Monday, November 27, 2017

Fun with the Houston Chronicle Billing Department

As I was totaling up my end-of-month bills this afternoon, I couldn't help but notice that our esteemed city newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, had taken the liberty of billing me three separate times in the past thirty days.  Now, I'm not proud to admit that I subscribe to the Chronicle on most days, but in my defense, I only get the paper on Sundays.

For a "Sunday Only" subscription, I pay the sum of $14 a month -- in theory.  Assuming there are four Sundays in a month, that comes to $3.50 a paper.  That's not really all that great of a deal for something I can usually work through in the space of ten minutes on the average Sunday.  Not to mention, the newspaper lady routinely forgets to deliver the paper about once a month.

As with most of my bills, I have it on a credit card with autopay.

I noticed today that the Chron had billed me $14 on October 31st, $19 on November 3rd, and another $14 on November 24th.   This seemed to boost my average bill to $11.75 per newspaper, which seemed a tad hefty.

So, I called in to question my bill.  After being on hold for about fifteen minutes, I finally spoke to an actual living person!  The explanation went a little something like this.
Chronicle Lady:  Well, that bill on October 31st was supposed to be on October 15th, but we charged you late.  Don't worry, we did not charge you extra for the late fee.
Charge me extra for a late fee on something that auto-drafts?  Huh?
Chronicle Lady:  The bill on November 3rd is because we bill ten days before your subscription expires and it was going to expire on November 15th.
Wait.  What?
Chronicle Lady:  The bill on November 24 is because your subscription was going to expire on December 10th, so we billed you for it.
I'm completely confused at this point.
ME:  So, why was the November 3rd bill for $19 instead of $14?
Chronicle Lady:  That was because you receive a special Christmas edition paper which is an additional $5.  Oh, wait, I mean, you receive a special Thanksgiving edition paper which is an additional $5.
ME:  Wait, you charge me an extra five dollars because you put extra advertisements in it?
Chronicle Lady:  Yes sir.
ME:  You know, nevermind.  Just cancel my subscription.
Chronicle Lady:  That will be another department.  Let me transfer you.
She then hung up on me.

And they wonder why the newspaper industry is dying.


Unknown said...

I went through this a few months ago. They have among the worst and most deceptive billing practices I have ever seen. Aside from your issues, they also claim to extend the billing date when a paper is not delivered, but never do so. I call it theft.

I was a loyal paper subscriber for 40+ years and I miss the hard copy paper, but not enough to continue to endure their unlawful, deceptive, and fraudulent business practices.

This is a class action waiting to happen. Google it and you will find many similar stories.

Anonymous said...

I'm convinced that the Houston Chronicle only hires people that were fired from Comcast for billing and sales, the cable company's own exploits in these two fields well documented as terrible. You'll have better luck trying to cancel a timeshare contract, get an erroneous parking ticket corrected over the phone, or a refund from a strip club than to get the Chronicle to follow up on their promises.

Anonymous said...

Not only is their billing department inept, but so is their reporting. The news stories are currently non-stop about powerful men creating hostile work environments for their female subordinates. Action is finally being taken against the abusers all over the country. And yet, The Chronicle has pretty much let the Nathan Beedle story drop. The man had to go to classes about sexual harassment and yet he still supervises MANY young female prosecutors. Come on Chronicle, have you tried to get those documents again that HCDAO fought to give you? Beedle’s behavior has been an “open secret.” Make no mistake about it, this will be a major campaign issue in 2 1/2 years. Ads about Beedle will be the new Jenny ads. So why not report about it now? The women at HCDAO deserve better.

Jefe said...

Just cancel. They will deliver it anyway, just to keep up their subscription numbers. I have tried to get them to stop throwing two pounds of ads and cartoons on my lawn every Sunday, to no avail.

Anonymous said...

There was a secretary at our firm a few years back who had cancelled her Chronicle subscription but they kept delivering the newspapers anyway, for 12-years, all for free. Or so she thought.

When she went to close on the sale of her home she found that the Hearst Corporation had placed a lien against her property in the amount of a couple thousand dollars. She had obtained no proof of her subscription cancellation since it was done over the phone and was under pressure by her realtor so she paid the lien. No doubt this is a common ruse, so remember to either obtain proof of your cancellation or those newspapers may cost you even more...