Begging to buy a paper

If the overlords of the newspaper industry need a clue as to why times have gotten so tough, here’s a freebie for them: Some of the basics of business aren’t being observed.

Exhibit A: Me, the lifelong newspaper reader who had to chase somebody down to ask if I could subscribe.

When I left the newspaper business after thirty years as a reporter, editor and columnist, I lost all the usual benefits — health coverage, a retirement plan, a salary that would prompt the average Wal-Mart worker to offer a few bucks to tide me over, etc. But the thing I missed the most was having a newspaper delivered to my driveway every morning at no cost. At least, at no cost to me.

My departure wasn’t sudden. I gave the requisite two weeks notice, and showed up every day for those two weeks. (I won’t pretend that I worked real hard, if at all, but I was physically present.) At no point did anyone ask if I wanted to continue my subscription as a paying chump. Uh, I mean customer.

A couple of days after my departure, the paper ceased being dropped in my driveway. I waited for somebody to call to see if I wanted to resume service. And waited. And waited. And waited.

Ladies and gentleman of the press, this situation was … what’s the word I’m looking for here? Oh, yeah — stupid. It was almost a slam-dunk certainty that I would become a paying customer. All somebody needed to do was ask. Nobody asked. After a week or so, I sent an email to a fellow I know in the circulation department of my former employer. He arranged for delivery to resume, after obtaining a credit-card number from me.

The point is, I had to find him and make it happen. Otherwise, I’d still be reading out-of-date magazines and second-hand books at the breakfast table. And you know what? I was getting used to life without a newspaper.

Ultimately, I felt a little bit like a car salesman who walks home after his last day at work, and wonders why nobody seemed to notice that he needed a car.

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