Thursday, September 10, 2009

Doing our part for the magazine industry

Another day, another three magazines jammed into our mailbox, fighting desperately for space.

Today Sports Illustrated, New York, and the New Yorker all arrived, a day after Vanity Fair and Ladies' Home Journal made their monthly appearances. I'll occasionally read stories from writers who advise cutting back on subscriptions as an easy way to save money when savings accounts are being ravaged. Sounds like decent wisdom. Instead, we take it as a challenge. Cut back? No. More magazines, more hints on great travel deals, more fun and quirky recipes for cheeseburgers done differently, more features on the economic meltdown, more profiles of anorexic Hollywood starlets, more NBA previews, more movie reviews, more ways to find a spouse, more ways to please your spouse, more ways to anger your spouse, more ways to make up with your spouse.

And along with the actual bound publications, invoices and bills invade us daily, reminding us that it's URGENT that we renew now, or we'll lose our subscription.

Sometimes the statements gently scold us. They act hurt, disappointed, while also offering vague threats.

"Dear valued reader and subscriber. When we renewed your subscription, you indicated that you would like to pay at a later date. Four years later, we hope you've enjoyed reading about the best airline deals on trips to Argentina, but your bill is past due. Please respond."

The all-caps threats and stern language often intimidate me into sending off another $12 check, good for another year or two. It's like being in debt to a loan shark who has access to too much paper and postage.

Finally one day I gathered every magazine I could find in our apartment. Louise had diligently filed many of them. Others hid under the couch. Many more sat on an out-of-the-way table in their plastic wrapping, like a present left unopened on Christmas morning. I checked when the subscriptions actually ran out. No longer would the magazines hold us hostage with their junk mail disguised as threats to make this our LAST ISSUE.

At last count, here are the magazines we welcome each week, each month or every two months into the household: Sports Illustrated, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, New York, New Yorker, Atlantic, Esquire, Writer's Digest, Poets and Writers, The Writer, Nursing magazine, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Self, Mpls/St. Paul, Midwest Living, Parents, Ladies Home Journal, AllYou, Budget Travel, Conde Nast Traveler, Glamour, Lucky, Columbia Journalism Review, Everyday with Rachael Ray, Oprah's magazine.

Louise actually dropped a couple that were previously on the list, keeping us, for now, under triple digits. But we don't see it as a waste of money, since subscriptions are usually unbelievably inexpensive. We're getting Vanity Fair for 13 dollars. The New Yorker is about 50 for the year, but paying less than a dollar a week for some of the best writing in the country? A good deal.

We started drowning in subscriptions because we bought so many at the newsstand that it actually was a waste of money. Why spend five dollars on a single magazine when you can get 24 for 10 bucks? Sign me up!

If only they'd stop the demands and pleas for renewal. It's embarrassing for all sides. We're receiving Family Circle until 2012. I'm not sure where we'll be in three years. But I know Family Circle will forever be with us, as unshakable as a shadow. Yet last week a letter arrived, telling us we needed to take action now to ensure we didn't lose this valued publishing prize. I'd sign the damn thing and send another check but three weeks after that they'd send another letter, this one hinting that our 2018 subscription could be at stake, unless we take URGENT action.

The magazines will keep coming. We'll keep reading. They don't know how to take rejection, and we yearn for their acceptance and appreciation for subscribing once more. It might be a codependence-type thing, I'm not exactly sure.

Now where's that low, low offer from Psychology Today?

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