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In Southern Piedmont/Charlotte, NC

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Consumer Complaints

BBB Accredited Business since 04/01/1949

Charlotte Observer (The)

Phone: (704) 358-5000

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Customer Complaints Summary

72 complaints closed with BBB in last 3 years | 36 closed in last 12 months
Complaint TypeTotal Closed Complaints
Advertising / Sales Issues4
Billing / Collection Issues22
Delivery Issues21
Problems with Product / Service25
Guarantee / Warranty Issues0
Total Closed Complaints72

Complaint Breakdown by ResolutionAbout Complaint Details

Complaint Resolution Log (72)BBB Closure Definitions
07/11/2014Problems with Product / Service | Read Complaint Details
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Additional Notes

Complaint Category: Failure to honor refund, exchange or credit policies

Complaint: The Charlotte Observer took funds out of my bank account and did not provide a newspaper.
I signed up for the newspaper at the **************'s Show in 2013. I never received the paper and looked on my bank statement and did not see it deducted so didn't think anything of it. I tried one other time at the ****************** show to sign up and again no paper but I didn't see it deduct out of my account. While on vacation, 5/12/2014 to 5/24/2014 the paper was being delivered. When I returned home I had papers and a bill saying I owed a balance of $41.59. I contacted the Observer and told them I didn't sign up for the paper and I didn't know why they were charging me. I was told by ******** that I had been paying for the paper since 2012. I told her that I had not received a paper and I didn't believe it was coming out of my account that it must be a mistake. I asked that they please cancel the paper and that I was not paying the $41.59 for a paper I was not receiving and for something I did not want. While speaking with her I realized this had to do with the papers I signed up for at the ******** shows but I never received. I told her and she told me I needed to let them know I did not want to continue the paper. I told her how I could do that if I was not receiving it so I didn't know to cancel. She said she would forward on to the manager. I received the run around for a few weeks. I then spoke with ***** ******** and she informed me that they had had some problems with the carrier and the reason why I started getting the paper was they had a new carrier. I explained to her what happened and that I did go online to my account and found that I had been having deductions since 2013 in the amount of $225. That was as far back as I could go without pulling my statements from the bank. ****** indicated they had been taking money out of my account prior to March 2013. I asked to be refunded only for the amount since March 2013. She said that was fair and she would get with someone and have them process my refund. In the meantime I received another bill that said I owed $51.84. When I called ****** back she referred me to ******. ****** said she would look into it and get back with me but not to worry about the outstanding bill. I was lead to believe I would receive a refund. I left several messages over a 2 week period and did not receive a call back. Today, 7/7 I finally got through to ****** to be told they would only refund me half. I was not asking for the money they took out in 2012 for papers I did not receive, only for 2013. She said I should have told them I was not getting the paper. I explained to her as I have many times that I did not see the deduction out of my account and where was their responsibility to make sure people they were taking money from where getting the service they were paying for. She couldn't answer that and said she understood and would feel the same way if it were her but that was all they could offer. All this time they were taking money from someone and not giving the paper to them and I was also buying the paper so basically I was paying for it twice. Money was taken out of my account on 3/7/2013, 5/30/2013, 8/22/2013, 8/27/2013, 12/19/2013 total $225.36. Like I said they took out even more than that but that is the amount I am requesting to be refunded and no I don't want the paper for a year free of charge.

Initial Business Response
We have been in contact with Ms **** regarding the refund. Previously we were in disagreement regarding the amount due. ( no calls were made report not receiving paper). We have authorized a refund of 249.58 including tax. Ms **** elected to have a refund check sent instead of crediting her credit card. Refunds thru our system will be pulled again next week.Refund should be received within 7-10 business days.

Complaint Resolution: Company resolved the complaint issues. The consumer acknowledged acceptance to BBB.

06/13/2014Problems with Product / Service | Read Complaint Details
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Additional Notes

Complaint Category: Failure to honor service estimate or agreement

Complaint: Paid for subscription delivery - We do NOT receive paper we pay for and no one follows up.
Over the past 5 months or so, we have paid for the weekend service of newspaper delivery (Charlotte Observer). For the past 3 months, we have been lucky to receive ONE of the papers per week as outlined in our subscription. Each time there was a call and a message. The only response we get is a claim that our "subscription will be extended." The actual issue is NOT addressed whatsoever, but a false action of rectifying the issue is presented, time-after-time - "we will extend your service." If you are not delivering consistently in the first place, an extension of subscription does not address the problem. A refund does not address the problem. A NEWSPAPER delivered addresses the problem, and almost 6 months should be enough time to address the problem. We have called for THREE consecutive weeks and filed email complaints about this issue. NO response was offered. Today, yet again, NO paper was delivered. Several messages were left on Neil Prileou's (Circulation Manager) voicemail. He has never taken a minute to return a call and address the problem, nor has he had a subordinate reach out - after almost a month of complaints.

We pay for a paper delivery and we do not receive it regularly. When we do not receive it, we try to go online and read the online version of what we pay for and get denied by a request for us to sign in using a "Press+" account, which we do not have (since we pay for the paper to be delivered).
We have compromised and declared that if only one (if we're lucky) paper is delivered per weekend, we would like to be granted a "Press+" account code with no further charge, so we can at least get the online access to the services we already pay for. NO response or follow-up has been provided.
We want access to local news...period. A refund and an extension to our delivery that already is not working does not give us what we pay for. If there are problems with delivery, provide us with Press + code to access the same features online for the next subscription cycle, and every week thereafter until we start receiving our paid delivery subscription on a regular basis.

I think that this is a simple and reasonable solution that should satisfy the needs. For once - please respond. An extension of non-existent service will not do, nor will a refund of money for news we never received address the issue.

Initial Business Response
The Home Delivery Manager, **************, spoke with Mrs. ******* in reference to her complaint.

This is his response.

Mrs. ******* and her husband ******* have been experiencing problems with delivery the past three months . They have been missed 16 times (WE subscriber) and there are multiple requests for contact and carrier memos in DSI.

Rarely do they receive The Observer on all three WE days - sometimes it is just Sunday. Ms. ******* also has not received any return calls with regards to her service or request for contact.

I promised her that we would correct the service, apply credit to her account for the service issues, and follow up with her to ensure her satisfaction.

Our office will continue to follow up on delivery expectations and will be in contact with Mrs. ******* regularly to ensure service has been provided per her expectations. We do apologize for all service issues she has received thus far.

Complaint Resolution: Company resolved the complaint issues. The consumer acknowledged acceptance to BBB.

06/11/2014Delivery Issues | Read Complaint Details
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Additional Notes

Complaint Category: Non-delivery of products

Complaint: Bought Groupon in September 2013 for 26 weeks of Sunday delivery, which has only been partially fulfilled after multiple attempts to fix directly.
I bought a groupon for 26 weeks of Sunday delivery of the paper in September 2013. Delivery never started, and I called multiple times throughout the fall and winter to try to resolve the issue. Finally, after getting angry on the phone, a customer service rep agreed to start the subscription. I received maybe 3 papers and then it stopped again without any communication. I submitted the online form indicating lack of delivery for 2 weeks in a row, and got a response that I owe $6. I emailed back asking why I owe $6 and have not received a response. Given that the Groupon is all-in, I don't know why I would owe anything. I am beyond frustrated at the lack of resolution for my problem at this point, and no amount of calling or emailing on my part seems to be effective.

Initial Business Response
**. ******** purchased a Sunday Only subscription with The Charlotte Observer in Sept 2013. During this time, **. ******** was an active subscriber with The Observer. The Groupon offer was for non-subscribers only. **. ******** should have requested a refund back through Groupon after contacting our office about delivery.

Since the Groupon offer has expired, **. ******** will not be able to get a refund back through Groupon. The Charlotte Observer will offer a one time Sunday only subscription for 26 weeks only. Delivery will begin on Sunday, June 8, 2014.

**. ********'s delivery will stop immediately after the 26 week term unless she decides to renew her subscription.

Thanks,
******** ****

Complaint Resolution: Company addressed the complaint issues. The consumer failed to acknowledge acceptance to BBB.

05/29/2014Billing / Collection Issues | Read Complaint Details
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Additional Notes

Complaint: About four months ago, I ordered and paid for eight months of seven day home delivery. This was stopped a few weeks ago, and I contacted the BBB. I was advised by ************** of the Charlotte Observer and by the BBB that the problem was resolved.Last week, they stopped delivery and when I called, I was told that there was a past due balance. I then called Mr. ********* who did NOT return my call.

Initial Business Response
On May 6, 2014 our office contacted Mr. ****** in reference this second BBB complaint that was filed. We asked Mr. ****** to provide documentation of the payment made for his subscription service. As of today, we have not been provided any records of a payment made for a subscription.

In January 2014, we cleared Mr. ******'s past due amount. Please reference BBB case # XXXXXX. Mr. ****** was restarted with a zero balance. As of January 2014, there hasn't been a payment made to his account. We will be happy to resume service once we are provided proof of payment from Mr. ******.

Complaint Resolution: Company addressed the complaint issues. The consumer failed to acknowledge acceptance to BBB.

05/20/2014Delivery Issues | Read Complaint Details
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Additional Notes

Complaint Category: Non-delivery of products

Complaint: Sunday paper not delivered for 5 weeks in a row. I called and emailed every week and absolutely nothing was done. I finally asked for a refund.
It began when I asked the delivery person not to deface my mailbox with a huge red electrical tape X. I called Customer Service and they said I did not need to leave the red X on my mailbox. No one else in my neighborhood has an X on their mailbox. The delivery person continued to replace the red X each time I removed it. He/she left me a threatening note saying if I removed the X he/she would skip my paper. So, he/she stopped delivering the paper, despite Customer Service saying I needed no such marking. The first week I called to report no paper, I was told that my subscription would be extended and they assured me the paper would be delivered the following week. The following week, no paper was delivered. I called again, and was once again told I would have the paper the next week. The next week, when I called about no paper, they told me there was a delivery problem in the neighborhood, and I would have a paper within 30 minutes. One hour later, all the neighbors had papers and I did not. When I called back, they said my subscription would be extended another week. The fourth week, once again, no paper. The district manager had sent an email apologizing, so I called his line directly. He never called me back. They told me a complaint against the delivery person had been filed and it would be taken care of. Clearly this did not happen. Fifth Sunday, still no paper. All neighbors have theirs once again. So I just asked for a refund. I have no doubt they will not follow through with this request any better than they followed through with reprimanding the delivery person.

Initial Business Response
We do apologize for the service issues Ms. ***** has experienced. We have tried to reach her regarding these issues. We will continue to reach out until resolved. We have processed a refund for Ms. ***** for the missed deliveries of newspapers. She can expect a refund within 5-7 business days.

The written request and apology will be addressed once our office can successfully reach Ms. *****. Once again, we do apologize.


Initial Consumer Rebuttal
(The consumer indicated he/she DID NOT accept the response from the business.)
They have made absolutely NO attempt to contact me. I have not received an email, phone call, or anything via mail. They also ignored the request for a copy of the written complaint filed against the driver, that they assured me had been filed. I will only believe that when I see it in print. They should have my correct email and phone number, but if they haven't been successful contacting me that way, the postal service works just fine. They definitely have my correct mailing address. I left 2 phone messages with the manager, and left the number where I could be reached. I have received no call back. I would like to be contacted by The Charlotte Observer within 7 business days, either by phone, email, or mail, including a copy of the written complaint filed against the delivery person. They know full well they have made no attempts to contact me. The apology needs to be from the driver who left the note with the ultimatum regarding the red X. The note proves that he skipped me on purpose. If I need to show his manager that note, I will be happy to do so.

Final Business Response
Multiple attempts have been made to contact Ms. ***** regarding the letter she sent to the BBB. Messages were left on her voice mail indicating that we would like to address her concerns.

The carrier was given a written letter from the delivery agent acknowledging that the letter was not appropriate. A copy of this letter can be sent to Ms. ***** by email once we are provided with her email address.

Once again, we do apologize for this incident and we hope that we have satisfied Ms. *****'s request.

Thanks,
*************
Customer Service Manager

Complaint Resolution: Company resolved the complaint issues. The consumer acknowledged acceptance to BBB.

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03/19/2014Delivery Issues | Read Complaint Details
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Additional Notes

Complaint Category: Non-delivery of services

Complaint: delivery not stopped, delivery not continued, overbilling
1. delivery NOT stopped when requested
2. delivery not resumed when it is stopped
3. overbilled from what agreed to
4. not able to reach anyone
5. when you do reach someone: they are rude, incompetent, and not able to resolve situation
6. new policy that I never agreed to of not being able to stop paper for vacation and get credit for those days
7. paid for six months then billed after less than three months

Initial Business Response
We have reviewed all accounts for Mr. *** ******. After careful review, we see that Mr. ******'s most recent account was adjusted for the vacation service issues.

We were not able locate any over billing with his subscription.

We do have a policy in place for vacation stops where customers can opt to have papers saved for a vacation package, donate papers to Newspapers in Education, or view the e-edition while on vacation.

We would like to resolve this issue by clearing off the past due balance on the most recent account. Mr. ******'s account will be current as of January 18, 2014. An adjusted bill will be mailed to him for the renewal.

Mr. ****** can reach the Circulation Manager, ************ at XXX-XXX-XXXX for delivery related issues.

Final Consumer Response
(The consumer indicated he/she DID NOT accept the response from the business.)
No letter received. No revised / current bill received.
Requested paper be stopped last week for a week and was advised that this could not be credited to my account, and I would be charged for those papers.

Complaint Resolution: BBB determined that while the company addressed the complaint issues, the complainant was dissatisfied and the matter was outside BBB Rules of Arbitration.

12/07/2012Advertising / Sales Issues | Read Complaint Details
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Additional Notes

Complaint Category: Sales presentation used dishonest sales practices

Complaint: Unfair business practice to require a customer to opt out to avoid being charged.
Charlotte Observer is offering a new product called Charlotte Observer Plus for an additional$2.68 more than print price of paper. The sales price is misrepresented as stated by Ann ******, publisher, in her article on Sunday, November 18, 2012 where she writes "I hope this column helps you understand why you're going to pay a little bit more for your subscription". I think it is misleading to characterize this as a "little bit more" when the increase is 22.7% over the basic print position. Also,I think this is misleading as it indicates the customer does not have a choice.

I do not have a problem with the Charlotte Observer offering a new product and charging whatever they want for the product. I do object to the policy that the customer does not make a decision to buy but rather must opt out keep from paying the additional charges. This is the second time they have done this in the last six months. I think this practive is deceptive and underhanded as many people will not read their mail and accept Ms ****** statement that they do not have choice.

Business' Initial Response
This is in response to the Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont Case xxxxx

With regard to the consumer's complaint about the Observer's business practice of requiring an opt-out rather than an opt-in of the new Observer Plus subscription program, the Observer has the following response:

Since introducing the new Observer Plus digital + print subscription plan, over three-thousand of our current print readers have decided to opt-out of the program. It was communicated in the Observer's letter to subscribers and in the FAQ's that were printed on page A2 of the newspaper on November 18th. All of these readers have taken that action and we continue to accept them each day as they occur.

No one is being forced to take this subscription option. However, in the ever changing digitally centered world, we do know that many of our readers welcome this subscription enhancement.

The Observer respects the complainants' views on requiring readers to take action to not be charged for the new subscription plan but the ability to do so is also clearly communicated and many readers have understood that and taken the appropriate action.

Mr. ****** has been "opted out" of the Digital Plus so his rate will not change.

Consumer's Final Response
(The consumer indicated he/she DID NOT accept the response from the business.)
I struggle accepting their reasoning. The first reason given is that other papers do it so it should be all right. Using this line of reasoning since all the banks were using questionable practices in making mortgage loans then the practice was permisable. Clearly the Charlotte Observer did not accept this line of reasoning in their (correctly) criticizing the practices of the banking industry.

Their second reason is also problematic. They state "many of our subscribers have had no difficulty in choosing that option" Did they choose? The Charlotte Observer does not know why they chose this course of action. I think people are not complaining because they are not aware price increase rather than wanting the e edition.

I think the Charlotte Observer should adhere to the highest ethical business practices in everything they do. The practice of requiring a customer to opt out does not meet the standard of heghest ethical business practice.

I also think the BBB should take a stand.

Business' Final Response
The Observer respects the reader's opinion regarding the offer of an opt-out versus an opt-in for the new digital subscription program. It is however the business practice that has been adopted by newspapers nationwide and many of our subscribers have had no difficulty in choosing that option. The reader has been opted-out of their digital subscription and requires no further action on their part.

Complaint Resolution: BBB determined that while the company addressed the complaint issues, the complainant was dissatisfied and the matter was outside BBB Rules of Arbitration.

04/13/2012Delivery Issues | Read Complaint Details
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Additional Notes

Complaint Category: Non-delivery of products

Complaint: Did not get a paper. Called and they said a paper to be delivered. No paper came, called again, then told would not get a paper but a credit
I didn't get a paper today therefore called and was told that I would get one later. Later came approximately 1.5 hrs later and no paper. Called again and this time was told that I would get a credit but no newspaper. To me this was unacceptable. Asked to speak to Supervisor and she stated the same thing, that there would be no paper today. Oh by the way, yesterday I didn't get a paper and did not call them because I had to be to work at 6:30am. I complained about the delivery service to our entire neighborhood as well. We get soaked papers because the papers are not double bagged. People are delivered papers when they have been stopped. A week or two ago I received a paper and none of my neighbors received one. Most of all I am angry over the fact that I am told that I would get a paper, not to mention I didn't get my TV guide either, and then am told in the same day that I would not get a paper. Was told by the xxxxx, that she would speak to employees about telling people that we would get a paper. (Like that is going to make a difference). I imagine that I was told I would get a paper so that they would not have to deal with the confrontation from a patron. I asked for the District managers name and she would not divulge the name nor would she give me a number to contact. I pay money and do not receive a product? I told them that this is why before long they will be out of business. People are turning to the internet to find out the news and now I have decided this is not a bad idea. I have always enjoyed holding a paper while I drink my morning coffee but I guess now that I should just sit infront of my computer and read what is going on in the area or watch the news on TV. The sad fact is that the distribution center of the Charlotte Observer hires people to deliver their product that don't really care rather we get the product or not. Overall I am tired of wasting my time calling this company to file complaints and nothing is done about the issues. I am told that they will call me back which (when pigs fly) I doubt will happen. I also told the supervisor that she could cancel my subscription and refund my money for the remainder of this year. My next step is to contact the TV station to report the continued problems that the patrons of this company continue to have. I am a native of Charlotte and find this somewhat sad that this company takes no more pride in the community that has kept them in business. Think about this: book stores are closing and evenually so will newspapers. Kindles are now ruling.
Thank you for an outlet such as the BBB to vent these problems which we face. It is sad that I have to waste my time to deal with problems such as these.

Business' Initial Response
Customer has been contacted and delivery issues resolved. Her subscription has been extended for an additional 2 weeks due to the service problems.

Consumer's Final Response
(The consumer indicated he/she DID NOT accept the response from the business.)
The papers are still coming wet to several of the neighbors. They have been tying the bag but there are still holes in the bag which then the water can still get to the paper. I feel that double bagging is the way to handle the problem. I have been getting the paper which is good but the problem of getting wet papers has not been resolved.

Complaint Resolution: BBB determined that while the company addressed the complaint issues, the complainant was dissatisfied and the matter was outside BBB Rules of Arbitration.

03/19/2014Problems with Product / Service
04/18/2013Problems with Product / Service
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