The joke wasn't funny in Monday's Arizona Daily Star. Try reading the fine print in the ad for the Star-Circle K "Drink and Paper combo" promo. (If you haven't tossed it out, the ad's on Page C-10.)
The promo offers a set price to get the paper with your coffee or ThirstBuster. In the extremely tiny type in the lower left corner, it says that if you don't want the paper, the coffee prices will be reduced by 25 cents. No mention of a different price for the ThirstBuster.
How tiny was the type? I've worn progressive lenses in lieu of trifocals for about eight years. To see the fine print clearly, I had to take the glasses off, put my nose (literally) about 2 inches above the page and squint.
And how often is this 25-cent discount given? At some Circle Ks we've visited, clerks have been offering coffee buyers a "free" paper--and not lowering the price when the offer's declined.
It would be fun to see how Tucson Newspapers Inc. reports the results of these sales to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, which verifies paid newspaper circulation for most major daily newspapers nationally.
Usually, vendors who sell the paper return the unsold newspapers. But we're wondering if someone isn't taking advantage of a soft spot in the ABC rules to improve their numbers.
For most of the last 30 years, ABC rules allowed newspapers to count sales discounted up to 50 percent as paid circulation. Today, it's a 75 percent discount, which is great news for the bulk sales folks who deal with hotels and other entities that give papers away to customers--whether they want it or not. In the case of the Star, that cost would amount to 12.5 cents per weekday paper. What we don't know is whether Circle K is buying paper for the promo flat out at a discounted price, or whether Circle K returns the papers that weren't given out, and TNI treats those like any other vendor return. We also don't know if all those people declining those "free" papers, but still getting charged, are unwittingly adding to circulation totals.
We'd wanted to talk to folks at TNI and Circle K about the deal, but calls weren't returned.