A no-good lying email

Imagine my excitement when I received the following email after subscribing to a magazine:

The latest edition of your magazine is now available. Print subscribers: your issue has just been put in the mail. Please watch for it in your mail box in the coming days.

Woo hoo! I would soon be receiving my first printed issue of the magazine. Oh boy, I could hardly wait.

But I did wait. And waited, and waited, and waited some more.

Finally, after waiting about a month, I called customer service. The service rep checked his computer-database thingy, and proclaimed that due to the way new subscriptions are processed, my first edition would not be arriving for another week.

In the words – the email I received was a bald-faced lie. I suggested to him that, er, maybe he should look into this, because it’s “rather disconcerting” to receive an email stating something which is, in fact, not true.

Which was a polite way of saying that the magazine had done a piss-poor job integrating their mailing and emailing systems.

This is a common problem. It happens because there are two types of information in this world:

  • Type A: officially distributed information
  • Type B: the true version of Type A

Because most of the people running organizations are not technical communicators, they have no problem mixing up these types. They will cheerfully send out information they know is incorrect, with the mantra that “hey, nobody reads these things anyway, so what’s the point in trying to get it right?”

As technical communicators, this should make our blood boil, if not explode. Creating, sending or distributing inaccurate or false information is a crime against humanity. Unfortunately, we are the only judges and prosecutors for these transgressions. We’re also ultimately the only ones who care enough to make it right and have the skills to do so.

But for now, I’m dropping the charges.

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2 thoughts on “A no-good lying email

  1. That is a great example of poor corporate communication, and it also shows just how broken this notion of “subscribing to a print magazine” really is. Since most, if not all, of the larger magazines being printed now are seeing their business evolve into an E-book medium, why don't they take advantage of the technology to deliver the magazine to you in a digital format immediately?

    If you had gotten that E-mail, along with the E-version of the magazine being released that month, with an explanation that said “in case we can't get you our printed version this month, please accept this E-version of our monthly magazine.”

    The down and dirty is, magazine subscriptions take forever to get started. Blasting out corporate messages that try to compensate for that reality is a mistake. Why not use a little technological savvy to soften the disappointment?

  2. Thanks, Warren!

    To be fair, the magazine in question (Style at Home) also supplies a digital format. However, this does not negate the misinformation I was given. I agree with you that an explanatory note in the original email would have been helpful.

    Just to finish the story: After waiting an additional week, the June issue of my magazine arrived, but not the May one.

    I called the subscriptions department and they said they would extend my subscription an extra month to compensate for the missing issue. Then, about a week after I had received the June issue, I finally received the May issue!

    Because I'm such an honest corporate citizen, I called the magazine back to let them know the May issue had finally arrived, and that they did not have to extend my subscription an extra month.

    The service rep laughed at me, of course, and said it's no problem – I would still get the extra month. Considering the magazine is mostly ads, I can see why.

    This was but one of my crazy adventures in corporate communications.

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