Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Auto Renewal

Place: Taco John's
Lunch: Four hard shells, small Super Ole's (no tomato, no guac), Pepsi

There's a guy weighing my food.

He's weighing everybody's food, actually.  Everything that comes off the prep line is placed on a food scale and notes are taken.  It's either quality assurance or they're making sure they aren't being too generous with the ingredients, or something.  He questions Food Prep Girl on my Super Ole's.

Food Prep Girl, annoyed, "You have to account for there being no tomatoes or guac."

Yeah.  Take that, Food Scale Guy.

I'm phasing out magazine subscriptions.  Partly because I don't really read any of them anymore...they just take up space...partly because mail annoys me.  Also, anything that reduces revenue for the USPS and therefore (hopefully) shortens their lifespan is okay by me.

I had five magazine subscriptions for years.  I still do, but two of them are now digitally delivered to my tablet.  I was planning to just let the other three expire.  (Actually, one of the digital ones will be going away too.)  One of those three is up for renewal.  The notice came last week.  I sat down and read it, and discovered in the fine print they've instituted an "auto renewal" policy.  Unless you call them and cancel, they'll continue you as a subscriber automatically.  If they have your credit card number, they'll hit it.  If they don't, they'll bill you until you pay or call them to cancel.

This isn't really new.  Digital subscriptions do this.  They send e-mails clearly warning you of this in advance, for the most part, so you can opt out ahead of time.  Some are easier to opt out of than others.  Some things...magazine subscriptions or otherwise...aren't.  Don't you love how many services make it convenient to renew stuff online or even without thinking, but you actually have to call somebody to cancel?

So I called the number.  It was quick and painless.  The guy was nice and didn't pull any retention effort.

FAR different than the first time I experienced this with the local newspaper.

This was back in the mid-nineties.  My wife had the subscription, but we weren't really reading it anymore.  Newspapers at the time were big into stripping out increasing amounts of local content in favor of cheap national stuff in an overall smaller package and couldn't understand why subscription numbers were off even though they were complete monopolies...the internet was still in its commercial public infancy.  Most people weren't even online yet.  So somebody in the industry came up with the 'automatic renewal' idea.  And it included an unbelievably blatant and shameless guilt trip to get you to go along with it.

We learned about it one night when our paper carrier showed up at our door demanding money for the renewal.  We told him we had not renewed and no longer wanted to subscribe. He then pulled a sob story that the paper charges him for the papers he'd continued to deliver even though we weren't subscribing, so we were really hurting him by not paying for them.

At which point I advised him in a not so friendly fashion that I was contacting the State's Attorney General's office and to get the hell off our property.

I did exactly as I said I would, and the State's Attorney General's office looked into it.  The result was a letter from the carrier a couple of weeks later advising the newspaper had reimbursed him and the matter was resolved.  He also noted that we had generated "a lively discussion" on the matter in the circulation room.

We also received a message on our answering machine from the paper advising us they were well in their rights to commit such behavior.  It was so long, the answering machine hung up on them and they had to call a second time to complete it.  It was clearly written by an attorney, and I found great satisfaction in the idea that the paper spent more getting that statement written than we ever paid for the life of our subscription.

(The State's Attorney General's office informally agreed with me that the auto renewal thing was a dumb idea.)

Apparently after this, the paper started inserting big bold notices on big blue cards into the papers of people who were coming up on renewal advising them of their new policy.  So I guess something positive came out of it.

From that point forward, whenever a stray paper showed up on our property, they got a phone call or a personal visit (my wife worked near their offices) demanding to know why (usually because they were distributing free copies in the hopes people will subscribe, which wasn't noted anywhere on the paper itself), and a demand to cease and desist.

I continue this practice today.

Get off my lawn.

Monday, November 04, 2013


Place: McDonald's
Lunch: McRib, McDouble, McChicken (no lettuce), Hi-C Orange Lavaburst

McRib is back.  Monopoly usually is too around this time of year, but McDonald's did it in July instead.  Which completely threw my internal clock off.  I'm surprised I didn't show up in Utah in August, wondering where the Christmas light displays were.  Thanks a lot for screwing up my entire year, McDonald's.

McDonald's got a lot of press last week when they announced the new "Dollar Menu & More", essentially morphing the dollar menu and the "Extra Value Menu" together.  Media sensationalists largely reported it as a "farewell to the dollar menu" story because that sounds more exciting, I guess.  But come on.  The way things  have been going with food commodity prices, many of the dollar items should have had a price bump a long time ago.

The new $1.00 part of the dollar menu still has nine items: including two burgers and two chicken sandwiches.  The McDouble is not among them.  It's now $1.19...at least at this location.  The Double Cheeseburger, a former dollar menu champion, is $1.49.  New to the dollar menu is a Buffalo Ranch McChicken, and a BBQ Ranch Burger, which the picture indicates is topped in something similar to Fritos.

Then there's a $2.00 line of sandwiches, including a Bacon McDouble, a Bacon Cheddar McChicken, and a Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken.

Then there's the $5.00 20-piece Chicken McNuggets, which McDonald's helpfully points out "serves 2".

That's everything they're promoting on the big store banner.  There's other items, including breakfast stuff, on the main menu board that I didn't get a chance to read.  I was sort of hoping for a "Mac Double", basically a Big Mac version of the McDouble.  But when they're getting away with charging north of $4 for a regular Big Mac, what's the point, I guess.

The big surprise for me was that the McChicken stayed at a buck.  I've often joked that McChicken was the biggest value on the McDonald's menu because they put nearly a dollar's worth of mayo on it.

I don't have a problem paying $1.19 for a McDouble.  To me, it's the perfect McDonald's burger.  Just the right mix of meat, cheese, condiments, onion, and pickle.  If you're really hungry, get two of them, discard the bottom buns, and merge the two sandwiches together in what I call the "McQuad".  Four patties and two slices of cheese with condiments on both sides with two bun crowns.

I almost never do that anymore.