The Boston Globe and the Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette announced on Tuesday that subscriber credit card numbers accidentally were included on routing slips and delivered with newspaper bundles sent to retailers and paper carriers in the Worcester area. The papers admit that up to 240,000 home-delivery subscribers may have been compromised by the released customer data this past weekend. Both publications are owned by The New York Times Company; customers are being notified. The Telegram & Gazette also is warning that routing information of 1,100 check-paying subscribers may have been released.
Payment information was included on the reverse side of routing slips attached to as many as 9,000 bundles of Sunday's Telegram & Gazette. The breach occurred when discarded internal reports were recycled as the paper for printing the slips. The practice has been discontinued; reps for both papers are recovering slips, and the organizations contend that most likely have been discarded. No reports of misused information have been made to date, according to the companies.
"We deeply value the trust our subscribers place in us and we are working diligently to remedy this unfortunate situation," Richard Gilman, publisher of the Globe, said in a statement. "Immediate steps have been taken internally at the Globe and the Telegram & Gazette to increase subscriber credit-card security. We regret the disruption and inconvenience that this incident may cause." As part of their efforts to help alleviate customer concerns and field incoming customer inquiries regarding their accounts, both papers have set up a hotline.
When it comes to how something like this can impact customer loyalty, however, subscribers likely won't stop reading their local newspaper, according to Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of Beagle Research Group. He avers that incidents such as these do not effect customer loyalty. "We live in a different world than we did just a few years ago. We're all more dependent on credit and credit cards. We don't pay bills with cash or with checks as much as we once did," he says. "These are growing pains that are learning moments where we come to realize we need to do something different now. You take the learning from that and hopefully you don't make the same mistake in the future."