Saturday, July 3, 2010

Don't make me stop this, rdio.

What is going on when a company asks you to surrender your credit card information to verify an account but says they're not going to charge the card?

It was a trial. It was the extension of a 3-day trial to a 10-day trial. A *trial.* There was nothing said about We need your credit card to set up an account when you register. (Though I wouldn't have done that, either.)

Are they asking for credit card information to ensure that the account registrant is real rather than a bot? What in credit card information ensures that? Nothing.

What is going on when a company asks a new user to surrender credit card information but says they're not going to charge the card is this: A blatant attempt to secure you as a paying customer, not secure your account or personal information. It's overkill, it's rude, and it is very uncool.

  • They're trying to manipulate the relationship so you'll automatically become a paying customer when you've exhausted your trial.
  • They're treating you like you're a customer already, and just giving you 10 free days. So, even if you click the button for a free trial, both of the buttons on the page mean the same thing: 

That's not "verifying" the account. That's establishing an account against the will of the customer. That's sleazy.

Don't worry, we won't charge your card? Then why do you want it? There must be some other way to accomplish your goals, rdio, without asking me for payment information you don't need yet.

A better user experience would be to
  • Not ask for credit card as a verification for the trial, but instead to do something fun, authentic, and clever, like check in with me each day of the trial to see how much I love the service.
  • Help me tell other people how much I love the service.
  • Ask me questions about my usage so far
Because I never used my 3-day trial, I don't know how the service is. They could have learned a lot by asking me about why that was and why I wanted to extend the trial when I did.

When I said I wanted to extend my trial, they assumed that I liked the service and wanted to keep going -- and that they could capture me as a customer at the first opportunity. But the opportunity for them was not the seducible moment or method for me. I'm going back to Pandora


  1. Dana:

    I agree with you - this isn't authentication, this is covert subscription.

    Your example made me think of a similar and in some ways, not-so-similiar example. Here is a snippet of an e-mail I recently received:

    "Dear Customer,
    As someone who has recently purchased men's apparel at, you are eligible for an exclusive introductory offer to Men's Journal: subscribe for one year, and pay just $1.00 at checkout. Use your code, xxxx-xxxxx-xxxxxx, at checkout, and the extra discount will apply.

    This offer includes the convenience of Amazon's auto-renewal service, which guarantees the lowest available rate on Amazon at the time of renewal. At the end of this introductory offer, your subscription will be automatically renewed to a 1-year subscription; you can cancel anytime with Amazon's Magazines Subscription Manager. See details; offer expires July 16."

    Here is how I personally interpret this offer: "Men's Journal is willing to give me an almost free subscription to their magazine. I give them a dollar so that they can verify a working credit card and my address. Oh, and by the way, they will also sign me up to have the subscription renewed at the end of the year. Sure, I might cancel it, but I may also like it (in which case we have gained a new customer) or maybe I will just forget to cancel, so then they make some of their money back on the free subscription they gave me in the first place."

    I'm curious about any thoughts you have on this approach. It is admittedly more tasteful than the RDIO issue you describe, but for me, it still conjures up images of the days of mail music/book club subscriptions that were impossible to escape.

    Perhaps I'm overreacting to this offer? Would most users have the same concerns? Are there better ways to verify identity/address and win new customers without some form of auto-subscription?

    Curious if you have any thoughts.

    Gary Anderson
    Twitter: @garyjanderson

  2. Gary,

    The situations are somewhat similar, but somewhat different.

    The Amazon offer is at least a "bonus" that you can accept or not. Rdio decided they didn't want me to extend my trial if I didn't want to give up my credit card information (which they say they won't use).

    There are subscription tricksters all over the web (credit reports, ticket discounts, etc.) that unfortunately go beyond manipulation.