Subscriptions Suck

2 minute read

Dark patterns in subscriptions are a huge problem. I believe that they alone have already cost the B2C XaaS industry billions in potential revenue.

To unsubscribe from a service, you often have to do one or multiple of:

  • A phone call which ends up with a sales rep convincing you to stay
  • Physical visit to a brick and mortar location.
  • Click through a long and painful multi-step form.

On top of that, you are often charged unfair cancellation fees. All of this leaves a very sour taste.

What the consumer does as a result

As a consumer, I can’t do much, other than spend extra time researching whether a subscription is fair, or the company is shady.

In practice, I don’t do that and just avoid subscriptions unless there is no other option. In my mind, the concept of subscription is tainted, and I always opt for a free or pay once (even if more expensive) alternative.

This means a lot of otherwise completely fair subscription schemes miss out on my money.

What you can do as a business

You can always go back to pay once pricing, but I assume you don’t want to do that. Instead, invest heavily into positive differentiation of your subscription contracts.

There are more than enough companies building subscription moats the wrong way, and dark pattern ridden subscription flows are a particularly shitty example.

I argue you can do a lot just by promising the user that they won’t be forced to cross a very filthy moat they fell into while trying to leave someone’s business before.

Being carefree is one of the values I expect a subscription to be, and I can’t be carefree while I’m being haunted by ghosts of past subscription cancellation experiences.

Here are a few things you could say:

  • “We don’t want to see you go, but if you want to, it will take 1 click”
  • “Unsubscribing with us is easier then subscribing”
  • Absolutely no cancellation fees: You pay for what you used and not a cent more.
  • Cancelling your subscription is as easy as one click.

When unsubscribing is so easy, make it clear that their account is not lost in case they want to come back.

  • “Unsubscribing take one click, but your data is safe for 30 days in case you change your mind unless you explicitly tell us to delete it.”

Also please deliver on these promises and actually invest in end of subscription experience for your users. We will be forever grateful and gladly give you all of our money.

Sincerely, a disgruntled consumer