Having noticed that the Wall Street Journal was double-billing me, I set about to remedy things, assuming they would be reasonable and correct the error. Instead I got a case study in how not to treat your customers and found myself so irate with the outcome that I have severed my relationship with the publication.
I am confused about what I am getting billed. I think I am getting double-billed for access. I seem to be getting charged for both a “digital subscription to The Wall Street Journal” in October, which says it “includes unlimited access to WSJ Smartphone and WSJ Tablet apps” and has an annual cost of $275.88, but I seem to also be getting billed in May again for a “WSJ mobile subscription” at an annual rate of $103.48. Could you please explain what is going on? All I really want to do is read WSJ on my iPad and iPhone but I seem to be getting charged way more than makes sense. I would like to only be paying for what I am using. Could you please tell me what plan I should be on and why I am getting charged twice?
Dear Andrew,Thank you for contacting The Wall Street Journal regarding billing.
Our records show you have signed up for 2 Online Wall Street Journal Digital subscriptions.
Please contact us by phone so we may help you cancel one of them.
So, I called them, and had a quite unsatisfactory dialog with a customer service representative who was exeedingly difficult to understand. In the end, they would agree only to refund a pro-rated amount for the “unused” portion of the “WSJ Mobile” subscription.
And so I wrote them again:
Joseph,I spoke with a representative on the phone. They canceled my “WSJ Mobile Reader” subscription because indeed it didn’t make any sense for me to have that in addition to the “WSJ.com” subscription which includes everything, including mobile phone access. They agreed to refund a prorated amount of the “WSJ Mobile Reader” subscription, but I feel strongly that that is inadequate. It should not be possible to be getting double-billed for mobile access when you are already paying the fee for full digital access. I’m not sure how this happened, but my credit card records (that only go back 24 months) show that this happened at least last year as well, and I wonder if it has been going on even longer. The $275/year fee for a “WSJ.com” subscription is already quite substantial, and it looks like I have been getting erroneously charged an additional $103/year for a while as well while getting literally nothing in return for it. I believe, therefore, that the honorable thing for WSJ to do in this instance is to refund any amount billed to me for a “WSJ Mobile Reader” subscription that coincided with when I had a “WSJ.com” subscription.
Dear Andrew,Thank you for contacting The Wall Street Journal Digital regarding your digital subscription.
We apologize that you have been paying duplicate subscription for digital subscription and for the mobile reader subscription.
Our record shows that your subscription was in automatic renewal, we see here that you signed up for a trial of the mobile reader subscription for 14 days and after that you agree to renew it for one year for $52 that was last May 1, 2010. While you have that subscription you registered again your credit card information to have your digital subscription for $155 on October 15, 2010.
Those are the payment history we have seen in your account however, you now have one digital subscription and it is enrolled in automatic renewal.
If you have any questions or need any further personal assistance, please write again or call us at the Customer Service number below.
We invite you to try WES Portfolio (https://portfolio.wsj.com/), our new tool that lets you track your brokerage accounts through WSJ.com. Portfolio automatically provides current and historical performance data for your holdings as well as relevant news and alerts impacting your investments.
Thank you for your interest in our publication.
The Wall Street Journal. Digital Network
Not satisfied, I wrote again:
To Whom It May Concern,
So, your records and comments do agree that I have been getting double-billed for some time. I appreciate the apology, but by itself it is not adequate. I believe that concrete amends must be made by refunding what amounts to erroneous billing due to either a software or policy glitch. I have been a loyal WSJ subscriber for about a decade. I hope that the newspaper can be sufficiently farsighted to make things right and that we can resolve this matter without further undue efforts on my part, thus allowing me to be a happy paying customer for many years to come.
Based on a combination of your comments, my memory, my credit card billing records, and Google searches, I deduce that the following has happened… For several years, I had a “WSJ.com” subscription that gave me access to your web site, which per your records cost $155/year as of October 2010. The WSJ subsequently introduced a mobile version of the paper that I was able to view for some time without additional charge. Some time later the WSJ started charging for the mobile addition and I agreed to pay for a “Mobile Reader” subscription to continue my access. Then it appears that that the “WSJ.com” subscription changed to include mobile and tablet access, and in reflection of this had its price increased to $275/year. It seems, however, that even though the mobile access for which I was paying approximately $100/year had its features rolled under the “WSJ.com” subscription plan, and even though the billing department raised my “WSJ.com” subscription rate to $275/year to reflect the change, the billing department also continued to bill me ~$100/year for mobile access for multiple billing cycles, a clear and unacceptable instance of double-billing.
If this is case, and all signs point to such, this is clearly improper and must be corrected. It is not adequate merely to refund a pro-rated amount for the “Mobile Reader” subscription for the billing cycle that began on May 2013. It is the newspaper’s ethical obligation to refund the full amount of the “Mobile Reader” subscription for that billing cycle and for any previous one that overlapped when I was being charged the increased amount for the “WSJ.com” subscription that included mobile access as part of its price. That is the decent and honest thing to do, as I am sure you will agree.
I sincerely hope that the newspaper can set this right of its own volition and that I won’t be forced to do something as odious as issuing credit card charge-back proceedings or get so irate that I cancel my subscription permanently.
Grimly determined not to provide customer satisfaction, they replied:
Thank you for contacting The Wall Street Journal regarding your payment history. We are sorry that you were paying for 2 separate accounts.
We do have several customers that have multiple accounts. We do not stop one account just because another one is started or the access is included in another account. It is up to the subscriber to call in if they want one of their accounts stopped.
Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience. If you need any further assistance please respond to this email, or contact us using the information below. Thank you for being a part of Dow Jones, publishers of The Wall Street Journal.
Stubbornly giving them one last chance:
To Whom It May Concern,
Can you please explain why anyone would ever want to have a “Mobile Reader” account in addition to a “WSJ.com” account since the former includes the latter? I am not a business paying for employee accounts with different user names, I am not providing a gift subscription to someone else with a different user name, and I am not maintaining multiple print accounts to be delivered to separate locations. There does not seem to be any logical reason why I would maintain a “Mobile Reader” subscription and “WSJ.com” subscription at the same time for myself.
It seems that, through a combination of billing software that fails to detect such anomalies plus multiple restructurings of subscription plans over several years, a situation has emerged in which customers under certain circumstances, such as myself, will see their bills rise substantially while receiving no additional services unless they detect the condition themselves and manually correct it. Apparently it is not even possible via the website to correct subscription issues, requiring calling a customer service associate on the phone.
I have been a loyal and paying customer of the digital edition of the WSJ for approximately a decade, to include being willing to shell out the extra money for the mobile edition. I would like to continue to do so. However, if the newspaper is willing to gamble thousands of dollars in long-term subscriptions fees in order to extract a relatively modest amount from me right now by engaging in what appear to be deceptive business practices, then I don’t think I will be able to stay as a happy customer. I am asking you, one last time, to make this right by compensating me for the double-billings, and if you cannot do so then I would like to have my “WSJ.com” subscription that renewed just a few days ago canceled immediately and refunded in full, and I will furthermore be commencing credit card charge-back proceedings. Paying customers deserve better treatment than this.
Make this right.
And now the finale of tone-deafness and suicidal recalcitrance:
Thank you for contacting The Wall Street Journal regarding your request to cancel the account. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Please call 1-800-JOURNAL (568-7625) to cancel your account by phone. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 7 am – 10 pm ET; Saturday 7 am – 3 pm ET. If you are calling from outside the United States please contact us at 1-609-514-0870 for assistance or visit https://wsj.com/contactus (https://wsj.com/contactus) for international dialing options.
We appreciate your patience and hope to hear from you soon.
Wow. Alright, then…
Nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.
Credit card chargebacks forthcoming.
There is plenty of other stuff to read on this planet put out by companies that don’t treat their customers like garbage.