Free trial? You sure?


November 5, 2019

November 5, 2019

TOGETHER WITH

BRIGHT CELLARS

 

Happy Tuesday, people. Let’s all channel the boundless optimism of Facebook, which yesterday redesigned its logo in an effort to create “clarity” around its beleaguered brand. To Facebook: Good luck. To all the rest of you: Consider investing in fake mustaches. 

Anyway, today we’re thinking about the disturbing prevalence of fake-out free trials and discussing whether Apple’s new housing initiative will turn the necessary dials. Stay curious.

The Hustle Daily Email

‘Subscription creep’ and the terrible, true cost of free trials

If there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there sure as hell ain’t no thang as a 30-day free trial… for anything. 

At least not when you look at the true costs. “Subscription creep,” an e-evil born of 1-click shopping, makes it entirely too easy to make purchases online… and keep making them. 

Take my money… no, really

Whether you’re signing up to access your favorite news source or check out a service for your side hustle, you can get a free trial… in exchange for your credit or debit card number. 

It’s a convenient swap if you end up liking and wanting to continue the service, but some businesses take extra steps to make it hard to cancel.

Why can’t I quit you?

It’s not you, it’s them. According to Bankrate’s 2019 online shopping survey, 59% of US adults who signed up for a free trial were later charged… even if they didn’t sign up to continue receiving the product or service. 

And here’s a potentially weird complexifier: Half of survey respondents said it’s unsafe to save financial info when making purchases, and yet 64% of American cardholders said, “Yeah, OK… ” when signing up for these things.

If it sounds like people are acting against their best interest… 

They are. But, they might not be entirely to blame. 

Some companies resort to such online alchemy as hiding terms and conditions or using pre-checked sign-up boxes as a default setting. 

Often, companies don’t send emails alerting consumers that a free trial has started or is ending, and some make up rules that make it next-to-impossible to get a refund. These fees (usually) won’t break the bank… but they’re not nothing. 

According to the Better Business Bureau, customers lost an average of $186 on these complaints. And the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center found that registered complaints totaled $15m+ from 2015 to 2017.

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Companies document consumer scores. Here’s how to check a few of yours.

Information about consumer scores has been quietly trickling into the public sphere for some time. The New York Times began peeling back the onion in 2012, and a secret scoring system called CLV (customer lifetime value) came to light back in 2018.

If you own a bank account, cellphone, or have accumulated even the slightest history of online purchase confirmations you have at least one CLV score. And that score can reportedly determine the level of customer support a person receives.

Basically, these scores track your financial value. The less you prove to be a cash cow to a brand, the longer you may be on hold with customer service. It could even affect your ability to acquire a loaner car while yours is in the shop. And if you’ve never been randomly graced with a seat upgrade while traveling, well, that could be why. 

Until recently, access to your score was almost nonexistent…

But privacy laws are changing that. In response to the California Consumer Privacy Act, companies like Sift, Zeta Global, Kustomer, and a few others have started burying consumer score requests deep in their privacy policies to allow consumers to have more insight into their consumer experiences.

The NYT’s Kashmir Hill looked into her own personal score with Sift and  “found it shocking” to receive a lengthy document — over 400 pages long — detailing nearly every Airbnb message, Yelp order, or Coinbase interaction she had ever made. 

Want to know your value? All it takes is a few emails… kinda

Sift, which prides itself on helping businesses to grow with “Digital Trust & Safety,” according to its site, requests that you email [email protected], while Zeta Global offers an online form.

Others claim to provide access to the data they have on you, but Hill pointed out that Kustomer gave her the “runaround” for weeks. Ultimately to no avail.

Maybe an overwhelming amount of emails to [email protected] could help change that.

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Apple is the latest tech giant to invest in affordable housing near its campus

Yesterday, Apple committed to spending $2.5B on improving access to housing in California.

Housing crises exist all across California, but they’ve been particularly acute in Apple’s backyard, the San Francisco Bay Area: According to a recent report reviewed by The New York Times, 5 of the 6 most expensive places to live in the US are in the Bay Area.

Thanks to soaring fortunes at tech companies, the Bay Area has added 676k new jobs in the past 8 years. But the region has added only 176k additional housing units, which has caused displacement.

And Apple, the largest employer in Silicon Valley, has been a big part of the problem.

But now, Apple wants to reverse its role in the housing crisis

So, how does it plan to do that? Apple’s newly unveiled plan will apportion $1B to an affordable housing investment fund and another $1B to help first-time home buyers (particularly service workers, school employees, and veterans).

The iPhone-making colossus also plans to make $300m of Apple-owned land available for affordable housing, donate $150m to a local housing nonprofit, and invest $50m in fighting homelessness in Silicon Valley.

And Apple’s not the only Silicon Valley giant investing in housing:

  • Google pledged $1B in land and housing in June
  • Facebook gave $1B in grants, land, and loans in October
  • Salesforce founder Marc Benioff personally pledged $30m to fight homelessness in San Francisco

Other companies including Microsoft and Amazon have also begun investing big bucks in addressing the housing problems that they helped create. But not all critics believe investment in fixing crises after they come is the best approach.

Affording housing expert Robert Silverman told The New York Times that plans like Apple’s “definitely relieve some of the pressure on the housing market,” but that comprehensive state and federal policies are necessary to “reach more people.”

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Deutsche Telekom and the insurance startup Lemonade are in a colorful dispute

After the New York-based homeowner and rental insurance startup Lemonade launched in Germany this past summer, T-Mobile’s parent company Deutsche Telekom sent them a letter.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a “welcome to the neighborhood” postcard. It demanded that the AI-focused company stop using the color magenta in its logo and marketing material — or else.

Why? Because T-Mobile uses magenta. There can’t be another company in a completely different industry using the same red-purple hue — that’d be preposterous.

And DT isn’t stopping on a national level

According to TechCrunch, Deutsche filed for an injunction on Lemonade operating in Germany back when Lemonade arrived, which forced the startup to temporarily switch its color in the country. But it wants to ban Lemonade’s use of magenta globally as well. 

Lemonade saw red: “We thought this seemed like a massive over-reach,” Daniel Schreiber, Lemonade’s co-founder and CEO, said. “Then we started digging… ” 

The company discovered that Deutsche has bullied various-sized companies into losing the magenta for years

Now, Lemonade is rolling up its sleeves

To add even more color to the kerfuffle, Lemonade filed a motion yesterday with the European intellectual property office to loosen Deutsche’s legal vice-grip on the color, and has petitioned to remove DT’s color-rights on magenta in the insurance sector.

The problem is, T-Mobile actually does offer insurance on services like cybersecurity and tech-gadget protection policies, which could add a touch of gray to the magenta dispute.

In the meantime, here are a few other corporate colors that can get you sued (when used in the background of an ad product):

  • UPS brown
  • Target red
  • Tiffany blue
  • Home Depot orange 
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What Else…

🕢 The clock is TikTok-ing for US social media giants. TikTok was downloaded more in the last year (over 750m times) than Facebook (715m), Instagram (450m), YouTube (300m), and Snapchat (275m). To compete, FB has introduced a TikTok clone and Google has added features to YouTube and considered buying TikTok competitors.

🚐 India could take charge in the electric vehicle race. Electric vehicles in India are forecast to become cost competitive with their gas-guzzling cousins 7 years before EVs in America do the same. Why? Mostly because it’s easier to electrify a rickshaw than a Ford Explorer.

📆 Less work… and more productivity? Microsoft experimented with a 4-day workweek in Japan and found that productivity increased 40%, joining a growing number of companies experimenting with shortened workweeks and finding positive results.

👩 Women in business face a huge ‘equity gap.’ Women represent 13% of startup founders… but those founders own just 7% of founder equity, Axios reports in its review of Carta startup data.

🍺 Molson Coors’ beer goes flat. The beer giant formerly known as Molson Coors Brewing Company will change its name to Molson Coors Beverage Company in 2020, reflecting a shift away from beer (whose popularity is declining) and toward trendier products like hard seltzer.

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