Perhaps this will seem a little out of the ordinary for this site, but I suppose this could be considered an article about consumer caution.

I’m not normally big into magazine subscriptions. In fact, the only magazine subscription I’ve held regularly has been Nintendo Power magazine. Save for a seven-month span from January (Vol. 187) through July (Vol. 193) 2005, during which we could not afford to renew (and are trying to get a hold of), my wife and I have virtually every issue between us (I think we’re missing an issue of the spin-off Nintendo Power Advance, and some of the preceding Nintendo Fun Club newsletters, which we would also like to obtain).

As you can see, we’ve clearly been in this one for the long-haul.

Which should make it evident why, when there was a special on in June of last year for Nintendo Power subscriptions at $5 per year, I dove right in. I don’t think I really went overboard– I purchased four subscriptions for $20, which is about the cost of a normal subscription (one year for $19.95). Normally, I would subscribe directly through the publisher– formerly Nintendo and presently Future U.S.– but the deal was too good to pass up, especially with the thought that I would have my subscription set until October of 2015.

I did have my concerns, of course. For one, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t wind up with four issues of the same magazine arriving every month, since the subscriptions had been placed concurrently. Five, actually, since I still had an already-active subscription going. I felt this was a legitimate concern, as Amazon has labeled all four subscriptions as shipping soon after (June 4th, June 26th, and two for July 8th, all in 2010).

Simply put, I wanted to ensure that these would not be separate from my current subscription, and that each year would arrive subsequently after it ran out. So I gave Future U.S. a call, and managed to straighten everything out with them. The new subscriptions were added to my existing account, and with one of my following issues, the order form showed my subscription would last until October 2015. All was well.

Or so I thought.

Back in March 2011, I encountered a little bit of fraud regarding my bank card, the same one I used to place the subscriptions. Someone apparently managed to get the number and my PIN, and proceeded to clean me out. At least, they did after several failed attempts at a local bank. Fortunately for me, I had little money in my account. Crime was paying, just not very much.

Nonetheless, this still created a huge inconvenience for me, as I had to call the bank (located in my old home state of North Carolina, rather than in Ontario, Canada, where I now reside. Keeping the old account has its advantages, trust me on that) to notify them of the fraud, as well as get a new card/number. It took over a month to get the new card– in fact, after two “lost” cards, they sent a third to me overnight, and the “lost” cards wound up getting here some weeks after that.

During that time of having no access to my funds (I still have money going into that account), I received some e-mails from Amazon which said they were unable to complete the orders I had placed. With the item noted as “1 of Nintendo Power (1-year auto-renewal),” I thought that they were trying to renew my subscriptions automatically. Since I had already paid, the items had “shipped” (which I thought meant they had been passed on to Future), and had no interest in adding more years just yet, I pretty much ignored the notices.

Apparently, that was a mistake on my part.

Despite everything having appeared to be taken care of, I received two e-mails from Amazon last week, each notifying me that I was receiving a $5 refund on my subscriptions. The only reason given was “account adjustment.”

This made no sense to me, so I immediately called Amazon’s customer support (or rather, had them call me, as their system works). I asked what was going on, and the lady who took the call (whose grasp of English seemed a little iffy; I wouldn’t bring this up if communicating were not so important here) could not find an answer for me as to why I was being refunded this money. Aside from figuring out how they could refund the money to an inactive card number, my main concern was the status of my subscription. She assured me repeatedly that my subscription would be fine, so I was willing to let it go at that.

Following the call, I received yet another refund e-mail, bringing the total to three.

Over the weekend, though, I could not shake the feeling something was wrong. As a result, I decided to check in with Future on Monday, just to be sure. Checking my account on their website (which I had forgotten I could do until I went in looking for a phone number), I saw that my subscription no longer ran out in October 2015, but in August 2012. I went on to call Future, and they had no information, except that three of my four subsequent subscriptions had been “canceled.” To get to the bottom of this, I would have to call Amazon again.

And so I did just that. The first person I spoke to was unsure of what the problem was, and so I was transferred to someone in their magazine department to help me. Apparently, the issue went back to those e-mails I had received in April– for whatever reason, despite having paid for the subscriptions, being marked as “shipped” long ago, and the order seemingly completed, they still had not actually been paid for as I had thought. So when they went to charge my card for them, nothing happened, and without my new card input, they canceled the orders.

It would seem simple enough, except that there are several things which still don’t make sense (with more to come). Namely, why would it show the items as “shipped” and the order completed before? What’s more, why would it only kill three of the four subscriptions? And if they’re waiting to charge me as the subscriptions become available, then why are all three being done at once?

Unfortunately, there were no answers. Whatever their cockamamie system is, that’s how it works, and to be honest, I didn’t care– my new, immediate concern was “can I get those subscriptions back?” All I wanted in the end was what I ordered, for what I paid for it– things to essentially go back as they were, taken care of.

She spoke to her manager, and unfortunately, could not provide that for me. The best I could get was a $14.95 credit, so that I could place a new subscription with them for $5. Better than nothing, I figured, and I accepted…

…and as I went to place the order under her instruction, so she could apply the discount when it showed up, a new snag hit:

“Important Message
* Nintendo Power (1-year auto-renewal) cannot be shipped to the selected address”

This did not make any sense to me, nor to her. It sounded like such a restriction was normally in place for magazines which did not ship outside the United States, but as I could attest with literal stacks of evidence, this was not the case for Nintendo Power. Plus, one of my subscriptions with them had gone through with no problems.

Looking into it, it seems I had placed the original order with the address going to my father’s address in NC, where my bank normally sent my mail. That is, until recently, when I got my new card and learned that they had no problems with mailing to Canada. So for some reason probably relating to that, I had placed the order under my billing address, but apparently took care of the shipping details during that call to Future U.S. a year ago.

As such, her suggestion to me was to place the new order with a credit she would put on my account, and have the address there set to my NC address, and then repeat what I did before, by having Future fix it on their end. I’ve done the first part so far.

Overall, the experience has been too much trouble. So much of it makes no sense, particularly the part where the order isn’t complete after they say it is, or why they can’t ship here when they have been and are, and I just want to be done with it. I am nearly finished with it now, but I feel like I’ve come out shorter than where I started, between losing two years of my subscription and a couple of hours of time on the phone, trying to sort it all out.

I suppose my circumstances are unique, to say the least, but I can’t say I plan to subscribe through Amazon ever again, or that I would particularly recommend it. I thank the Amazon rep who helped me, but in the end, the whole thing just feels a little too disorganized to me. That, or some sort of organized chaos, with the right hand not knowing what left the is doing half of the time, or why.

Either way, I’m done. I’ll just stick to dealing with the publisher directly, and that’s what I recommend others do, too.

–LBD “Nytetrayn”