Boston Globe delivery problems: the route to insanity

photo WBZ

photo WBZ

Brilliant Irish satirist Jonathan Swift was said to have loved individuals but loathed mankind.  Specifically, he wrote, “I hate and detest that animal called man, although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth.” In that spirit, I love Joan Vennochi, Scot Lehigh, Brian McGrory and other Globe reporters and editors, but I have come to loathe the institution.   For the last two weeks, the Boston Globe has been making thousands of Boston area subscribers tear-your-hair-out crazy.

Since the paper fired its previous delivery vendor, [Publishers Circulation Fulfillment (PCF), which had been delivering our papers for probably 20 years with nary a problem], we have gone from getting no papers, to getting occasional papers hours late, to getting papers left unwrapped in the rain out on the sidewalk, and back to getting no paper.  Yes, I can read articles online, but it’s a totally different experience. You miss things like, for example, owner John Henry’s letter of apology. Never saw it. Maybe it was with the letter apologizing for the Red Sox’ last place  season.

I get crankier every morning, having to spend a good 45 minutes calling the Globe to report the day’s problem, waiting on hold (I usually draw the line at half an hour), having some poor “customer service” (now there’s a misnomer) representative apologize for the inconvenience, then -until recently – beginning the process all over again for the New York Times and Wall St. Journal, whose deliveries were affected by the Globe’s problems. Those two papers have finally gotten their act together, but not the Globe.

After CEO Mike Sheehan told Jim Braude on Greater Boston that the problem could take four to six months to resolve and that, no, they wouldn’t rehire the old vendor, subscribers were understandably apoplectic. The Globe recanted, and this morning the customer service representative said the old vendor will be back on Monday, perhaps even in time for the Sunday paper. California-based ACI Media Group will still do half the deliveries.

Under questioning, the poor phone rep acknowledged he has felt like a punching bag for the last two weeks. I’m sure many irate subscribers unload their anger on these low-paid agents who have been given little information and trained only to repeat, as many times as necessary, “we’re so sorry for your inconvenience. The Globe is working to resolve the problem as soon as possible.”

Reportedly, 75 percent of the Globe’s revenue comes from print advertising.  The make-goods on this (if they have to compensate for failed airings as television has to) can’t help the newspaper already best by shrinking readership and revenues. It’s jaw-dropping that an institution of the Globe’s stature, which routinely criticizes other businesses and  institution for their failings, could have been so stupid and insensitive to end-users whom they theoretically value.

One might ask that why not cancel altogether, given the serious deterioration of the Globe (editorial page reduced to one, often limp editorial; Saturday paper  shrunk to little more than a super market advertiser; overreliance on other papers and wire services for national and  international news). It’s tempting.  But it’s still the Globe that gives us quality long-form writing and investigative pieces. From coverage of the Church abuse scandal years ago, to the intimate portraits of life on Bowdoin and Geneva Streets in Roxbury, to the outrages of concurrent surgeries at the Mass. General, the Globe is still the go-to source for local information and, despite all of its flaws, the Massachusetts paper of record. It’s among the ties that bind the community.

Word is that delivery in my neighborhood is going back to PCF, and I just hope that, when the former vendor is back on board, they have not lost too many experienced drivers so callously tossed aside in the change-over.  Boston Globe ownership should be pleased that their readers value their subscriptions so highly and understand that $57 a month is a lot of money to pay for a kick in the teeth.

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14 Responses to Boston Globe delivery problems: the route to insanity

  1. Michael Kean says:

    Ah, Margie, how familiar your problems sound. I would have expected, however, that in a major metropolitan area, such difficulties would be rare. We on the other hand must not only deal with late or missing papers, but stale news as well. We get the San Francisco Chronicle delivered daily and Sunday. (We long ago gave up on The Monterey Herald.) Unfortunately the copy we receive is put to bed around 7:00 pm, so that it can be printed and transported to the Monterey Peninsula before first light. I love to actually hold a paper and slowly read it over coffee in the morning, so we will continue to subscribe. But, though a Luddite, this is one instance when I say “thank goodness for the internet.”

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  2. Ed says:

    Ok, the previous PCF drivers were not tossed aside, they had to chose to deliver the globe, or the rest of the morning papers. Both companies NEED drivers, they’re not firing drivers, nor did they fire drivers.
    Two companies doing the entire area means more drivers are needed.

    However, many drivers had had enough and they quit.

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  3. Hopkins Holmberg says:

    Opposite experience: the Globe has arrived everyday, but the old firm has been erratic and suddenly the NYTimes often fails to arrive. So that’s the company the Globe has rehired to solve the problem?
    Seems the real problem is the mush-mouthed Globe CEO and his underlings that did a terrible job of negotiating the contract. No penalties? Even the MBTA knows better!

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  4. Hopkins Holmberg says:

    P.S. The on-line version of the Globe includes ever period in every coloured advert. The Publisher’s letter was there in full. It takes a little initial work to get hooked up to the full online edition.

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  5. Judy Holmberg says:

    It was reported yesterday on WBUR that the delivery lists given drivers on December 28 was in ALPHABETICAL order. This is the best company in the US?

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  6. Joe Rizoli says:

    I think it is really a sad mark upon America that the kids today don’t have the motivation to do these jobs that the kids did when I was a young, I’m 63, that was my generation. I suppose that fact is because those days were quite different that today. No computers, no Facebook, no Internet. The question begs though how do the kids today get their money? Delivering the newspapers was and is a job.

    http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20160109/BLOGS/301099984/11647

    But the fact remains sadly that the delivery of the newspapers has been given into the hands of immigrants, some who cant even speak English which would also tell me that these people are not legal residents in this country. Since that has happened these delivery jobs have basically now been taken over by these people thus now shutting out anyone who is a born bred American out of this particular line of work.

    These are the facts and the newspapers themselves are in a bind because they need their papers delivered and the fact that they HAVE to go this route and hire companies that uses illegal immigrants as their delivery service is a sad thing when we all try to teach our kids that to obey the law is something we should all attain to. The newspapers get out of this dilemma by stating THEY don’t hire the delivery persons, they sublet that out to someone else thus the newspapers aren’t responsible for the LEGALITY of the delivery persons when we all know that most of the delivery persons are breaking the law by the fact that they are one, driving in this country illegally and two,working in this country illegally. As to the problem here now it seems the delivery persons being the transient people they are packed up and went on to greener pastures because either they went back to their countries origin or they went somewhere else where they got better jobs while still being illegally in this country.

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    • aronsbarron says:

      You seem to jump from immigrants to illegal immigrants, and I wonder if that is fair. For many years, we had a delivery person – probably Latino – who lived in Framingham and gave superior service. He worked for the previous delivery vendor. Unfortunately, his father became ill out West, and our delivery person and his wife moved out there to care for the father. Our guy was dependable, pleasant and communicative, took his job seriously and did it well. He was a fully functioning and productive member of the community, though he probably had to hold down a couple of jobs to make ends meet.

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    • Nancy Phillips says:

      Deliveries are supposed to be made prior to 6 am which excludes anyone under the age of 18 due to labor laws. With the 24 hour news cycle that now exists, the afternoon paper is already told news hence the major switch to morning papers. I too lament the loss of the local neighborhood paper boy/girl but that time has passed. As for your assessment of delivery drivers, you are a bigot and a moron. All of the drivers I know (and I am one) are legal residents with valid drivers licenses and insurance (a requirement of the job). Drivers for the Globe have been jerked around by both PCF and ACI and some have found other jobs. PCF let everyone know in October that they had lost the Globe contract. Many drivers went to the new company ACI only to receive termination notices when the Globe gave back some areas to PCF. Delivering papers is a difficult job with very little financial gain. There are no vacations or sick time. You can only take time off if you can find people to cover your route and you pay them more than you make. You must buy bags and plastics from the paper and the cost of gas and wear and tear on your car is huge. Educate yourself before opening your mouth.

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  7. Pingback: RichardHowe.com | Boston Globe delivery problems: the route to insanity by Marjorie Arons-Barron

  8. Judy Holmberg says:

    Jan 11 no globe at 9 am and they refuse re-delivery. NYT came by 6:30. Apparently we are not included in the old delivery company. Now the Globe is even more screwed up. It is hard to believe just how much they messed this up. I am both mad and sad.

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  9. aronsbarron says:

    So sorry for your loss! Our paper finally arrived and was actually put in the right place. I assume we are back with the old delivery company.

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  10. Egramont Pantaloon says:

    I’m sorry you’ve had so many delivery problems. I have received the Globe faithfully for the last 14 days. The only problem is that I have not ordered the Globe nor wish to receive the Globe. I’ve gotten a couple if editions of the Salem News too but it has been less reliable.

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