until after an email reminder on Tuesday that he made those contacts. 

38 Comments

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  • quartrhoss2 Apr 16, 8:41 a.m.

    Lets not forget that the "extra content" we are being charged more for are actually sale flyers that the N&O charge a premium price to the retailers for inclusion. This is actually double dipping and is considered unethical at the least and possibly illegal.

  • LuvinCam Apr 14, 6:00 p.m.

    I get the Sunday only paper just for the coupons. Each year my subscription is shortened. Last year they told me that the price changed during my subscription. When I asked why was I not notified, the CS rep claimed that they did, NOT. I went ahead and renewed because they were giving me a decent rate. This year my subscription was shortened again. This time I was told that it was because of the "premium" papers (which I don't read) and the new rate is $1.90 per week. I canceled and my last paper was supposed to be 04/06/2014 according to the CS rep who canceled it in mid March. 04/06/2014 arrives but my last paper didn't. I called they were gone for the day; I left a message and sent an email. No one contacted me. I called back later in the week and was told that it was because the cost of the paper is $1.80 (not the amount I renewed with) and I only had $1.65 in my account so my account would have been -.15 cents if they had delivered, I asked for a refund of the $1.65.

  • myz123 Apr 9, 7:37 p.m.

    I cancelled today after arguing on the phone for the 5th time trying to get my money back that they over charged me. I only get the Sunday paper and last Feb got a rate of 21.88/13wks for 1 yr after the 1st 13 wks they charged me 31.25 (which is basically what I can get it for at the store) then the 3rd charge was 31.25 so I called and said it was wrong and they refunded me the difference but then in 2 wks charged me 20.21 again. Basically taking back the refund and adding to it. After calling again they said the 31.25 was a rate increase WHAT?? I can get the paper at the store for less than that. I didnt want to cancel but either they dont want my business or just have no common sense and cant add.

  • moppie Apr 9, 2:15 p.m.

    I stopped my subscription a couple of years ago, since I only have time to really read the paper on Sunday. Walgreen's usually has them for $1.50, which worked out even cheaper than their subscription rate.

  • claire7676 Apr 9, 2:14 p.m.

    Um, yeah. Even before they were charging for the online edition, they would charge my credit card days early. I called and asked why; their excuse was that they charge the card early so that if the charge is rejected, they can contact the customer for a different form of payment and the delivery will not be interrupted. Uh-huh, yeah I believe that.

    AND when they started the extra charge for the online access, they stopped allowing you to do the vacation hold with a credit to your account!! Their excuse was "well, it's available online, so we don't do that anymore". When I said that I opted-out of that, they said "well, you can get it online"... but then I have to pay extra... whaaat??? They do not make any sense.

  • NCSU84 Apr 9, 2:11 p.m.

    I do not like that if I go on vacation, I do not get credit for the days I do not received newspaper. tsk....

  • wufpaker Apr 9, 2:04 p.m.

    The N&O went to hell in a handbasket after the Daniels family sold it a few years ago. What was once a locally-owned paper with local values is now owned by a mega-publisher with accountability to no one. The bad attitude of the circulation VP in the interview was overwhelming. N&O, you will reap what you sow. Papers are dropping like flies. It wouldn't be smart to antagonize the remaining readers you have left.

  • westernwake1 Apr 9, 1:49 p.m.

    "If I renew for 52 weeks, I should get 52 weeks and not 51." - harri063

    This is the standard definition of fraud. Which makes this a situation desperately calling for intervention by the N.C. State Attorney General's office.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Apr 9, 1:40 p.m.

    Their premium paper cost should just be built into the subscription and they ought to know it.

    They are a pain to cancel (no online option). I canceled by email and it kept coming. Forwarded that email to an actual person there and they accepted it, so I have to give them credit for that.

  • rlwieland Apr 9, 1:31 p.m.

    Sinking ship. Things like this start to happen when a company is willing to place pennies above their integrity. Unless the govt. jumps in and saves them print papers will be even more limited in years to come. Now I know I want stop and talk to the guy trying to give me a free paper at the store. Can you stop throwing a midtown paper in my yard as well that goes right in the trash!

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