the Raleigh News & Observer comes through… barely

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IMG_0702So here’s a short story about customer service – with a good ending.

Wednesday my newspaper didn’t come (maybe the second time this year). I called “delivery problems” and they promised a credit. I said I’d rather have Wednesday’s paper but no luck.

Thursday my newspaper didn’t come. Again. I called and they said call back later. I called back later and talked with an actual person. I asked that they explain “why” my paper wasn’t being delivered. “We’re not able to access that information,” customer service replied. “I’m guessing you’re not located in North Carolina,” I said. “But I’m curious – where is your office?” “The Philippines,” he said. “But I can guarantee your paper will be delivered tomorrow.”

FAIL TIMES THREE: Friday, no newspaper. So I called the Philippines again. And again. No explanation. They recommended I call the direct 919 number to the newspaper office. I did. But when I pressed “1” for “delivery” I ended up back in the Philippines. So I called the Raleigh number again, but this time waited for the operator and asked for “Circulation.” Nobody picks up when you get put through to Circulation. Three more times.

IMG_0570So I called yet again, and pushed the number for the News Desk. “If you have a question about delivery,” the automatic screening voice said, “please dial 1.” But I already know that “number-1” is a big black hole to the Philippines. So I hold for a reporter.

“Good afternoon,” I said. “Have I got a news tip for you!”

“What’s the story?” the newsroom lady asked. She sounded excited.

“Here’s your headline,” I said. “Raleigh News & Observer loses Wake Forest subscriber base due to delivery issues. Dozens of reporters now out of work…”

Fortunately, she laughed.

“Sorry to call the News Desk,” I said, “but after three days in the maze I needed to talk with a real person, here in Raleigh.”

“Not a problem,” she said. She was very pleasant, very helpful, and we had a good conversation; I told her I used to write for the Tampa Tribune. About a half hour later I received a phone-call and an apology from the head of circulation.

THE POINT! Here’s my blogger point: Many large U.S. companies outsource customer service to save themselves a few bucks. I’m challenging two fundamental parts of the equation:

  1. If locating customer service in Asia is all about maximizing short-term profit, then it’s actually not customer service…. it’s self-service.
  2. It’s unlikely that the money saved makes up for the lost business, the ebbing customer loyalty, and the time wasted.
two cups of coffee waiting for the paper
two cups of coffee waiting for the paper

We need to rethink the practice of outsourcing just to make more money for the owners. Not only are all those wages taken out of this economy, it adds up to lost customers, and – in consequence – reduced revenue. I’m not a mathematician, but I think I could crunch those numbers quite convincingly.

By the way – thanks, N&O, for coming through. Maybe you learned something too?


(bonus pictures from the Maul-Hall garden, for reading this far!)


  1. Derek, as an N&O subscriber of many years, the best way to get your paper delivered is to know the name & phone # of the person who delivers your route and contact that person directly (only). I guarantee you will get results! The delivery person wants to provide good service and loses money on his/her end if your paper isn’t delivered. I found giving them a money tip over the Christmas holidays is also a way to have you on their priority list. They like to be appreciated like we all do :-).


  2. Mine sends a holiday greeting card right after Forgot to mention that.
    I feel your frustration.
    I would try to reach the head of circulation again.
    Just a thought.


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