By RICH FOLEY
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.