Wednesday, November 16, 2005

DC Comics Is a Jerk

Note: I’m leaving this article here for historical reasons, but I am no longer angry with DC, for reasons that are explained here.

If you’ve browsed around this website you may have noticed that the issue reviews took a few months off starting with #3, and I had to catch up all in one month later on. That’s because I didn’t get #3 until months after it came out, and I didn’t want to review the series out of order.

I get LSH by subscription, for various good reasons. It’s easier, and it’s also supposed to be cheaper. Plus, the Canadian distributor--I’m in Canada, by the way--sometimes sends the book out early enough that I get it a couple of days ahead of the rest of the world. So it’s great.

Except when it doesn’t work.

When it doesn’t work, you don’t get your comic book that month. Oh, you can go to the store and buy one, but that means you’ve paid twice for a single comic. Plus, it may be a while before it sinks in that your subscription copy isn’t coming, so by the time you give up and try to buy one, they may be sold out.

I’ve got a history of this kind of thing happening to me, and I’ve become quite displeased with DC’s subscription department as a result. Actually, I don’t think DC has a subscription department. I think they outsource all their subscription stuff to some other company (these Cambey & West people). For one thing, nobody you talk to knows anything about comic books. For another, they can’t transfer you to anyone with authority. And when it comes to the service they provide, well… Here’s a rough chronology of my dealings with DC subscriptions:

1. I begin subscribing to the DnA Legion at around issue #22. All goes well for a while. (By the way, here’s how subscriptions used to work: Go to the DC Comics website. Click on ‘Subscriptions’. Fill out the online form. Print it out. Phone a number and read them your printed-out form. Primitive, I’m saying. You seem to be able to order online now.)
2. As issue #33 approaches (amid rumours of a reboot) I call DC to renew my subscription. I give them my credit card information and verify that my subscription will carry over to any new Legion series.
3. Weeks pass. I get something in the mail from DC saying that my subscription has not been renewed because my credit card was declined. Which is BS, because my limit is fine and it gets paid off every month. Oh, and my copy of #33, which was covered by my old subscription, hasn’t arrived.
4. I call DC and try to fix things with my subscription. I try a different credit card. Can you check and see if it goes through while I’m on the phone? No. She can only take down the info and send it along. If it doesn’t go through I’ll be notified by mail in a couple of weeks. Again, primitive. And they’ll get a copy of #33 in the mail to me right away.
5. See 3., above.
6. I get ticked off. I search DC’s website for a different phone number to call, a number I haven’t tried yet. I find a couple of numbers, but they’re all dead ends. I think the site hasn’t been updated in a while.
7. But there is an e-mail address for the subscription department. I type up all my grievances and e-mail it in. The e-mail bounces back; mailbox full.
8. See 4., above.
9. See 3., above. And by now I’m missing #34, #35 and #36 as well as #33.
10. I figure enough is enough and type up my whole sad story onto a letter. In the letter I make it clear how saddened and frustrated I am by this turn of events. I enclose a subscription form and a cheque, because I’ve been told that I can do this by cheque if I want. I send the whole thing to DC’s subscription department.
11. Weeks pass. Still no #33. I receive an envelope from DC. Inside is a) my letter to them, presumably unread, b) my cheque to them, and c) a FORM LETTER with a CHECK MARK next to a paragraph that says that they can’t process my subscription because my cheque wasn’t drawn on a U.S. bank. Do you get this? They’re in danger of losing a loyal customer and they can’t be bothered to communicate with him with more than a FREAKING CHECK MARK. Oh, and thanks for telling me about the ‘U.S. bank’ thing beforehand. That was helpful.
12. I call DC again. We try more credit card stuff. This time I’m prepared. I call my credit card company to get them to call me before they decline anything. I also arrange to call DC back the next day to see if the transaction went through (rather than wait two weeks for the letter). Oh, and they’ll get a copy of #33 in the mail to me right away.
13. Doesn’t work. The credit card people don’t call me, the transaction doesn’t go through. We do, however, get a hint of the problem: it turns out that DC’s credit card software has a bug in it. Sometimes it transposes the month and the year in the expiry date. Did I want to try it again, only this time with the month and year reversed? Yes, please, let’s try that.
14. It works. I am now subscribing to Legion of Super-Heroes, starting with issue #1, for two years. I am supposed to be getting my copy of #33 in the mail any minute now, but I’m on my own for all the issues from #34 to the end of the DnA series.
15. I receive issues #1 and #2 on schedule. I also go out and buy my own copies of the end of the DnA series from #33 on (as I now have the idea that DC will simply never send me #33).
16. Then #3 doesn’t show up. I wait a couple of weeks, because sometimes things really do get stuck in the mail, and then I call DC. But something new’s going on. Nobody answers the phone. It goes to voicemail, but the voicemail is something called ‘American Eagle Press’, or some damn thing. Weird. I send an e-mail, but it bounces. I try some other numbers, but they’re dead ends. There’s simply no way of getting in touch with DC Comics. Nice customer service.
17. I try the American Eagle number again. Again, nobody answers, and it goes to voicemail. This time the voicemail says it’s DC Comics subscriptions. Again, weird. I leave a message with all my information.
18. A guy calls me back the same day. Full credit: he did call me back the same day. He’ll arrange to have #3 re-sent to me; please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.
19. Six weeks, eight weeks, ten and twelve weeks pass. No #3. I formulate exotic plans to make DC sorry. Then I puppy out and go buy #3 in a store. (And by this time, it’s off the shelves. I had to wait for this one place to reorder it.)

Since then, LSH has been on time, or even early, every month. So that’s fine. But the whole thing still stinks. Bottomless pits of voicemail, e-mail addresses that bounce, impersonal form letters and a Rube Goldberg credit card system just do not cut it. It sends the message that DC doesn’t care about its readers. In fact, it sends the message that DC hates its readers and wishes we’d die.

(And while we’re at it, what’s this six-to-eight-weeks-for-delivery stuff? If I call the subscription guys and tell them I need a replacement copy, why can’t they just send a message to the guy in the warehouse saying, “Please re-send Stupendous Man #7 to Matthew at 123 Fake Street,” and the warehouse guy goes to a shelf, takes a comic out of the box and mails it to me? Is that so hard?)

Because this is stupid. I’m a dedicated enough Legion reader that I’m willing to subscribe to it. And how does DC respond? They respond by forcing me to buy a couple of their comics twice. By making it as difficult as possible for me to renew my subscription. And by making it perfectly clear that they’d rather do anything, anything, than communicate with me about it. It’s unacceptable.

All right, let’s say this happens again. Let’s say that LSH #13 doesn’t show up on time. What do I do?
- I could push the plunger. Cancel my subscription, sell my back issues, quit collecting. Because I’m sick of this nonsense. That would work. But I don’t want to do it.
- I could sigh and go buy myself a replacement copy. In other words, I could allow DC Comics to steal from me. (Again.)
- I could call my lawyer or take DC to small claims court. Sounds like overkill, but at this point it’s not about money. It’s about anger. It’s about getting DC to smarten up and live up to some standard of customer service. Unfortunately this sounds like a lot of trouble. I’m in Ontario, DC’s in New York state, it could get expensive and complicated.
- I could browbeat the subscription department until I get results. But I don’t know if you can get any results out of them.
- I could write a letter, or a bunch of letters, to DC Comics and try to get someone’s attention that way. But I don’t think anybody there would read them.

It’s easy to keep me happy. I just want to read Legion comics, and I’m willing to pay for it. Why does DC make it so hard for that to happen?

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