Still waiting…

How does a well-intended gift turn into a headache of massive proportions? I don’t know – ask McSweeney’s.

This Christmas, when prompted by my mother for gift ideas, I mentioned that what I wanted most of all in the entire world was a subscription to The Believer magazine. The Believer, for those of you that don’t know, is a monthly literary publication put out by McSweeney’s – the publishing company started by known jerk (but great author) David Eggers.

My mother, as she always does, obliged. This would mark the second time I’d received a subscription as a gift – my 2004 birthday brought Sports Illustrated to my house every week – and I was very excited to start getting the magazine.

The Believer is the home of Nick Hornby’s “What I’ve Been Reading,” the monthly column I ripped off heavily in doing my own monthly book column of the same name. (Yes, I know. I wasn’t even cool enough to come up with an original name.) Amy Sedaris also has a “question and answer” article, and other very good and very famous authors drop in from time to time with short stories and essays.

My first literary magazine – what a thrill.

That is, if I ever would have received one.

It’s currently May. I haven’t received a single issue yet. But don’t think we haven’t tried. In early February, I tried e-mailing them. No answer. I e-mailed again in March. Still nothing. My mother (who paid for the subscription) e-mailed countless times. No answer to any of them. But when she went to see if the check was lost, she found it wasn’t – it was cashed.

By McSweeney’s.

This, understandably, threw my mother into a tizzy regarding the publisher. I thought getting the family lawyer (pro bono, I hope) and contacting the District Attorney’s office was a little much, but at the same time, what other option did we have? We’d tried to contact the place numerous times, to no avail. They had no phone number.

So my mom mailed a threat and some paperwork to them. A few days alter – upon receipt of the legal paperwork I presume, I received this e-mail:

was she charged for the sub. We have no record of it! I am so sorry about the confusion!

To which I responded:

Yes. As I said, the check was CASHED.

We haven’t received any response from you until now (this was the second time I’d tried, and my mother tried who knows how many times) and I fear she’s taken legal steps. If you want to contact her… etc.

I think it’s at the end, now. My mother called and asked whether I wanted to just get the refund or get the magazine, and while I really want this subscription, I can’t really accept what they did. It’s pretty crappy business.

What’s most depressing about this is that I really thought McSweeney’s was a pretty cool company. I liked all of the past The Believer magazines I thumbed through, and they have a handful of books out, all of which I’d like to read someday. I had high hopes from a little independent literary publisher.

Unfortunately, indie values usually include great customer service. Something didn’t necessarily line up with McSweeney’s. It’s too bad, really – I was really looking forward to that subscription (and free book!)

Oh well – I guess there’s always Sports Illustrated.

This was lovingly handwritten on May 21st, 2006