Hearne: There Ain’t No Cure for the Lowdown, Missing Newspaper, Driveway Blues

Not Jack's carrier

Not Jack’s carrier, not Jack’s hood

Remember my Kansas City Star story a couple days back?

The one where a newspaper staffer talked about all the cancellations the Star has been getting from people upset with not just the quantity and quality of their newspapers but the difficulties they’ve been having with the carriers who deliver them to subscriber’s driveways?

Think about it.

Not that long ago when you took the Sunday Star, it was a simple proposition – you got it all – the news, comics, sports, entertainment and advertising coupons. And it was a relatively simple, somewhat lucrative job for the carriers delivering the papers.

That was then.

These days those pickups and vans that scoot down your street in the wee, early hours have to sort through no less than four different Sunday newspapers before they throw them.

There’s 1) the standard issue Sunday Star; 2) the option that gets ye old TV book (remember that one?); 3) the option that comes with the now extra cost, full comics section and 4) an option to get all three.

There’s even a 5th option because some Star carriers also deliver, USA Today (the Star prints it). So there’s a lot of wee hours bundling confusion that can and does go wrong…and not infrequently apparently.


Back when delivering newspapers was easy

Take longtime Star subscriber, KCC movie and travel dude Jack Poessiger (I’ll call him by his real name Jürgen in honor of Germany’s playing for the World  Cup title this Sunday).

“My previous carrier a year or so ago called me one time and was upset because I had called to complain so many times about not getting my paper,” Poessiger says. “And they charged him five bucks or something. So he asked me to please call him direct if there was a problem so he wouldn’t get in trouble. Well, I tried that for a while and he would deliver it, but that only lasted so long and I started calling the newspaper again.

“I got a new carrier last year, but about every other week, between USA Today and the Star, I miss either one or the other. A couple weeks ago I missed two USA Todays in a row.”

There’s more…

Even with the downsized newspaper and record high subscription rates, the Star is cheeping out on crediting subscribers who cancel their newspaper delivery while they’re on vacation or out-of-town on business.

“I put a vacation stop in for eight days while I was in Germany with my grandson, but they’re still charing me for the newspapers for the 8 days I was gone,” Poessiger says. “They don’t give you a credit the missed papers anymore. If you call them, you can either make a donation to some charity or they’ll bring you the papers you missed. I don’t want to read a bunch of two week old newspapers, but I don’t have a choice anymore.

“However USA Today still does give you a credit. So ‘ll get a credit for the USA Todays while I was gone. I argued with the consumer complaint agent at the Star about it, but it was kind of like pissing in the wind.”


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11 Responses to Hearne: There Ain’t No Cure for the Lowdown, Missing Newspaper, Driveway Blues

  1. Orphan of the Road says:

    The old carriers owned their routes, it was a profitable business. We used to bundle the Sunday paper when we were in high school.

    You probably know my cousin, used to be the circulation manager. He got that job, and kept it, because no one wanted to learn the computer program needed to get the paper delivered and get the payments. He retired a couple of years ago.

    I stopped delivery and still got a paper for almost a year.

    Seems they didn’t learn to much there when they lost the lawsuit by the carriers who had their franchises yanked illegally.

    One carrier I knew had three routes and more toys than anyone else. That was his sole income too.

  2. DPW says:

    The Star seemed happy when I cancelled after 18 months of late and sometimes no delivery and a complaint by me every time. They promise 5:30 AM Monday-Friday but that does not seem to happen anymore. 7AM now if you are lucky. I finally gave up and cancelled, they made no attempt to get me to stay on. I thought about writing the CEO of McClatchy a letter but what do they care after they gutted the Star.

  3. Stomper says:

    I’ve been an addicted subscriber to the paper since about 1975. It took me a couple of years to get over them dropping the K C Times and going to just ONE paper per day. Minus the advertising, I pretty much read it cover to cover daily. If my delivery guy misses me, I drive up to QT to buy my fix. I can’t believe the business model of having a sub-contractor deliver my paper daily still exists. Doctors and milkmen came to my house when needed when I was younger but those days are long gone. My previous delivery guy ( named Katz, said he was related to the drug store Katz family) sent an apology letter when he had to quit saying he couldn’t keep up with the car expenses, cost of gas, and workload. I don’t know what those guys make but I can’t see it being a lucrative career.

    • Orphan of the Road says:

      Used to head to the library at Temple to read the Times and Star in college. That was the 70s and there was still news in it.

      Today it is embarrassing to read what passes for journalism. Is it the extinction of the hard-drinking reporter, the education at J-schools (where most of the staff has never held a job at a newspaper or written a book, never did the things they are “teaching” the students) or is is that it was the NEWS business and now is the news BUSINESS?

      My mentor in the communications department always told me it was better to have a history, English, business degree as anyone with the talent could pick up what you learn in four-years of J-school in the first six-months on the job.

      He was acting dean for a while too.

  4. Goose13 says:

    Are there bad carriers? Hell Yes. There are good ones also. When I was doing it, did I miss a few houses, yes I missed about three houses a week. That is throwing about 350 KC stars, 60 Wallstreets, 20 NY Times, and 10 USA Todays. A night, Seven nights a weeks, more KC star on Wed through Sunday. No Wallstreets on Sunday, and No USA todays on Sat and Sun. In all weather. A lot of times the paper was late getting to the warehouse. Plus the carriers are not allowed to update their delivery routes. New starts, Stops and vacations, were done downtown. I had certain customers call me, not downtown when they went on vacation since downtown never put it on my list. New starts did not show up a lot of time till the customer would complain, and then it was on out list. The star would then try to charge us for not delivering when they did not even put it on the delivery list. The star looks at the carriers as a way to save money. The more they can hit you with “mistakes” real or not, the more they save. It is impossible to protest the mistakes they charge you.

    • Orphan of the Road says:

      It is a tough job and the Star makes it harder as they try and turn the delivery man’s problems into a cash cow at the driver’s expense.

      Terry is one I know. His attitude it F ’em and he throws the scat back in their face. They always seem to be very slow when they make a dollar error.

      Like raising livestock, used to be good money in it until they eliminated the independent owners and replaced them with contractors.

      For all their warts and blemishes, you are a better man than I, Gunga Din.

  5. Jim a.k.a. BWH says:

    A particularly touchy subject with me. I buy a KCStar & USA today every day at my local QT. I wish I could have them thrown and save a boatload of money, but it is not to be. I’ve tried 3 times and my carrier has failed 3 times. If it got it 5 out of 7 days, that was a real win. Many times, it would arrive after 8am. The 3rd time I tried, I actually had a gal come to my door for the sale. I explained the problems I had the past 2 times and she ASSURED me that it would be there every day and be there before I left work for work at 6:30am. 1 week into the new subscription, all the same problems started again. I immediately cancelled it…….again. Should be rocket science to throw a paper.

  6. Bob says:

    “A couple weeks ago I missed two USA Todays in a row.”

    So, you really weren’t missing anything. I had to clue people actually purchased USA Todays. I figured the hotel industry kept them alive.

  7. Dala says:

    I don’t know if you’ve ever mentioned this, but my sister was complaining about their weekend policy. Her family only wants the paper on Saturday and Sunday. They used to subscribe that way. Then they changed the “weekends” to include Friday (I believe). And then to include Thursday, with no extra charge. But later they raised the rates. And then they began to include Wednesday, with no extra charge. But later raised the rates? Is this correct? They have valid reasons for only wanting it delivered on weekends – but can’t the Star won’t do it that way.

  8. bschloz says:

    Must be City Wide issue.
    I experienced for the first time in 30 years missed deliveries in last couple of months. Yeah I was upset, not because I want a 50 cents credit, but rather I have to call them to report that it is happening on regular basis. Also the fact that there is not another option. At under $20 bucks a month The Star is still a good deal, so not really interested in quitting.
    Hearne good point about sifting thru all the different newspapers. One thing that dawned on me was the fact that all these streets are now peppered with subscribers where as 20 years ago they were close to 100% in most areas. Would have to be a nightmare to throw 5 or 6 out of 10 on the block.

  9. Glenn says:

    I marvel at how The Wall Street Journal and New York Times can be (mostly) delivered on time to my driveway, yet the ‘Cowtown Courier’ misses the mark more than it delivers.

    Thrice I’ve given them a chance at subscription. Nobody at the Star seems to get what’s wrong.

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