Cut Carrier Turnover: End Carrier Collection p.28

By: M.L. Stein A success story at a small Oregon paper

Turnover of young carriers is at an all-time low at the News-Register of McMinn-ville, Ore., since the paper ended its tradition of carrier collections and switched to a mail invoicing system for subscribers.
"Finding new carriers all the time was a big job," explained circulation manager Dick Phillips. "It was not only tough getting the kids to collect the money, it was also tough for the kids to get their money from some customers." He also was concerned about so many youngsters walking their routes with pockets full of cash.
Tired of a constant churn in the corps of more than 90 teenage carriers, the thrice-weekly paper ended carrier collections and began invoicing subscribers by mail every three months. Subscrip-tions to the 10,003-circulation News-Register sell for $5.25 a month.
The transition, however, was not smooth. The paper immediately lost 200 customers. "For some," Phillips said, "there was a sense of losing a neighborhood tradition. Especially senior citizens seemed to enjoy the company of a paper carrier coming to their door on a regular basis."
Not all carriers were crazy about the idea either, he said. Two quit in protest. Most lamented the loss of tips. But in an attempt to address that problem, the paper's new invoices provided a place for subscribers to include a tip with their payment, just like a restaurant check.
In addition, the new system adds the carrier's name and phone number to subscribers' invoice forms, as well as a place for subscriber comments about the quality of delivery service.
Carriers were encouraged to include an "I am your carrier" form with the papers they delivered on their first week on the route.
In addition, all papers delivered by the office to make up for missed or wet papers include the carrier's name and phone number.
Overall, the carriers and community are adjusting to the new reality in a very positive way, said Phillips. In December, tips totaling $900 were received and distributed to carriers. In January, that amount increased to $1,014, indicating that more subscribers were becoming comfortable with the idea of tipping remotely.
On the day the carrier payments and tips are posted, they receive a letter from management documenting their earnings and congratulating them for providing good service.
The News-Register is so satisfied with the results of the change that managers recently asked Phillips to prepare a report for the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.
"Our turnover rate is more than 50% less than what it used to be before the change," said Phillips. "At the same time, our district advisers can now focus exclusively on sales and service rather than collections-related problems."
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?(copyright: Editor & Publisher April 25, 1998) [Caption]


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