Cancelling: From Ease to Sleaze
Cleaning house of the many services which drain my bank account monthly without me noticing, I observed what I have decided to call the Cancellation Ease and Sleaze Scale in action.
At one end there’s Questia, the online research portal, where cancelling is relatively straightforward. Click on a link called “Account information” and there’s a clear link to “Cancel your subscription plan:”
The text then reads:
If you would like to cancel your Questia account, click the button below to begin the cancellation process.
Apart from the rather odd “Cancel” button at the bottom of this (Cancel the account? Cancel the transaction? No other options available?) that’s pretty much it.
Manymoon, the task and project management service, has no obvious link (I would say obvious would be in your account page.) Instead you have to type a question into the support page and then you have to submit a support request. You’ll then get an email saying they’ll get back to you in 24 hours.
Then there’s dodgy end of the scale. Efax, an online faxing service that is owned by j2 Global Communications, Inc, won’t let you cancel online. Or, apparently, by fax. You have to phone them. And not just a 24 global number: at least in my case, I have to call a UK number during UK work hours.
Needless to say, you won’t find any of this information easily accessible. It’s buried in a faq:
To be fair, I was able to find an alternative number to call, a Singapore (local) number which fed through to a Hong Kong office, where I was able to get through to a real person called Fanny relatively quickly. Apart from the usual hoopla of offering me free subscription for a couple of months, it was relatively painless to cancel the service and she was pretty nice about it.
Not painless enough though: It wastes 15 minutes of my day and these kinds of tactics are no longer acceptable in an age of instant purchases. We can now buy apps, magazines, movies and books online at a single click, so we now need the same, or similar, options for unsubscribing to services we no longer want.
It’s sad to see that online services don’t get this yet. They leverage the ease of payments we now have to hook us, but then try old, tired and possibly illegal tactics to lock us in.
The trick, of course, is to use something like PayPal. Then you can just cancel your payments whenever you like. The sad truth is that banks haven’t yet, to my knowledge, woken up to this empowerment. When I signed up for a AT&T WiFi service in the U.S. that didn’t work, I had to make several calls to their hopeless customer services system because my bank wouldn’t cancel the monthly charges from my credit card.
In the end, unable to cancel the service or get the money refunded for a service that didn’t work, I gave up on AT&T and emailed them an ultimatum: Face the Wrath of the Wire or cooperate. Suddenly they got all nice and were suddenly able to do everything by email.
So. Sad fact is we sometimes need to get a little rough with these guys. If we were smart we would check what the cancellation procedure is before we sign up for stuff, but we don’t. We should tho.