No such thing as a free magazine
by Jennifer Cohron
Sep 19, 2010 | 2841 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jennifer Cohron
Jennifer Cohron
This just in — Hillary Clinton takes a spinning class in New York, Lindsay Lohan’s rehab cost $75,000 a month and Paula Abdul still watches “American Idol.”

I know these trivial pieces of information thanks to my new unsolicited subscription to “Us Weekly.”

My first issue came in the mail two weeks ago. I was surprised to see it because I’ve never bought a copy of “Us Weekly” in my life.

I only read one magazine regularly. My grandmother graciously buys me a yearly subscription to “Guideposts,” which has the tagline “True Stories of Hope and Inspiration.”

I look forward to getting it every month because the articles are so positive. When celebrities are featured in “Guideposts,” they are talking about how faith has affected their lives.

“Us Weekly” is a very different publication. It’s about couples, clothes and a variety of other things that don’t interest me at all. I certainly would never pay $3.99 an issue to be an expert on these matters.

When “Us Weekly” mysteriously appeared in my mailbox at the first of September, I browsed through it and sat it next to the garbage can to be burned with the rest of the trash.

When a second issue arrived a week later, I got concerned that I was going to get a bill soon for a magazine that I never ordered.

Imagine my surprise when I logged onto the “Us Weekly” website and discovered that I had a subscription paid in full through 2013, a $250 value.

Of course, I immediately feared that someone was using my name and possibly my financial information to keep up with the latest celebrity gossip.

I e-mailed my complaint to the customer service department because no telephone number was provided. I received a message that a representative would respond in two business days.

My patience lasted about two minutes. I found a number for “Us Weekly” on another consumer site. The woman who answered my call gave me a 1-800 number for customer service.

When I called that number, I was given an irritating automated message — “You are calling at a peak period. We are unable to help you at this time. This call will be disconnected. Please try again later.”

Then the smart aleck recording hung up on me. I dialed three more times and got the same response.

At this point, I was convinced that the whole thing was a sham. My identity had been stolen. 1-800-Obnoxious was not a workable number, and my checking account would be wiped out before I could get the problem fixed.

Finally, someone answered and promptly gave me more digits I had to call concerning subscriptions.

The person at that number gave me another number — my fourth of the day — for the people who handle promotions for “Us Weekly.”

The last woman I spoke with had the answers I needed. No one had ordered the subscription. The magazines were being sent as a gift to me.

I was suspicious of that explanation and asked for more details. The lady politely informed me that magazines don’t make their money off of subscriptions. Advertising revenues make the publishing world go ‘round.

I started to tell her that I’ve worked for newspapers since I was a freshman in college and know quite well how the bills get paid, but that would have only belabored the conversation.

Apparently, “Us Weekly” simply wants a lot of people to read their magazine so they can attract advertisers.

They can say, “We have almost two million subscribers,” without having to reveal that some of those folks are getting “Us Weekly” against their will. And maybe advertisers don’t care as long as they are reaching two million potential customers.

I am no longer one of them. The woman on the phone acted surprised when I asked for my subscription to be suspended. Who turns down free stuff, right?

But honestly, I have no use for “Us Weekly.” I genuinely don’t care about anything in either of the two issues that were sent to me. If I didn’t put a stop to the madness, the magazines would just pile up by the trash can every month until Zac or I could get rid of them.

Now if someone wants to enroll me in a Donut of the Month club, I’ll be more than happy to make use of my free membership.