Thursday, August 16, 2007

Times Select Needs Help

As a loyal reader of the New York Times for many years I was delighted when "Times Select" was inaugurated, and frankly a bit miffed by speculation that it may be disposed of.

I have no idea if that is true, but I have some friendly advice for my friends at the Times: if you are going to keep Times Select, do something about your customer service.

Today I called, or tried to call, Times Select with a simple question about my Select account that could not be answered on the website. I had a similar question a couple of months ago and it was answered instantaneously.

Here's what happened:

I called my friendly New York Times customer service center and was given an 800 number -- for a florist.

I called back my friendly New York Times customer service center, and after thirty minutes on the phone I was told that there was no phone number available for Times Select. Funny, I had just received a phone number for Times Select, but it was wrong.

Our apologies for the inconvenience, I was told. Could I put you on hold?

Ten minutes on hold.

"We do not have information about your Times Select account. Our apologies for the inconvenience."

Well, what about a phone number for Times Select, I asked.

"I'll check with my supervisor. Our apologies for the inconvenience," I was told.

Ten minutes on hold.

My supervisor is checking on that.

How about my speaking to the supervisor?

Our apologies for the inconvenience, I was told.

Briefer wait.

Supervisor: We have no phone number for Times Select. This is a technical problem so I will contact our web support team.

Me: This is not a technical issue, it is an account issue.

Supervisor: Our apologies for the inconvenience.

Well, to make a long story short, I called the Times switchboard and was given the correct phone number to Times Select. Apparently the first person I had called had switched two numbers.

So I called the actual Times Select number, where the person was slightly more helpful but, needless to say, could not answer my question.

I then received a follow-up email to my original call from New York Times customer service, providing a phone number I could call to resolve the issue.

It didn't work.

I'd say the Times has already gotten rid of Times Select, if my experience is typical.

UPDATE: Pardon me, did I imply a happy ending to my little chronicle? Certainly not. Turns out what I had was not a "simple question" but a major snafu on the part of the Times. My entire Times Select account seems to have suddenly, and for no apparent reason, evaporated.

After further calls and emails and two incorrect phone numbers (a Times specialty), the latest word, nine hours after my first call, is that a supervisor will get back to me. With apologies!

Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail asks,

if both the Times and the Journal are making money from their online subscription services – which they reportedly are – why would they do away with them? The simple answer is that opening their content up to a broader audience could provide even more revenue in the form of advertising, and more growth potential (since neither service is growing very quickly, if at all).
Another answer, at least for the Times, is an unwillingness to provide competent customer service. You can't complain about a service that you don't pay for.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

Digg my article


Wall Street Versus America was published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site,

Labels: ,

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner