November 7, 2002

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if the customer isn't always right? In business, we are taught to take whatever the consumer has to dish out, all in the hopes they will eventually spend their dollar with you. Fiscally this theory makes good sense, as you don't want to chase off prospective buyers, but lets face it there are some customers out there that push the envelope.

We recently have had a few subscribers, or former subscribers who have tested this business motto to an extreme. In October we announced that subscription prices for the Memphis Democrat were going up. I'm like everyone else, I hate to see prices go up, but let's face it, it's inevitable. Every year the cost of living increases, so at some point merchants have to pass along these added expenses to customers.

In business, we buy supplies and services in order to produce our product. Over the past six years that I have been working at the paper, the subscription price did not increase despite annual increases in printing and postage costs - the big two expenses in the newspaper industry. In the past two years, during which we purchased the newspaper, we have attempted to expand the coverage provided by the publication, increasing our average page count per edition from 12 pages a week to an average of 16 pages. Both postage and printing rates are dependent upon the number of pages we print. So, not only have the base prices for the services increased but we have also added more costs on top of that by increasing what we offer our customers.

If you stop and think about it for a minute, $24 a year (our new base subscription price) is pretty cheap considering you get 52 issues. We spend more than that filling up our car with gas or taking the family out for dinner, while a subscription entitles you to 52 issues covering an entire year. If you do the math, that figures out at roughly 46 cents a week. Once a week you get a newspaper for less than it costs you to buy a soda from the vending machine. A person can read about local news, keep track of school events, find out what special services are being held at local churches, see what's on sale at area stores and on and on.

Price increases at the newspaper have been few and far between, so we settled on the amount hoping to continue this trend and not having to raise prices again in the near future.

Despite all these logical explanations I'm sure some folks will still be mad. I'm looking for a new vehicle so the day I wheel up to the office in a new truck, it will probably just add more fuel to the fire. It doesn't matter that my current vehicle has nearly 200,000 miles and costs me nearly as much a month in maintenance as a new truck payment will be. "He raised subscription prices so he could buy a new truck." While that may ruffle my feathers and make me a little defensive, I guess it's true. I am raising subscription prices so I can buy a new truck. However the way I look at is, I'm raising subscription prices to pay the editor and the advertising production lady (my wife) for all the overtime the are putting in at the newspaper. So if that new truck makes you mad about having to pay eight cents more a week for your newspaper, just drive by the paper office on a Monday or Tuesday night. It will simply take the place of the old Jeep, setting out in front of the newspaper office well past quitting time.

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