Signing Up for Free Trials when You Will DEFINITELY Not Subscribe

I do this every couple of years, with Consumer Reports. They send me an offer for a free initial subscription accompanied by a couple of complementary books, and all I have to do is write cancel on the first invoice and keep everything. Now I like the product testing and reviews in CR, but they also seem to spend a decent amount of energy and resources on lobbying for and promoting various public policies that I almost invariably disagree with and am not interested in subsidizing. So I sign up for the Buying Guide book, but cancel immediately.

Now I know that CR is only doing this in order to convince me to subscribe. But OTOH, I never asked them to send me this offer either. So I think I’m OK doing this. Anyone disagree?

If that’s their policy then they should most likely expect that to happen.

You are definitely ok doing it. They send out this stuff knowing full well that most people never get around to unsubscribing. They can hardly complain if you are one of the few who do.

I don’t see a problem with it. You appear to be in full compliance with the terms of the offer.

I see no problem with it. It is true they do this because they know a lot of people either forget to cancel or just feel bad about canceling so it’s a bit of a sleazy way to market the product.

If it works ok, but I don’t trust any free trial to cancel when I tell them to, and expect to get bills forever, so I just don’t do any.

You are not taking advantage here. A business that makes these offers has worked out the probabilities and has decided that it is worth it. At the very least they can now sell your name and address and can claim you as a subscriber. Maybe if we all took advantage of companies in this way they would stop sending so much junk mail.

Moreover, there is some percentage of people who sign up with the same intention and then are so wowed by the product that they do decide to continue on (that is, they make a positive decision to do so, they don’t just forget to drop out). That’s part of the marketing strategy. You’re not taking any advantage of them – they’re paying for the chance to expose you to their product, and they’ve decided this is something worth paying for.


the irony… it burns…

JCPenney got me good with some kind of awards card thing. I thought I got points for each purchase which I did. What I didn’t know was they charged my credit card 20.00 a month. I called them up and told them to cancel but they would not refund my money because I didn’t cancel within the trial.

They must make a fortune on that kind of theft.

Others have said similar. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that.

As an example, I would cite the abuse of return policies. There are a lot of retail establishments that have liberal return policies that allow for returns “for any reason”, generally within a certain time frame (though I think Land’s End allows this forever). And people abuse this by using it as a free rental. For example, I’ve heard of people who have summer homes buying air conditioners at the beginning of the summer, using them for 2 1/2 months, and then returning them at the end of the season. An example from another Doper’s experience here.

I consider such practices morally wrong. And yet, some of the same arguments could be made in support of them. These people are in technical compliance with the store policies. The store realizes that some percentage of the purchasers will do this, but made a conscious decision to absorb the loss from these people. But it’s still wrong (IMO).

Point is that the store policy is only done for practical reasons - they can’t have a policy that says “returns for everyone who is not treating this as a free loan”. If they want to attract customers with a generous return policy, they can’t make the distinction. But the customers are clearly violating the spirit and intention of the policy.

My question was in that context.

Stores used to have problems with people getting a big screen TV for the Super Bowl and bringing it back for a refund a few days after the game. Now they don’t allow that at all or they don’t allow it the few weeks before the Super Bowl.

I haven’t seen (or have ignored) the Consumer Reports ad, but must things like this prominently mention the return after first invoice while keeping the book. If a store prominently advertised returning the TV, then it would be the same situation, but in a store you primarily buy something a return is done either for dissatisfaction or product quality problems. So the moral issues are different, since for CR you are taking advantage of a prominently advertised feature of the offer, not a loophole. They also clearly consider the value to be primarily in the magazine, and you are not getting nearly as much value as the guy who buys the ac does. I also bet they have lots of copies of the book around, so giving you a free one is not a big cost to them. In six months to a year the book will be totally worthless, so you aren’t scamming them as much as you think you are. Anyone who has worked a trade show and tried to give away the goodies at the end so you don’t have to bring them back knows this.

I know about the Superbowl scam, but it seems like a lot of aggravation for one day, and I wonder how many people do this, see how inferior their old TV is, and keep it anyway.

Companies with return or replace forever policies know what they’re doing. My wife is a Coach customer because of this. She actually bought an expensive non-Coach bag which fell apart after a few years. When the company basically said tough, she went back to Coach and will never leave. Ditto for Kitchen Aid and Cuisinart products. Plus, companies with short term return issues can charge restocking fees for non-warranty returns. So I still think you are fine.