Only "urgent" customer service issues addressed? What? You aren’t kidding?

I used the Online Wall Street Journal at some point last year. I don't really recall what I was using it for at the time, but it seems that the WSJ Online, like many other online properties, bills you annually under the assumption that you will continue to use their product. I don't like this, especially since it's pretty obvious to them that I am not using my account. They may have told me they were going to do this, they may not have. It's less about whether they told me and more about the fact that I only want to pay for what I use. So when I saw that there was a charge on my corporate Amex from the WSJ online, I went to their site, and used an e-mail link to contact them about the issue.

Eleven days later, I get this:

From: Online Journal []
Sent: Friday, January 26, 2007 10:33 AM
To: Heather Hamilton
Subject: billed for WSJ online <incident # redacted>


Recently you requested personal assistance from our on-line support center. Below is a summary of your request and our response.

Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.



billed for WSJ online


 Discussion Thread

 Response (Customer Service)

01/26/2007 01:32 PM

Thank you for your email. During a process conversion, we discovered that we had not replied to the email message you previously sent. We are sending this email to let you know that your inquiry is important to us and we are here to provide assistance. If you still require assistance, please reply to this email and put "URGENT" in the subject field; we will be sure to reply with top priority. Thank you for your patience and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.


Customer Relations
1-800-JOURNAL (568-7625)

 Customer (Heather Hamilton)

01/15/2007 04:10 PM


I was recently billed $99 for the WSJ Online. I didn't know that I was going to be automatically billed each year. I may have used the WSJ at some point last year, but hopefully you can see that I have not been accessing my account (I just now logged in to review my account, but that's pretty much it). I'd like to have my account canceled and my subscription fee refunded.

If I do feel that I need to access the WSJ Online at some point in the future, I will come back and sign up and pay the fee. But I didn't realize I was going to be automatically charged every year and I would prefer not to pay for something up front that I am not confident I am going to need.

Can you help me take care of this?


Heather Hamilton
Staffing Manager, Marketing

<autosig links redacted>

==================== image File Attachment ====================
image001.jpg, 1395 bytes, added to incident


 Question Reference <redacted>

Date Created: 

01/15/2007 04:10 PM

Last Updated: 

01/26/2007 01:32 PM



Escalate to: 


Yeah, you read that right. Not only did it take eleven days to get a response due to a "process conversation" (what is that anyway?), but they marked my issue as "solved" when they sent me an e-mail to let me know their excuse and that if I really, really wanted the issue addressed, I had to send an e-mail back with the word "URGENT" in the subject line. Meaning that only "urgent" issues are going to be addressed and everyone else can go pound sand? This is hideous customer service. I expect more from a business publication.


I had a similar billing issue with not too long ago when they billed me and I contacted them to let them know I had not been using the site. The very nice customer service rep looked at my account, said he could tell that I had not been using it and let me know he would gladly refund my fee. That was that.  Mmm hmm, versus the Wall Street Journal. What is wrong with this picture?


And while I wait for their response, my expense statement becomes overdue. Seriously, if you ignore customer issues, they will go away; the customers, not the issues.


Comments (14)

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  1. ko says:

    Do you realise that they said "process conversion" and you read it as "process conversation".

    I’m not excusing their bad customer service (‘ve never used them), but a process conversion could make sense here, esp if they’re moving from one piece of software to another…

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Nah, I just have trouble typing and spell-checking. I meant "process conversion". My bad for not catching that in my post. Still, as a customer, a "process conversion" doesn’t really make sense to me. I understand a "software conversion", but if they are somehow changing their process, wouldn’t they have a way of tracking and addressing outstanding issues? Especially since they come via e-mail? I don’t know…maybe track them in a simple database? Send out an auto-reply when people initially send in their issue so they know to expect a delay. It seems kind of simple to me, how they could have done it. That e-mail though just about puts me over the edge.

  3. ko says:

    Ok, just checking. Thanks for the response and I agree with you that they could have at least followed the process you state in your comment.  

    Anything is better than marking a problem as solved when it hasn’t been, especially in the customer’s mind and, of course, that’s where it counts.

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    I’ll have to let you all know how/when it’s resolved. My alternative is to dispute the charge on my Amex account (would that get their attention?  will it become "urgent" o them then?).

    I should watch my typing though, you are right. I am pretty impatient and I rarely re-read a post after I spell check it. I should read it again to make sure it makes sense.

  5. eR0CK says:

    While I certainly advocate good customer service (I did it for three years), it’s always very important to read the fine print.  More often then not, if you give your credit card to anyone for a payment, more likely then not, they’ll continue to bill your credit card.  Similar services like WSJ, Barnes and Noble, LA Fitness, equifax, etc. all bill your card whether your using the service or not.  If you read the fine print, you’ll see that you’ve agreed to their withdrawal.

    OK, I know, who reads the fine print, right?  In my customer service experience, I always refunded fees that I felt were excessive if the customer was clearly a victim.  However, when customers got irate without giving me a chance to resolve the issue, I typically pointed them to the fine print and they went on their way without the refund.

    I think you went the right way to resolve the issue, but it’s unfortunate that it took as long as it did.

    IMHO, process changes are not an acceptable excuse to customers.


  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, except that it hasn’t been resolved. And I think that if a customer isn’t using a service that is billed annually, it’s a little different if they have been slacking on the gym.

    Even if they decided that it was too bad and they were still billing me, I would like to have my customer service inquiry responded to. I guess my main point was about their customer service, not the original plan. I could live with the fact that I got billed and have to pay because I agred to something. I can’t live with bad customer service…well, I can live with it, but I blog about it.

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    Oh, and their agreement says they will notify me of my renewal 30 days prior to being charged. This would give me the opportunity to cancel. I don’t have that mail. Otherwise, I would have canceled it. And of course, I am not seeing a place to cancel on their website.

  8. Wine-Oh says:

    Id call Amex and let them deal with it. Sounds a bit shady to me.

  9. eR0CK says:

    Oh, OK.  Sorry, I misread the initial post, I thought it had been resolved.

    IMHO, the best course of action is to call the WSJ directly and contact a supervisor about your problem.

    When I was in customer service, we had charts showing "response times" for our e-mail service.  We normally had a response time of less then an hour and the issue were normally resolved within 24 hours.  Since it sounds like they’re a very disorganized bunch, just call and talk to the supervisor.  She/He will probably refund your money and it will go much faster then a dispute with Amex.

    I’ve disputed charges with a company before and they’ll ask you for any documentation you have on the charges and they’ll normally ask what you’ve done in an attempt to resolve the issue.

    It might take a while to get a supervisor in customer service at WSJ, but in the end it will be much quicker then the alternative, IMO.

    Ouch with the renewal notice.  That’s all you need when you talk to the supervisor … just tell them you were never contacted.  MOST supervisors would much rather refund you the charge then argue with you.

    The biggest problem with customer service is who the company chooses to hire.  The turnover rates tend to be high because representatives can’t take the pressure from customers.  The few good reps normally move to supervisor positions so the rest of the reps is who the customer interacts with first.  One day you can have excellent customer service, the next day it will be horrible, it really depends on the person and much less with the company from my experience.

    Out of all the things I can do, customer service was always my thing, but the politics of it turned me off.


    P.S.  1-800-369-2834 (Press 3, then 2, then 2 and you’ll get a rep) is WSJ customer service, they’re open until 11 ET.  Figured I’d save you an MSN search.  (note I’m being politically correct 😀   )

  10. Ben R Alonso says:

    MS Xbox live does the same thing. Yeah, they send you an email telling you how many days before they renew your contract for another year. It doesn’t look into customer use either. I hadn’t used mine for months when they let me know I was renewing. Then they automatically renewed.

    Canceling? Yeah, if you’re willing to go through customer service and spent the time and energy why you don’t want it anymore then you can cancel. It’s just the way business works nowadays. They benefit from our laziness.



  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    Erich- you are the best!

    Ben – it wasn’t even laziness with me…I didn’t get the notice! it would have been a different story if I had warning. I don’t have many virtues but I can definitely say that I am not lazy…that I know for sure!

  12. Donald Feeley says:

    I recently sent a request by email to have my Wallstreet sent to

    our new address, by Feb. 10th.  Our neighbors at our former address phoned to say it is still being delivered there:

    Former Address:  6000 Royal Marco Way #446

    Marco Island, Florida 34145

    New Address:  10040 E Happy Valley Road, House # 2057

                          Scottsdale, Arizona 85255

    Our original order number is ~ New Order Confirmation from The Wall Street Journal [T2005121800G7] It includes weekend edition

    We have always been pleased with your service, thanks for looking into this for me.    Don Feeley –

  13. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yo, Donald…you might want to take this up with the Wall Street Journal, not the recruiting department at Microsoft ; )

  14. I subscribed to the WJS today and I do not want my personal information made available to any 3erd party, with no exceptions.

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