Newspaper-delivery trouble? Here’s how The Times explains it

We’ve heard from several people wondering about unspecified “unfortunate incidents” mentioned by The Seattle Times in a note to some West Seattle subscribers explaining delivery troubles. After the first inquiry yesterday, we checked with The Times, and they explained the problem is a carrier shortage. We replied to the lone reader who had inquired – but then several more asked today, so we’re publishing this, in case others are wondering. Here’s how Times marketing VP Kati Erwert replied to our question asking for more information on the “unfortunate incidents”:

We’ve had a transition in staffing for a variety of reasons that is impacting some of our newspaper delivery routes in the West Seattle area. This is not uncommon. Unfortunately, there are several that have happened at once and it is impacting delivery service as we onboard and train new members of the carrier force. Our home delivery and customer service teams are very hard at work to expedite a return to our traditional service levels. However, in the spirit of care for our valued subscribers, we’ve opted to communicate with them that we are aware that some of them are impacted.

In fact, our West Seattle Jobs Offered section (free posting if you have a local job opening!) had a recent post looking for a local carrier, though it has since been marked as “filled.”

43 Replies to "Newspaper-delivery trouble? Here's how The Times explains it"

  • Kris January 13, 2018 (9:28 pm)

    What is so disappointing is that when your Seattle Times paper does not show up in the morning they will not deliver later in the day like they use to. Only on  Sunday will they  deliver you paper when it is missed. What’s the point of having daily delivery if they don’t even try to get you the paper.  Kat5

    • Jd January 14, 2018 (7:34 pm)

      We never received our Sunday paper so when I reported the missed delivery the response was next day delivery not same day delivery. Our Sunday delivery has been missed the past two weeks. Was thinking maybe Tje Times is doing this on purpose so that they no longer have to print the paper – it will be provided online only perhaps? I’m ready to cancel my subscription.

  • carole January 13, 2018 (10:17 pm)

    And if you report it missed you get a credit at the subscription rate (ex.: 1.75 for a Sunday paper) but you pay $2 to go buy one.  If you report after noon on Sunday you get the replacement on Monday.

  • carole January 13, 2018 (10:19 pm)

    Shifting delivery staff explains why they keep delivering our papers to our condo’s commercial entrance rather than our residential despite repeated notice to them of the problem.

  • MJ January 13, 2018 (10:42 pm)


    I totally agree and now they make you prepay and then fail to deliver.

    Back in the day the carrier billed their customers directly, and in return for good service you could directly tip them when you paid the bill.  


  • Anne January 14, 2018 (5:54 am)

    Yes- they already have your money- but they don’t provide the service. We have had up & down service for over a year. Our carrier- in a note said the distribution building had been moved to Kent – which makes for a longer drive- but we still don’t get a paper- even a late one- which leads us to believe- he never picked them up

    Maybe the supervisors could fill in until there are enough carriers onboard & trained.

    At least twice a year the Times runs a big ad —pleading with the public to continue to support print journalism- this 40 year customer is finding that increasingly harder to do.

  • brizone January 14, 2018 (6:44 am)

    Wow, really decent of them to “opt to communicate” with their customers! It must be such a bother… Why does anyone get the ST anymore with an attitude like that?

  • Gina January 14, 2018 (6:58 am)

    I made the switch to digital and walk to the store to buy a paper on Sundays. No more problems with stops and starts, weather delays and other issues. 

    As a former PI carrier in West Seattle 40 years ago  about 25% of customers would skip out. You had to carry them for a month and keep delivering before district representative would let them be dropped. On a $25 per month profit margin that was tough.  And there were people that wouldn’t pay because they didn’t like a story in it.  If a house was missed or paper count was off the carrier was fined if customer called service line,  providing home number was a necessity.  Would have to buy extra paper from box.

    And the carrier bag was subtracted from first month profit!  No wonder using kids for home delivery died out.

  • Kathy January 14, 2018 (7:56 am)

    My favorite part of this is when you try to report a missed paper online and system won’t let you because “there’s a known problem that is being addressed.” 

    Translation: “we know we can’t get your paper to you and we don’t want to hear about it…” 

  • Granger23 January 14, 2018 (8:13 am)

    We had the paper delivered for over 10 years with few problems but had to cancel for good. The paper was all over the yard, under bushes and soaking wet. Each time I let them know without any resolution until the carrier wrote this nasty note on the outer bag of our paper. Will never be a customer again.


    • TomBradyGOAT January 14, 2018 (5:07 pm)

      Have had the same problem – made a video of all the bushes.  Blair Walsh would be more accurate.  Going digital only.

  • Mike January 14, 2018 (8:41 am)

    I subscribed to the morning paper for 35 years.  Just cancelled, reluctantly, due to erratic delivery and no explanation.   Try the customer service – good luck getting any meaningful response.  Can’t wait for the next Seattle Times editorial, column or article about lack of service from some other entity.

  • KT January 14, 2018 (9:46 am)

    This is how they communicate with their subscribers?  What a ridiculous statement.  You couldn’t just say “We are experiencing a shortage of carriers and are working hard to increase staffing.  We apologize for any delivery problems you have experienced”.  Was that hard?     

    We’ve had a transition in staffing for a variety of reasons that is impacting some of our newspaper delivery routes in the West Seattle area…it is impacting delivery service as we onboard and train new members of the carrier force”  

  • Nancy January 14, 2018 (9:47 am)

    I subscribed for probably 12 or 13 years getting the paper 7 days a week with only occasional problems.  Several years back I started having problems with the paper not showing up at all, showing up late, thrown into bushes in my yard where I might find the paper a week or two later when I was working in the yard.  I also had problems with papers thrown into my yard so that limbs were broken off rose bushes or other shrubbery damaged.  I decided to go to a weekend only delivery but the problems didn’t really get better.  I finally got down to Sunday delivery only,   But problems with the paper showing up have continued.  After missing another Sunday paper today, I called and cancelled my subscription.    Sad, because I want to support the print media but I’m done with the terrible service.  

  • BarGreMag January 14, 2018 (9:51 am)

    I have the best paper person!  It is on my front porch and never missed.  Best paper person ever!  I give them a large tip because of their service.

    • Rob B January 15, 2018 (11:07 pm)

      Me too! Granted, I’m Sunday only but it’s always here, always protected and always on my porch. I guess I should be thankful given how many negative comments there are! 

  • mrsB January 14, 2018 (10:03 am)

    We cancelled daily delivery after we came home from vacation and found copies of the Times on the porch, despite having cancelled the paper during that period.  We then started buying the Sunday paper after walking the dog in Lincoln Park.  Then I got a really good deal on Groupon for the Sunday Times, and got caught in the non or erratic delivery trap.  I ended up emailing the editor and received excellent service almost immediately, in fact, the district supervisor visited me and we discussed their lack of carriers.  Then last week – no newspaper!  Today it came bright and early, so early that the dog woke us up by barking at the front door, I guess it woke him up too.  Bottom line, when my Groupon subscription expires, I’m done with home delivery.

  • EdSane January 14, 2018 (10:29 am)

    The newspaper carriers are 1099 contractors and not employees. They have to purchase the newspapers, rubber bands & bags from the Seattle Times and re-sell them at rates dictated by the company in the zones (routes) that they are contracted to support. Most routes would pay below minimum wage if not for the few who tip. Having known several carriers, if you don’t tip don’t expect the paper anywhere near your door as it is a waste of their time. The only incentive that ST provides is ‘gas cards’ for no complaints. Generally not worth it to the carrier who is rushing to make it to their next job as they try to scrape by.

  • carole January 14, 2018 (10:30 am)

    The only problem with the digital version is that you miss stories.  Since I get delivery I can compare with digital.  If you use a search function with a keyword you can sometimes find something that appeared in the print version but if you hadn’t seen it in print you wouldn’t know the article existed. They have also eliminated comments in all AP stories. No idea why. Other papers, such as Oregonian, don’t limit comments.  I get the NYT digital for $7.50/mo and it gives me more complete news coverage than the Seattle Times. I can read BBC News and Reuters for free online.  ST needs to step it up.

    • Eddie January 14, 2018 (2:56 pm)

      We utilize the Seattle times Print Replica digital version on wife’s ipad. It is EXACTLY like the entire print version, including that annoying page and a half wrapper they use on weekends. Don’t know if it’s available on PC. On iPad, it’s very readable and dependable. 

      Home service has deteriorated since Fall of 2017. I too delivered Seattle Times papers for years in the sixties and seventies. I can only remember getting stiffed by a customer once during 7 or 8 years. Afternoon weekdays and mornings on Sundays. The PI was all morning deliveries.

  • seaopgal January 14, 2018 (11:39 am)

    The ONE thing I regretted about cancelling my service a couple of years ago was knowing that it would make the carrier’s life harder as she scrambled to cover a larger area for the same number of papers. (Well, that PLUS the crosswords.) Interestingly, we’ve actually benefited by the current snafu. Our neighbor’s paper has been at our door the last two Sundays, and she has graciously allowed us to read it first … and do the puzzles.

  • Julia January 14, 2018 (11:45 am)

    Like BARGREMAG, we have the most reliable delivery person ever! (Wonder if it’s the same?) I’m knocking on wood as I type, not wanting to jinx it. I did mail a tip this year.

  • Denise January 14, 2018 (11:53 am)

    Paper was not delivered on 5 days in two week time, starting December 24. I called each time, they told me it would be outnext day!!! Yeah, right! I asked for supervisor, but no they could handle it. We have been getting the paper for over 50 years. I don’t want digital. I want paper and price keeps going up. 

    Also, on the porch? It’s 6 feet by 6 feet. They barely get it too the grass. And since we are in Arbor Heights and no sidewalks, it almost in the street!

    they want us to subscribe, but they are making it hard. They promise next day, but it doesn’t happen. They’ll give credit, but, I receive bill with no credit. 

    its very frustrating to try to talk with people who don’t seem to understand.

    Thank you for helping clear up some questions!

  • Nancy R January 14, 2018 (12:01 pm)

    GOOD NEWS!   I was about to cancel the paper due to nondelivery,  having found it in trees,  under bushes, etc,  for months now.  The past three days,  the paper didn’t even arrive at all.   But this morning,  I met the newly hired delivery person,  who apologized for past non-deliveries (someone else) and promised that he would be delivering the paper on schedule,  right to our doorstep.    He handed the paper to me personally and said that things would be changing.   We live in North Admiral,   not sure which other neighborhoods he is responsible for.    I know that many have given up,  but you might consider giving it another chance.    We need quality reporting these days.  

    • SR January 14, 2018 (7:41 pm)

      Nancy R:  Where in North Admiral are you?  We just cancelled our subscription because of lousy service after 41 years of getting the paper at this house.  If there is a new delivery person in North Admiral, we might change our minds.  We live on 47th SW between Walker and Hill.

  • Findlay January 14, 2018 (12:51 pm)

    I was getting the Wall Street Jourmal who were utilizing The Times distribution folks. Recently cancelled due to lack of delivery. No excuses possible for the Times who can’t cover their routes. When the basics aren’t being handled by the Times, tells me that they don’t really care about their readers. 

  • A Heights January 14, 2018 (2:42 pm)

    This has been going on since Dec. 24 in Arbor Heights. Since then have received papers on three days total. Must be due to the low unemployment rate, people won’t work for peanuts if they have a choice. Look for increasing subscription prices.

  • Rob January 14, 2018 (2:53 pm)

    In with Gina, just get it on kindle and you never have to worry about delivery.  Plus lots less paper to just recycle.

  • Lola January 14, 2018 (3:02 pm)

    At the End of 2016 our faithful Seattle Times delivery person had to retire.  Every since then we have gotten crappy service.  It used to make it to our porch now we are lucky if it is in our driveway.  I only get the Sunday so it is not like I get it every day.  I did not even get my paper last week, but after I complained online my husband said it came on Monday.  I live on 50th and Alaska so I know everyone around here has been having trouble getting their paper in a timely manner.  We noticed today that he came around 9 am with the paper.  I may be one of the people who cancel if this keeps up. 

  • Jon Wright January 14, 2018 (3:54 pm)

    We subscribe to the Sunday New York Times. It is delivered by the same person who delivers the Seattle Times. We get a Sunday paper pretty reliably, only problem is that often it is the wrong paper!

  • Else January 14, 2018 (3:56 pm)

    WSJ subscriber in Admiral. Paper is often on the pavement or steps, rarely in front yard and never on porch. Pretty sure it is thrown from the delivery vehicle. BUT it is always there before 6am, so I didnt complain yet…

  • Tim January 14, 2018 (4:07 pm)

    We’ve been missing The NY Times that’s delivered with the Seattle Times also. Same as the other comments used to be delivered on the porch but now near the sidewalk, I can handle that but not the missed deliveries. I have to walk out in my PJs! Poor me. 

  • KBear January 14, 2018 (6:15 pm)

    It’s almost as if the Seattle Times is trying to fail.

    Years ago, they stopped publishing an afternoon paper. That was one of the only things that distinguished them from other printed newspapers, especially the P-I. Being on the west coast, they had been able to get some of the early morning east coast news into their same-day paper. Now, it’s only yesterday’s news, which you’ve probably already learned from TV or web.

    Then they fired most of their staff and drastically reduced the size of the paper. 

    Then there’s their refusal to take responsibility for delivery mishaps. One time their carrier actually threw the paper THROUGH our window at 5:00 in the morning, broken glass everywhere, and they refused to pay for it. “Independent contractor!” they said. But we continued to subscribe.

    That was years ago. We finally cancelled after they gave away a full page ad to Dino Rossi for governor and we realized that we were recycling most of the paper without reading it.

    If the Seattle Times can’t recognize that home delivery of a printed paper is one of the only areas where they can excel beyond other news sources, they don’t deserve anyone’s business. 

    • Kate January 15, 2018 (5:51 pm)

      As someone who worked at the Seattle Times for 9 years and worked tirelessly for both the Times and PI in circulation, I can assure you, no one at The Seattle Times is “trying” to fail. The employees you are referencing have some of the longest tenures at that company. And their very own Circulation customer service manager hailed from West Seattle. 

      This company is struggling to survive and transform. Trying to address the media disruptive entities effecting all news media AND they are trying to remain majority  “family-owned” to be as local as possible. Overwhelmingly, those who remain believe that journalism matters. 

  • GE January 14, 2018 (7:45 pm)

    I hope I am not jinxing it but my Seattle Times  delivery person is great.  The daily paper delivery shows up when it should.  My start and stop vacation times for paper and, just to compliment an often maligned group, USPS has been exemplary for the last several years.

  • Arbor Heights Readers January 15, 2018 (10:23 am)

    Terrible Seattle Times customer service!!!  We are decades-long, loyal customers who used to tip generously.  No more!  For the past several months we have had to notify the Seattle Times at least a couple dozen times — by phone, email and online comment — of serious delivery issues that are still not resolved as of today!  Papers not delivered at all, papers dumped in a puddle, you name it.   The response is always “Don’t worry, we are working on it, we will make it right, we understand your frustration.”  Hah!  Seattle Times has really deteriorated.  Very sad, as we strongly support local journalism.

  • JWinWS January 15, 2018 (11:44 am)

    The Seattle Times needs to let their sales staff know they are having issues. I just called to cancel my Sunday delivery because it doesn’ get here until 10-12:30 or not at all. She stated they were not aware of the problem. I had to inform her that they actually were aware. The sales agent states she’ll escalate this and promises it will be here by 7:00 a.m. each Sunday. I know it’s not her fault and she’s likely promising something they can’t deliver. 

  • wetone January 15, 2018 (4:34 pm)

    How times have changed since I was a Seattle Times paper delivery person in the early 70’s. We had 2 paper shacks on down hill west side of Admiral. Most of us were 13-18 yrs old. If you did not get papers delivered dry and on time you were replaced pronto as others were waiting  for chance to make some money. Some of us also had a P I route in the morning before school, and younger years Shopping News and WS Herald. Today we pick are paper up by sidewalk :(

  • Workdowntown January 15, 2018 (6:25 pm)

    40+ year subscriber, most of that time amazing delivery service by ming le. He retired last year. I tried to maintain but rarely got the paper or it was in the middle of the alley. I finally quit. I miss my paper!

  • Calires January 17, 2018 (1:35 am)

    I was also a subscriber for years and had great delivery service.  I have no idea how the delivery driver managed to get the paper over my 5 foot privacy fence and right on the door threshold every day.  I tipped well because I know this is a difficult. low paying job and I appreciated a job well done.  I hope the delivery driver found a better job in the booming job market and that’s why the paper just quit showing up.  The comment I included with my cancellation ~ 6 months ago after filing many non-delivery notices was, “At this point I’m just making a donation to the Times since I’m getting nothing in return for payment.”  They did not try to convince me to stay.  

    A lot of low paying service jobs are going unstaffed in the booming job market because the people who used to do them in the not-so-good job market now have found better jobs.  The last time I prepaid online, I also noticed that they had taken away the option to add a tip.  I doubt that helps with retaining delivery people.

  • Sarah January 18, 2018 (5:16 am)

    I just wanted to say thanks to the blog for printing this and to everyone else for their comments.

    We’ve been having delivery issues intermittently for months. Reports of missed papers don’t seem to make a difference. Met a fill-in delivery guy early one morning, and i complimented him on the fact that – as i discovered, during his tenure – our paper was wonderfully placed and reasonably timely delivered.

    We’re back now to missing papers, late papers, papers in bushes, etc.  We don’t even bother to complain anymore, as it’s an exercise in frustration. The times customer service people offer a credit which we don’t want, instead of the paper that we do.

    I wish I could tip the carrier directly to reward/encourage delivery.  I helped a friend deliver papers while I was in college, and I get that it’s a hassle and not well paid.

    We may go to online only, although we MUCH prefer a physical paper.   

  • andy January 18, 2018 (7:03 am)

    I cancelled my subscription because their editorial writers have become, for the most part, nothing but the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party! I’m tired of reading one point of view, almost exclusively.

  • East Coast Cynic January 18, 2018 (7:52 am)

    Back in the early 90’s, I had a significant other who used to be a paper deliverer for the Seattle Times:  Very time consuming, exhausting, frustrating and stressful job (There were days where I had to help her before going to my regular job, uuuuuuuh).  You had to get up very very early to get the stash of papers to be delivered; you had to wrap all of the papers to be delivered; you had to drive around a neighborhood making multiple stops; you had parking limitations and problems; some homes were hard to reach and you had to throw it over a gate; mean dogs and no trespassing obstacles to contend with; sometimes papers were stolen from the outside of homes and had to be redelivered.

    Delivering papers was a difficult and underpaid gig; don’t blame people for leaving if they get better jobs.

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