Quitting The Newspaper: A Step By Step Guide

Quitting Paper

There is an old song with a first line that went “I know a little bit about a lot of things” and this is a good description about much of my life.  I am, however, expert in a few things.  They include – insurance and traffic accident law, old cars and automotive history, and something else: quitting the newspaper.  That last one takes more practice and experience than you might first think.

I warmed up on my local newspaper, the Indianapolis Star.  The intersection of  increasing price and decreasing content finally moved into the red zone of the graph and I was forced to take action.  You can’t quit online, of course, because then everyone else would quit too.  So the only people who can quit are those who can make it through the telephone process and withstand the barrage of new offers which will keep that paper coming for far, far less money than you paid previously.

But I made it through the gauntlet and kept saying “no”, “No” and “NO” at each input point.  Success was eventually achieved.  Although I will confess to backsliding and taking on a digital subscription.  Which I will probably have to quit again when my promo rate runs out.

That experience turned out to be good training because I would need to be in top shape for the next one – The Wall Street Journal.

I have been a WSJ susbsriber for many years but that price/content graph was moving there also.  Content was actually staying amazingly constant, but it was being made up for in price.  I decided to downgrade to a digital-only subscription and see if that was something I could live with.

This is where I will explain the process step-by-step so that anyone with enough dedication and stamina can do it.  You don’t run a marathon without training and I would not recommend attempting to stop delivery of a newspaper without training either.  Especially when the paper is coming from New York.  Those guys are pros.  Anyhow, here we go.

April 20.  See monthly recurring charge for full WSJ subscription.  Wonder if it is really necessary to keep getting the paper.  Resolve to address this.  One of these days.

May 20.  See monthly recurring charge for full WSJ subscription.  Resolve again to do something about this.  Exhaustively scan WSJ website, confirm that there is absolutely no option offered to downgrade or cancel a subscription.  Give up and turn attention to more pressing concerns.

June 20.  See monthly recurring charge for full WSJ subscription.  Resolve again to do something about this.  Exhaustively scan WSJ website, confirm that there is absolutely no option offered to downgrade or cancel a subscription.  Give up and turn attention to more pressing concerns.  Again.

July 16th Exhaustively (re)scan WSJ website and finally resolve to call 1-800-JOURNAL.  Very nice lady on the other end of the line (which is not actually a line when you are on a wireless phone) helpfully informs me that I am eligible for a 1 year reduced rate on a digital-only subscription.  A win-win, with the sole cost of losing a paper crossword puzzle on which to waste time I do not have.

July 20, receive first bill for reduced rate.  Walk out to street, pick up newspaper.  Savor what is sure to be one of the very last actual newspapers to be held in hand.

August 1.  Walk out to street, pick up newspaper, just as was done every Monday through Saturday since July 20th.  Wonder if the daily assumption that “this will surely be the last one” has ceased to be reasonable.  Resolve to call the nice lady at 1-800-JOURNAL one day soon.

August 10.  Walk out to street, pick up newspaper.  Reach a point of certainty that the daily assumption that “this will surely be the last one” has absolutely ceased to be reasonable.  Wonder what would happen if you just say nothing.  If this wondering is done aloud in close proximity with a spouse, prepare to receive reminders to call 1-800-Journal.

August 15.  Walk out to street, pick up newspaper.  Respond to spousal request about whether you have called 1-800-JOURNAL.  The response is negative, of course.  Resolve to make that telephone call one day soon.

August 21.  Walk out to street, pick up newspaper.  Decide that this is absolutely the day to call 1-800-JOURNAL.  This is the part where your training regimen begins to pay off because you will have to navigate automated menus which do not apply to your situation.  You must decide if this is a delivery issue on the paper which you are not supposed to be receiving to or an issue with the digital subscription which is giving you a print copy which you are not supposed to be receiving.  Opt for none of the above by saying “customer service.”  Their crafty phone system programmers will try again to trick you into making one of the choices that does not apply to your situation, but you must stick to your guns and keep repeating the phrase “Customer Service.” 

You will finally be connected with a very nice lady on the other end of the cancer-inducing wave frequency radiation stuff (that comes from your phone because here is no line involved) and explain that you continue to receive a daily delivery of a paper paper, one which you have not been paying for.  This is the place to helpfully add that had you known that stopping payments but continuing to receive a paper was an option, you would have chosen that one.  She will politely chuckle.  

You will achieve success when the very nice lady tells you that everything has been taken care of.  You will be asked to take a brief survey after the call.  It is ok if you begin to sweat, fearing more questions which cannot be answered without an essay section.  It is OK to hang up.  Something else nobody else does today because you really press a button that says “End.”

August 22.  Walk out to street, pick up newspaper.  Savor what is sure to be one of the very last actual newspapers to be held in hand.

August 26th – Walk out to street, pick up what will surely be the last paper you ever receive, luxuriating in the tactile experience of fresh, crackly newsprint.

August 28th – walk out to street, pick up newspaper.

August 29th – walk out to street, pick up newspaper.  Wonder how much longer this can possibly go on because your blog post is pretty well finished, but the story hasn’t ended.

August 31st – walk out to street, pick up newspaper.  Admire the cosmic elegance of the way the newspaper comes on the Saturday of a holiday weekend which effectively marks the end of summer.  How fitting that the newspaper should exit my life when summer does.

September 10th – Walk out to street, pick up newspaper.  Everything you have read up to this point?  Never mind.  Just forget it.  Because it has become painfully clear that I know absolutely nothing about how to stop a newspaper.


Photo by the author.

25 thoughts on “Quitting The Newspaper: A Step By Step Guide

  1. Indeed a painful process. It seems the time it takes for the subscription department to tell the delivery boy is around eight to twelve weeks.

    My wife found a nifty workaround to still read the paper and to do so for free. It seems the local library’s website will, upon entering one’s card number, give access to the local newspaper. A nice hidden perk, since the paper, unsurprisingly, charges for digital content. The only difference is the pictures are missing in action via the library website but it’s still today’s edition.

    Cable? We are also free of it and, somehow, into month three of some form of credit given we have the phone and internet with them also.


    • You raise an interesting point about public libraries. I found it odd that ours made a big deal out of videos and DVDs in an era when the old video rental operations were struggling. Now newspapers are dying on the vine yet the library provides their stuff free online. Hmmmm. I certainly cannot blame your Mrs. for using what is there.

      I keep thinking of cutting cable, but it seems that by the time I would subscribe to some other online content services the prices aren’t that far apart. Which is why I still have a landline – cutting it from my cable package (which also includes internet) would save me roughly zero.


      • Another plug for the library here. Not only does our local system have a great selection of physical media, the variety of what can be downloaded through them is astounding.


  2. Hmm, food for thought there. Our local paper recently shut down their printing plant (as previously mentioned I got a tour before they did, very cool facility) and we just started getting our new paper printed on more modern equipment in Toronto. The text is definitely crisper, but both sheet size and font are smaller so it’s harder to read. They are getting a barrage of complaints from seniors and their magnifying glasses. I still like reading the paper because it allows me to scan things I wouldn’t normally see online. For instance today I learned there is such thing as a curried apricot hot buttered mocktail. Fascinating.

    I had a similar experience with Esquire magazine. We did not renew our subscription when they sacked longtime editor David Granger and the content quality fell off a cliff under new guy Jay Fielden. However they kept sending us free magazines for over three years. Now that Fielden has been sacked I am wondering if the quality will come back enough to justify renewing, or how long I’ll get free magazines that don’t justify reading.


    • This makes me wonder if the circulation number for advertisers is more important than the cost of a delivered paper or magazine. Perhaps publishers are (ahem) a little slow in updating records for paid circulation. Have we discovered the secret to free reading material? 😀


  3. This is funny, though your exasperation comes through clearly, so I’m sorry you had to go through all this—even if you did get a blog post as a result.

    We have found it close to impossible to place a hold on The New York Times when we go on vacation. We invariably return to find a stack of blue plastic bags filled with old news littering our driveway.

    The corollary is what the Post Office does and doesn’t do with our instructions about the length of holding and redelivery of our mail. But I’ll spare you that.


    • Mine comes from the same independent contractor who delivers the Indianapolis paper. And yes, communication between the circulation Office in NYC and the human deliverer seems to be by carrier pigeon.


  4. That was hilarious! Still laughing here. It’s all so true. Although I retired three years ago I still continue to receive printed work journals even though I have no work address, nor in fact even a license anymore as I gave that up last fall. Every once in awhile they will send me an email with a subscription renewal notice, which I ignore, but the journals still keep coming in the mail, regularly like clockwork. The sad thing is the only work related reading I do is online, as the same journal content is published digitally too with twice weekly emails.


  5. That was a very funny read! I too did a backslide when cancelling the print edition of “The Detroit News” back in 2000. My mom had passed away and read her paper cover to cover, but I had never gotten into the habit, preferring to watch the TV news instead. The subscription department also suggested trying their online/PDF version of the newspaper. I said that even though it was free, it was not necessary and I get all my news by listening to an AM all-news radio station. I looked a few times at the PDF version and wasted a lot of time moving from left to right and up and down and it was annoying to be sure. I called and said “no more access, free or otherwise” and I cancelled my local paper when it went to $121.00 a year and I could read everything online except the fluff that is in Sunday’s newspaper and no more coupons, which is fine as I don’t buy dog food, cat litter or diapers. My boss is a labor attorney for management and asked me when he was on vacation recently to pick up the daily newspaper so he could add the UAW raid, upcoming labor negotiations and potential strike articles to his clipping file. I was astounded to find that in the ten years since I last saw a printed newspaper that it was only 1/6 inch thick and cost $2.50 for the daily edition, $3.00 for the Sunday paper (which you needed two hands to pick that paper up in the olden days). No wonder people read the news online. Who wants to read the news anyway – it’ll give you heartburn these days.


    • Yes, isn’t it amazing how tiny big city newspapers have gotten? I remember seeing the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer when I was a kid visiting grandparents – it seemed almost two inches thick! And on much bigger sheets, too. I recall the WSJ stuck with the classic size sheet far longer than my Indianapolis paper did, finally cutting down to match maybe, what, ten years ago? Then the Indianapolis paper went to a smaller sheet size yet.
      In my online reading of the Indy Star there is not even an editorial page anymore. The whole thing makes me sad.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was just amazed as I’ve not even glanced at the newspaper in the grocery store where it’s for sale. There was no price tag on the shelf, so I had to ask and couldn’t believe it. I originally tried to buy the paper at the gas station and the owner said “we quit selling it a long time ago – people read the news online on their phone and we get stuck with the papers.” For a while after the “Detroit News” and “Free Press” went on strike, they no longer delivered … it was not all that long ago I was dropping two quarters in the box when in downtown Detroit to buy a newspaper for my mom. I am amazed Detroit can still sustain two dailies at this rate, though it is combined edition on Sunday.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. We dropped our paper subscription to the local daily a few years ago, in favor of digital content, though that word content is questionable. Our local is printed about 200 miles away with a press cutoff time of 4 pm the day before, and the digital version is just an image of the print edition, so local news is not very timely. Fortunately (?) their subscription policy was not based on auto-renewal, and didn’t seem to include any reminder of the expiration, so it was all too easy to stop getting the physical paper … in fact it was unplanned every year, with a brief interruption in delivery, until we switched to digital.


    • Wow, if my local paper was 200 miles away, I probably wouldn’t bother. It’s printed maybe 15 miles away and there is still a surprisingly sparse amount of actual news.


  7. September, 2027: Jim has moved to Olathe, Kansas but the fellow who bought the house in Indy still receives a WSJ and wonders each morning what the heck is going on.

    October 25, 2068: Neighborhood is now part of downtown Indianapolis. A sixty-story skyscraper is where the house used to be. Every morning, a copy of the Wall Street/Martian Mogul Investor’s Journal appears in the mail…


  8. We were able to discontinue our subscription to our local newspaper, but continued to get phone calls for about a year, encouraging us to start up again. We’ve finally achieved peace from the subscription solicitors.


    • They don’t call me, they just send papers. 😀 I didn’t get one yesterday and thought maybe everything was done. Then today the guy left both Monday’s and today’s editions.


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