Time and Time again

Time magazine cover

Caveat emptor

About a year ago, I received a subscription to Time magazine as a "free gift" from one of my credit cards as a reward for being such a good customer. I fully anticipated that at some point, I would be besieged to renew the subscription for real money. And so I have been.

Several weeks ago I began to receive numerous calls from 856-627-1792. (I love CallerID!) Reverse look-up for this number was unsuccessful, but Melissa Data was able to locate the area code and prefix in Laurel Springs, NJ. However, Google — the best thing since sliced bread — identified the number as belonging to Telepoint Communications, Inc. Since the Telezapper seemed too subtle for these bozos, I finally answered one of the calls and stayed on the line until a real person took the call.

"This is [almost certainly fake name] calling on behalf of Time magazine."

"This number is on the 'do-not-call' list."

"Oh, but that doesn't apply—" (Lobbyists paid for an exception in the law that allows telemarketing calls if there is an "existing relationship.")

"Bullshit! What part of 'do not call' is so hard to understand?"


"And what principle of business says it's a good idea to piss off your customers by calling them when you know they don't want to receive calls?"

More silence, followed by dead air.

Meanwhile. At some point in recent weeks I received a direct mail piece offering me "free gifts" if I would renew my subscription to Time magazine.

free gifts offer

The offer was for 112 issues at 53¢, not a bad deal. The gifts were his and hers watches "reminiscent of the superior timepieces you'll see in finer department stores and exclusive boutiques." Since I have worn a watch exactly once in the nearly two years since my retirement, this was not much of an enticement. And being "reminiscent" of a fine timepiece hardly holds much promise of superior value and quality.

I put the offer aside.

Try, and try again. Predictably, another offer arrived in the mail. This one was also for 112 issues at 53¢, but the extra enticement was 10 additional free issues. Now we're talking!

free issues offer

I put the offer aside. After all, they have generously given me until 7-May to exercise my "early renewal certificate."

Free benefit. A few days ago I received an email with the seductive subject: Free Benefit for TIME Subscribers. What could this be? They would like me to know that I could take care of my "TIME subscription customer service needs 24 hours a day – 7 days a week!" just by going online to TIME's customer service website.

Since I'm a busy person, I thought I might take advantage of this convenience. Sure enough, I could renew my subscription!

renewal offer on website

The website offers me Time's "best deal" — 54 issues at $1.25. Hello! That's more than twice the price offered in the two direct mail pieces, for half the number of issues! If I didn't already have two handheld computers, I might be attracted by the promise of this "handheld organizer" (although that could be a small notebook and pencil) but.... "Best deal"? I don't think so. And they offered me no choice regarding number of issues.


Rating the offers. Let's see how these offers stack up.

  Value Choice Convenience Nuisance
Telemarketing n/a n/a n/a rating
Direct mail #1
112 issues @53¢ plus 2 watches
rating rating rating rating
Direct mail #2
112 issues @53¢ plus 10 free issues
rating rating rating rating
54 issues @$1.25
rating rating rating rating

Let's see what comes in next week's mail.