2008.07.16 Another tale from the chronicles of a cheapskate

Written by David Green.


I’ve written before about my habit of accepting free magazine subscriptions, then finding out later they were free for a reason: No one in their right mind would pay to receive them.

A few would occasionally have an interesting article or two, like the time “Cigar Aficionado” had a feature on Kinky Friedman, but most magazines were an unfortunate waste of natural resources, like “New York,”  “Los Angeles,” and a few dozen others between the coasts.

Some filled up half my mailbox, like “Interview” and “The New York Observer.” Postmaster Davis and I wondered if the latter publication would ever stop coming, but they finally got the message (or lack of one) and quit clogging my box with the peach-colored behemoth.

But now it’s time to put up some cash or risk losing my subscription to Paste magazine. I first received it as a replacement for “Tracks,” a music magazine which went out of business.

Paste covers music, film and culture and comes with a free CD each issue with 20 or so songs from all genres of music. I bought a Mary Gauthier CD after hearing her on a sampler CD, so I guess they serve their purpose.

Originally, most months also included a DVD with music videos, short films and other little extras. But as soon as they made a good enough deal to get me to pay for two years, the free DVDs were discontinued. Now I’m stuck watching the old ones over and over and have, surprisingly, added the Violent Femmes to my list of favorite recording artists.

Earlier this year, Paste ran an article on the best baseball songs and I felt the need to send a letter to the editor bemoaning the exclusion of “Bill Lee,” Warren Zevon’s tribute to the Boston Red Sox pitcher.

Unlike many magazines that ignore reader letters, I received a reply from Paste editor-in-chief Josh Jackson who noted he loved Warren, but couldn’t remember the song. It came out in 1980 and Josh looks pretty young in his photos, so I should just be happy he’s a Zevon fan in the first place.

Now, my two paid years are almost up and it’s time to renew my subscription, but after my experience last time, I wasn’t going to jump at their first offer. I knew if I waited long enough, they would make me a hard-to-resist proposition.

I ignored the first few renewal offers enclosed with the magazine, which only repeated the same rate advertised for any and all comers.

Then I started to get letters from Paste publisher Tim Regan-Porter. The first, headlined “Thanks for Sticking With Us” was not only a terrible pun, but untrue as I had yet to give them any renewal instructions.

Regan-Porter enclosed an invoice with the same old subscription terms: 11 issues for $19.95. Of course, he did add a “bonus” offer: I could add 11 more issues for “just” another $19.95. What a deal!

After that, I started getting letters about every two weeks, asking if I “forgot” about them. Nope, just waiting for a better offer. And, finally, I got an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Last month, I got the same old form letter, except someone obviously slipped up in the subscription terms portion. The new offer: 28 issues for $0.00. Total amount due: $0.00.

I filled out the amount enclosed line with “$0.00.” wrote a check payable to Paste in the amount of zero dollars and 00 cents, wrote a note to Regan-Porter thanking him for the deal, put everything in their postage-paid envelope, and sent it off, wishing I could be there to see the reaction of whoever opened it.

Last week, I received a  letter from “Jan” in Customer Service. It began:

“Dear Mr. Foley:

Thank you for your recent attempt to pay for your Paste subscription.

We are returning your check #3273 in the amount of $0.00. This was our error and we appreciate your responding to it with good humor. You will receive a renewal offer in the mail within the next few weeks if you have not already.

If you have any questions, ....”

If they really appreciated my response, they could have processed my payment, but I suppose the banking system might have had trouble trying to debit my account for $0.00.

Now it’s up to Jan and Regan-Porter to send me another invoice I feel like paying. I really would like to continue getting the magazine. Especially if my friend Josh would put a song or two from the new Waylon Jennings album on the free CD.

  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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