January 22, 2004

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if I had ate breakfast before I wrote the now infamous deadbeats editorial a few weeks ago? They say its the most important meal. Maybe I would have been in a better mood with a full stomach. Oh well, I didnt get to enjoy pancakes and bacon. But it seems like I still got to eat my eggs, or at least I had egg on my face after I wrote it.

While I stand by what I said, I must admit that with the help of one concerned customer, that I discovered an account, which I believed was way overdue, actually was all my fault. Somehow the entry was not being made like it should have been on my computer bookkeeping program. Because there was no activity on the account, no statements were printed because the computer thought there was a zero balance for this particular customer. It appears the only deadbeat in this instance was me, because I wasnt entering the charges correctly. So the only person I have to blame in this instance is me. I cant expect a person to pay a bill they never received. Then there was the fire department meeting when our treasurer brought up the fact there was only one bill left out to close the demolition derby fund from this summer. The Memphis Democrat had sponsored a trophy and had never paid for it. Granted, I had missed the past several months of meetings so I wasnt there to get the bill or a reminder, but my fellow firemen still felt it was rather amusing considering my recent stance on deadbeats.

Of course that got me real worried. Maybe these dozens of other past due accounts were all my fault as well. Nope, it seems like they have just ignored the bills that Ive been sending on a monthly basis for the past year or two. Folks please note this last part year or two not month or two. The week after this article came out my office was filled with apologetic customers paying their bills or just checking to make sure they didnt owe anything. Now thats something I had people that dont even owe anything stopping in trying to pay. The same thing goes for our subscribers. Each year our subscriptions expire at the end of the year. So technically if you havent paid by January then your subscription has expired. But its our policy to carry these customers through January, before finally removing unpaid subscriptions in February. But after my article came out we had lots of renewals with people apologizing for being late.

I hope our readers and our customers understand my stand on this. I was NOT addressing these folks that are a month or two behind. I definitely wasnt after people that were a couple weeks behind in renewing their subscription. With taxes and everything else due by January 1 its just an unwritten rule that many folks dont renew until the end of the month. I was simply venting about a dozen or two people, businesses or whatever, that likely have no intention of paying their bills.

While Im on the subject of subscription renewals, I would like to address last weeks letter to the editor regarding our subscription rates. A reader from Macon County stated she would not renew the newspaper for another year because we charge too much. She questioned why the paper cost more for subscribers in non-adjoining counties.

Our base rate for one-year of the newspaper is $24. Our subscription rates fall into four categories. There is the local rate, which is paid for Missouri subscribers that live in Scotland County or the adjoining counties of Clark, Knox, Schuyler or Adair (all physically touch Scotland County). The cost is $25.56. We often get asked why our cheapest rate is for adjoining counties in Iowa, which only pay $24. Missouri is the only state that requires sales tax on newspapers. So local subscribers pay $24 plus $1.56 sales tax.

The next two categories are out of state ($32) and our most expensive rate, non-adjoining counties in Missouri ($34.08). Once again the difference in these two rates is sales tax ($2.08 in Missouri).

But the letter was questioning why we charge so much more to send the paper to Macon than we do locally, when its the exact same periodical. Each paper is the same, so it costs the same to print a newspaper that is sold over the counter here at the office as it does for one mailed to California.

The answer is postage. The entire adjoining county distinction is for postage qualification. We didnt sit down and decide to deliberately make all you outsiders pay more just because your county doesnt touch ours. It costs 3.9 times more to mail our newspapers to non-adjoining counties or out of state compared to those mailed here in Memphis. So for every $1 the newspaper spends on postage to mail a local subscription, it pays $3.90 in postage to mail the exact same paper to non-adjoining counties. Thats why these subscriptions cost more. Actually the industry standard is double cost for these types of mailers, meaning that out-of state and non-adjoining subscribers to the Memphis Democrat are technically getting a bargain as we definitely do not charge $48 for out of state subscriptions or $51.12 to send one to Macon.

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