Why is the Food Network Magazine harassing this lady?

Why won't Food Network stop harassing her?

Even though Bette Waterstreet has repeatedly told the Food Network Magazine she doesn’t want to renew, it’s not getting the message. Can anyone make the bills stop?

Question

I am being harassed by the Food Network Magazine regarding a subscription I have chosen not to renew no less than three times.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance. Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

My original subscription was to expire October/November 2013. They sent me a card in June, stating that it would be automatically renewed. That doesn’t sit well with me, so I canceled the subscription (I thought) via e-mail, dated June 14. I asked that this request be confirmed. It wasn’t. I then followed this up with a letter, requesting the same.

Following this, I found the renewal charge on my MasterCard statement. I contacted MasterCard, told them my story, and they removed the charge.

In October and November, I’ve received bills for this magazine that I do not want.

They’re very clever in not revealing an actual person to address mail to, or in not providing a phone number at which I could speak to someone in person.

I’d like to know who has the power to actually do something about this. What I don’t want is to be referred to a collection agency, which may be their next step. Is this something you can help me with? — Bette Waterstreet, Sacramento, Calif.

Answer

Of course, Food Network should have processed your cancellation quickly and without question.

So why didn’t it? Well, aggressive “auto-renew” techniques are fairly common in the magazine industry. (Here’s an article I recently wrote explaining why we need some laws about this auto-renew-marketing technique) In 2006, Time Inc. agreed to stop doing something that looked very similar to what you encountered.

What troubles me the most about your case is that there was no easy way to contact Food Network in order make the magazines stop. Your emails to the magazine went unanswered. Your phone calls appear to have been ignored. Even your credit card dispute met with limited success.

To me, that suggests Food Network is doing its best to opt you “in” to keeping your subscription another year, despite your protests. That’s no way to keep a customer.

Full Disclosure

Several years ago I was the host of a travel show that aired on the Fine Living Network, which is owned by the same company as the Food Network. It was turned into the Cooking Channel before we could do a second season. But if I were still affiliated with the operation, I’d be pretty steamed. This is embarrassing.

There are other ways of contacting the Food Network Magazine. A little sleuthing will reveal that it’s published by Hearst. It’s not too difficult to extract the names and email addresses with a few clicks. Email addresses are formatted [email protected] So if I worked for Hearst — which I don’t — my email address would be [email protected]

As far as I can tell, Food Network Magazine doesn’t need to resort to these hard-sell tactics to get your repeat business. It offers a solid editorial product. Subscribers’ needs change, and the magazine needs to accept that instead of pressuring you into a renewal.

A response from Food Network

I contacted Food Network Magazine on your behalf. You received a direct email from a senior editor. She apologized that the company had made the cancellation process “so complicated and frustrating for you.”

“It should not be this difficult,” she added. “Please accept my apology on behalf of the magazine and if you have any concerns in the future please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.”

Oh, and Food Network? It canceled your subscription, once and for all.

Is the Food Network making it too difficult to cancel its subscriptions?

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19 thoughts on “Why is the Food Network Magazine harassing this lady?

  1. To avoid many of these issues always pay for your magazine subscriptions with a check.

    My other pet peeve is magazines that require that you send in the cancellation but do not provide a pre-paid envelope. I just don’t cancel, and don’t pay. I have never heard of a magazine sending a collection agency after somebody who did not pay for an “auto-renewal” subscription, and I have just ignored the bills of many magazines.

    The only one that gave me any issues was Reader’s Digest, in the ’90s. They would send me a nasty letter once a month for a year. They were kind of funny – so serious and intimidating. It was cute.

  2. ” I canceled the subscription (I thought) via e-mail, dated June 14. I asked that this request be confirmed. It wasn’t. I then followed this up with a letter, requesting the same.”

    is that what it said to do?

    i have a feeling the correct steps were somewhere…

    not that I’m a genius- i joined that disney dvd club. (certain titles i could not find anywhere else) and one day i saw a $40 fee on my credit card. At first i was pissed; did they charge an item with out my consent?

    of course not. EVERY MONTH an email will say “check out these featured titles – IF YOU DO NOT CLICK THE “DO NOT SEND” BUTTON THESE TITLES WILL BE SENT AND YOU WILL BE CHARGED”

    Now I make sure to check my account for “You have no Featured Title to respond to at this time.”

    1. “I have a feeling…” that you haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about. An email followed up with a written letter is MORE than sufficient to cancel any subscription.

  3. People are always “Sorry”.

    Do companies ever correct the problem they’re Sorry for creating? – I see no mention of Food Network’s Action Plan.

    P.S. Never auto pay or allow your CC to be “On File”.

  4. Maybe it’s a generational thing but I never call. I look up my subscriptions online by using the account number on the mailing label or with name/address. I change my address, cancel, renew, etc. that way. You simply google the name of the magazine coupled with “address change” or “customer service.”
    The only problem I’ve had recently was National Geographic. Not sure how I missed the auto-renew on that one but I called ASAP to remove the auto-renew. I kept the subscription though. You learn a lot for $1.25 a month!

    1. I do the same – Heart has a great website for that. It’s still frustrating for the OP for sure, but maybe this can help other readers before they get to this point.

  5. I PO’d at the folks behind Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. Every year my wife gives me the “Annual” which is a bound copy of that year’s issues, and she also purchases an updated index. It is literally impossible to order the thing from the publisher WITHOUT signing up for an annual subscription. My wife doesn’t want this because their default order does not include a copy of the index, and she’d have to order it separately at additional cost.

  6. “What troubles me the most about your case is that there was no easy way to contact Food Network in order make the magazines stop.”

    Really? I just googled “food network magazine cancel subscription” and found the right page immediately. (Heck, when I selected “price or service” as the reason I was supposedly canceling, they offered to add free issues to my subscription if I’d stay. Now I kinda wish I actually subscribed.) And while I used Google, the magazines I subscribe to generally direct you to the web site for account changes (new addresses, renewals, cancellations etc.).

  7. Ironically, the magazine with which I’ve had the worst relationship in terms of “Automatic Renewal” is Consumer Reports. >:[

    I subscribe to a number of magazines and have found an increasing trend toward the automatic renewal “requirement” if I pay for my subscription online. Some magazines will offer you a special renewal price if you renew/pay online, but in the small print it says that by accepting this special price you’ve agreed to allow the magazine to automatically bill your credit card for automatic renewals in the future. I now pay for many of my renewals by check, including Consumer Reports.

  8. Well, after reading this I was parannoid. My son gave me a subscription to FNM last Christmas and I’ve gotten some renewal stuff in the mail but assumed it was offers so through them away. After reading this, I googled “cancel FNM subscription,” went to the FNM.com site, typed in my account number from the magazine cover. My info came up along with the message that there was a $23 balance due! So, I clicked on “Cancel My Subscription” and then hit “submit” and got a confirmation right there that my subscription is cancelled and I might get one more issue but to disregard any invoices I may receive during processing. Voila!!MUCH easier than “sending an email and following it up with a letter.” The OP appears to have really tried to do things the hard way!

  9. After the fact, contact your Post Master General. I had to do that for BMG Music, which I was a member once, and did NOT renew. They called my house and asked me to renew. I expressely stated that I did NOT want to renew. I gave them EXPLICIT instructions, “DO NOT RENEW MY MEMBERSHIP!” A few weeks later, another CD came in the mail (of THEIR choosing, not MINE) and a bill. I contacted the Postmaster General and they took care of it. I got to keep the CD, legally, without paying for it, and I got a letter of apology from BMG music and also stating that my account is in “good standing”.

    It’s mail fraud for them to do this.

    BEFORE the fact, as others have said, pay with a check, NOT a credit card, OR if you have a credit card that offers virtual card numbers (one time use numbers with limited (your choice of limits) charge amounts and early expiration. I use these for ALL of my online purchases. It prevents companies from overcharging and from REcharging (or auto-renewing).

  10. Print publishing is dying, being killed by websites such as this on the internet, and the fact that it can’t compete with the immediacy of information online. A monthly print magazine is 2-4 months out of date by the time it makes its way into your hands! And so much information is available online for free now that many consumers do not see a reason to pay for content any longer.

    Because of this, magazine subscription numbers are in freefall. Rather than adapt to the new market conditions (by going digital, for instance), many print publishers are engaging in whatever tactics they can find to keep an iron grip on their remaining subscribers as long as possible – even if those tactics are less than ethical or consumer-friendly, like this auto-renew routine that almost all publishers have started to implement. It’s a short-sighted short-term survival tactic that only delays the inevitable.

  11. This is becoming more common as publishers consolidate and many independent magazines are now part of big groups. We cancelled all auto renewal and will only pay by check. Th other, bigger problem with auto renewal is the price they renew at. Note: they auto renew at a price they set in the future not the best price it might be available for. Also they are now sending out renewal notices with special prices without information on when you subscription expires. Got one the other day, “subscription expiring, renew at this special price today” Checked the magazine label expiration date was June, 2016.

  12. The Economist Newspaper not only was persistent about “auto renew” but they actually charged a higher rate per magazine if you did not. Godaddy.com seems to create an auto renew for everything you buy, which is frustrating. Fortunately, they are good about changing it. I hate auto renew, auto debit, etc.

  13. There is another “trick” that many magazines try to pull… and I fell for this once, some years ago. At the end of November, they send a “give a free subscription to a friend” for the coming holiday season along with your renewal. It wasn’t time for my renewal; I had previously taken a three- year subscription which had two and a half more years to go. In effect, by sending free
    subscription to a friend I ended up with a subscription for another three years
    plus.

    With many magazines, they send a renewal 6 or more months ahead of the time. IO never renew at that time. Then notices come two months before…. Then one month before… than a notice that my subscription has expired….
    AND THEN two more months magazines beyond the subscription date; each saying they are sending this because they know I don’t want to miss an issue. After that I renew. I ended up with 14 monthly magazines for the one year payment. Many charities send early renewals hoping that I didn’t realize that only 6 or 8 months had elapsed.

    Now we have a spread sheet listing the check numbers, amount and the expiration date.

    This avoids all the problems including the one where we take a three year subscription, and at the end of two years they send a renewal.
    When challenged, they apologize and say they use a subscription renewal
    service and it was their error.

  14. I got hosed by a magazine company called TMX or TWX…I called the 800 number on my bank statement and finally got a refund, minus the last magazine they sent me. What a bunch of chiseling jerks. Never will subscribe again, unless through Amazon or someplace reputable. I think I had ordered these as a fundraiser for my nephew. Well, sorry nephew, never again.

  15. I refuse to use a credit card to pay for magazine subscriptions exactly for this reason. But paying by check doesn’t end the harassment. It seems as soon as I pay for a year, I started getting renewal letters to renew. I must throw out 6 or 7 of them before the actual expiration date. And worse yet, some of the magazines send you renewals that state you are “past due” on a brand new subscription.

    These magazines are so desperate for renewals that they resort to very unethical tactics.

    1. Automatic renewal is a curse. But I like magazines. I like the physical feel of the product in my hands. I subscribe to more than a dozen magazines. But not a one is auto-renewal. Though they promise the best available price upon auto-renewal, you in effect are locked in to any price they name – and it’s not always the lowest price. Many magazines have a number of subscription prices, tailored to different markets and different parts of the country, and the lowest isn’t often the one you’ll get. So if a magazine insists on auto-renewal with a subscription, I don’t subscribe, and I tell them why. Many will then recant, and offer a standard annual subscription – just like the good old magazine days. And if I like the magazine, I’ll resubscribe, though never earlier than three months before the subscription ends.

  16. I have found, in the last year or so, magazines just keep appearing in my mailbox. Then 3-4 months later I get a bill. I just throw the bill away and after a couple more issues they stop sending them to me. Very sneaky. The auto-renew thing; I took Angie’s List to task for that, I didn’t to automatically renew after a year. They very kind notify me now when the subscription is due. Maybe you just have to ask?

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