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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

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I Hit the Paywall. It Hit Back.

I’m not one to complain, but–

Okay, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face. Let me put it this way: Complaining isn’t a hobby of mine. I simply find it impossible in some (read: many) situations to suggest complicity through silence, to let jerks get away with shit, etc.

A fresh if admittedly minor example is my recent attempt (and partial failure) to get a refund for the New York Times digital subscription I cancelled over a month ago. In late March, I signed up for the 99-cent trial to see if I might find full digital access interesting and/or useful. By April 24, I had not logged in to read the NYT, not even once. I figured the allowance of 20 articles per month without subscription would be sufficient, so with two days left before the next pay period would begin at $35 per month, I used the NYT’s online form to cancel.

But on April 26, my credit card was charged. A customer service rep said she could cancel the subscription and refund the money, no problem. On May 3, noticing the refund hadn’t posted to my credit card, I called and was told the refund could take 7-10 business days to go through. On May 11, still no refund. The customer service rep said whoever had claimed to cancel my subscription earlier in the month must not have done it properly, and it was too late in the billing cycle to grant a refund. I asked to speak with a supervisor, who called me back an hour later to tell me she’d taken care of it.

So today, more than 10 business days later, I felt no surprise to find no refund posted to my credit card, nor did I experience shock when the customer service rep explained that the NYT does not grant refunds for digital subscriptions, no exceptions. I requested to speak to a supervisor, who said she would speak to her supervisor and promised to call me back today.

I have not received a call. However, a refund did post to my account. The amount of the refund? $17, which is not quite half of the amount I paid for the digital subscription I haven’t used. A strange response, to be sure, especially with no explanation. Each person I have spoken with knew sketchy details about my situation. Apparently, notes were taken about what happened, but not which three of their employees promised to give me a refund. Is incomplete notetaking something that happens accidentally in the NYT customer service offices or is it part of some revenue retention policy? I have my suspicions, but who knows?

Other questions: Are promotional deals bad? Would it have helped if I’d taken better notes? Should I stop reading the NYT? Probably not. Probably not. Probably not. I’m nearing the end of this complaint arc, unless they charge me for another month. This situation won’t be the one that inspires me to make complaining a hobby.

I’m letting it go, cutting my losses. The power of bureaucratic obfuscation wins 18 of my bucks and maybe an hour of my time over the past month. My 48.6% victory isn’t a hollow one. I mean, yes, it is mostly hollow, but, well, not completely.

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