Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tribune sued over Red Plum/Local Values

Posted By on 05.22.13 at 04:16 PM

Chicagoans who dont want Red Plum/Local Values but get it anyway are suing the Chicago Tribune.
My amiable dispute with the Tribune over Red Plum/Local Values, an advertising throwaway I did not welcome and did not read but did not know how to stop, has been taken to a new level by a litigious group of Chicago residents.

The 25 plaintiffs, represented by Logan Square attorney Michael Jaskula, filed suit this month in circuit court against the throwaway's codistributors, the Tribune and Valassis Communications of Michigan. Jaskula told Tribune reporter Robert Channick, "Our neighborhood gets flooded with these damn papers every week. It's ridiculous it had to come to this, but we need to get their attention to stop the distribution of this thing to people who don't want it."

One of the plaintiffs is Jaskula's wife, Diane Stoneman.

I advise Jaskula not to call me as a witness. I'm afraid the story I have to tell would weaken his hand. No one is impressed by hotheads who try to win their battles in court when it turns out more genteel forums are available.

Red Plum/Local Values did not come to my front door today. I apparently have faced it down, at least for one week. Yet I did not sue or threaten suit. At all times I traveled the high road.

Tribune spokesperson Maggie Wartik told Channick, "If a resident wishes to stop delivery, please call 1-800-TRIBUNE or email triblocalvalues@tribune.com." That's exactly what I did.

I called that number. I called it on five consecutive Wednesdays, immediately after the weekly Red Plum/Local Values was delivered. It turned out I was calling a Tribune call center just outside Baguio, a city of 300,000 nestled high in the hills of northern Luzon, in the Philippines. I spoke cordially to the Tribune's phone representatives and got to know them on a first-name basis—Edward and Della and Alexis and Alex. I told them all of my simple need—which was for Red Plum/Local Values to go away.

They all said they'd take care of it.

In two recent Bleader posts—first here and then here—I have reported on the results of those calls. They were a complete failure. Red Plum/Local Values kept coming.

But last Wednesday something remarkable happened. Minutes after my post appeared describing the latest failure, I received an email from Vernon Mina, the Tribune's manager of subscriber services. "I'd like to sincerely apologize for the issues you've been encountering with our Local Values product," Mina wrote. "From the details shared in your article, you definitely contacted the right channel on this. However, I'd like to take a personal look into the matter and contact the necessary department and its manager(s) who oversee this process to have this resolved for you."

I wrote back thanking Mina for his interest, and he responded by describing the steps he'd taken. "I've sent an email to the distribution manager and field supervisor responsible for deliveries in your area to have these unwanted deliveries stopped immediately," he said. "They will be service-checking your address personally moving forward to ensure that your concerns are resolved."

And this Wednesday, today, Red Plum/Local Values, in its familiar pink wrap, was nowhere to be seen. At least nowhere on my property. I noticed the family next door got two, so perhaps it all evened out. And as of this writing, there are more copies of Red Plum/Local Values heaped in the doorways of apartment houses in my vicinity than some of the apartment houses have units.

That happens to be one of the allegations made by Jaskula's clients, many of whom own apartment buildings in the Logan Square/Bucktown area. When unwanted mailers pile up, the suit alleges, they create "the impression that the property is abandoned or the owners are out of town."

Channick tells us the suit was preceded by a cease-and-desist letter to the Tribune that didn't work. But was it also preceded by a series of chatty phone calls to the Philippines, a couple of carefully worded appeals for public sympathy posted on a popular blog, and then the personal intercession of the Tribune's manager of subscriber services?

Vernon Mina worked his magic for me—at least for one week. I bet he'll work it every time he hears from a Red Plum/Local Values recipient at his wit's end.

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