What I Learned Delivering Newspapers

When I was 10 or 12 I had a newspaper route.  Two of them, in fact.  One was the "local" paper (from the closest large city ~30 miles away).  The other was "GRIT" (which I was actually shocked to find is still in business!).

One of the papers paid me to deliver the paper.  I was not responsible for collections.  I didn’t bill anyone.  My job was to please the customer and do nothing else.  I wore the white hat – someone else wore the black hat.

The other paper paid me collect the money as well – which people often didn’t have on the day I chose to go get it.  Which caused me to have to go back time and time again.  I was a pest to my customer, and I started to resent my customer.  This is NOT a good relationship to have with a client.

Although I didn’t really realize it at the time, this was significant.  You can’t expect your customer service people to also be your hired thugs.  It is impossible to build a relationship like that.

Years later, as I traveled with my father while he did on the road sales of paper supplies I learned that he was always the good guy – he never called his customers for late payments and he always fixed any problems personally, and quickly.

If your company calls you something like "Customer Service" or "Support", but you have to also be the collection agent (the bad guy) then you are working for a company that never ran a paper route.  At least not successfully 🙂


  1. Scott says:

    Yeah, it does indeed still exist, they actually publish a PDF version of it online as well now. http://www.northernlife.ca/

  2. If people have the option to pay or not to pay for a service, and they pay for it, then I wager that, in most cases, the people who pay, didn’t realize there was an option to begin with.

    (I know, there are exceptions of course)

  3. @Scott – Does that paper still exist? Just wondering if the “optional” model would still work today?

  4. Scott says:

    Although I know it was not the point of the article, I can empathize with the burden of collecting money for a paper route. I worked for a local paper delivering papers for five years. There was one thing that was quite nice about the paper, it was a community ran paper, that made very little profit. The main reason being, payment was optional. As such if a customer told you they did not want to pay, you would just not bother them the next month, if a customer seemed annoyed, I would not bother them the next month. It was quite a great thing, the customers who did pay, I always went a step above for. If it was raining, I would knock at the door to give them the paper, instead of leaving out in the crappy little plastic bags, etc. It was basically a job where “you treat me nice, I will treat you nice”. Typically it worked well do as I often had a collection rate of above 50%