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WTF? I cannot cancel my NYTimes subscription online?
56 points by danielovichdk on Feb 26, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 43 comments
I signed up online and they gladly accepted my credit card, but when I try to cancel my subscription, I am left with 3 choices:

Call us Text us Chat with customer care (which is btw busy at all times)

What kind of BS is that ?

If you change your address to California to stay in compliance with state law, it should present an option to cancel online. Unfortunately a lot of print journalism websites are like this.

Data analyst: "Hmm interesting correlation, 50% of people unsubscribed had moved to California".

They figure it out.


"Moving to California? We hope you enjoy the change in your life, and hope we can help you celebrate by giving you a 50% discount for a 6 month prepaid subscription, and we hope you stay with us and enjoy this great publication. Thank you for your loyal support."

This is so their "customer retention" department can run some scripts on you to try to get you to stay. They will make you wait so I suggest doing the chat and just keep typing "No thanks, I want to cancel."

I noticed this too. So, I changed my payment option to Paypal, from credit card. Paypal has option to cancel subscriptions from its user dashboard. Cancelled from there.

It should definitely be as easy to unsubscribe as it is to subscribe (or at least through the same mode, i.e. make it possible to cancel on the web if I subscribed there). I think this is already mandatory in the EU.

The worst instance I've seen so far was some big streaming service (HBO or Youtube TV, I don't remember unfortunately), which simply did not allow unsubscribing from outside the US due to their entire site being geoblocked.

In cancelling my deceased brother's AT&T landline, I had to call the "customer retention" line. Twice, 30+ minute wait in the queue. When I got through, the CSR had MANY suggestions about why the line was still necessary. I had to decline each one rather than have a fit saying CLOSE THE ACCOUNT. Abuse of power.

Same with Washington Post :( But at least they picked up my call and was able to cancel. The online chat rep couldn't do it either. There's a rule by Visa that states that if someone is able to subscribe to something online with their card, they should be able to cancel, apparently the Post or Times are not clued in? There's a class action lawsuit waiting, I will gladly join.

Yes, this is the latest scam. I subscribed to the teaser trial for WSJ for an introductory of $1.00 for the first month. The subsequent monthly fee increased to $40. After three months and not really having time to read the publication (a quality publication, btw), I decided to cancel my subscription. Well you guessed it, easy to sign-up, hell to pay to cancel. You need to call the 800-number, go through an extensive menu of options, finally talk to an operator, who needs to transfer you to... yes you guessed it again, a retention specialist. After three counter-offers (why didn't they just price it at $9.99/month to begin with? ), I just kept saying "... please cancel my subscription."

And yes, the counter offers got better and better until that $40/mo subscription was down to $9.99. I may have kept it at that rate.

Seems like web services and publishers are all adopting this easy-to-sign-up/hard-as-hell to drop strategy. It's the scamifying of America.

Same with WSJ, gym memberships, magazines, tv providers, cell phone providers... Lots of things.

While, yes, it is annoying whenever companies do this, it is interesting to me that OP's life has been insulary enough that this is shocking to them.

There was a gym chain in Australia call Fitness First that was kind of famous for this BS. You had to go to 'head office' to cancel, then head office would bounce you to your local gym etc etc.

It so severely damaged the brand that the company publicly apologized and fixed it. But there's a glut of gyms so competition may have played it's part - I'm a lot more likely to sign up for something if I know I can pull out easily.

This is a dark pattern that's all too common on slightly sketchy small businesses. Slightly disappointed, but not terribly surprised, to see that it's also common in "mainstream" newspapers.

It's been like that for a decade. For whatever it's worth, your credit card merchant can block them from issuing future charges. I found that to be simpler than trying to deal with them to cancel.

It's notorious. If you call that phone number you will talk to a pushy salesperson who will offer you a discounted subscription for a limited time. It's like the way cable companies would send you to a "retention specialist" a few years ago.

When the tide changes in Washington, look for a crackdown on subscription services.

I cancelled recently and was prepared for the hard sell by the support staff. I was able to bypass it quite easily due to this, but they were quite abrupt in their conversation style and essentially hung up on me after they established that I really did want to cancel my sub:

Them: "OK so I am confirming that you wish to cancel your subscription and don't wish to take advantage of the current low rate you are on."

Me: "Yes that's correct, although I did want to..."


Didn't have too much issue getting through to them on the phone (I am in NZ though, so may well have called outside their peak hours).

A trick to get the pushy salesman to give up is to tell him you're moving overseas.

I suppose if he tries to sell the international subscription you could say you're going to be wandering the earth with no permanent address for a while.

Your credit card provider might be happy to help you block further transactions with NYT and this is the better path to take. If enough people flag this behavior with their CC provider, it will eventually lead to penalties imposed on the business.

It's the same with the WSJ. Just last week I wanted to cancel the paper delivery and get online access only. Even to do only that required a phone call; not even a chat option was available.

I loved WSJ online, but I had to temporarily cancel while cutting down on spending a while back. Their cancellation process left a bad taste in my mouth, and I decided to not restart my subscription when I was ready.


Same options when you login?

Why not just do it thru chat? Might be the easiest option.

has been on my list for a while...so I just went through this. Juan was clearly multiplexing a few conversations with some macros just so I dropped in every once and a while to see if it was my turn. he asked why, made two special offers, and then said 'ok, I understand, thanks for being nice'

I don't know. I guess the most productive thing you can do, instead of texting the times or using the other two methods they provide, is complain about it on Hacker News. That will surely bring about the desired one-click cancellation.

Then you can go to work on "WSJ, gym memberships, magazines, tv providers, cell phone providers..." (tjpaudio)

If you actually want the subscription and are slightly stingy, this is also a good way to get a vastly reduced price. The people they make you phone to try get you to stay offer very different deals to what they display on pricing page.

Definitely a really dark pattern though, and should be regulated against.

"Frugality dies in darkness."

Yeah I experienced this too. It took me a month to cancel my subscription. Had to call several times. They said they’d do it, but I still got a bill next month.

Signup is a breeze online. Cancelling is almost impossible.

Seriously fuck NY times. Such a bad experience, I don’t want to get any news subscriptions.

I was surprised that they didn't implement a "cancel" button too. Probably a strategy to discourage people from cancelling. I've managed to cancel using a chat though and it wasn't that bad.

In a previous life, I did some consulting for newspapers and used difficulty of cancelling as an example of how they’re out-of-touch w/ customers expectations of a modern, subscription-based organization.

BoA used to have temp card numbers that they killed recently since, I think, they didn't want to move the site from flash to html5. It was a great feature.

Use https://privacy.com/gog for a discount on one-time user credit cards.

Cancelling the linked credit card is a great idea, via a one time card, but it's not a clean solution.

I remember reading there could be legal implications for this, as the card will bounce and you're still in their contract etc.

If you don't formally cancel the subscription, they're probably within their rights to continue to bill you and send it to debt collections at some point - could be years of charges stacked up by then.

I just had this with "Malwarebytes" despite the fact that both I and they are in California and this goes against California law.

I've had ISPs do this too. As other commenters have said, it's a slimy tactic to give them one last chance to talk you out of it.

Protip for these phone calls is to just say you're moving out of the country. Directtv instantly let me cancel without any fuss

Economist also makes it very hard to unsubscribe.

This should be illegal for CA subscribers, but I still don't see the option to cancel. How do I raise this with regulators ?

Is your billing address California, IP access from California, or both? I heard Cali subscribers do have the ability to cancel, but not sure what the access method is.

I have no doubt in my mind that mildly increased barriers to unsubscribe will increase retention. People are lazy, and if you want to end your subscription but the options are “call a number/write an email” vs “read an article (justify your subscription)”/“ignore the problem”, then enough of a subset will stay subscribed to make this a valid business decision.

If this makes some subscribers angry, it’s an indication that they were going to subscribe anyway so why care?

The only path forward is the California route (widespread explicit regulation)

This is why I've never signed up for the NYT (or others that have similar asymmetry)

One more reason not to partake of the dumpster fire that is the NY Times..

Blue Apron does the same thing. You have to email them.

Same for my WSJ article. It feels abusive honestly.

That's one heck of a dark pattern.

Subscription services are "strangely" like that. You call and choose the option to subscribe, someone picks up instantly. You choose the option to cancel, you get a few rings before you get an automated message telling you their operators are busy. The same thing with chat. If you were trying to sign up for the NYTimes, I doubt the chat service would be busy. I sometimes choose the "sign up" option and ask the operator I want to cancel my subscription. 9 out of 10 times, they'll say we can't do that here and transfer you to the cancellation department where you have to wait. But 1 out of 10 times, the "sign up" operator takes your account info and cancels it for you.

Of course it's all part of their shady customer retention practice. Hope their customers get frustrated and give up trying to cancel.

Subscription services are like STDs. Better not to get it in the first place than trying to get rid of it later on.

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