Tell the truth Maxim magazine - you messed up big time!

Back in the midst of the .com boom of the late 90s the internet was a truly wonderful place to visit for cheapskates like me. Everyone was offering 20% off coupons, people had pricing mistakes every week because they hired their nephew to do their eCommerce site and there was as much free stuff as you wanted.

One of the most common special offers was that if you signed up for {insert stupid internet idea of the week} you got a free magazine subscription. Most of the time there was no magazine I cared for since I'm not into sport, beauty or 'learning 12 new ways to satisfy your man before dinner' so I would almost always choose one of the male 'pseudo-porn' magazines like FHM, Maxim or Stuff. They have entertained me well over the years when I needed something brainless to read. They were fairly innocent magazines - unlike the UK versions the prudish yanks kept the pretty ladies covered up because its well known that a lot of Americans are scared of boobs ;-)

There were so many of these offers that it became a big joke to sign up for as many as possible and watch expiry date grow. Once the meltdown had ended and the offers disappeared I had Stuff until 2019, Maxim until 2014 and FHM till 2012. It did cross my mind that this was a lot of free stuff to give away but companies this size surely hire smart marketing people who know what they are doing - right?

Well early this year my FHM stopped being delivered.. I didn't really notice for several months when I got notice that Stuff too was being cancelled. Now if they had bothered to contact me and say something like "Hey man we blew it - we spent so much money on marketing and giving away free subscriptions that we have to close down" then I wouldn't have thought twice. But I doubt that anyone at FHM or stuff went without and probably got a lot of free booze that I never saw any of.

So I emailed them - well I tried, you see they have pretty much disappeared off the face of the earth. Web pages are either gone or just don't load. The phone numbers go unanswered. Eventually after several attempts I got answers from FHM and Stuff. FHM said I should have got switched to Esquire or ESPN - not that I desire either but heck its just something to read in the crapper! I've never got either and I just sent them another email. Stuff said they would switch me to Blender or....... yes you guessed it Maxim.

So given that I have 12 years left on Stuff I fully expected to get a Maxim that had 2026 on the label....instead today I got 6 identical letters telling me that Maxim have rejected my subscription extension due to their 'new' 5 year subscription term. The 6 letters have a total of 7 year years and 5 months of issues between them. The letters tell me to call "    -     -     " or write to "    ,       ,     ,      ,     ,     ". (yes that's exactly how its printed) to talk to the 'selling agent' if I don't get a refund in the next 45-60 days.

So finally they realised their mistake - they realised that offering free magazine subscriptions is a dumb business model unless you limit it. Not only do you have to eat the costs but when other magazines in your empire go under you also have to eat their subscriptions. But did Maxim tell me this? No they just set an arbitrary limit and then rejected the transfer. Bear in mind that Maxim and Stuff are both published by the same publisher so they actually just rejected an internal request!

So I'm wondering if somehow this will ripple back to Stuff and someone will issue me a refund check for a magazine I never paid for in the first place or if this is all part of the plan to dig them out of the hole they created by handing out too many free subscriptions.

I suppose asking a business to be honest about their screw ups is just too much to expect. But I feel like I shouldn't give up - I gave up something - an email address at the very least - to a company who had been offered very cheap or free subscriptions by a large international company as part of a marketing campaign. Its really not my problem that the 'fresh out of college' MBA that you hired at minimum wage didn't think that people would collect them like Beanie Babies. A smart company would have just said 'one free subscription per household' and that would have been the end of it. But you didn't and now you need to honour your commitment or go bankrupt trying.... removing web pages and shutting off email addressed won't work because you are all part of a huge publishing company that can easily be contacted.

And yes I *AM* just doing this for the sport now.... some people hunt, some people do yoga, some people swing - The ZMan chases up idiot companies for relaxation!




Published 26 October 2007 02:04 PM by zman


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