Beware of automatic renewals on magazine subscriptions

Time Warner is doing some ugly stuff in the magazine business through a secret subsidiary known as Synapse Group that is ripping people off, according to The New York Times.

First a little background here: I subscribe to Fortune, a Time Warner magazine, and my subscription runs through June. I recently received a mailer trying to get me to renew at a special discount renewal price with a credit or debit card payment.

But the mice type revealed that if I accept this particular offer, my subscription to Fortune will continue without interruption. No more mailers will be sent to me to ask me whether or not I want to continue receiving the magazine at the end of my subscription period. So it’s a thinly veiled automatic renewal.

I hate automatic renewals. I think they’re a gross, unethical, terrible way to do business. But it gets worse. In addition to doing this for Time Warner’s own magazines, Synapse Group is allegedly sending people notices to renew for publications that are not owned by Time Warner.

I know that it’s tough for people in corporate America to meet their profit goals. But there’s no reason for them to abuse customers with auto renewal clauses that bring nothing but harm. If you Google the Synapse phone number, wow, people are furious about getting ripped off on magazines!

Here’s my solution: If you are into magazines, offers fantastic deals at amazing prices. Just know that when a magazine comes up for renewal, you won’t be offered the phenomenal deal you got upfront. So I suggest you take the longest term available if you really like the magazine.

One other thing about the Amazon deal: Once you subscribe to a magazine, Amazon will send you offers for private sale deals on other titles. Some of these other offers are extraordinary. Magazines that might be $30 or $40 annually can be offered for $5 a year!