College Students: Do Not Give Your Credit Card to the Wall Street Journal

With the new school year underway, and mindful of the fact that many economics students read this blog, let me repeat this periodic warning: Your econ profs are likely to offer you an “opportunity” to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal under the newly renamed Wall Street Journal University program. (I like to think, but of course do not know, that the renaming had something to do with the repeated warnings on this blog and elsewhere regarding the old Journal-in-Education program.)

I realize it’s implausible that a well-established institution like the Wall Street Journal would be running a credit card scam. Nevertheless, they are. When I subscribed through the old “Journal-in-Education” program, they tacked an extra $900 in phony charges onto my credit card bill. I called them repeatedly, they repeatedly acknowledged the “error” and promised to fix it, and, repeatedly, nothing happened. After a year, I got a refund for $450. After another year — and countless hours on the phone — I got an additional refund, still short of the entire amount. Most audaciously of all, they told me I could have the remainder of my refund if I agreed to attend a marketing event. They still have my money.

I am a long-time subscriber to the Journal and have never had these problems with subscriptions bought in the ordinary way. The Journal-in-Education, or Wall Street Journal University, or WSJ-Prof, or whatever else they’re calling it, program seems to be a separate entity that plays by its own tawdry rules. Don’t get mixed up with them.

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6 Responses to “College Students: Do Not Give Your Credit Card to the Wall Street Journal”

  1. 1 1 thomasblair

    Did you not just call your CC issuer and initiate a chargeback?

    If so, why does it appear the labor of proving your case fell on you and ultimately failed to provide full restitution?

    If not, why not? Dealing with retailer/provider BS is a service CC’s provide and they have MUCH more clout that you do.

  2. 2 2 Steve Landsburg

    thomasblair: They put through two $450 charges, one of which I managed to overlook for a very long time. After many fruitless hours on the phone, I realized that my credit card company should be doing this, not me. The CC company investigated and issued me a refund for the second $450 — but I had passed the CC company’s deadline for complaining about the first. This had me back on the phone with the WSJ, where no fewer than *six* customer service reps promised to refund my money and to call me back to confirm; none of them did. I then stopped calling customer service and started calling their corporate offices, where I finally worked my way up to someone who refunded $440 of the remaining $450 and offered to refund the remaining $10 if I’d listen to their marketing spiel.

    Should I have involved the CC company sooner? Yes. Should I have noticed the first charge sooner? Yes. Does any of this absolve the WSJ or make it wise for you to give them your credit card number? Absolutely not.

  3. 3 3 Jens Fiederer

    For what it’s worth, this seems to be a one-off….google searches involving “Wall Street Journal University” and “credit card scam” turn up mostly this item and unrelated things.

    Well, perhaps not a ONE-off, but at least they haven’t hit any other victims that have made a fuss, unlike most of the big scam operations where you can just look up the phone number and get dozens of fraud reports.

  4. 4 4 Jon

    For these kinds of issues, after exhausting a few rounds with customer service reps, I like to write an angry letter to the executive in charge at corporate and CC the executive level general counsel. Copying the lawyer usually lights a fire.

  5. 5 5 nb

    It’s almost impossible to cancel a subscription with the WSJ. You pretty much have to cancel your credit card or wait for it to expire. Landsburg is right. Never give these people your credit card info.

  6. 6 6 Steve Landsburg

    nb: It’s worse than that — not only can’t you cancel, but they’ll charge prices completely unrelated to anything you agreed to. In my case they gave me two “free” subscriptions (one sent to my home and one to my office) and then auto-renewed them at $450 a year each.

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