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San Jose Mercury News

Posted:    

annoying phone calls and repeat billings

Complaint Rating:  58 % with 26 votes
58% 26
2.9
Contact information:
San Jose Mercury News
San Jose, California
United States
mercurynews.com
I ordered a one year subscription to the daily SJ Mercury for home delivery. The purchase was made from a high school student earning 'commissions' for college savings (I like to believe this is true). Anyway, the paper started arriving on schedule and then the bills started arriving. I paid the student and was told the payment was for a one year subscription. I am now receiving calls from out of area locations that are asking if I am a subscriber to the SJ Mercury. This is annoying and is making me increasingly uncomfortable. I have not paid any bills that arrived in the mail. Paper is still coming daily. Next call is to the subscription department.
Complaint comments Comments (45) Complaint country United States Complaint category News & Media

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N  29th of Oct, 2008 by    +2 Votes
Three months ago I made a mistake of opening my apartment door to a couple of 'students'. They were supposedly paid commissions for signing subscribers for San Jose Mercury News. That would help them out with their difficult financial situation, school, college etc. ( I am pretty sure my ten dollars ended in a liquor store).

My clear and repeated pleas that I do not read newspapers did not convince them. They kept on pressing me about how I could help them out with college and how others had signed up etc. Finally I got a bit nervous and decided to pay ten dollars and lose them. I was made to sign up with name address and the amount.

About a month after that I started receiving mails from San Jose Mercury news requesting subscription. Then I started receiving the paper itself as promised by the students. This went for a week before stopping.

About a month after that I received a mail from Mercury news asking for payment of $30 !. I ignored the mail. A week back I received a mail from coast to coast financial solutions with a debt claim !. I am undecided whether to ignore the claim or contact them. I think I should call Mercury news about this. This has not been a pleasant experience.
A  20th of Mar, 2009 by    +1 Votes
The same thing happened to me, I am VERY angry about this and am undecided as to what to do either. I cannot believe that a "reputable" news company would stoop so low! Apparently this is going around the whole bay area, a lot of my coworkers are reporting similar instances to me when I tell them what happened.
A  22nd of Mar, 2009 by    +1 Votes
I think this type of scam is currently on the rise in the area.

Same thing happened to me today. I'm a student living on campus at a college in the greater San Jose area. A guy came into my dorm and wanted me to participate in a "trial paper experiment" which basically meant that I would get a newspaper (SJ Mercury News) for 8 weeks free for an upfront deposit of $20. At the end of the period, the subscription would automatically be canceled and I would get my money back in a check.

Most of all, he kept claiming that he was a high school student that had just gotten into our college and thus with every participant that he picks up he'll gain a certain number of "educational points" which then can be converted into money and thus help fund his schooling fees (like a regular commission).

Since he woke me up from my nap my mind was a bit fuzzy. That combined with my pity for him as a fellow student caused me to accede to this crack deal (which I should have noticed).

The rest of the scan was pretty much like what Jay detailed in her encounter. I had to put down my address, name, telephone number, and finally my signature. I gave him the $20 and he gave me a receipt.

The funny part was at the end though when I went back into my room and looked at the receipt. The receipt was a printed out form with blanks to fill in my information and signature- but the form was made out to the "San Francisco Chronicle." Sigh, stupid me. Yes, go on and laugh since your well entitled to it as I was so dumb in this case.

So the next time someone claiming to be a student in dire financial straits and wants you to buy some sort of thing or participate in something- watch out and be careful.
A  11th of May, 2009 by    +1 Votes
I had the same experience -- and received multiple telemarketing calls, and a bill from coast to coast collections. I forwarded the information and my story to the San Jose Mercury News "action hotline" so we'll see how they respond. I can only imagine this is a last-ditch effort to raise subscriber numbers as they circle the drain of bankruptcy. If so, good riddance to them.
A  9th of Jun, 2009 by    +1 Votes
I completely agree with all they stated. I am currently getting this harrasement from Coast to Coast financial solution. I got the billing statement two weeks ago and complaint to Mercury News. But it apparently didn't work yet. Coast to Coast called again and told me to write a dispute letter to them to stop the call. I hope it will stop. It is annoying. I googled the website and found this web page. I am glad someone wrote the complaints to against Coast to Coast and Mercury News. Also, my mom donate the money to local high school by getting 3 months newspaper ONLY and sent as my Christmas gift !! It was all spoiled now. I will never donate money to door sales even it is from locals. I wonder why Mercury News will let them do that to promote the business. I will not want to buy Mercury News in the future.
A  1st of Jul, 2009 by    +1 Votes
For anyone else that has this problem like we have, dispute it within 30 days! Then it is up to them to come up with proof.

Here is a form letter: http://www.privacyrights.org/Letters/debt1.htm
A  17th of Jul, 2009 by    0 Votes
July 17 2009

Regarding this link reporting unethical business practice by the SJ Mercury News: https://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/san-jose-mercury-news-c97205.html


Actually the same thing just happened to me.

I live in Foster City and last Jan I was approached by a student Aaron (ID 609) who knocked at more door and pleaded that it was for a good cause and that the donation would help him enter college and would entitle to get the SJ Mercury News for a few weeks. I told him I dont read the newspaper and will give him a donation of 20 for his cause, but I asked him to donate the newspaper, I didn't want it and don't have time to read it.

Now 7 months later I am being hounded by collection agnecy (Coast to Coast Financial Solutions), and they are threatening to affect my credit unless I pay $32. This is extorsion and unethical to the max. I told Ms Q Herrara of Coast to Coast Financials my side of the story and she insisted I write in a letter of explanation. Such nitwits. I don't have time to write her and mail her a letter when I feel that the whole problem is being caused by them and by their less than above the table practices!

I then called San Jose Mercury News and spoke with John in customer service and explained to him what had transpired and the fact that I have a receipt stating that it was $ 20 that I gave in donation and thats it. I have no written or verbal contract with the SJ Mercury News for subscription - I don't want the newspaper and have never read it.

I told them that I would like an apology from the newspaper for my wasted time clarifying this matter and again communicated how unethical this behaviour is. Well the best that John can do is fwd my comments to their financial department!

This is scary folks, when people extort you into paying money or taking subscriptions that you don't want and then threaten your credit score via collections, then that is a sad reflection on them and their business ethics.

*** Moral of the story:

1- Dont fall for the college student trap begging for you to donate or take the newspaper in order for him/her to go to college. You end up holding the bag and waste much time trying to resolve matters and having your credit affected should you not pay the extorsion.

2- SJ Mercury News seems to be resorting to low level tactics that are unethical and illegal. I have no written or verbal contract with them and them dropping the newspaper on my step, doesn't then entitle them to ask me money. I dont want the newspaper and never wanted it as I stated to the student and to SJ Mercury News when they called my mobile last month.

3 - Write to the BBB and voice your complaints against such bad and unethical behaviour.

4- At the limit notify your representative of such bad business practices so that laws and penalties may be applied against the abusers.

5 - Stop supporting the Newspaper. Bad and misleading business behavior should not be encouraged.

Thanks for reading

Denis
N  24th of Aug, 2009 by    0 Votes
I've got a similar letter as well. This looks like a total scam. I called the SJ Mercury news billing dept 1-800-870-6397, and the Lady told, I had to cancel the subscription by calling them (even though the original deal was for only 2 months). This is totally unacceptable behavior from a reputed paper company. The lady told me she's sending the note to billing dept to dispute the bill.

thanks.
SA
N  4th of Sep, 2009 by    0 Votes
This just happened to me in Foster City. He gave me the usual poor student looking to go to college rap. But I told the kid rightaway that I couldn't spare the money. He said that that was no problem because someone else down the hall gave him donation that would pay for it. He said he just needed the points and all he needed from me is my signature and address information. Obviously, I was skeptical but he said it was free and I was helping him out. So I signed it, and wrote down my address. He said I'd get a call in a couple of weeks and when asked, I am supposed to say I gave the kid the money for the paper.

I gotta hand it to these kids though, they got the sales rap down. They're very good at countering every reason you don't want the paper, and it was pretty impressive (in a weird sort of way) to watch them work.

But yeah, during the whole sales encounter, I kept thinking this has got to be scam. We'll see what happens...
N  28th of Sep, 2009 by    0 Votes
Actually I called the BBB of San Jose and was told that the SJ Mercury News is getting close to the number of complaints that will automatically trigger an investigation by the Consumer Protection Agency in these less than ethical practices that they use.

So if you feel you have been victim of unethical practices by the SJ Mercury News, please take a moment to fill out a complaint (takes about 5 mins): http://sanjose.bbb.org/ComplaintInformation.aspx

SJ Mercury News has never called me back on this issues, depsite the fact that I have asked for an apology and it has cost me about 2 hours of time talking with them and the Collection Agency.

These unethical practices need to be stopped and people should voice their concerns if they have felt treated in unfair /unethical manner. A bit of 'pay back' feels good so please fill in a complaint when you have a moment.
A  5th of Oct, 2009 by    0 Votes
I'm in the same situation as all the posters above, and I'm not sure what I should do to resolve this issue. Has anyone written a letter to the collection agency (Coast to Coast Financial Solutions) to dispute the claim, and successfully had the charges dropped? I can afford to pay the $22.18 dollars that the collection agency is requesting (in addition to the $20 I gave to the student at my door), but I'm really upset by this disturbing situation that has happened to so many people in the area. I would like to take the appropriate action so that this doesn't happen to more people, but I'm not sure 1) what the appropriate action is, and 2) if it's worth my time to write the letter, or just pay them off. I'm weary about paying them though, because I've heard that collection agency's will sometimes continue to call/write letters/harass even after proper payment.

My story:
I live in a gated apartment in San Jose and I *never* answer my door for strangers, no idea why I opened it on this occasion, but this terrible experience has reinforced my personal policy to never open the door for strangers.

The student explained the program was for his community college. I asked to see his student ID, which he was wearing around is neck, and he let me analyze it. I wish I wrote down his name. He claimed that he lived in my apartment complex, which I was skeptical about at the time, and now I highly doubt that he is a resident in my complex. I had never seen him before, and I've not seen him since. He said he wanted to major in engineering after he completed his 2 years at the community college. I'm a software engineer, so we talked for a while and I gave him some advice on what classes to take, how to find scholarships based on his ethnicity, and gave tips on how to get his foot in the door at one of the large tech companies in SJ. It was a pleasant conversation, but I made it clear that I was NOT interested in ordering the newspaper. I insisted that I don't have time to read it, and I read the news online. I did, however, want to support his education with the $20 donation, and I totally fell for the scam. In the comments above, Dan78 said that these students have the sales rap down. I completely agree. I would have preferred to just give him $20 cash and be done with it, but he insisted that I fill out the form and try out the newspaper. He gave me a receipt and said that the paper would come in a few days, and that he would come by again in a week to check on me and see if I was enjoying the service or if I wanted to donate my un-read papers to the local elementary school, which I thought was a great idea. He said that since he lives in my apartment, he's willing to take any unread newspapers from my front door to the local elementary school, where they use the papers in the classroom to write news summaries. I thought: Cool; I'm helping this kid out with his education, and when the papers pile up on my doorstep, he will take them away and help other children.

Wrong. He never returned to check up on me, the papers piled and piled, I never read a SINGLE one. Each morning I had the burden of taking the paper down to the dumpster and throw it in the recycle bin, and then I had the daily guilt trip about not reading a single page. I desperately wanted the papers to stop coming, but they didnt. I think my donation and initial agreement was only good for 2 weeks of the newspaper, but the papers kept coming for months without any contact from the Mercury News.

After ~3 months, I called Mercury News and said that I'd like to cancel my subscription. They terminated the subscription over the phone, and then before hanging up they slipped the fact that I had an outstanding balance!! I nearly fell off of my chair. I owe them money??? What the heck??? I didn't agree to this service beyond 2 weeks; how could I owe them money if the student said this was a one time deal and it would end in 2 weeks? Surely there was a mistake. I asked to speak to a manager, but the manager did not care about my story, which was the first signal to me that perhaps this was a common occurrence, which upset me. I was completely unaware that they were charging me, and if I had known that this would happen, I'd never have given the student the money. I asked if I could have the students name (not sure what I was going to do with that information, and I did enjoy speaking with the young man) and she said she did not know it. I said that in the future, the students need to be trained to tell the truth. She said "OK" and that was it. I said I was not going to pay at that time, and I hung up confused.

That was a few weeks ago. Today I received a letter from Coast to Coast Financial Solutions requesting that I pay $22.18, and "when your obligation has been resolved, we will clear this record from out active collection files." I'm blown away. This is shady business, and I am very disappointed. Since I've never actually read the Mercury News, I can't rate the quality of the paper, but I've always heard good things about the paper from SJ locals. But after this ordeal, I have little respect for the company, and I'm perturbed that they have stooped so low as to manipulatively train students to be misleading, and then make money off of people who are unaware that they are being charge and have an outstanding balance. I'm not sure what would have happened if I never called them to cancel. I assume the papers would keep coming, I'd continue to throw them in the recycle bin each day and relive the misery, and they would continue to charge me. Very troublesome.

So now what should I do? What should we all do? I have a few ideas, but really appreciate feedback, or stories from people that have done these things, and what the outcome was.

---Write a letter to Mercury News to complain about the situation and express my disappointment in the company after hearing that this is a common issue. I would like to give them the link to this page so that can see how many "readers" are upset. And tell them to stop calling me if they have been. I never check my voice mail or answer the phone, although it has been ringing a lot lately, I wouldn't be surprised if the calls are from the collection agency and/or Mercy News.

---Write a letter in response to the collection agency to "dispute the validity of this debt." The letter says I have 30 days to do this. Should I use this letter as a template? http://www.privacyrights.org/Letters/debt1.htm (link from decom in a previous comment)
Should I also include the URL to this site so they can see the impact of this scam from the "customers" perspective?

--- Submit a complaint to the Better Business Beaura of Santa Clara (BBB) here http://sanjose.bbb.org/ComplaintInformation.aspx

Anything else? Sorry for the lengthy post, I'm just really frustrated with the situation and amazed to see that I'm not the only one that this is happening to!
N  13th of Oct, 2009 by    0 Votes
_KT_

1 - I would stronly recommend that you post a compaint at the San Jose BBB website (se emy weblinks above). Actually I was surprised and then not surprised to see that the have an "F" rating!!! That is the lowest rating and it means that many many persons have complained about problem issues here.

2 - Regarding the credit agency that is calling you. This is what I did: I called them back and then the young lady asks you for your acct number and then she starts RAMBLING quickly all your outstdanding debts (wrt SAN JOSE subscription) and tries to coerce immediately into paying!!! I GOT VERY ANGRY, asked for her name and told her what had ACTUALLY happened and how I was suckered by there starving student ploy and that my intenation had merely been to donate the $20 as I had no time to read the paper. She insisted I had to pay to set my record staright. I said I will NOT and if they ding my credit that I will sue SJmercury and the COast to COast people (including this lady Q Hernandez) for wrongfully damaging my credit. SHE THEN stated that my case will be closed and simply sent back to SJ Mercury news!!! Then 2 weeks later when I called the Coast to Coast people again to check on the status and inquire whether they reported me to credit agencies, the lady stated that THEY DON'T REPORT people for newspaper subscription issues!!!

So it seems to me that the SJ Mercury News, is referring cases to would be credit agency (Coast to Coast) in the desire to intimidate and coerce people into paying out of fear.

My recommendation (and this is what I did) is not to pay. Note the names of the people at the collection agency and try and get the address of their parent company. Explain what really happened and then make it clear that you will sue them indvidually and as a company if ever your credit gets dinged.

Regarding what to do next
a) I think a letter directly to the Consumer Protection Agency would be a good starting point (4087-792-2880) and possible trying to organize others here in the Bay Area to sign a collective letter. If people are interested in doing this, please drop me an email (denbois@yahoo.com) and we can meet somewhere to sign this collective document. Getting 10+ signatures would make a nice impact.

b) I am thinking of contacting the SF Chronicle to see if they would be interested in doing a story about questionable and unethical sales practices of their competitor SJ Mercury News.

c) post links to this forum on other forums such as YELP, , , to inform as many people as possible.

d) get your free credit report (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre34.shtm )
and see if you have been dinged ... if so consider suing SJ Mercury and COast to COast in court.


Cheers

Denis
A  9th of Nov, 2009 by    0 Votes
Hello folks - i am trapped in a similar bogus claim from the San Jose mercury news. Same story - trying to help a needy student to earn credits but ended up screwing up my credit history. yesterday i received a letter from coast to coast financial solutions stating that despite repeated efforts from San Jose Mercury News in informing us to make a payment we did not do it. so they are charging me to make a payment of 32.18$ to SJ Mercury News and that after i do the payment they will clear my record from the active collection files. I was shocked when i saw this but my temper receded when i saw that i am not the only one trying to fight this out. I was not able to contact SJ Mercury News, i wrote them an e-mail and waiting for a reply(which i doubt i will get one)...i will share the result if i get a reply...but not sure what i need to do if i don't get a reply!!!
A  7th of Dec, 2009 by    0 Votes
I'm appalled that this has been going on since 2008. I've also been scammed by these people.

My story's the same: Alex, a "Sophomore" from a Fremont High School and originally from Afghanistan (WHY was he soliciting in Foster City? -- should have tipped me off), needed to get donations for a college scholarship fund so he can study business at San Jose State. He spoke like a broken record (should have also tipped me off). I swore I looked at the paper and said don't fill this out! If anything I should have just given him the $20 for his trouble. He even said he would cancel the subscription for me.

:: Joke's on me::

That week I received the San Jose Mercury Newspaper. Now they're just piling up in front of my door.
I e-mailed "SubscriberServices@mercurynews.com" asking for them to cancel my subscription and right away I received an automated message saying that my e-mail was not received (which was a LIE... a lady called me the next day saying she received the e-mail)

The following phone numbers keep calling me:
(408) 256-7752, (801) 618-2034, (440) 331-4613

I received another response this evening that my account will be stopped, I'll receive a refund and an e-mail was sent to the manager in charge of soliciting. When I responded to that e-mail, I got another automated message that said:

Thank you for your feedback. Your comments and request are very important to us.

:: WTF ::

I won't be surprised if this Coast to Coast collection agency is the next to call. I'll be filling out the San Jose BBB Complaint Form!
While I'm incredibly irritated by the phone calls and feel dumb enough as is having fallen for this, I suggest no one pay these people. This sucks but don't give in and don't just hope it'll go away. If it comes down to it, I'm going to contact my lawyer and sue.
N  19th of Dec, 2009 by    0 Votes
Dear Karina, welcome to the club :) Sorry you also got taken. I agree with your evaluation and decision on not to pay up. Just sent this off to action line at the SJ Mercury News. I think they will probably ignore this, but was curious none the less. Would be nice if we could send off a group letter with signatures to the consumer protection agency here in CA. However I have not heard from others re desire to do so.

It is amazing to see the that SJ Mercury has had an F rating for quite a while and are still in business!!! The BBB wording for this business is:
< We strongly question the company’s reliability for reasons such as that they have failed to respond to complaints, their advertising is grossly misleading, they are not in compliance with the law’s licensing or registration requirements, their complaints contain especially serious allegations, or the company’s industry is known for its fraudulent business practices. >>

WOW and still in business!!!


Email send to SJ Mercury News Action Line:

Action Line
actionline@mercurynews.com

I am writing you to report abusive, unethical and misleading sales practices which have been going on for over one year now by your newspaper (SJ Mercury News). I know as I have been one of its victims. Please see this link to get a sense of the issues at hand. https://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/san-jose-mercury-news-c97205.html

I would apprecaite it if the ActionLine department could instill a better business and ethical sense in your own sales team at the SJ Mercury News. I will be checking my credit report in January and if my credit was dinged, then I will be suing your paper and the Coast to Coast Financial people.

Thanks for reading through and I look fwd to your response.

Sincerely,

Denis
denbois@yahoo.com

(Note at the SJ BBB website, the SJ Mercury News has an "F" rating and has had this rating for a long time.

How can Action Line which represents an advocacy group to help people, work for a newspaper that is doing it to other people????)
A  15th of Jan, 2010 by    0 Votes
I had the same experience. I ordered SJMN from high school student for $20 and had no intention to renew it. Then I received an invoice for another $30 or so. I called them, and they said that I renewed my subscription. This was a lie - no one in my family renewed it. Probably we renewed just by picking papers up from my driveway and disposing them into recycle can?? I canceled subscription on that call but I had no time and energy to fight for $30; and this is what they count on. This must be a class action suite matter. I hope it will drive SJMN out of business.

Vidas
vidas2@comcast.net
A  18th of Jan, 2010 by    0 Votes
same thing happened to me for 22.51. ###ers. i hope they die a horrible death.
A  28th of Jan, 2010 by    0 Votes
Same thing for me.. I got harrassing phone calls from San Jose Mercury News and now from some coast-to-coast debt collections..
I never even received the newspaper..
What a crock of ###
N  5th of Feb, 2010 by    0 Votes
BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU of San Jose:

The please "help put a poor student thru college subscription" scams from San Jose Mercury news continue to rise. I complained last year and dozens of people keep on getting hit by this same unethical business practice, (see https://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/san-jose-mercury-news-c97205.html and see https://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/sanjose-mercury-news-c306419.html)

This is highly unethical and immoral to then coerce people to pay for somthing they did not want or knew they were getting in to not counting possibly having your credit score dinged.

Why does the BBB not escalate this problem to the consumer protection agency?? How many more people must be misled and have their credit potentionally dinged and get harrassing calls from the Coast to Coast collection agency as a result of this scam.

Last year the San Jose Mercury News has reached 74+ complaints and now approximately 6 months later they are up to 95 WITH AN F rating!

I would really like to know what the BBB will do about this issue; is this not a matter that can be escalated to the consumer protection agency and have them closed down. Must we as victims start small claim court proceedings against them?

Look fwd to your response.

Denis

(PS I OFFER TO DRAFT A COMMON LETTER OF COMPLAINT SURROUNDING THIS ISSUE AND HAVE PEOPLE SIGN IT BEFORE SENDING IT TO THE CONSUMER PROTECTION AGENCY. JUST PROVIDE ME YOUR FAX OR EMAIL AND THEN SIGN IT AND EITHER FAX IT OR PDF IT BACK TO ME AND I WILL SENT IT TO THE CONSUMER PROTECTION AGENCY. EMAIL ME AT " denbois@yahoo.com" IF WANTING TO SIGN. LETS GET THIS UNETHICAL AND MISLEADING POOR STUDENT SCAM SHUT DOWN ASAP. ALSO CHECK UR CREDIT SCORES AT http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre34.shtm at no cost (this is the free govt website) and see if you have been dinged ... IF SO THEN WE MIGHT CONSIDER COMMON SUIT IN COURT)
A  21st of Feb, 2010 by    0 Votes
Same thing happened to me.

I just got my bill and debt-collection-letter this month. I've called the Mercury News, and had my claim 'escalated' to the 'billing department'.

Coast to Coast's printed number (877-270-2237) does not appear to work... I've tried it for two weeks. Going to call their Toll Free number that I found on their website in the morning (888-877-4700).

I feel better knowing I'm not alone here.

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