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Many years ago I added the feature to xbox.com to allow you to easily cancel your Xbox Live Gold subscription. We built a UX that was ideal for consumers - a couple of clicks, no "Here's what you'll be missing..." screens. It was awesome.

Before this feature was released you had to call Xbox support to cancel.

Once word spread that you could do it on the web, huge numbers of customers, that had been stuck paying for an Xbox Live Gold subscription they weren't using, began cancelling.

So our PM got a call from a VP. We were instructed to remove it from the site immediately. We fantasized about telling the VP to stick it and quitting en masse, but we knew it wouldn't change anything. We'd just be replaced by someone that would.

So we complied, but we all lost a little bit of our faith in Xbox that day.

It's so short-sighted too.

I signed up for America's Test Kitchen one time, because they had a nice program for learning the basics. Probably used it for a couple months, and then I was done with that content and wanted to cancel. Of course, even though you can sign up online, you have to cancel on the phone. On hold for 20-30 minutes during work hours, then talk to the rep, then listen to their retention offer, then it's successfully cancelled.

I actually loved the content, and would probably have resubscribed for a month here and there. (Cook's Illustrated is part of the same group and their content is also great.) But I will never do it again because of this experience.

How many people decided to get the new Playstation next time because of a frustrating experience cancelling their xbox subscription? You won't see those numbers in a spreadsheet.

I have a similar story for internet. I tried to cancel my Xfinity (Comcast) internet service through the online chat. After being transferred several times, the person said they will do it but then disconnected right after they said that. I had to restart the process and in the end they told me I had to call. So I called and finally was able to cancel after they wasted hours of my time.

I will never use Xfinity/Comcast again in my life if I have a choice and will try to make sure everyone knows how shitty they are. Unfortunately they have monopolies in many areas and can be as shitty as they want, but if you have a choice I recommend never using them.

I can't believe that in 2021 these tactics are still legal. It's also stupidly shortsighted because in the long term I'm pretty sure they lose money by making everyone hate them. If it was easy to cancel, I would happily sign up again in the future without giving it much thought and would think positively of the company.

Edit: I also want to add that I was paying extra to not have a contract so I could easily cancel.

I've heard the Comcast "retention agents" have a quota or retentions vs cancellations they must maintain, hence ask the disconnected cancellation calls.

For a time, I resorted to having an attorney cancel my Comcast service to ensure it actually happened.

But once, months after the attorney forwarded my Comcast cancellation confirmation, I received a notice from a collections agency for the exact Comcast account I had cancelled. The attorney took care of that too.

My new (and best) method for dealing with Comcast is to use a fake name and social. I've been using the cats' names for the past few years, and it works great!

I recently wanted to quit Comcast service at one of my properties, so I went online to chat. No agents available, so I just removed my credit card from the account and stopped paying. They'll figure it out eventually. And good luck of they're going to try to collect from Westley the Cat. He's unemployed.

If you want it done quickly tell them you're going to prison.

You say that, but my wife had to pay a cancellation fee to them despite the fact she was moving in with another Comcast customer.

I will never willingly use Comcast (and they don't care, because monopoly).

"I'm going to prison:"

Like shibboleet, but for cancellations.

This had me cracking up, it's genius though. When I had to cancel I told them I'm leaving the country but I'm gonna use the prison line next time.

Or just say you're moving.

>use a fake name and social

They let you use a fake social security #?

I recall when I signed up for 24 Hour Fitness many many years ago. They wanted my social security number, which I refused to give, so the employee just put some random number down. Turns out they needed it because my membership was a "loan" for the whole cost over X number of years, which I pay back every month with the membership fees. I have no idea how that fake number managed to get through their system.

When I canceled my Comcast internet service, I got much less resistance from them, but this was in the days where they still had physical offices that you can go to. I took my modem and dropped it off, telling them to cancel my subscription. When they tried to give me the retention speech, I told them I had already switched providers. End of conversation.

The best way to do this in my experience is to tell them you're moving in with a partner who is already subscribed. Works equally well whether true or not.

My foolproof flowchart:

"Why are you cancelling?"

"I'm moving overseas."

"Where to?"

"I'd prefer not to say."

"Where to?"

"North Korea"

Seriously. The reason we're annoyed at them asking us is because it's none of their business.

Ask me a stupid question, get a stupid answer.

Didn't get my wife out of paying an early termination fee with Comcast.

They're still pulling this kind of stuff? Back in 2014 a journalist recorded an agonizing conversation with a Comcast agent who refused, over and over again, to disconnect his service without arguing. One of the most infuriating things I've ever heard: https://www.cnet.com/news/could-this-comcast-rep-be-the-wors.... Listening to it on a bad day is not advisable

What I fear is that hostile behavior like this is actually not short-sighted. I suspect in many cases these companies are pretty savvy about how their business models work, and I suspect that they are correctly estimating that they will end up ahead both in the short term and the long term by making recurring payments easy to forget and difficult to cancel. I really don't see this sort of customer ill will being that effective at scale. I will probably never pay America's Test Kitchen one penny after hearing your review, but my impression is that they still have an excellent reputation. And do you really have great alternatives? Does Playstation not use the exact sort of hostile patterns as Xbox?

I suspect it is shorted sighted in a sense, and not in another. The choice to prevent cancelation likely hurts the long term revenue of Microsoft and at the same time maximizes the short term revenue of that executive. He will be working somewhere else by the time that chicken comes home to roost, so it maximises his value long term.

What I’m saying is that it will potentially also help revenue in the long term, and that “customer ill will” won’t actually spread and turn away customers at any noticeable scale.

how do you measure that?

There’s long vs short term, but I’d also add ease of calculating a decision’s value. Ironically I think a lot of the business and tech world is hamstrung by “data-driven” decision making which assumes

1. You have all the necessary data and

2. You are interpreting it correctly and completely

This is almost never true, so instead “data driven” is mostly “data covering-your-ass.” Maybe the future will yield leaders more capable of wielding data less like a cudgel, but I’m not optimistic.

It is the best decision for the executives that are in the position that they are in right now and for their foreseeable future. Now for the decades to come? Probably not.

I was able to switch to a new company with transparent simple billing and I will never go back to Comcast even if they offer me a better deal on a better product.

Their customer service policies were horrible and anti consumer. They also routinely throttle certain types of traffic. BitTorrent and Xbox were both verifiably throttled for me during different periods of being a customer of theirs. They increase billing every few months until you complain.

I had to constantly fight to prove that my modem was owned by me. And they just kept adding it back as their equipment and charging me a monthly fee for it. They wanted me to prove I bought it. Wanted to know where I bought it. Etc. I had to call and prove that I indeed bought and paid for it myself numerous times.

Point being. I will never go back. I suspect many others will not go back either once given another option. And options are coming through community fiber projects, 5G and Starlink to some of the areas where Comcast has been the only option.

I'm also afraid of that, good point.

I'm a fan of Serious Eats for cooking content. Again, ATK was great except for the subscription thing. Looking at their Support page, it looks like nothing has changed with their cancellation policy[1] (the fact that you can cancel your physical magazine subscription online, but not the website subscription is hilarious). I would LOVE to know if they have support for online cancellation for California customers, that they just disable for non-California customers. I've heard of companies doing things like that.

Not sure if Playstation did the same, but Xbox doesn't make this difficult this anymore anyways. In fact, recently I started a Game Pass Xbox subscription on my xbox account and used it for a couple days. Then I realized I should do it on my main microsoft account instead (so I don't have multiple accounts anymore), so I cancelled. They gave me a full refund automatically without me needing to ask or do anything. So companies do change, although I imagine it's just easier to implement it this way anyways. Phone-based customer service is really expensive.

[1] https://www.americastestkitchen.com/support#change-membershi...

I was actually going to buy a subscription but luckily I learned about that policy and never did.

Now I use a privacy card for all subscriptions to avoid the hassle

This is my perspective exactly. It's hard to be mad at someone for optimizing for their own desired outcome.

I'm mad that it works.

I once got a marketing email from British Airways with no "unsubscribe" link, I emailed back telling them to take me off their list as I never asked for marketing emails when I booked my ticket.

The crazy thing is they replied, but refused to take me off the list unless I sent them an actual physical letter in the post. A few emails in they claimed it was due to a "technical" issue. That BS annoyed me so much, I am now into the 3rd decade of my own personal British Airways boycott

Edit: I realise that's insane but it makes me giggle everytime I deliberately don't book BA, and I wonder to myself how much money I would be willing to loose by going for the next most expensive ticket, just to keep my boycott going

I engage in petty boycotts like this.

Even if it’s PEANUTS to them. I feel better, because at least I’m not participating in perpetuating a shitty system.

I feel especially good about it when those companies are ubiquitous and hard to avoid, because I feel rather righteous against an all encompassing behemoth that likely would have got my money otherwise.

>I once got a marketing email from British Airways with no "unsubscribe" link

I just use Gmail's "Report as Spam" feature in these cases. If enough people do it when they can't unsubscribe easily, it's gonna start eating into their deliverability.

I just mark as spam, every time. Hopefully it tanks their deliverability a bit.

I'm glad I'm not crazy, or at least not alone in my craziness !

I end up engaging in the same type of behaviour with companies that also do not make unsubscribing obvious, or, worst of all, have slightly annoying GDPR-mandated tracking-denying UIs. Trying to get me to go through two sub-menus and not having a "Deny all" toggle ? Good, good, good. See how petty I can get, $COMPANY !

> The crazy thing is they replied, but refused to take me off the list unless I sent them an actual physical letter in the post. A few emails in they claimed it was due to a "technical" issue. That BS annoyed me so much, I am now into the 3rd decade of my own personal British Airways boycott

I'm surprised BA even had email in 1991 or earlier. Since britishairways.com doesn't even make an appearance in the Wayback Machine until late 1998, perhaps we can forgive them their anachronistic practices of the day.

Sorry if this makes everyone feel older... but the 2000s, 2010s, and now 2020s... makes three distinct decades.

Thanks for the perspective.

If someone says they are "into the 3rd decade of" something (for example, programming experience), I would generally assume that means 30 years or more.

But what you're saying is that it could mean as little as 11 years, e.g., from 2010 to 2021 (yes, 2010 is still part of the '00 decade¹ and 2021 marks the beginning of the '20s, strange as that was to me).

¹ https://www.farmersalmanac.com/new-decade-2020-or-2021-10090...

To me, the natural interpretation (at least in contexts where calendar-decades don't have special importance) would be 20+ years. The first decade is the first ten, the second decade is the second ten, and the third decade begins after that.

"into the n-th decade of X" sounds like "n-th decade of X has started but not fully completed yet" meaning "n-1 full decades + something" for me (non-native speaker)

Yes that's a great point, I was trying to remember when it happened and I think I was about 23 which would make it 21 years ago.

It's much more fun for me to think of that as "in to the 3rd decade", rather than just over 20 years ago.

I know the majority opinion in the US is "less rules is good", but as a counter point: European consumer protection laws prohibit this, if you can sign up online it's mandatory to offer online cancellation without extra hurdles. Sometimes having some rules is a good thing...

Europe also goes through the pain of developing rules and laws that are incredibly detailed and specific. US just doesn't have that culture. The law will be vague and it'll require at least a few lawsuits before it gets settled as to what they actually mean. This and the general misuse of lawsuits (I mean "Do not iron while wearing the shirt") here is why people are against laws.

That's the different between Civil and Common Law. Common law also has its good points. It's more flexible and grows organically. Whereas Civil Law is more rigorous and programmatic.

That's interesting if true, because my gym in France (Neoness) just made me turn up in person to cancel my rolling monthly subscription, despite the fact that I signed up on line. (Obviously I will never, ever be giving them my money again regardless)

As far as I'm aware the letter of the law is you can cancel with a formal letter (lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception), and that's the most bothersome it should ever get. They shouldn't have the right to ask that of you, and it's likely they're just taking advantage of people.

Do you have a reference for that? Struggling to find one, and very interested.

Here is an English version of something the Dutch regulator wrote: https://www.acm.nl/en/publications/acm-consumers-should-be-a...

And the English version of the government website about it: https://business.gov.nl/regulation/automatic-renewal-subscri...

Which says: "Consumers must be able to cancel their agreement in exactly the same way as they signed up for them."

As well as disallowing an automatic fixed term renewal. After an initial contract the customer must be allowed to cancel at any point not just yearly. This one had a big impact on the telecom industry a couple of years ago.

I want to hit that sweet spot where my bad behavior is unconstrained by the rules but everyone else's bad behavior is.

This is one reason I won't purchase a subscription any longer unless they accept Paypal, which makes it ridiculously easy to terminate recurring payments to them (easier than calling my credit card company to dispute a charge). Having such a kill switch was how I was able to cancel my NYTimes subscription (another org notorious for making it impossible to cancel) without going through the same kind of hassle of dealing with a sales rep trying to keep my account.

Not just short-sighted, these sort of things is why I don't try anything that involves a subscription. That is also why I make them pay the Apple Tax and subscibe through Apple instead.

>It's so short-sighted too.

No it's not. The VP is maximizing their bonus and career growth within the company. That is likely tied to relatively short term metrics and especially to not having drops in metrics.

Just to be clear, you confirmed that it was a short-sighted decision.

No, there is no negative long term consequence for the VP so it is likely the optimal decision from both a short and long term perspective.

I guess you're right ....or anyway, it's only short-sighted if you're not a complete piece of shit

Engineers often practice resume driven development. This is basically the VP version of that. Maximizing personal goals over the goals of a bunch of stock owners that would fire you in a heart beat if it increased their share price.

Maximizing personal goals over the goals of a bunch of selfish jerks who just want to use you is one thing. Maximizing personal goals at the actual certain major direct expense of your users is being a piece of shit

Similar story. I contributed to This American Life monthly for awhile. I had set it up online. I wanted to switch credit cards and could find no way to do it (they had redesigned their website). I couldn't even find a number to call. Sent some random emails with no response. I think I ended up changing my old credit card number and I'm now very, very skeptical about reoccurring payments.

On the other hand, it's quite well-known how easy it is to stop/start a Netflix subscription.

> Of course, even though you can sign up online, you have to cancel on the phone. On hold for 20-30 minutes during work hours, then talk to the rep, then listen to their retention offer, then it's successfully cancelled.

I haven't been in this situation, but I always imagined that there is a simple way out: send them a certified letter instructing them to cancel your subscription. If they continue charging after that, it's chargeback time.

Any opinions on whether or not this would work?

Chargebacks are inadvisable in case there is digital content associated with the account. In every terms of service I've ever read there is a clause saying the consumer cannot perform chargebacks. They're likely to nuke your account for "fraud" if the bank reverses the transaction, potentially causing thousands of dollars in losses.

So DRM is once again shown to be evil.

And digital "purchases" aren't really purchases.

>there is a clause saying the consumer cannot perform chargebacks.

I'm pretty sure a business that accepts credit cards cannot decide to 'opt-out' of chargebacks!


Says all purchases are final. You may only request a refund and they reserve the right to deny it. Forcing it via chargebacks basically locks your account.


Reserves the right to suspend and terminate accounts associated with chargebacks.

That has worked for me before. A company which explicitly said they do not process cancellations via support form or email. I sent an email saying I wish to cancel and I consider the email reasonable notification and I will chargeback any further charges. They cancelled the account.

You can also just chargeback the charge on your credit card. You’ll probably win if they make it hard to cancel and they’ll get the message fast

The answer would be in the user agreement. If it does not enumerate permissible ways of cancelling, then yes. Otherwise idk but probably not. Contract language which limits methods of cancelling is likely enforceable unless there’s a statute prohibiting it.

> It's so short-sighted too.

> How many people decided to get the new Playstation next time because of a frustrating experience cancelling their xbox subscription

If you make it hard to unsubscribe when people are short on time/money/interest, they will probably be less likely to resubscribe when they have the time/money/interest.

Long-term customers on something like Xbox Live have a larger incentive to resubscribe to recover access to their game library.

On the other hand, random web site X is probably just looking to churn through subscribers.

It's something of a tragedy of the commons; the incredible difficulty of unsubscribing from (everything that's a monthly bill) makes people wary of subscribing to anything.

It is not short-sighted and I think it's a disservice to spread that theory because then people can just shrug and say: "a more profitable & moral company will outcompete them". If you instead believe that locking people in is profitable, the next step would be to make laws against it (if you signed up one way you need to be able to cancel via the same method; phone, internet, fax).

While I suspect in most cases (at least for smaller brands) making it hard to cancel pays off I 100% agree there is a measurement problem.

If you are optimizing for money made in the next month - or even next two years - then by definition making it hard to cancel will bring in more money. But it does hurt the brand long term (which is harder to measure)

In 2008 or so I had a bad experience canceling Sirius Radio before they were Sirius/XM and before it was offered by Car Manufacturers, now I refuse to subscribe on any car I own simply because of that experience.

It is only true if you measure it. ;)

Companies rely too much on analytics.

There needs to be a law that any subscription that can be signed up for online should be cancelable online. I'm not in favor of just implementing new laws willy nilly. But it's clear that companies are never going to do this on their own.

Europe has that law. Not all countries have fully implemented it yet but there is a deadline for all to have it.

So the rest of the story is that Ohio was the first state to pass a law requiring users be able to cancel subscriptions on-line. So we had to add it back in, but only for users in Ohio and it was burried on the site and had like 7 pages of "account saving" stuff.

Eventually most states passed similar laws and so we opened it up to all US accounts. I'm not sure what the experience is like today.

California has that law

But in California companies can (apparently) still require you to chat with a real person online and thus still need to do everything synchronously, wait in a queue, and argue with them for several minutes before they will cancel the subscription.

Personally I think that any time you grant permission to anyone to bill you automatically on a recurring basis, you need to be able to revoke that permission. This ought to be a fundamental mechanism of personal banking that you ought to be able to manage on your bank account online. It's astonishing to me that your bank can't even tell you all the ongoing recurring payments that are permitted on your account (or if they do, it's an ad hoc implementation that tries to detect recurring payment amounts, vendor names, etc.)

Which is great for California, but what about everyone else?

I think that was the point of the comment.

Often times if you change your address to be a CA address, websites will suddenly reveal an online cancel option. I swapped my parents' NYT account to be my CA address and suddenly "click here to cancel" was displayed on the website.

While I agree it should be a default setting, it's a useful little trick.

Just be careful if the CA Franchise Tax Board ever gets wind of it, they'll come after you for 10% income tax for the rest of your life.

> Which is great for California, but what about everyone else?

Vote in the next election for people/party that are more consumer friendly than industry friendly.

For all its flaws, CA had some of the most consumer and employee friendly (such as no non compete) laws.

I feel the lack of non compete is one of the main reasons tech took off in CA. That and the weather. For as much as people say starting a business in CA is hard, and it can be. For tech it is so easy I can just quit my job and start my company.

> but what about everyone else?


I think Germany recently voted for this as well, so we will have this soonish :-) so if you can sign up online, there needs to be a similar way for cancelling.

This has been law since October 2016 in Germany. See § 309 Nr. 13 des BGB

But what would actually happen in Germany is, you would be stuck to that service due to a 3 year contract. Which you have to cancel some three months in advance or it renews for next three years.

But hey, we get startups whose usp is cancelling services.

Seems pretty normal to everyone I complain, that I still pay for my O2 bill after sending the cancellation letter(Physical piece of paper) for the umpteenth time.

Never heard of three year contracts. It's been a long time since I signed any two year contract. Most contracts I have (Internet, Gas, Energy, ..) are annual contracts. My mobile contract is cancelable monthly.

I think California has something like that.

We do indeed! Doesn't stop many people from making it a pain in the ass but stops some.

I was once a subscriber to the NYT, and will never be again because of this. I wonder if they are actually making money with this tactic or losing.

They are the most subscribed to print/digital media source in the United States. Their market share is considerable and they have the reputation to bring in new subs. They offer college students free/heavily-reduced subs to 'get em in', etc. This tactic sucks for the consumer who wants out, but the frustration keeps them from picking up the phone and committing to cancelling because 'hey, its only x dollars/month'

We should be able to just tell the credit card company to cancel recurring payments. They'll try to charge the card and get denied.

As far as I know, you're still on the hook for contractual payments, like most gym memberships and cell plans.

Credit cards should be able to send a "Cancel" signal that companies should be obligated to respond to. Problem solved, no need to trust third party websites (although I'm fine with them also being obligated to have an easy way to cancel on their site).

Of course you would be, just like if you maxed out your credit card or closed your credit card account. This doesn't pose a new or unique problem.

Capital one privacy cards are amazing for that. They paid me 250 to open one 2% cash back and unlimited privacy cards

You can.

> You can.

My understanding is that this will be reflected in credit reporting as delinquency- seems like a lose-lose in that sense. Can someone who has done this weigh in?

I requested that from one card provider and they told me that they couldn’t and I’d have to get a new card number to stop the charges.

When you say “you can”, are you just saying “you can ask”, or that you’ve had success doing this?

If the latter, mind sharing which card provider that was with?

This is how all of my cards are. Can't cancel recurring payments unless it's fraud. They must issue a new card.

If there's hope for beating this dark pattern, it lies with banks/CC companies

If I was a lawyer, I would start a service for cancelling subscriptions.

I.e., user can cancel subscription on website, system automatically writes cancellation letter, letter is sent to corresponding company address. If cancellation fails, then an official complaint is served to the company, and from there it follows the usual court process.

"We fantasized about telling the VP to stick it and quitting en masse, but we knew it wouldn't change anything. We'd just be replaced by someone that would."

That's a very bad argument. If you guide yourself by that logic then you can't really blame anyone for doing anything, because everything is justified.

He isn’t applying the logic to everything, he is applying it to one thing.

It’s possible for the argument to be true in this context and false in another context.

so I take it you don't have a mortgage or a family to support?

But that is a different argument with a different justification: "we knew it was unethical, but we needed the money (and couldn't really personally afford taking this stance today as we didn't have alternative ethical jobs lined up that could pay as much; <- implied) and so, on the balance, we are OK with our decision" is simply not the same as "someone else would have done it anyway, so we can feel OK that we did it ourselves".

It is actually possible to be an ethical person and pay the bills, it just takes a bit of effort.

>we knew it wouldn't change anything. We'd just be replaced by someone that would.

Ye goode olde self-fulfilling prophecy.

If I need a job, if the money is right my ethics are negotiable.

This is the norm.

Sure; but then don't also try to justify the action by saying someone else would have done it in your place? "I need a job, even an unethical one, and refuse to feel bad about that" is a completely different argument than "I would have been replaced by someone who would have done the same, and so don't need to feel bad about it".

I think history has proven that there will always be someone willing to do what hundreds of millions of people wont

Certain bad things that people used to do don't happen anymore. This must mean that, in general, actions really do matter -- even if it is very hard to know ahead of time which ones will have a significant impact.

Thank you for sharing this Microsoft story. One way to interpret it is that the only people who would hire you and your colleagues and compensate you the most were [insert unpleasant description]. I say that sincerely as someone who many years ago worked in the software industry then left to work in other industries. I was not a developer but was someone who worked with management on a daily basis. I saw a marked difference in character between people working in management in the software industry versus the others. It is worth considering why you could not all quit en masse. Who else would hire you? What would they pay you? To be fair, as far as "dark patterns" go, specifically, making cancelling subscriptions difficult, I think that existed long before software companies. However, it is food for thought to consider what kind of industry is employing and compensating you the most for your "work", and what other industries are not. None of this implies any "blame" targeted at anyone, it just highlights what monetary value society places on programming and the cast of characters who set that value. I worked alongside programmers in other industries besides software and we never asked them to anything unethical. Some of them arguably could have tried to work at Microsoft. They had freedom of choice.

This really has nothing to do with software as a product sector. XBox subscriptions aren't even subscriptions to software, right? It's subscriptions to game content, which is no different from subscribing to any other form of media.

The one I'm still hooked on, that this reminds me I've now given something like $3,000 dollars to over 3 years because I've been too lazy to make a phone call and wait on hold, is the YMCA.

Even religious nonprofits are engaging in dark patterns.

> but we knew it wouldn't change anything

Maybe the immediate threat of developers quiting wouldn't have, but I think something might have eventually. Probably change from the top. My recent experience with the xbox gamepass app on Windows let me cancel my subscription fairly easily on both the console and the pc (two different accounts) without ever having to call someone. I like to think the culture at xbox has changed, maybe not microsoft, but maybe it will trickel up eventually.

> So we complied, but we all lost a little bit of our faith in Xbox that day.

You mean shady subscription business models right? Because Microsoft is certainly not alone.

Just the other day I had to CALL (as the only option) Network Solutions to cancel a security product.

>You mean shady subscription business models right? Because Microsoft is certainly not alone.

so what that Microsoft isn't alone, their (poster) experience allows them to know unequivocally that Microsoft and the employees that work there make decisions that don't align with their personal ethics -- so they take out their anger on Microsoft.

the statement '...but we all lost a little bit of faith in shady subscription business models ' makes no sense -- the shady ones don't self identify, and it's not the methodology that is generally despised, it's the entities that that employ such methodologies against the public.

Over a decade ago, I worked at well-known web site in one of the smaller properties. The site looked like it was from the mid-90s. A year-long effort was made to upgrade the site to something more modern, and it was beautiful.

It went live, and almost immediately the number of ad clicks dropped significantly. It turned out that the older site was so hard to use that customers would inadvertently click on ads, bringing up the revenue. The new site was so much easier to use that customers clicked on less ads.

The changes were almost immediately rolled back.

I think eventually the new site was put back in, but only after they ensured that ad clicks wouldn't go down precipitiously, but I had after by then.

dark patterns that require you to call the company should be illegal... like criminally illegal. Edit: how is this a controversial take

Someone should make a website that rates services by ease of unsubscribing and include a link to the unsubscribe link if one exists.

A few publications that I enjoy is on my "Never subscribe" list because of the difficulty of unsubscribing. On the other hand, unsubscribing from HBO Max (at least via Apple TV) was so easy that I don't hesitate to unsubscribe and resubscribe and have done so a couple of times.

> Once word spread that you could do it on the web, huge numbers of customers, that had been stuck paying for an Xbox Live Gold subscription they weren't using, began cancelling.

Unfortunately that's the allure of dark and customer-hostile patterns - they extract a lot of money from people, at least in the short term.

If you're Microsoft/Xbox, though, you might want to think a bit about long term.

> We'd just be replaced by someone that would.

IE, you're part of the problem. You're just rationalizing to make yourself feel better.

> IE, you're part of the problem. You're just rationalizing to make yourself feel better.

That's not true. Governments exist to deal with this kind of situation. If companies make it difficult for citizens to cancel subscription, it is time to regulate subscriptions.

Why is the responsibility of some developers to lose their jobs to stop a company doing something that is completely legal. If they have done that, they will have my gratitude and admiration. But, the developers are not "part of the problem". Microsoft is the problem, and the lack of regulation the other part.

"Microsoft is the problem" <- but "Microsoft" is nothing more than a bunch of people who apparently make problematic decisions in a large group because they think they can pass the ethical ramifications off to someone else. You can fix specific cases with regulation, but we shouldn't have to have laws on the books for every single scenario to make sure people do good things, particularly if they know the difference and just don't consider it worth their trouble that day to act reasonably. If you are told to go do something bad, and you go and do it despite thinking it is bad, you damned well better have a great sob story to tell me about why you felt you couldn't get an ethical job or why you absolutely needed the money you did, or you absolutely don't get some pass out of the ethical decisions involved: "someone else would have done it" isn't sufficient.

Only in the same sense that if you dodge a bullet, you're responsible for whatever person got killed instead of you.

Not that I think your analogy is a reasonable one anyway--as, if nothing else, you took the action here, picking up the gun and being told to fire it--but it doesn't work even if you pretend it makes sense: if no one ever tried to doge bullets then someone always gets shot... but if everyone tries (as they should) then maybe no one gets shot; it is simply incorrect to assume that someone else is going to get shot and so it may as well be you (god this analogy is weird ;P).

If you bypass the whole "attack only the points of the analogy which do not relate to the argument" and focus on the points of the "analogy" that make it a suitably demonstrative specialization of the more general argument (and thus a formally valid argument, which in general an analogy is not, and thus a neither is a strawman counterargument), then:

General Premises: 1. Agent A enforces Action X onto Agent B 2. Action X hurts C with some probability. Not Action X hurts B with high probability. 3. For all persons D under A, the probability of Not Action X is vanishingly small.

Reasonable Argument: 1. If B performs Action X bad things happen to C. This makes them partly responsible. However, under premise 3, B's counterfactual contribution is vanishingly small, whereas A's contribution is close to 100%.

Unreasonable argument: 1. As the final link in this particular chain of events, B is wholly responsible for the harm done to C, because had they suffered harm with high probability, they would have ensured the reduction of the probability of non-harm to C by a vanishingly small amount.

A few years ago, I had an NYT subscription. I had to cancel it for some reason, and the cancellation flow was some of the worst UX I've ever experienced. You had to actually live DM with some poor sod who was being paid to try to get you to change your mind like half a dozen times. It was worse than old GoDaddy upsells...worse than cancelling Photoshop (which, by the way, fyi, Adobe will drop price at least twice if you keep trying to cancel, cable-company-style)

I would have resubscribed shortly thereafter if the cancellation flow had been good, or even just average. But because of how bad it was, I have never resubscribed, and most likely never will. Their cancellation UX cost them 5+ years of subscription revenue from me. Not only that but I go around telling people about how bad it was

Why not fix it for everyone with an IP address that's not in your boss's area?

You think the boss even knew how to use that feature, or hell even had an Xbox? He just saw excel sheet with cancellation numbers, and asked someone what is happening.

Because subscriptions would keep dropping, the reasons would be investigated, and there's a high risk that the people responsible for the fraud would do time?

Jail time for refusing to implement a dark pattern?

No, for defrauding your employer. Having your heart in the right place is not a reliable legal defense.

> We'd just be replaced by someone that would.


That's treating humans like thermodynamical particles: if one way is easier than the other, things will end up on the easy side eventually.

That is human dignity from the sales point of view: that of a particle.

This is one of those things that needs to be straightforwardly and strictly regulated. Mandatory one-click unsubscribe

> We fantasized about telling the VP to stick it and quitting en masse, but we knew it wouldn't change anything. We'd just be replaced by someone that would.

I sympathize with you. If you have quit, you would have my admiration and gratitude. But, what you did is reasonable. Microsoft was not doing anything illegal.

This is the reason why regulations exists. If companies are abusing consumers by making it difficult to cancel a service, developers cannot be the responsible to bring justice. Governments have that responsibility.

> I ran the diff. Each file had the same change - they had added code that makes an ajax saveEmail() call onBlur. In other words, email addresses were being saved to the database when a user inputs an email and the input loses focus.

e.g. The article situation is solved by the GDPR. This would completely break the GDPR as it requires informed consent before saving personal information like an e-mail.

If your government is not solved this issues, it is time to get a better one. I wish people, including in this threat, stop blaming employees for the fault of the bad action corporations. Corporation morality is a good example when the total is less than the sum of its parts.

Also, imagine being that VP's bf/gf and trying to break up with them

Anything that makes me call to cancel never ever gets my business again.

If you can sign up without a call you should be able to cancel without a call. Its the #1 reason Im pro-apple enforcing its IAP stuff.

And this is why I find the apple walled garden to be pro-consumer. I’m happy to pay the Apple tax in exchange for being able to cancel subscriptions easily.

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