Discover Magazine lets people outside North America subscribe via their website. I live in the Philippines and could not find a local distributor so I subscribed online. They listed the Philippines as one of the countries they distribute to.
1. My credit card was charged for a 12-month subscription on Nov. 12, 2008. I purposefully signed up in November to give them time to process my order so that the subscription starts in January, letting me get the full year. There was no way to indicate in the online order form when to start the subscription (at least back then there wasn't, I haven't checked again if there is such an option now). After a month, I checked my account status and saw that they made my subscription run from Feb 2009 to Jan 2010 instead, so I dropped them an email. The reply was that they will adjust this, it didn't happen. I wrote again, quoting the previous email exchange, and still nothing happened. I gave it a third try by email (planning on phoning them if that still didn't work) and finally, by mid-January 2009, it was fixed, though the online account status was never updated.
2. I received the Jan-Apr 2009 issues, and then no more. I emailed customer service, and got the infuriating reply that their records show an issue was sent to me for May and that they can't do anything about it if it failed to reach me. There was no offer of sending a replacement issue, NOR was there the consoling customer-rep script you get with other companies: "We'll look into the problem so that it doesn't happen again". Just that, it's out of their hands, too bad you didn't get it.
I wrote back, asking about a replacement issue, pointing out that other international magazines I've subscribed to, such as National Geographic and Time Asia, offer to mail replacement issues if they are not received or arrive damaged. I also asked them to look into the problem to ensure that I get the rest of my one-year subscription. A response came back from a different customer rep saying they will send a replacement issue, but there was no mention of how long I had to wait. June came, still no issues for May or June, I wrote again, got a response and was told to wait up to three weeks for delivery. That was on June 19. It's now July 16 where I am, more than three weeks have passed, and still no replacement issues and I doubt I'd get the July one or any other issue for that matter.
3. I finally called up their 1800 number (which is of course not toll-free if you're calling from outside North America), tried to explain the problem to the customer rep, but she interrupted me, saying the records show they did send a replacement issue on June 19. I told her that may be so but I'm calling them up now because we still haven't received any issues, replacement or otherwise and it's almost a month now. She replies with, "NO, it's not yet a month, it's not yet the 19th". I didn't waste my breath to lecture her on what the word "almost" means, as I didn't want to stoop to her level of petty quibbling over three days. I told her it's still been more than 3 weeks, and she told me the 3-week delivery time is for US customers. Excuse me? When I emailed them requesting replacement issues, I quoted the account number AND mentioned I am in the Philippines. So why did they tell me delivery time is three weeks if that's really just for the US?
Anyway, I said, as there seems to be no guarantee that the replacement issue and future issues will ever reach me, I would like to get a refund for the 8 months worth of issues I didn't receive and just stop my subscription. Instead of addressing this, the customer rep started asking me about my mailing address and if it's correct. I said yes, and she drew my attention to the postal code, saying it may be causing a confusion if it's appearing twice in the address. Our postal codes are just four-digit numbers, very simple - if it appears twice, the postal people will instinctively know just the 4-digit code repeated, as we don't have 8-digit codes anyway, and in fact, even if this code was not included, anything you send to a Philippine address will still find its way to the intended recipient so long as the street address and city/province name are there, which they were in this case, APART from the postal code. I mean, come on, it's a small country, even some US states are bigger than us. I also didn't appreciate wasting an expensive international call on being lectured about Philippine postal codes by someone who hasn't been here, probably can't even tell me where the Philippines is.
In short, she tried to blame the postal code for the missing issues, completely ignoring the fact that the same address was used for the first four issues I did manage to receive and it has not changed since, physically or in their records. I told her this, and asked if they have tried sending with a different delivery option or source, because this is what Time Magazine did once when I failed to receive issues: they re-sent them from their Hong Kong office and then coordinated with the Philippine distributor to change the delivery option used. Discover's customer rep said, in a lofty and laughing voice, "I'm sorry, but we can't change our mailing system just for this".
I told her then they should no longer list the Philippines as one of the countries they distribute to, and proceeded to ask for a refund and to stop my subscription. Again, instead of dealing with this request, she went back to telling me I should give it up to 8 weeks for delivery. I told her there was still no guarantee that I will receive the future issues, as clearly, they didn't want to check what was going wrong and how to prevent it from happening, given that it's not just the May issue that's missing now. I also told her I can't keep emailing and calling them up just to follow up on this problem, pointing out that their 1800 number is not toll-free from where I'm calling. Before I can conclude by saying, "Thus, I want a refund and to stop my subscription", she blurts out, "Well, I'm sorry Ma'am, but I don't know what you want me to do." Grrrr!!!
Very exasperated now, I told her that I've been trying to get her to process my refund and then cancel the subscription, but she has instead taken me in pathetic circles about foreign postal codes she knows nothing about, and delivery times that don't assure me of anything. She interjects saying she has lots of experience with foreign addresses and postal codes with regards to subscriptions. For the millionth time, it seems, I had to tell her to just process the refund.
She finally does so, or so I hope, and tells me that I will get refunded for issues after September. Excuse me? I can't even get a replacement issue for May, didn't get June, don't see July even though my other international magazines have already reached me, and I have to hope blindly that I'll get the ones for August and September? She said I will get them, and I said, I got that empty promise from customer reps by email as well, and this is why I know already I won't get the issues. "What then?" I asked. Guess what her answer was: "Well, then you don't get the issues." Probably deafened by my screaming "What did you say?" into the phone, she then told me she will request a refund for me for all the issues I didn't receive. Not wishing to have a heart attack then and there, I said, "Fine" and hung up, because to be honest, I don't think you can win with stuck-up customer reps like that anyway, so why prolong the agony?