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bundles of money stacked like dominos

“Well I’ve already paid for Netflix this month, so I might as well watch another episode of ‘Say Yes To The Dress’. I’ll get around to canceling later. You know, when I’m less busy.” — A slightly caricatured version of me

When you sign up for some subscription services they make it super easy to “cancel anytime!” That’s good of them. If they’re really good they might even make it one click to cancel. Well, we’ve done them one better. If you stop using our service we stop charging you. You don’t have to remember to do a single thing. Regardless of what premium plan you signed up for, if it’s time to charge your credit card but you haven’t actually used Beeminder in the previous 30 days, we suppress the charge. We think that’s especially important for the type of person who uses our service, but we frankly find it almost unconscionable that so many services are willing to cash in on the laziness of their formerly active customers. [1]

So we’d like to address our fellow startups: Join us on the Light side! Implement auto-canceling subscriptions!

“If you show up again, charges resume.”

It might leave money on the table, but you have to admit that it’s money you’re not truly earning. In an ideal world — perhaps when this idea catches on, if you’ll allow us to dream — you’ll make up for that lost money from people who don’t sign up for trials at all because they don’t trust themselves to stay on top of canceling. Those people (if I can generalize at all from myself) will be happy to try a subscription service that sounds promising if they’re free of the burden of deciding whether to cancel. We should also note that we’ve implemented this as both auto-canceling and auto-resuming. If you show up again, charges resume. Still nothing for you to do or click.

Of course, if you do actively want to stop, it’s one click to downgrade to the free plan at any time too. In case you want to stop getting charged for premium features but still stick around. You can also upgrade at any time and we’ll only charge you the difference. You can even have refunds; we’re happy to guarantee that you’ll be happy with any money you spend on our premium plans. [2]

So how about it, fellow startups? I don’t doubt that you have a million ways to rationalize continuing to take a customer’s money when all evidence suggests that it’s tantamount to a laziness tax. But search your feelings — you know it to be true!

(If this really did convince you, tune in next time when we’ll make our case for exquisitely fair pre-pay discounts — an elegant generalization of offers like “pay yearly instead of monthly and get a month free!” UPDATE: Exquisitely Fair Pre-Pay Discounts)

UPDATE: Hacker News discussion


Image credit: scragged.com


[1] That may sound like a hilariously ironic thing for us to say, given our business model. (We’re a commitment device service where you pledge money to stay on track towards your goals and if you go off track, you literally pay us.) But we’re firmly committed to only making money from fixing laziness, procrastination, and head-in-the-sand syndrome — in a word, akrasia. The timing of when we get paid — the moment that you succumb to akrasia — is perverse but what you’re paying for is that you succumb less. In any case, this post is not about that aspect of Beeminder. For our premium plans we get paid like any other subscription service.

[2] Again, this is separate from the other part of Beeminder where we charge you money for going off track on your goals. We can’t literally guarantee you’ll be literally happy about those payments since that would spoil the commitment device. But in practice it seems to be a near guarantee. People feel, almost always, that the pledges they’ve paid for derailing were worth it for how long the threat of said payments kept them on track.