Just when free tv on the internet was starting to get good, Hulu board member Jon Miller had to go and talk about subscription fees. Miller, an AOL refugee who’s now squeezing cash out of consumers for News Corp, said last week of subscription fees: “in my opinion the answer could be yes. I don’t see why that shouldn’t happen over time… it seems to me that over time that could be a logical thing.” Charging for content isn’t his only big idea…
A couple of years ago, the New York Times did a piece on the poor treatment of teens hired to travel the country and sell magazine subscriptions door-to-door, but they’re not the only ones getting the raw end of the deal.
Xbox Live has struck again, this time by screwing up the auto-renewal on a customer’s account and ruining the prepaid annual membership he activated just three months ago.
Sirus-XM charges for access to its Sirius Music Player, but for the past few days, some customers can’t get it to work. One of them in this forum says it only connects after Howard Stern is over, and speculates that some cost-cutting measures have reduced available bandwidth, leading to locked-out customers. In another thread customers are complaining that popular third-party streaming radio services have been sent cease-and-desist letters from Sirius, further limiting access to streaming Sirius programming online. Naturally, Sirius-XM hasn’t responded to customer queries about the issue.
Update: eHarmony has returned the money.
Outside Magazine offered Tracey two free 2009 Calendars if she signed up for an annual subscription early last December. She thought her dad would enjoy the magazine and the calendar, so she accepted. Now it’s March and there’s still no calendar, and Tracey says every time she calls to complain, they tell her they’ll send it. In the meantime, her dad still has no idea what day it is.
Reader Christopher bought his daughter a Webkinz stuffed animal — for those of your who are not familiar with these toys — with each animal you receive a code that is good for a one year subscription to a virtual version of the toy. After a year — you need to buy another toy or you lose access to your previous pets. Buying more than one toy per year doesn’t extend your subscription, you have to buy one each year to keep it going. Christopher thinks this is unethical.
Someone needs to explain to Stonyfield Farm that free usually means that you don’t have to pay any money for the item in question. Especially in a case like this, where you’re already having to send in multiple proofs of purchase to prove you’ve “earned” the “free” item. What you find when you peel back the foil lid is some fine print that explains you also have to pay $2 for this free offer. SLR, who sent in this tip, adds, “I wrote to them via their web site asking what part of free don’t they understand, but received no reply.”
Note: this post is about restaurant.com, not restaurants.com. The two websites are not related. Tracey emailed us today to let us know that she just found a mysterious $14.95 fee on her credit card. It turns out a company called Shopping Essentials is now billing her as a monthly subscriber, and all because she bought some gift certificates via restaurant.com in December. To make matters even more shady, Shopping Essentials never contacted Tracey to let her know she signed up for anything, or to send her information about their services, or to call attention in any way to the fact that she now pays them a monthly fee.
Thomas did something dumb and he wants to warn others not to follow in his footsteps. He assumed (incorrectly) that his $7.99 per month subscription to XBOX Live would roll over into a yearly subscription once he’d paid $50. (A yearly subscription costs $50, obviously.) Yeah, it didn’t.
Here’s a reminder that one must remain ever vigilant against shady direct mail offers that masquerade as bills that you are expecting.
“If Radiohead can do it, so can we,” writes GOOD on their subscription page. They’ve temporarily changed their subscription model from $20 annually to pay-what-you-can, as long as it’s at least one dollar. If you’re on a restricted budget but want the hard copy version of GOOD, here’s your chance. [GOOD]
Blockbuster debited Anthony’s PayPal account two days in a row for the same monthly plan. PayPal won’t help—they say it’s between Blockbuster and Anthony, offering further proof that PayPal is a great service only as long as nothing goes wrong.
How would you feel to learn that not only had your household become subscribed to a magazine against its will, you were not getting threats that your account was overdue and was about to be sent to a debt-collection agency? That’s exactly what happened to husband and wife Keith and Stacy with New York Magazine. After our post went up about them, NYmag, wanting to defend what Communications Manager Lauren Starke called, “the good name of our circulation department—one of the most solid in the industry.” We put them in contact with Keith. After a flurry of testy emails between the two, here’s what happened.
You know we’re at death’s door for the print industry when they have to resort to a sleazy subscription tactic like this debt collection warning New York Mag sent Keith’s wife for a subscription she believes she never signed up for. Keith called the number on the back of the card and a customer service rep said that an “affiliate” put in the order. Dawn let Keith cancel the order without fuss. When Keith asked why the company was threatening to send people to collections for something they never ordered , “Dawn” said, “Don’t worry…it doesn’t make a difference since we don’t have your social security number and we will never ask for it.” As if that’s going to protect you from a debt collector. UPDATE: NYmag says the subscription renewal was valid and the customer must have forgotten about it. Full response inside.
A second Hollywood Video employee has written in to counter the claims made last week by an anonymous employee—he writes, “It sounds like whoever wrote in initially has a particularly evil district manager who is instituting his own policies,” and says that person should “go over his DM and talk to someone at corporate.” But for the rest of us, what matters is that “The EW [magazine subscription offer] never went away, they just stopped requiring employees to push it. They’re actively promoting it again. There’s no ‘silence is acceptance’ however, and we need to scan your credit card (an additional time) to activate the offer.”
First, we want to say thanks to TIME Magazine for naming us one of their top 25 blogs. Now that’s out of the way, and we can ask why they’re using such a misleading ad on the masthead of their site: “Subscribe to TIME Magazine for just $1.99″ it says! Yes, but when you click through to the sign up form, you see that your “subscription” is for six issues—six weeks—and that the fine print indicates you also agree to an auto-renewed fee of $19.95 every six months. We don’t mind the $1.99 tryout period, but hiding the real subscription fee in fine print is sneaky. Any magazine with the good taste to recognize our blog should also respect its readers enough to be upfront on the details of its subscription offers.
C writes in with another lesson on why you should check your statements frequently:Two years ago I purchased items for my grandchildren at KidsStuff.com. This month (March 2008) I found an $18.00 charge from them on my American Express card.