Dow Jones pulls a fast one . . .

I had a very odd experience with the usually web savvy customer service of Dow Jones.It seems they have pulled a bit of a bait & switch on their online readers, dropping the Barron’s online subscription from WSJ subscribers.

Now, I have no problem with separating the WSJ and Barron’s online into seperate subscriptions — it is their right to structure or charge whatever they like. However, I expect companies I do business with to make reasonable efforts to honor their contracts, and Dow Jones is no longer doing that.

Here are the details:

When I signed up for the WSJ online, I purchased both products: WSJ online, and Barron’s online for $99/year. That’s how they marketed it, that’s how it was advertised, and that’s how they sold it me. The WSJ is currently being promoted at $79 online, so the plus $20 for Barrons is essentially the same deal — only not for current subscribers.

I go to see something on Barron’s, and I no longer have access. What gives? — I just renewed in October. 

Call customer service — Imagine my astonishment when the customer service rep told me they are no longer honoring that deal. How can they do that? "The fine print of our agreement allows Dow Jones to change the terms at will."  Glad I don’t lease a car from these guys: Imagine of halfway through your lease, you receive an email from the dealer telling you the radio was no longer included — if you don’t pay more, they will electronically disable the radio. This is internet blackmail.

To sell two products together, and then demand more money halfway through the subscription is unethical; I expect it is likely to cost them some good will.

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Why not simply announce the two online products are no longer marketed together, and let whoever had a contract maintain their subscription until it expires? How much can they gain short term for the extra $20?

Now comes the funniest part of all:  After I discussed this with a customer service rep, I asked for a supervisor. During our conversation, I calmly told hm this was wrong, and asked what else he could do. For the $20 upgrade, IF YOU ASK FOR IT, they will throw in a 1 year print edition of Barron’s AT NO EXTRA COST. It normally sells for $149/yr. It was a no brainer — of course, I did it.

So instead of merely sending out a notice that once your sub expires, Barrons is a separate product, or making an offer to WSJ subscribers that was too good to refuse — 1 year of Barrons print and online for $20 — they instead pissed off every subscriber I know by cancelling the online version.


Who is the customer service genius that thought this nonsense up? Send this idiot back to McKinsey, where they can work on developing the next Enron.

Not very smart. Dumb and sleazy ain’t a great combination in business (tho smart and unscrupulous can make you fabulously wealthy). I’m still a subscriber, but I was left with a bad taste in my mouth . . .

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  1. Helluvanengineer commented on Jan 12

    Agree with you 100% — was irked to say the least when I tried to access a Barron’s article online yesterday only to discover that things had changed. Barron’s online presence has always seemed rather haphazard though — the general layout/format and archive indexing are terrible — so this doesn’t surprise me. They don’t seem to care much (or think very hard) about how to manage their online resources…

  2. Sainttjames commented on Jan 12

    Dropping my sub…but I guess the Brilliant One has already calculated statistically how many subs they are likely to lose…

    Just another Corporation driving a nail into its own coffin…

  3. Anonymous commented on Jan 12

    Apparently their old bait and switch worked with you Barry… the fact that you’re still a paying customer pretty much says it all.

    I guess your 20% extra money is helping make up the difference for people like SaintJames.

  4. me commented on Jan 12

    I used Barron’s, Alan in particular, to justify my online sub. I will not renew the online since I read the print edition.

  5. me commented on Jan 12

    Better than that, I just called to remove the automatic renew option (and I see it has gone up to $49, without Barron’s) only to find that you cannot remove that option you have to cancel. I have a month left and do not want to cancel the last month.

    No wonder they are in big trouble – out of touch editoral page and no customer service. IBM must be behind the scenes helping them.

  6. Jeff M. commented on Jan 12

    I couldn’t believe it, reading Barrons Sat. then returning to finish Sun. but not being able to.
    I gave them a choice, cancel everything and refund my money or leave it exactly as it was (1 year contract paid Dec., 2005). I paid the $20 dollars and they are refunding that amount back to my credit card.

    Although I like WSJ and Barrons, if a company acts in this manner there is no way I will do business with them. It was a no-brainer for them to give me back the $20. Everyone should demand it, don’t give them any other options.

  7. Seamus commented on Jan 12

    I subscribe to Barron’s print edition which included free access to Barron’s online. I don’t subscribe to the print WSJ. Guess what? They’re not honoring this contract either as they required this Barron’s subscriber to enroll in the $20 online access to continue. A customer service rep said it was because I subscribed to the WSJ online at a reduced rate (renewed in November) as part of an extra benefit to Barron’s subscribers.

    Talk about poor marketing–no advance notice or explanation. Just shove it down their throats! Certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

  8. pf commented on Jan 12

    I’m a WSJ online and Barron’s print subscriber, just called regarding this issue and found that they are readily refunding the $20 charge for Barron’s online. Actually they are charging $17 and refunding $20, so they bought me two cups of coffee for the hassle. But they certainly did lose some goodwill..

  9. John Navin commented on Jan 12

    Some guy with an MBA came up with this.

    “We don’t have to honor it because we said in the fine print we didn’t have to…”

    That guy will make a fine CEO some day…

  10. JohnB commented on Jan 12

    Lost in all this conusmer outrage is any business discussion. Let’s assume that DJ is rational and did this for a reason. I’d say forget the subscribers and look to the advertisers. I bet the Barron’s advertisers figured out that none of the online subscribers see their ads. Yes, Barry was right, when you call to complain, DJ will throw in a free delivery of the print edition of Barron’s for your $20. Why? Probably so DJ can tell the Barron’s advertisers that the readers are seeing their ads. I would guess that the ad revenue, not the subscriber goodwill, drove this business decision.

  11. Bob C. commented on Jan 12

    So ironic that a publication that makes its living covering business decisions can make such a bad one. This fiasco would make a fine WSJ front page article.

    I am a WSJ/Barron’s print and online subscriber. The deal I worked with them was a prorated $20 Barrons online access charge of $11.50 since I renewed last August, then a free three month extension of both WSJ and Barrons online from next August to November followed by a renewal of $69 for both ($49+$20). And they are giving me a free year of the Barron’s print edition.

  12. Reinhard commented on Jan 12

    I also just dropped my substription. In Barron’s I just read Alan Abelson and glance at the WSJ regular news from time to time, so either alone is not worth it and I do not want to pay more.

    The also offered me some free months and suggested to switch to the annual rate.

  13. steve commented on Jan 12

    report them to the ftc, then file a class action lawsuit

  14. ed costello: comments & links commented on Jan 12

    Dow Jones loses a few customers

    Unlike apparently 99.9% of the web, I have no problem paying for an online subscription to something like the WSJ. Apparently, though, the WSJ included a subscription to Barron’s online for awhile but since January 8, 2006 has separated the two. That i…

  15. ed costello: comments & links commented on Jan 12

    Dow Jones loses a few customers

    Unlike apparently 99.9% of the web, I have no problem paying for an online subscription to something like the WSJ. Apparently, though, the WSJ included a subscription to Barron’s online for awhile but since January 8, 2006 has separated the two. That i…

  16. ed costello: comments & links commented on Jan 12

    Dow Jones loses a few customers

    Unlike apparently 99.9% of the web, I have no problem paying for an online subscription to something like the WSJ. Apparently, though, the WSJ included a subscription to Barron’s online for awhile but since January 8, 2006 has separated the two. That i…

  17. jpmist commented on Jan 12

    It has dawned on me that T-Mobile offers free WSJ Online access at it’s WiFi hotspots to which I already subscribe. Shoulda thought of dumping the online WSJ already, this new gyp makes it easier. . .

  18. David Silb commented on Jan 12

    The following is an actual transcript of Barry trying to call customer service.

    (Recorded for quality assurance and training purposes.)

    “Hello and welcome to customer service. If you would like to speak to a customer service representative from India press or say 1. If you would to speak to speak to a customer service representative from Trinidad press or say 2. If you would to speak to a customer representative from Sri Lanka press or say 3. If you would to speak to somebody who cares may we suggest you hang up and turn to the nearest wall. Preferably one with a reflective mirror type device.”

    “Or you may visit us on the web at: ‘my wall is the only one who will listen to me dot com.’ “Thank you and good bye.”

  19. GregP commented on Jan 12

    What I learned from Barry: mellow out and you’ll get a good deal. I cited the print version (free) offer that Barry rec’d, and they gave it to me for the balance of my subscription term. Not only that, but they prorated my $20. So I pay ~$8.50 for Barron’s print and online thru June expiry. Sweet! (BTW, I spoke with the “cancellations” dept, and the rep asked her supervisor about it.)

  20. Andy R commented on Jan 12

    I think mine was worse. I live in a semi-rural area. I had a print sub to Barron’s and was lucky if I got it on Saturday. I had the Journal online as an add on. Last month I got a letter stating that delivery could no longer be guaranteed for Saturday. Now, I’m lucky if it get in on Tuesday! When the notice appeared that I needed to pay for Barron’s online, I called.

    I ended up cancelling my Barron’s print (2-yr) with $180 back to me. And signing up for the $99 online for both with the free Barron’s print for a year. I’m not sure who’s coming out ahead.

  21. Yash commented on Jan 12

    After some discussion, they agreed to extend my Barrons online for free..but it sure left a bad taste.

  22. muckdog commented on Jan 12

    Yeah, I went through this over the weekend. It’s only $20 more, but it’s the darn principle of the thing. Made me kind of mad. I rarely read the WSJ (except via linkage) and I was skipping Barron’s more and more over time.

    As a matter of fact, not only am I dropping WSJ, but I’m replacing it with a subscription to REALMONEY.COM!

    (Advertising campaign idea in there somewhere…)

  23. Jerry R commented on Jan 12

    I called to cancel my subscription and they said they would refund my $20 , throw in 3 months free and at renewal (2007) charge me $99 for Barrons and the WSJ online. What did they accomplish besides getting everyone mad? They are charging the same amount as before. What was the purpose? I guess thet could not make the rate increase stick. It looks like we can fight inflation by making a phone call.

  24. George Colpitts commented on Jan 12

    They did this to me too. Maybe they should change their name to the “Wall Street Journal of Lies and Swindles”. They could adopt “God’s Away on Business” as their theme song and change the title to “God’s busy reading the Wall Street Journal”. They should however keep the chorus: “Who are the ones that we kept in charge?
    Killers, thieves and lawyers”
    Maybe they’ve been secretly bought by Maoists anxious to prove the inherent immorality of capitalism. They’re doing a good job. After researching the matter they put me on hold until I hung up.
    How can they do this to the poor people who answer the phone not to mention their customers

  25. Mark commented on Jan 14

    I smell class-action lawsuit!

  26. dave commented on Jan 14

    Excluding Barron’s surcharges, “core” WSJ subscription prices remain unchanged.

  27. Alex_Br commented on Jan 31

    This has got to be ilegal! “Breach of implied contract… ” or something… They should have waited until subscription period expired!! I definately made me mad!

    What a dumb move!! I hope the guy who came up with this brillant idea got fired!

    I’ll be accessing the FTC site right now!! Class action on these guys!!

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