We decided to cancel our HighBeam research account a while back, and just waited until the renewal date was upon us to do it. [Ed. note: where's the link? Me: I am not helping their SEO by linking to them. Forget it.]
Hostage loyalty versus natural loyalty
This organization is one of many these days that has a rather obnoxious approach to renewals: they automatically renew you unless you cancel. There is no notice, there is no reminder, there is no opt-out.
Naturally, this begs the question of why their natural loyalty is so poor that they can't count on renewals... When any organization uses a hostage approach to loyalty, this is not a good thing.
Our chief money guy thought he had issued cancellations on all of our accounts. Then a charge went through. A phone call to the company generated no happiness. Here's what they said, roughly:
- Each account has to be cancelled separately
- There's a no refund policy, didn't you read the contract
- The fact that the charge went through only yesterday is irrelevant -- our no refund, no pro-rating policy still applies
- The fact that you have an e-mail confirmation of cancellation is irrelevant
- We can, however, offer you a discount right now if you extend your subscription
- There is a supervisor, however we are not authorized to transfer any calls to this person
Okay, that pretty much defines hideous, doesn't it.
Not only is there no help to resolve the issue, but pretty much an attitude of 'we got your money, jerk, and we plan to keep it. You could cancel now, but you'd lose access to our database for a year that you just paid for.'
Money guy asks me: Did you renew? Did you get a notice? I say, no siree, I did not
Next step: contact VISA
Biggest point in their favor: trying to help. Explaining what is going on. Advising of options. Being calm and respectful.
Key learning from VISA person:
- If you sign an automatically renewing contract, your bank will put the transaction through even on an expired card [so your expired card on the account is no protection at all]
- If you change your card number with the same bank, your bank might put the transaction through, even though that is not the card you gave the automatically-renewing-jerks
But, and happily...
- if they sent you a cancellation confirmation e-mail, we just might be able to get your money back for you
You don't have to be perfect, just don't be awful
So VISA wasn't really promising a lot. But they did calm down the chief money guy. They offered helpful information. And they tried to find a way to help. They did not suggest by tone or word that any fool who ticks "yes" to such an agreement is beyond help.
You just have to be nice. You have to try. And if you do, you will look so much better than the other guys, that you don't really have to be perfect.
Are you counting on hostages?
I don't want to tell you that hostage marketing tactics will not work for a while. But they will not work in the long term. And they will hide the fact that people don't want to renew, they just got suckered. If you were valuable, they'd renew.
Clever or annoying?
I'm curious -- what's your thinking about these automatic renewal contracts? A convenience (ie. clever) or annoying (seriously annoying)?