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Just Cancel the @#%$* Account! 483

An anonymous reader writes "PC World Senior Editor Tom Spring signed up for 32 online accounts. Then tried to cancel all of them. The most difficult to cancel: NetZero. The easiest to cancel: Consumer Reports Online and The New York Times TimesSelect. His experience was rated on a number of criteria, and highlights the hoops that commercial enterprises put in place to keep their 'customers'. From the article: 'I had a hard time canceling my $5 monthly Gold Classmates.com account, too. I couldn't find any information on how to cancel until I entered the word cancel In the site's search engine. Classmates.com spokesperson John Uppendahl confirmed that there is no other way to find cancellation information. But that was only the first hoop I had to jump through to cancel my membership. Classmates.com also forced me to click through several Web pages reminding me of the benefits I'd lose. Finally my clicking ended at a generic Member Support e-mail contact page containing a blank 'Your Question' field. Though the form said nothing about cancellations, I used it to request that the service cancel my subscription. The next day I received an e-mail message confirming that the service had accepted my request.'"
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Just Cancel the @#%$* Account!

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  • Irritating as hell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spiritraveller ( 641174 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @03:19AM (#17495482)
    What makes these companies think that this will make them money?

    Whenever I encounter a situation like this (where cancelling is made a pain in the ass), I vow to never again use the service, and to tell anyone I know about what a crappy company it is.

    I have actually returned to companies that did not make my life difficult in this way. Sometimes, you just don't need the service. Maybe you will be a return customer. But when they do this crap, they piss people off. They ensure that you will NEVER return and that you will do everything you can to spread the word about what a worthless company they are.
  • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @03:29AM (#17495536) Homepage Journal
    What makes these companies think that this will make them money?

    Whenever I encounter a situation like this (where cancelling is made a pain in the ass), I vow to never again use the service, and to tell anyone I know about what a crappy company it is.

    It's just that when you're cancelling the service, chances are you're not interested in coming back. And even if you against the odds do, you're still a fickle customer, who have cost them extra work. Getting rid of you as painlessly as possible for them when you first cancel must be the first priority.

  • by cashman73 ( 855518 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @03:30AM (#17495542) Journal
    I call shenanigans on this one! What would a slashdotter know about, "girlfriends," and, "sex?!?!"
  • by GenKreton ( 884088 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @03:40AM (#17495612) Journal
    Unless you expect nobody to ever cancel your paid services, then why should there be a fee to this? With all that work it should be well scripted out and never require administrator level input. If it does then the programmers really fouled up. I should never be charged because the company was to incompetent. If you want people to pay you should provide them with the ability to stop paying nicely, sans fee.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 07, 2007 @03:46AM (#17495640)
    I call bollocks on that. Any system worth its salt runs all that as a single (and fairly atomic) script the instant the UID is removed from the user database. I've built systems where the opposite is the case, we had to add several levels of confirm for an operator to remove an account because the cleanup was so thorough that the moment you hit that return key the final time... boom, no going back. It's also safer that way because removing every service separately by hand leaves far more room for error. Cancellation charges are just extortion. And besides they should be incorporated into the monthly fees, asking a customer to PAY to cancel is just damned immoral.

    The worst account I ever tried to cancel was (don't laugh I know this is Slashdot) a gym membership. I basically had to order my bank to cease paying
    them under pain of closing the bank account and have a lawyers letter sent to the company. The still send me a reminder as a "special valued customer you can come back for 50% monthly discount". I send the letters back without return postage and they still send more.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 07, 2007 @04:03AM (#17495740)
    I call shenanigans on this one!

    Unlikely to be shenanigans. Since the normal wank speed of an adult American female is 3-4 strokes per second (SPS), Larry's best effort only lasts for 25-30 seconds. That's well below the US average of 7.9 minutes.

    It's definitely not something most people would brag about on the internets, and it does explain his /. trolling style. Let's face it, if Larry was a real performer in the sack, he wouldn't need to be seeking the approval of a pack of pasty-faced blog trolls.

  • by paulius_g ( 808556 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @04:19AM (#17495802) Homepage
    I've dealt with very bad cancellation experiences in the past, myself. And this article surely proves that I'm not the only one having these problems. It's as if these companies and corporations don't have proper protocols or procedures for cancellation. Not being able to find information on cancelling a service on the provider's own website is totally pathetic. Or, having to call to cancel a service is also very sad in this age of computer technology.

    Sadly, I think that it will remain like this for a very long time. These corporations know that if they retain their customers, they'll have more customers in the end. These companies don't care about bad reputations; they rely on their overly cheap and "amazing" deals to attract new customers. The Slashdot crowd is an intelligent and computer-savvy group of people. But the average consumer which signs up for these services might not be, and he might not care about the cancellation process, and he might be influenced by these exit interviews to stay.

    Remember, corporations have access to great analytical data. If they continue to make hard cancellation processes, it means that there is profit to be made. That there are people who will stay because of the amount of labor required to cancel.

    It's sad. I would really like these business practices to change. I, for once, will never make my hosting services hard to cancel because I believe in having a good reputation and I'm satisfied by the warm emails that I get from happy customers. I'm sure that other Slashdot users who provide some kind of service do the same.
  • Credit cards suck (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 07, 2007 @04:26AM (#17495836)
    I spent almost a year trying to get my bank to block some merchant from billing my card. I just could not get through to anyone over at this merchant who could / would stop billing me so I did it through the bank. Dozens of phone calls, several days of my time, half a dozen letters, a certified letter, a threat of a small claims lawsuit, and a letter to the CEO later, and they finally did block all those charges, for real. What a horrible payment system. The most important task for a bank is to keep people's money safe, which means being able to block unauthorized payments.

    If some bank is really clever they will set up a web interface that lets you easily generate one-time-use or limited-use credit card numbers, or even physical credit cards (perhaps for a slight fee). The way it would work is you would say, "I want to create a new credit card, with these limitations: maximum billing of $50 per month." Then you give it to one particular on-line merchant, and when you want to stop service, you don't even deal with the merchant; you go straight to your bank web page, you select that particular generated CC number, and you click "cancel", and that is done.

    Hello banks, this is not difficult! This would be such a great feature. If any bank offered that I would get an account with them and use only them for my on-line transactions.
  • by OldManAndTheC++ ( 723450 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @05:04AM (#17495978)
    I call this the "Psycho Girlfriend" policy. The relationship is over, but she just can't let go. You try and try to put an end to it, but she keeps calling, telling you how good she is for you. Sometimes the only thing to do is to move to another state.

    Unfortunately, by the time a company realizes that acting like a jilted ex is bad for business, the guy who thought up the "Psycho Girlfriend" policy has already moved on to another company. Probably with a nice bonus, since all those unwilling customers were adding to the bottom line while his policy was in effect. And at his new job, when he explains his success to his new boss, it sounds like a great deal, and they too implement the policy, and he gets a raise. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    In fact, I think this might be an analog of the "single particle universe" theory, in which one particle zips back and forth through time, constituting all physical matter. In a similar fashion, this one goofball is jumping from company to company, making each one into Jennifer Jason Leigh in "SWF". If we could just find that guy and "cancel" him, the world would be a better place...
  • by StarsAreAlsoFire ( 738726 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @05:07AM (#17495990)
    Say what? You have to be kidding.

    Cancelling an account should never take more than a few keystrokes and a button click. Maybe two clicks, the second one being a verification -- but if you've ever watched support handle confirmation screens, you know they aren't going to look at them anyway.

    This is what admins are FOR: writing the backend code in the DB (and elsewhere) which ensures that, yes, when a user cancels their account, all traces of them are either removed, or the account is put into a 'hold' status if there are things like (as you said) e-mail addresses to worry about.

    And no, there should NOT be cancellation charges on ANY service. Ever. None. Zero.

    That is what long term contracts are for. If I say I want one year of service, then I pay for one year of service. Even if I cancel after a month. If the company offers me PART of my money back, cool! I think we are on the same page there in a way - a lot of people see a 50 dollar early termination fee as hideous, even though they are actually getting out of, say, 9 months of a 40 dollar per month service. I just despise situations where I *have* to sign a contract, and I have no power to negotiate and nobody else offers shorter terms.

    And yes, I've been an admin at a company that had to deal with such. No, it wasn't shockingly difficult to create the system for dealing with this. Though, I admit it was made easier by the fact that, by law, we had to retain most of the information, and thus didn't have to do much more than null out CC#s and put the user in the inactive bin.

    Personally, I'd like to see a law that states 'Cancelling may not be any more difficult than creating.' Four clicks to create? Four clicks to cancel. Big bold 'Create Account' button?... You get the idea. If you can create an account via the web, you can damned well figure out how to cancel one.

    Anway, enough late night rambling,
  • by jellie ( 949898 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @05:34AM (#17496100)
    Actually, I would categorize their options as cancellation and "everything else". The suspension is nothing but a scam to take advantage of people (including those who are tech-savvy like the author). Honestly, most people don't read through the TOS with a fine-toothed comb, nor do they expect to have to go through a million clicks.

    Is it legal to have customers agree "not to dispute any charges by True.com or its authorized agents"? It seems like the RIAA's tactic where they force defendents to reveal the files that they supposedly shared illegally. Except in this case, True.com will claim every charge as "authorized" (although they probably deny this), therefore making it a catch-22.

    I agree with you that True.com seems to be worse than NetZero. Not by much, but at least with NetZero, he did eventually cancel it. With True.com, he got nothing but threats and ridiculous policies.
  • by DMaster0 ( 26135 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @05:48AM (#17496164)
    It's not shocking that companies are doing this. It's very very intentional, as are the apologies and reluctant refunds. They know what they're doing, and it's a very good tactic to get every last drop of dirty money from unhappy customers.

    Most people are lazy. They'll just say "oh well at least they won't bill me again" when they see a parting shot from something they cancelled. It's only $15, and my time is valuable i'm not going to sit on hold and talk to someone who doesn't speak english just for $15 right? So the company makes it as much of a hassle as they can, in order to keep an extra $15 here and there. I imagine if you tried 200 companies, at least %75 of them have a policy in place to do the exact same thing. They also have a policy to own up and apologize for it whenever they're caught, by explaining that it was a one-time thing and they're very very sorry and it won't happen again. AOL did it to me several times (it's like I'd have learned my lesson once, but noooooo. Never use AOL as temporary internet access while you're out of town. Free trials are rarely free).

    The first place I heard of shady deals like this, of course, were the porn sites. You sign up for 30-days, but of course you're on a recurring billing immediately. If you're not careful, you're also sometimes agreeing to a multi-site pass that costs a lot more than you initially imagined! The porn sites are banking on the idea that you're not going to call visa and ask them to cancel a charge from a porn site at worst, and that you won't even notice the charge at best. If you find out, no problem they won't bill you again (but they won't refund you!). They still get 2 months of money from a one-month sub. It's genius, and it's no wonder "legit" companies have adopted porno site practices.
  • Re:It's easy... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dogers ( 446369 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @05:59AM (#17496220)
    If you really did deliver a hand written request to a teller, then after that ordeal I would have closed/moved my account stating that if they can lose letters, I wouldn't trust them to deal with my cheques either.
  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @06:38AM (#17496386)
    I'd have thought they companies would want to know who really doesn't want to receive their junk.

    You think this because you are a normal, intelligent person. Marketing people do not think this because they are neither normal nor intelligent.

    All marketing people know is that N% of the junk mail they send results in sales. Therefore, in order to increase sales, all you have to do is send more junk mail. Dividing customers into groups like "Might buy from us" and "Won't buy from us" is simply too complicated, even when the customer is practically doing it for you by asking you to stop hassling them.
  • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Sunday January 07, 2007 @07:03AM (#17496444) Journal
    It's your problem, not the customer's problem if there is a lot of work to cancel an account. Making it hard for a customer to cancel or charging them to cancel because your cancelation processes are no good is just wrong.
  • by owlstead ( 636356 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @09:35AM (#17497076)
    There are billions of people out there. A lot of companies just want to make money, quick. If that means some bad publicity, so be it. Sometimes, even bad publicity can be good for brand recognition. Don't think that putting up bad service is always a bad thing for a company, just because you feel like it. These difficult cancelations don't cost companies squat. It is all automated, and when people really complain, the cancel button on *their* computer is probably very easy to reach. I wish it were otherwise...
  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <pig.hoggerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday January 07, 2007 @09:50AM (#17497158) Journal
    They only annoying part is that it's the innocent collection agency who loses here, as they've already paid the original company for the debt. But I guess that's a buyer beware situation for them.
    Fuck them. They're in a shady business anyways, so if they can't stand the heat, they oughta get out of the kitchen.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 07, 2007 @09:56AM (#17497194)
    Wireless companies fine people for canceling. I had a Verizon family plan with two telephones. Midterm in the contract I added a third phone that I had previously bought and paid for many years ago. Months later I canceled the service on the third phone. It was then that I discovered they had extended my entire contract on three phones for two years from the date the last phone was placed in service. I also received a bill for a cancellation fee of two hundred and seventy five dollars Plus sales tax. How do they charge sales tax on something that is not considered goods or services? How do they get away with charging outrageous fines for canceling service?

    I'll tell you how! They hire lobbyists and make campaign large contributions to politicians and political parties. Big business, Labor unions and professional organizations such as the trial lawyers etc. spend big money and have been successful in corrupting government. They get away with it because Americans as a whole are gullible fools who listen to sound bites and commercials without following and analizing the candidates past performance. They vote with their hearts and not with their heads. Fooish people vote along party lines, They choose charismatic leaders instead of competent leaders and they keep the current corrupt two party system intact.
  • by MaxLoad ( 569818 ) <maxload@@@verizonmail...com> on Sunday January 07, 2007 @10:02AM (#17497234)
    Individually your 4.95 and up account is piffle. In the aggregate however, hundreds, or thousands of such charges represent considerable sums. Even if company X gives you a refund after 30, 60 or 90 days, they have had, in essence, an interest free loan amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars in some cases. Not a bad plan if you a shady operator, or a marginal service, to boost your bottom line.
  • by Pecisk ( 688001 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @10:36AM (#17497410)
    It is sad that I have no mod points, because you should get my "insightful" mod. You hit a nail on it's head. Most companies which practice such behavior are without any future plans, usually just 1-3 year struggle to make some quick money without big investment. Yes, there are big companies who can live such way because they are too big to feel something when ex-customers start to complain about them to others.
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Sunday January 07, 2007 @11:50AM (#17497812)
    I find it odd that True.com would make it difficult to cancel the account. Services like True.com and Match.com are designed to be temporary. "Once You Find you Mate you don't need the service anymore". Making it hard to cancel make me feel that they are not going to try to find a match, which is what I am paying them for. I used match.com myself and when I found my now wife. Canceling the service was relatively easy. Especially in the exit interview I just put down I found my match they just canceled it quickly.
  • by akiaki ( 1048070 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @11:57AM (#17497850)
    You guys complain of waiting minutes or hours and having to search/click a lot to finnaly cancel an account. My experience w/ iConnectHere is gotta to take the cake -- it took 2 mths! Bastards would stall constantly, ask for a second chance and never get the cancellation process going. I wanted it cancelled within the first 30 days, yet they charged my acct for two additional mths. Finally had my cc company block their charges, and soon after that they complied. Beware.
  • by rabel ( 531545 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @12:13PM (#17497956)
    Also, since it is the new year, it's a good time to go ahead and request your annual free credit report from all three major credit reporting services. Even if you don't have any reason to dispute any debts on your report, go ahead and get it each year to stay on top of your credit report. It's free for you once per year, so you may as well. You can save the HTML report so you'll have it handy all year long. It's a good idea to review your report each year to make sure there aren't any mistakes.
  • by drooling-dog ( 189103 ) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @02:35PM (#17499120)
    This has to rate as one of the more abrupt topic transitions that I've seen around here in a while...
  • by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Sunday January 07, 2007 @03:17PM (#17499546) Homepage Journal
    and an unwillingness to talk to them *at all* unless they agree to recording the conversations.

    I've dealt with these blockheads when nonexistant accounts were turned over to collections, and to a toad, every one of them gave me explicit permission to record the phone calls by stating that "this call may be monitored for quality assurance". Since no one seems to remember the difference between "may" (which includes granting permission) and "might" (which is what they probably meant), record away!

Air is water with holes in it.