Monday, January 4, 2016

I'm Needed More Than Ever

And I'm failing you. 

"Globe, distributor trade blame as delivery woes persist" by Mark Arsenault and Dan Adams Globe Staff  January 04, 2016

Boston Globe executives summoned managers of their new distribution partner to a meeting Sunday to discuss widespread delivery failures, but the day ended with finger pointing and no clarity about when all home subscribers could once again count on getting their newspapers.

Have you had it with the excu$es yet?

Behind disruptions affecting up to 10 percent of daily subscribers are two basic problems, both sides said. ACI Media Group, which took over home delivery in Greater Boston last Monday, has yet to hire enough drivers to cover every route. And many of ACI’s new delivery routes lack any logical sequence, leaving drivers criss-crossing communities and making repeated trips to the same neighborhoods. 

They must have took over overnight, huh? That happens. 

In an unprecedented grass-roots effort Sunday, scores of Globe employees from departments throughout the company voluntarily fanned out to distribution centers after midnight, taking over many of the 150 routes that had no drivers, delivering papers until late Sunday afternoon.

Oh, I'm sure that made them happy! Usually they leave on Friday and don't have to be back until Monday morning. Now they had to get up at 1 a.m. Sunday morning to do this! 

Was that in the union contract?

Despite the effort, 3,000 to 4,000 of the roughly 205,000 Sunday Globes scheduled for home delivery did not reach their destinations, ACI executives said.

With the problems dragging into the second week, longtime readers have responded with seething frustration and anger, overwhelming the Globe’s phone lines and venting their complaints over social media.

ACI officials say they are aggressively recruiting new drivers with incentive programs, but could not say when they will have enough to ensure every paper is delivered.

“I wish I could answer that question,” ACI’s president and chief operating officer, Jack Klunder, a former circulation executive at the Los Angeles Times, said in an interview. “I just can’t say. I think it’s going to improve each week.” He said in four to six months service will be as good as before the change, and then will continue to improve.


Globe chief executive Mike Sheehan said the newspaper undertook the switch from Publishers Circulation Fulfillment to ACI primarily in an effort to improve service and reduce the number of delivery cancellations due to service complaints.

Except they weren't having any!

ACI also brings a “material” cost savings, he said, which Globe owner John Henry had intended to put back into the operation.

Oooooooooh, the letter writers were right! This fiasco was done to cut costs!

Sheehan, in two interviews, acknowledged ACI warned of disruptions, but not of the level of vast failure Globe subscribers are experiencing.

“Ten percent of our people not getting papers?” Sheehan said. “That was never communicated to us. That goes far beyond any reasonable definition of disruption.”

Sheehan and other executives suggested in an interview they would not have gone ahead with the change had they known what a mess it would be.

Klunder, however, said he warned Globe executives that the switch would be enormously difficult. Globe officials dispute his account of those conversations.

“I said ‘I cannot describe to you how painful it is,’ ” Klunder said, recounting his warning to Globe officials. “I used the expression ‘massive disruption.’ . . . You’re going to get thousands of calls, e-mails — social media is going to be blistering you. The news media is going to be blistering you. You’re going to like where you are at the end of this cycle but you’re going to go through this.”

He said the fact that ACI’s contract with the paper carries no performance penalties for the first three months is “an acknowledgment on [Globe executives’] part of some level of pain.”

Klunder also faulted the Globe’s communication with readers ahead of the change.

“We were adamant that these guys communicate to the readers early and often about the disruption that would take place,” Klunder said. Maintaining good will with the public depends on “how candid you are with what [readers] are about to experience. We were pretty clear about that and I’m not sure the communication plan was as graphic as I suggested it should be.”

Klunder said his firm’s reputation has not suffered from the crisis. “I can’t say that it has or that it even will,” he said. “Because I think people who look to outsource have some level of understanding that any time you make a change of that magnitude, it’s going to be rough sledding for a while. We’ll be fine.”

It's starting to look like me that the Globe wants to end print production altogether. That's what it looks like. 

Sheehan, who on Sunday delivered papers on the North Shore, said the Globe did not prepare readers for a home delivery horror show because the paper’s executives had not anticipated one. The paper had prepared readers for much milder problems, he said. The Globe is crediting the accounts of subscribers experiencing problems; that money comes out of the newspaper’s bottom line — not ACI’s, Sheehan said. He said he did not have a figure available. He said advertisers have not asked for refunds or canceled planned ad buys.

No Globe executive is planning to resign in the wake of the home delivery disaster, Sheehan said.

He apologized for late deliveries and those that never got done.

“Any time a subscriber doesn’t get the product, we’re sorry,” he said. “We’re extremely sorry the disruption has been beyond what we expected.”

Readers — so far — have not canceled subscriptions in large numbers, Globe officials say.

All would be forgiven if the level of service could be restored [this week] to the way it was,’’ said Dan Kennedy, a journalism professor at Northeastern University who has written extensively about the newspaper business. “But if this drags on and on, and large numbers of people cancel the print edition, it does become an existential threat. The print edition is where the money comes from.”


This after we have been told for years now print is a loser and the web changeover is falling short regarding revenues. Now I am where the money is at! 


I suppose it is at $2 a throw!

He said the Globe has not done enough to explain the problems to subscribers.

A number of subscribers questioned why workers who had long delivered their paper without issue had been let go. One hung a sign on her mailbox demanding that her old carrier be reinstated.

“The guy who delivered to us for years wrote a letter and said, ‘I want to deliver your paper, but the new firm [ACI] won’t even talk to me,’ ” said Michael Carakatsane of Lynnfield, who has subscribed to the Globe for 23 years. “For crying out loud, that’s terrible. . . . He knew the route, he knew the subscribers, and he knew where to leave the paper.”

Carriers are paid for each paper they deliver, and generally can gross about $1,200 to $1,400 a month for about 25 hours of work each week, ACI officials said. That indicates an hourly rate of about $12 to $14.

That's pretty good wages for one little ki$$.

A similar transition to ACI in 2014 by the Orange County Register in California was also plagued by delays, which took months to resolve. However, the Register apparently had severe financial problems at the time, according to the LA Times.

For the Globe employees, their effort to deliver the Sunday paper was a gesture of good will by staffers who have been at the receiving end of subscribers’ frustrations.


But a shared sense of determination gave way to dismay as the scale of the debacle became apparent.

Globe workers at a Newton distribution center discussed how the company’s communications to its subscribers had been slow and insufficiently contrite. They raised doubts about the assertion that ACI had hired roughly 475 of more than 530 needed drivers. Many doubted that savings from the new delivery contract would outweigh canceled subscriptions and ill will arising from the delivery delays. All agreed that the situation was untenable.

“In some ways our solidarity all-nighter was fun and bonding, and gratefully received by many subscribers,” said reporter Sacha Pfeiffer. “But I think most of us came away from the night shocked by how dire this problem seems to be, how long it will likely take to fix it, and how ill-equipped anyone at the distributor seems to be to improve the situation.”

And I thought the local service around here was bad.

Reader Una Hartwell, 86, of Lynnfield, welcomed delivery of her Sunday Globe just before noon.

“It’s a big part of our day,” Hartwell said, also referring to her husband. “Can we now count on it every day? Or will we just be getting it on Sunday?”

It used to be in mine.


Did you notice all the print readers were elderly people? 

Not really a going concern, are they?

Turn on that radio if we are going to deliver those papers:

"Delivering the Globe, one street at a time" by Kevin Cullen Globe Columnist  January 03, 2016

When the call went out Saturday for volunteers to deliver the Sunday Globe, a wave of nostalgia washed over me.

It turns out the Globe had hired a company from, I believe, Mars to take over the home delivery operation and it has been a fiasco. So those of us who produce the newspaper were prevailed upon to deliver it.

I thought it was voluntary.

They gave us 273 papers and handed us a delivery route that appeared to have been prepared by someone under the influence of methamphetamine. The route wasn’t circuitous. It was circus. If you handed an Etch-a-Sketch to a really drunk guy and told him to turn the knobs, that’s what our route would look like.

We kept returning to Liberty Pole, up and down Pioneer Road and Patriots Way and Minuteman Road. In the course of six hours, Bella English developed a severe aversion to Revolutionary War history. And she swore a lot. More than I swore. Which is saying something.

Unlike Bella and me, Teresa Hanafin had the foresight to bring a flashlight along, which is pretty handy when you’re stumbling up a darkened driveway at 3 in the morning. We took turns using the flashlight to find the house numbers, some of which weren’t there, others of which were covered by wreaths and assorted seasonal decorations.

There is no question that if we had meandered around sections of Texas and Florida the way we did the yards of Hingham early Sunday morning, we would have been shot dead.

The papers were wrapped in plastic bags, to protect them from the elements and to make them easier to throw. At one house, I threw the bag a little too hard and it banged noisily against the storm door.

Suddenly, the front light came on and an elderly woman appeared at the door, pulling a bathrobe tight around her shoulders.

“Who are you?” she demanded in a loud whisper.

In situations like these, I have always found honesty to be the best policy.

“My name is Brian McGrory, ma’am,” I replied.

She narrowed her eyes and said, “Oh yeah? Well, I’ve got a bone to pick with you, mister.”

I turned and ran, yelling back over my shoulder that, as much as I’d like to chat, I had 273 newspapers to deliver and not for nothin’ but I truly appreciate her loyalty as a reader and surely she should take those slings and arrows directed toward the great and the good of Hingham as nothing more than good-natured ribbing. I’m fairly sure she heard none of this.

I jumped in the front seat and told Bella to burn rubber.

“No one says that anymore,” she replied, turning to me, rolling her eyes. “Burn rubber? You sound stupid.”

Sound stupid? Here we were, 4 in the morning, stumbling around the winter lawns of Hingham like three blind mice. That doesn’t sound stupid. That is stupid. 

Or $tupid.

That said, all those hours in the car and furtive creeps up pitch-black driveways gave us perspective and appreciation, both for the people who deliver our newspaper and those who read it.

I guess I was fooled bye the earlier condescension. 

Whatever they pay the delivery people, it’s not enough, and it’s more than a little depressing to think this debacle has been brought about by a desire to pay them even less. Whatever I’ve tipped delivery people in the past wasn’t enough.

And rather than be upset by all the complaints by longtime subscribers about abysmal service, it was actually heartening to realize how much so many people look forward to their Globe every morning. The least we owe them is getting the paper to them promptly....

Sorry to be so late delivering this to you, readers.


The Globe was right where I expected it to be today.

Related: I Didn't Want You To Miss This

They must be shitting their pants over there. 

I will be delivering to you again tomorrow -- or not.

UPDATE: Dow Jones loses 450 points 

At least we got through a wonderful Christmas.