I accidentally left off the answer for one of last week’s New Year’s Eve riddles. The question was “What food should you avoid on New Year’s Eve?” The answer is “firecrackers.” I apologize, as I’m sure a number of you were agonizing over that answer. Now on to a new topic:

For the past year or so, we have been increasingly frustrated by our “local” newspaper that was bought out by USA Today. Not only did the subscription price skyrocket, but since the change, the “local” news has not been completely local. For example, when I avidly read the section on the best restaurants in our area, I found they were scattered throughout the state of Florida. I really don’t need to know how great a restaurant is in Fort Myers, as I will probably never have the opportunity to check it out. None of the old staff, many of whom I knew personally, still worked at the paper, so I lost all my “contacts.” When I tried to submit a press release about winning a Christian Indie Award for one of my books, my email was ignored.

Last year, we struggled with getting our paper delivered. For several weeks, I called the customer service number, which happened to be transferred somewhere in Columbia, except for the one time I talked to someone in the Philippines. Each time I talked to a “customer service representative” (and I use that term in the broadest sense of the word), I was ensured the problem would be taken care of, which meant, they blew off my complaint for that day so I would go away. I finally got fed up and asked to speak to a supervisor, but I was told I couldn’t. I asked for a number in the USA for someone I could talk to and was told there wasn’t one. (Odd, how there is a USA number for when the paper wants you to renew your subscription.) At my wit’s end, I told the “customer service representative” (CSR) to cancel my subscription and refund my money, as we had paid for a year’s subscription in advance. I was informed it was “not their policy” to refund the unused portion of the subscription.  At this point, I was less than my usual sweet-natured self and informed the CSR I was not paying for a service I wasn’t receiving. Again, I demanded to speak to a supervisor. I was placed on hold for several minutes until the original CSR came back on the line and told me my subscription had been canceled and the remainder of my money applied to my “Discovery” card. Imagine my surprise when none of that happened.

Since there was no way to talk to anyone inside the USA and since the CSRs apparently had no authority to do anything except make empty promises, in desperation, I lodged a complaint to the Better Business Bureau. Within 24 hours I received a response from someone at USA Today ensuring me of how seriously they took customer satisfaction and how the problem would be fixed at once. We began receiving our delivered paper almost immediately. Hmm. Life was good again, except for the poor quality of the paper, which I mostly used for birdcage liner after doing the puzzles.

Then a couple of months ago, USA Today announced they were stopping home delivery and having the paper delivered by mail. Swell. Now I couldn’t do my daily puzzles at the breakfast table because our mail didn’t arrive before noon. Not only that, but the Sunday paper didn’t arrive until Monday afternoon. By then, the lousy news was two days old. So, we chose not to renew our subscription for several hundred dollars a year. Right away someone within the USA called to try to sweeten the deal if we would reconsider. Hubby compromised and subscribed to the online paper for considerably less money, which means I now have to print out my daily puzzles. That’s okay, as I can still do them while eating breakfast. But one problem remains. What am I going to use to line my birdcage?

By the way, if you want to subscribe to my Patheos online faith blog called Humor Break, here is the link: