A reader in Boston we’re calling H.L. is among those who still get a daily newspaper delivered to her house. She wrote that while she knows she could read the newspaper online, she enjoys being able to get up early every morning and read the print edition as she drinks her morning coffee. H.L. writes that she has been a subscriber since she moved to the neighborhood four decades ago.
But lately H.L. has been frustrated by the frequency with which her newspaper doesn’t get delivered. Apparently, it has gotten worse since a new person was assigned to her delivery route.
“Often we don’t get the newspaper at all,” wrote H.L. “When we do it is typically in the road in front of our house or somewhere in the yard to the side of our house.” H.L. wrote that she misses the days not long ago when she could open her front door any time after 6 a.m. and find the newspaper waiting for her. “It also sometimes shows up after 8 a.m., when I have already left for work.”
H.L. wrote that she is grateful to be able to report missed papers on the newspaper’s online site. When she does, she requests a credit.
“I assume that when I get charged each month that the amount charged reflects deductions for any papers I didn’t get,” wrote H.L. “But I really don’t know what my monthly billing amount would be if every newspaper was delivered.”
What H.L. wants to know is whether she should simply trust that her newspaper is only charging her for the goods received. “Or is it up to me to make sure to keep track of all the missed papers and reconcile my records against what I am charged each month?” Having to do that, according to H.L., would add to an already aggravating situation.
If late or missing deliveries are a chronic problem, H.L. might consider contacting the newspaper’s customer service department to see if it can do anything to remedy the problem. Until that happens, she does have to trust that the newspaper is giving her credit for the missing newspapers she reports — but she does not have to do so blindly.
Her newspaper’s website has a link to “delivery credits” where, at the end of each month, she can see the days she reported missing credits. There’s also a link to her monthly invoices. If the credits have not been applied and subtracted from the monthly amount she typically pays, H.L. will be able to tell if the newspaper is not crediting her what she is due.
Should H.L. have to deal with the time it takes to report and follow up on missing newspapers? No; she’s paying for a service, and the newspaper should work to deliver the product H.L. is paying for. If for some reason it can’t deliver with consistency, then H.L. may have to decide to shift to reading newspaper online or canceling her subscription.
The right thing is for the newspaper to credit H.L. when a delivery is missed and to make it clear on the monthly invoices how those credits have been applied. Better yet, it should find a way to get the newspaper delivered on time each morning, since that’s what it promised to do and what H.L. is paying for.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues.
Do you have ethical questions that you need to have answered? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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