This being Christmastime, I won’t devote too much space to the evil machinations of the Marin Independent Journal’s circulation department. As I reported last week:

On Oct. 22, I was leaving the San Anselmo Safeway with a cart full of bread when an Independent Journal vendor just outside the door stopped me, saying I could get half a year of the paper free of charge if I merely paid for the Sunday editions.

That came to $32.65, so I paid the vendor in cash and got a receipt. He said my IJs would start being delivered to my house in about a week. But none ever arrived, so on Nov. 6, I emailed the IJ’s circulation department to complain and asked that it look into the problem.

When I received no answer to my email, I wrote the IJ again on Nov. 11, saying I was cancelling my subscription and wanted my money back. If the paper didn’t send the money immediately, I warned, I would take the IJ to small claims court. A few days after that email, a woman in circulation called to say I should have been receiving my subscription. Would I like to start it now?

I replied that the whole experience had soured me on the IJ and that I merely wanted my money refunded. She said she’d have a check sent to me.

Another three weeks have now passed without my refund. As it happened a week ago, I was again coming out of Safeway with bags of bread and found the same vendor selling subscriptions just outside the door. “I don’t want to hassle you,” I told him, “but this seems like a scam.”


As for me, the “torture” has not ended.


I then retold my tale of woe, and he said my mistake had been in dealing with the IJ by email rather than by phone. Even if the IJ’s phone rings in another state, whoever answers can take care of my problem, he said.

In fact, the one time I got any response from the IJ was when a woman in circulation phoned me after I threatened by email to take the paper to small claims court.

As it happened, a middle-aged woman who was coming out of Safeway just behind me overheard our conversation and exclaimed, “The same thing just happened to me.” She hadn’t received any refund either.

Last week Marin County Planning Commissioner Wade Holland posted a comment on this blog: “Actually, Dave, there’s a bit more to your IJ subscription experience than meets the eye. As you may be aware, the IJ has pretty much discontinued distribution in West Marin — probably why your subscription never started.

“If you also get the Chronicle, you can get the IJ delivered together with the Chronicle. But you can no longer get home delivery of the IJ alone; you can only get it as a “supplement” to the Chron.

“Moreover, there are no longer any newsstand sales of the IJ anywhere in West Marin. All the boxes have been removed, and there are no copies available at grocery stores or other retail outlets. They really should start calling it the ‘East Marin Independent Journal.’”

Commissioner Holland’s description of the evolution of IJ circulation in West Marin seems on target, but in my case, I’ve had a subscription to the the Chronicle for years, so that doesn’t get the IJ off the hook. The vendor promised to look into the problem for me, but so far that hasn’t helped either.

Anyone who wants to give the IJ a nice Christmas present might send the paper’s management a copy of A Christmas Carol starring Ebenezer Scrooge.