I have never liked free trial offers. Something about them always rubbed me the wrong way. Then in 2007 I learned about this firsthand when I signed up for a free newsletter and ended up being charged $39 a month soon after. It turns out that the fine print had advised me that this online newsletter was free for the first 7 days, and then I would be charged $39 each month as long as I was subscribed. This is reffered to by marketers as ‘forced continuity’.
Fair enough. I did not read the fine print and needed to pay for my subscription. Then the nightmare began. The fine print had also signed me up for a membership site that cost $77 a month. I had never received any login information about this, so I didn’t know where to go to take advantage of my ‘exclusive membership’.
I sent an email and tried to cancel both my membership and my newsletter subscription. No luck. I called the phone number on my credit card statement. It went to an answering machine so I left a message. No luck again. Then I found a fax number for this person, so I typed a two paragraph letter explaining that I just wanted to cancel. No luck. I then went back to the original site to see if I could sign up again and read the fine print.
By now I was pretty upset and just wanted to close down my own online business. I didn’t want to be a part of a business community that would engage in these practices. It turned out the offer I had signed up for was no longer available, so the page had been taken down. The new offer was up and I read every word this time, even the really fine print where I had to squint to read it all. It turned out that this new ‘Free Newsletter’ offer would cost me more than $100 before the first 30 days was up.
I finally had to cancel my credit card to stop being billed. That was a huge annoyance and really made me mad.
It turns out I’m not the only one who did not like this style of doing business. VISA and Mastercard have now cracked down on these types of offers – shipping and handling in order to receive a free CD, free trial offers that turn into charges at the end of a 7 or 30 day trial, and other free offers that are not free at all. Several online marketers have already had their merchant accounts closed. More will follow.
Do not learn from anyone who is teaching this or who has ever engaged in this type of business model. The bottom line is that it just isn’t the right way to conduct your business.