John Howell Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 24, 2010

John Howell Sr.

Passalong readers appreciated almost like original owners

Daylight savings time ends Sunday, November 7. Some folks want to know. That’s about a week later than it used to be. For some reason they moved it several years ago.

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It shouldn’t matter, of course. The days will be the same length they were going to be anyway with or without daylight savings time’s arbitrary start or finish.

But it does. Now takes me about a week for my body to reprogram after the clock’s change. Once upon a time changing the clock didn’t matter.

Then there’s the matter of passalong reader Robert Renfro.

A passalong reader is someone who reads a copy of The Panolian second hand after somebody else has first read it and passed it along. We appreciate all of our readers, of course. But we appreciate paying, first-hand readers moreso than passalong readers.

Robert admitted his reading habits to me on Wednesday during the visitation for his brother, Will. He said his neighbor is one of Howard Holden’s granddaughters who is herself a firsthand subscriber. When she finishes reading her copies of The Panolian, she puts them in a stack that she eventually gives to Robert.

“I read them like a novel,” he said, holding his open hands with palms spread about six inches apart to show the height of a typical stack of newspapers when he gets them.

“Why don’t you pay for you own €!*@‡!  subscription?” I asked.

I wanted to harangue him a little further for not buying his own subscription, but it didn’t seem appropriate. After all, it was his brother’s visitation.

The irony is that the lady, Terri Howard,  whom we once called our subscription clerk before she learned so much about mailing periodicals that clerk now seems like an insult — mailing guru maybe, has spent many hours in recent years trying to see that distant subscribers receive their newspapers as soon as possible after publication and at regular intervals.

She did that after fielding complaints from out-of-county subscribers who would receive no papers for a couple of weeks and then they’d arrive all at once.

And here’s Robert saying that’s how he likes to get them.

Good grief!

But the more I thought about it, the more I decided to leave it alone. If Robert started getting his own copy of The Panolian in a timely fashion at regular intervals, he’d probably lose interest. It would lose its novel appeal for him.

Besides, for every passalong reader like Robert, there are those who tell us when they buy papers from our news stands on Monday and Thursday night, “I’ll get one in the mail tomorrow, but I don’t want to wait to read it.”

Those, for obvious reasons, are our favorite subscribers.

And then there was the telephone call that our marketing director Dianne Medley fielded late last Friday afternoon.

“How much is a year’s subscription to The Panolian?” the caller asked.

“$39.95,” Dianne replied.

“I’m divorcing my husband and I have to get him a year’s subscription to The Panolian as part of the settlement,” the caller explained.

We approved of his priorities.