The Magazine Subscription problem

I subscribe to many many magazines and I love them all.  I was recently very disappointed to learn that I had missed two issues of The New York Review of Books.

My problem is that magazines send me multiple renewal notices.  Being a busy guy, or at least an inattentive guy, I don’t know if I have already renewed.  Or I fear I will renew yet again a week later when the next notice comes.   

So I get a renewal notice and I am suspicious.  Should I send in a check?  Should I wait?  I know I’ll get another one.

No, I’m not willing to type the information into my iPhone.  I want an optimal rule for deciding "on the fly."  I’m still trying to figure out a) their optimal sending policy, b) my optimal response policy, and c) what the market equilibrium looks like.

It would work if they would credibly signal to send renewal notices no more frequently than every five weeks.  Then I could always renew.  I would never get a multiple notice because they would have processed my check already.  But they send more frequently than that.  Plus infrequent notices would mean that a multiplicity of notices would have to start truly early in the subscription cycle, and that might cause readers to dismiss the value of such notices altogether.

Another part of the problem is that many people are uncertain renewers.  So every renewal notice must be breathless, even though I require only simple reminders and a scream only toward the end, when an actual subscription lapse is approaching.

I would describe my current strategy as "write a check only if their current plea really really makes it sound like this is the last minute before expiration."  This cannot be a stable solution over time and indeed it is why the market has brought such an inflation of warning signs.

I believe that many acquaintances face similar problems in trying to maintain their friendly relationships.

Here is my previous post The Tennis Ball Problem.


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