Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Liberal: Late and short a few Flyers

Since moving into my new home in Richmond Hill, I've been receiving erratic and poor service of the local free newspaper, The Liberal.   The Liberal is scheduled to be delivered on Thursdays and Saturdays before 7:00 P.M. with all the flyers associated within the area that I live according the paper's distribution department management.  This seems simple enough, a community paper that has been around since 1878 should have delivering twice a week on the right dates by the deadline of 7:00 P.M. down to a science.

But no, the distribution dates of Thursday and Saturday are the first issue.  I looked up the paper's website "about us" section  that states the paper "is published on Thursday and Sunday."  So why then does the paper copy itself show dates of either Thursday or Saturday on the front page and on the top of each page inside the paper.  No wonder the carrier for my street has no idea of when to deliver the paper, the paper's management has no idea when it's supposed to have a paper to press, is it Thursday and Saturday or is it Thursday and Sunday. 

Then comes the issues with the flyers.  One week I will get the M&M Meatshops flyer and the next I will not.  I check the flyer listing printed in the paper to see if there is an M&M Meatshops flyer for that week and there is!  So where is it?  I have no idea.  The paper itself charges $0.05 per flyer to deliver it to a house.  So if a house doesn't get a flyer can the advertiser call and complain to get a refund for non delivery of a service?  No that is not the case.  According to The Liberal's advertising management they only guarentee 90% delivery of all flyers.  Yes, up to 1 in 9 prospective customers may not receive your flyer and yet The Liberal can still request payment for delivery to every single one as if they were 100% acurrate.

Since I moved in I've called the distribution department of The Liberal a couple of times and spoke with the area supervisor for my area about the late or no delivery of the paper.  She seems barely interested as she goes on and that they don't pay the carriers that well.  I never get the newspaper after calling in and speaking with the area supervisor after at least two occasions. 

Fast forward to February 2011 when I again called into the distribution department again to complain about missing newspapers, late deliveries and missing flyers.  The area distribution supervisor listened to the what I was missing, put me on hold and eventually hung up on me.  I called back and asked to speak to the "Distribution Manager" who then took my name and number and said an investigation would be opened to see what the circumstances were around the delivery of the newspaper to my home and my street's delivery route.  A few weeks passed and the Distribution Manager, I presume the area's supervisor's boss, had yet to call back. 

Then I finally had enough after a no delivery of the Saturday March 5th paper occurred.  I tried another tactic than merely calling the distribution department over the phone as phoning obviously was not working.  I visited The Liberal's website and found the "contact us" page and wrote an e-mail on Monday March 7th to the distribution manager listed on the page:

Mara Sepe  Circulation/Distribution Manager, Richmond Hill/Thornhill Liberal

In the e-mail to Mara I laid out the previous trials and tribulations of merely getting the paper delivered, getting the paper delivered by deadline and with the correct flyers inserted.   I finished the e-mail with the following:

I believe the above circumstances are unnecessary and not very condusive to your advertisers in getting the word out. In fact I have talked to the Franchisee at M&M Meat Shops at Yonge & Carrville about a the problems in receiving the flyers via The Liberal and he was not impressed. He said he would be following up with your paper and his head office about the issue as well as keeping track of the delivery issues of the M&M Meat shops flyer with his other customers.


Missing flyers, missing papers, late deliveries seem to plague this neighbourhood and do not provide a good image of The Liberal as being a true "Community Newspaper". A Community Newspaper cannot be called that unless it is delivered in a timely fashion and read by the local community.


If you could follow up again with your department and provide a written response as to the status of the delivery of the papers to [my street] it would be greatly appreciated.


Please feel free to contact myself if you have any questions. I have over ten years experience in delivering your sister paper when it was called "The Era-Banner" in south Aurora. Thus, I know quite well the difficulties your carriers may be experiencing. Nonetheless, I hope the experience I've been having with the Liberal since I moved to the neighbourhood in June 2010 can improve.

Sincerely,


Michael Suddard

Within 30 minutes of sending the above e-mail, I received a written response back from Mara Sepe.  She replied that she has forwarded my e-mail onto Carrie MacFarlane who is the Circulation Manager of The Liberal.  Mara signed her e-mail "Circulation Manager, Vaughan Citizen."  It turns out Mara is the Circulation manager for The Liberal's sister paper, the Vaughan Citizen.  

So not only does The Liberal not know which day they are supposed to deliver the paper on, they have no idea as to who is in charge of the distribution department of their paper.  Their website says Mara while the paper says Carrie.  I wonder if they know who the editor of the paper is? With these two errors I highly doubt it.
Another two hours went by on Monday March 7th and Carrie MacFarlane replied.  Carrie, in her e-mail to me said she would investigate what has occurred and find a solution for the future.  She also noted that the solution may involve removing the carrier.  She said she would follow up later in the week with the solution "to ensure proper delivery."
I responded to Carrie on Wednesday March 9th that I was eager to hear back on the possible solutions and would update her on what happens with the March 10th edition.

On March 11th I replied to Carrie what was ocurred and it wasn't good:

An update on the Liberal for the Thursday March 10th edition:



Thursday

8:30 P.M. - no paper delivered to anywhere on [my street].

Friday

7:00 A.M. - [my houses] paper delivered to front door a quick scan of the street shows I'm the only one to get front door delivery. The Liberal is bagged and on front steps in the rain. A little wet on the inside but a big improvement. I also receive the National Post to the front door. It was right at the front door taking advantage of the significant overhang to stay dry. I opened the paper and flipped through the flyers. I went through them twice and immediately noticed again there was no M&M Meats flyer. I normally receive this flyer and it is noted on page 7 of the Thursday March 10th edition that it was included in the paper this week for delivery. Also, there was no "Red Plum" coupon flyer either.

- [ny neighbours address] - delivered to rear driveway and was in same condition as 10 Ellesmere's (see above). No M&M Meats or "Red Plum" Coupon flyer either.


So here are the issues with this paper:


1. Late Delivery as per normal (after 7:00 P.M. of the date printed on the paper)


2. Missing flyers. - Please deliver an M&Ms and Red Plum flyer ASAP to [my address] - 1 copy each. Otherwise I will be visiting M&M Meats again on Saturday on a shopping trip and will let the franchisee know that again I haven't received his flyer and neither did [my neighbour's address].


A Delivery Suggestion: Most Townhouse units on [my street] and in this neighbhourhood have front door overhangs that keep front porchs dry year round. The Liberal, like the National Post, Toronto Star and several phone book companies (e.g. Yellow Pages, CanPages, etc.), could deliver to the front and have their product both kept dry and free of snow for the most part as well as better found and read by the locals as compared to the rear door. When delivered to the rear driveways in the winter they are either shoveled into the snow banks (i.e. the weekend paper because it is smaller) or get drenched as they are delivered so late and sit in the elements for so long (i.e. 8 hours).

If you could please follow up with the carrier to ensure I receive the flyers requested above and to ensure proper and, ON TIME, delivery again it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.


Michael Suddard

Carrie replied that afternoon stating the missing flyers would be delivered and my street's Liberal Carrier would be issued a final warning.
 
Well, as of 8:00 P.M. that night I still hadn't received promised flyers.  I wrote to Carrie saying I would be following up with the M&M Meatshops local franchisee that I hadn't received the flyer he paid to have delivered to me via The Liberal.
 
Carrie responded that she would check again with the office on Saturday March 12th as to if the replacemnt flyers had been delivered. Sure enough by noon on Saturday I had a whole new paper delivered to replace the Thursday edition's mistake.  But there was still yet another problem which I detailed in an e-mail back to Carrie:
 
On Saturday there was a copy of the Saturday Liberal on my front doorstep by 8:00 A.M.


My wife and I left for No Frills then and returned to find a Saturday THORNHILL Liberal on our doorstep around 9:30 A.M with the full set of flyers and some we had never seen before. I suppose the other flyers are normally delivered to other areas as these stores (i.e. Guardian and IDA) are not near us.


I hope things get better and I will be looking forward to Thursday and next Saturday for improved delivery.


Thank you for resolving the issues this past week and I will continue to enjoy reading the Liberal both for content and for the flyers that my wife and I shop from.


Thanks


Michael Suddard

Yes even when The Liberal distribution department is set out to deliver one newspaper to one address they cannot get even the newspaper edition right (i.e. I received the Thornhill version instead of the Richmond Hill version) and the flyers were incorrect as well. After all the history with incorrect and poor deliveries of the paper, one would think the brains of The Liberal's distribution department would have paid a little more attention to detail to ensure the correct flyers and the correct paper were delivered.  But apparently not.

Carrie replied to my Saturday e-mail stating that for next Thursday they would have a staff member doing visual checks to ensure proper delivery.  I still wonder if this same staff member redelivered to me the replacement Thursday paper with the M&Ms flyer and the Thornhill edition of the paper. 

Meanwhile also on March 11th I receive a seperate e-mail from Anne Beswick, the Advertising Manager of The Liberal.  She thanks me for my patience and e-mailing regarding my concerns about the delivery of the paper.  She also notes in her e-mail that The Liberal guarentees a 90% delivery rate to their advertisers and that the Thursday March 10th edition:

"We had some very serious interruptions in our business that barely enabled us to publish at all."


She also mentions that The Liberal team came together to resolve a lot of issues and get the paper out.   Anne finishes up her e-mail saying she would like to send me a small token of appreciation for bringing the delivery issues to The Liberal's attention.

From Anne's e-mail I thought Anne believed that this was a one time issue (i.e. just the Thursday March 10th edition being late) and that the flyers missing there as well.  I replied to Anne with:

Anne:
I wish to respond to your e-mail below as I know the newspaper and all business have "bumps in the road" where things don't go as they should.

I have over ten years of carrier experience in Aurora with The Liberal's sister paper, then called The Era-Banner. Thus, I have quite a bit of experience when it comes to delivering a free local newspaper on a route. I've seen the issues with receiving the paper and getting it out on time.


I've been dissapointed with the delivery of The Liberal since moving to Richmond Hill in June 2010 and I've called distribution on the phone and dealt with the regular supervisor. Things would improve for one delivery but soon fell off from there. Thus, I felt further action needed to be taken and do not believe the repeated issues are merely


Three weeks ago I was in the M&Ms at 16th Avenue & Yonge Street and was served by the franchisee who inquired if I would like next weeks flyer. I responded I would like both next weeks and this weeks as I only get the M&Ms flyer peridiodically. He took my address down then and said he would be following up with M&M Head Office as he is paying for the delivery of each flyer.


Following that occurrance, I called again and spoke to the delivery supervisor who put me on hold so she could investigate. I was on hold for over five minutes before she picked up and hung up on me. I called back asking for the delivery manager and not the supervisor. The recepitionist put me through and the manager said she would investigate and get back to me. Another two weeks went by and no call came back.


Last weekend the Saturday paper was never delivered. So I felt since phone calls were not working that an e-mail follow up was in order. Thus, I visited www.yorkregion.com for contact information. I found the "Contact Us" page (http://www.yorkregion.com/contactus) and scrolled down to The Liberal's listing and e-mailed "Mara Sepe Circulation/Distribution Manager, Richmond Hill/Thornhill Liberal" with the issues I've been through.

Mara e-mailed back, with a "Vaughan Citizen" in her signature, that Carrie looks after the issues in Richmond Hill. Carrie wrote back that she would be investigating the issues and to get back to me.


This past Thursday came and went with the issues of flyers noted. Two newspapers on our street did not have M&M Meatshops or the Red Plum flyer. Hence why I was going to follow up with the franchisee of M&M Meatshops again this week. Bottom line is the non-delivery of the M&M Meatshops flyer off and on can not merely be a "blip" in the system. The whole street didn't get it this time as evidenced by my research. Neither [my home] or  [my neighbours home] got it, thus the M&M Meatshops paid 10 cents for non delivery of two flyers and thus I believe should be asking for a refund on this for services not rendered.

Bottom line, I can appreciate when, as you noted:


"Any business we have our challenges and this week we were no exception. We had some very serious interruptions in our business that barely enabled us to publish at all."


But this has been an ongoing issue off and on since last June of late deliveries on Thursdays and Saturdays. In fact, I didn't even know until last October that the Liberal Saturday paper was issued on Saturdays. I thought, like the Era Banner, they published the weekend edition on Sunday. All the issues I have detailed to Carrie are not simply "one offs" but are constantly cropping up. Here is a brief list of what I've dealt with:

1. Late Delivery - I don't receive the paper until well after 9 P.M. of the date of the paper. Thus, the paper usually sits on my driveway all night.

2. Wet unreadable papers - with #1 in mind, the Saturday edition is normally not bagged. So the delivery person drops it off after 9 P.M. without a bag on it on my driveway. It may snow and/or rain overnight. Thus, I have to find the paper in snow the next morning and/or through it out as it is soggy and completly unreadable.

3. Missing Flyers - M&M Meatshops and Highland Farms I normally receive in the paper. But for weeks at a time it would be hit and miss whether I would get them or not.
 4. No delivery - Saturday edition some weekends I don't even receive. From what I can remember this has occurred three times and is evidence to me the original Delivery Supervisor I called didn't really follow up or supervise properly the delivery person after the first issue.

So I hope this gives you an indication what [my street] has been through in less than a year. The above issues also mean that your advertisers would have the product they paid for not properly read by the readers of The Liberal in a timely fashion.

My contact information, as requested, is:


[contact information included]
I hope the above and my past e-mails to Carrie provide some indication what experience the residents of [my street] have had on an off and on basis for almost the past year.


Thanks for assisting in resolving this issue.


Sincerely,


Michael Suddard

Anne replied to the above e-mail saying she wasn't aware of the past issues and would meet with Carrie about resolutions to the issues.  She also requested to be included on future e-mails about delivery issues.  I replied to Anne thanking her for the follow up and that I would gladly include her on the e-mails I was sending Carrie. 

I received an e-mail on March 14th from Anne stating that the street had been verified by phone and that all the houses received the M&M Meatshops flyer except for one who was unsure.   Anne also noted that if there were any other issues that the carrier would be replaced. 

There is obviously issues with phone verification of whether the a household received a flyer or not in the local paper.  This past Thursday's (April 14th) edition of The Liberal, for example, had over twenty flyers of all shapes and sizes in the paper.  So fast forward to a busy Saturday afternoon when the representative from The Liberal calls and inquires if a house received a paper on time and if a certain flyer was in it.  Not really caring the household will probably respond "Yes I got it and it had the M&M's flyer in it".  The response of the household obviously came from the idea of "that was Thursday, it seemed to be there on time I think it had the M&M's flyer but I'm not going to sort through my blue box for a simple phone call".  So if five households responded like this The Liberal would have considered the M&M's flyer to be delivered.  Perhaps a more sooner phone verification, like perhaps on Friday for Thursday edition delivery, would have been more accurate.  This is because by Saturday chances are the edition would have been duly filed away to recylingville.

To say the least after March 14th, things seem to have returned to what they should be.  I now receive the Saturday Liberal by noon and the Thursday edition filled with flyers. But late delivery past the 7:00 P.M. cut off seems to still be an issue.

Sad really that a local community newspaper who claims to have been around since the 1800's cannot for the life of them guarentee their advertisers duly paid flyers are inserted beyond 90% of the time and their customers a timely delivery of the news on the promised day.  Sad really, if Canada Post were a newspaper company they could actually due better.  Just ask my mailbox on a daily basis, guaranteed to have flyers!

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