You know those annoying people who call you at dinner time, asking for just a few minutes of your time? Or even worse, they call you on Saturday morning.
If you’re a nice person, you sometimes say yes, you have a little time to spare. They want you to complete a short survey, which then drags on for 10 or 15 minutes, and you’re sorry you agreed.
If you’re, um, not nice, you just hang up. Maybe you don’t swear.
Well, last Saturday, one of those people on the annoying end of the telephone line was me.
My task was to call 25 former subscribers and find out why they had let their subscriptions expire.
To start, I got a computer-generated list of subscribers who had not renewed during the 16-month-period ending last December.
How hard can this be? I thought, as I looked down the list. First, the list was only a few pages, and we had phone numbers next to most of the names and addresses.
As I began calling, my belief that it was going to be easy began to fade. About every other call reached a non-working phone number. We had gotten the numbers when the subscription was started, and in many cases that had been years ago.
Also, phone habits are changing; many of us have switched to cell phones, internet phones, or cable-company phones. Our number last year may not be our number today.
But in between all of the “This number is no longer in service” recordings were a number of pleasant people, willing to tell me why they no longer get the Gazette at home.
Several said they liked the paper, but were on fixed incomes and did not feel they could afford it anymore.
Two said they now read pass-along copies from friends. Another said she still reads every issue, but switched to buying single copies from a rack.
Two or three said they had been getting both the Gazette and the Tupelo paper, but had decided to cut back to one. They said they kept the daily paper because of college sports coverage.
Only three said they had stopped because of something they disliked about the Gazette. One woman said she stopped her subscription because the Gazette had made errors in her husband’s obituary (She said she still reads the Gazette, though. It’s passed along by a neighbor.)
Another lady confided that she only bought the paper for the food coupons and the number of coupons had been reduced.
A man said he stopped the paper because of the departure of the former publisher.
“No offense to you,” he said. “But you asked and that’s the reason.”
By the time I had talked to 25 people, I was surprised by two things:
First, only one person declined to participate in the survey. At least, I think he would have declined. He hung up on me as soon as I said I was the publisher of the Gazette.
And even though I wasn’t trying to resell the paper, three of the 25 said they would like to renew. I guess that’s why there are all those annoying telemarketers.
T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.