Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NYT's New Column, "The Haggler," Sounds Pretty Good, Except It isn't About Haggling.

Yesterday the NYT quietly announced a new Sunday column -- "The Haggler" -- that sounds suspiciously like those great "Shame On You" segments Arnold Diaz used to do on WCBS. Which isn't a bad thing.

"We'd like readers to send in their complaints about specific transactions that have gone haywire: outrageous cell phone bills, airline ticket trouble, car rental nightmares — you get the idea," the NYT said in a tiny story published on Tuesday. "The Haggler will then call the company, get to the bottom of what happened, and, with any luck, right a wrong."

The NYT has mentioned only two rules:

Your run in needs to be recent and not so awful that it calls for lawyer or a police officer.

Keep it brief -- three or four sentences ought to do it — profanity-free and avoid the all caps key because IT MAKES YOU SEEM CRAZY.

"We'll run your letter, or parts of it," the NYT says, "and then describe the Haggler's efforts to win justice for all."

Sounds great, right? The powerful NYT solving your battles with Time Warner Cable about that defective remote, getting you a refund from JetBlue for that cancelled get the idea. It's a tried-and-true ratings grabber on television, and the NYT clearly hopes that The Haggler will become a part of the paper's newly-interactive, reader-friendly approach.

But there's just one pesky problem: "The Haggler" is not the right name. A "haggler," as we all know, is someone who does battle with a seller over price. And this column is clearly not about haggling.

Here are the dictionary definitions of "haggle" that we found at

1. To bargain in a petty, quibbling and often contentious manner: They spent hours haggling over the price of fish.

2. To wrangle, dispute, or cavil: The senators haggled interminably over the proposed bill.

We like the idea of the column. It sounds like fun and we applaud the NYT for not being all stuffy and pretentious about a offering a public service to consumers.

But we feel it necessary to call out the NYT on this misnamed enterprise. Back to the boards, guys. There's a better name out there.

It takes hours to come up with the perfect name; trust us, we know. This website isn't called for a reason.


Anonymous said...

Ah ha. Thanks for this illuminating post. I am now almost certain this site is written by copy editors. Who else could pick nit this minor, and spill this much (virtual) ink on it?

Anonymous said...

The Times is so cute when it gets all populist.
Dear NYT: Last Christmas Biff gave me the most beautiful diamond bracelet. Now he's off chasing Muffie and those creeps at Cartier won't give me a trade-in for a new watch.
Bereft on East 82nd Street

Anonymous said...

Pardon? Actually, it seems that haggling is precisely what the NYTimes is proposing to do. It reads like you are just quibbling with the fact that they will be haggling after the purchase rather than before. I don't think that means it's not haggling, though.

As long as we're picking nits: How is it that the "NYT's new column, 'The Haggler,' sounds pretty good? Did someone read it aloud to you? Don't you mean it looks pretty good? Or you expect it to be pretty good? Am I being petty?