Holding Members Hostage?

23 replies
I signed up for a one-time membership a while back.

I want to cancel it to stop the flood of promotional emails I'm getting but the "Reason For Cancellation" field is mandatory.

Unless I write something in there I cannot cancel. Of course I can write something rude or "xyz123" but I'm wondering

1. Is this legal?

2. If somebody wants to unsubscribe isn't putting a barrier like this in their way counter-productive? The person doesn't want to hear from you any more yet you risk pissing them off by forcing them to make a comment?

Martin
#holding #hostage #members
  • Profile picture of the author Andrew Wilkes
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    • Profile picture of the author Martin Luxton
      Originally Posted by Andrew Wilkes View Post

      I wouldn't have thought that it is illegal since they did provide an opt-out mechanism.
      Andrew,

      I was thinking the same but, as the opt-out puts an extra hurdle in the way, what would the authorities think?

      Martin
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  • Profile picture of the author ruch1v
    why would it be illegal? chances are they are trying to find out where thy're going wrong so they don't have people opting out in the future
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    • Profile picture of the author Martin Luxton
      Originally Posted by ruch1v View Post

      why would it be illegal? chances are they are trying to find out where thy're going wrong so they don't have people opting out in the future
      Of course I understand they are looking for feedback. I am asking about the rights and wrongs of making it mandatory.

      Martin
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      • Profile picture of the author WritingMadwoman
        I doubt it's illegal to make it mandatory, and most people will either put some nonsense characters in there, or just type "none", etc. That's what I've seen some people do when opting out of my lists. I'll take the nonsense characters over the "f*** you" comments any day!

        My favorites are the ones that actually give me some good feedback, but sometimes people don't want to take the time to do that, or they don't really have a specific reason, they're just not in the mood to stay subscribed/remain a member at that moment. Fair enough!

        But I don't think it's illegal in any case.

        Wendy
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      • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
        Hi Martin

        Sometimes there are conditions regarding refunds - for example, you may need to provide some evidence that you followed the procedure - but to simply cancel a membership (I presume you haven't asked for a refund of previous subscriptions) shouldn't require any mandatory reason.

        Assuming there wasn't a minimum membership requirement in the TOS which you have violated, I very much doubt this tactic would be legally enforcable (of course, IANAL etc).

        Their rationale is probably that you were leaving anyway, so who cares if you get pissed off?

        I think if I were forced to complete that field, I'd advise them to do something only possible for a contortionist.


        Frank
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  • Profile picture of the author Mukul Verma
    I think there intentions were to improve there systems by getting information.

    This is such a small non-issue, there would be no implications on the legal aspect of it
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  • Profile picture of the author glazebrookwarrior
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    • Profile picture of the author ruch1v
      Originally Posted by glazebrookwarrior View Post

      They are being cheeky so be rude to them. Tell the "it's S*** that's why"

      See how they use that in their marketing.

      i dont think its rude at all, infact if i had a membership site, this is probably the route id go down if i had a continuity site, you'd wanna know where you're going wrong, if you were to cancel your gym membership, they would ask you why, and although they wont say its mandatory, but you cant just close the box or walk off without answering can you? i don't see anything wrong with it, if you don't want to answer then just put a fullstop or something in the box, but it will still prompt those who wouldn't have responded if it wasn't mandatory to say why they wanted to leave which in turn helps the membership site build their business - theres nothing cheeky or rude about that...
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  • Profile picture of the author Roger Mayne
    I would doubt that it's illegal, but stupid, maybe.

    I mean, if you really wanted to leave constructive feedback, you would. You don't need to be forced to do it. Like has already been said, this will mean that the majority of people will fill the comments with unusable feedback anyway, so why bother?

    Quite often, if I've unsubscribed to a decent list, I've left a comment like - "I get too many emails already", or "no time right now", so that at least the list owner knows it's not their content that's driven me away.

    I would probably never leave a derogatory message for someone unless they really annoyed me.
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    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      Martin,

      All you have to do is type a period or a question mark into the required field and the refund request should go through.

      I understand your hesitation, though. I once made the mistake of leaving my feedback on an ezine I was unsubscribing to. It was written by someone who knew me and who proceeded to then ARGUE WITH ME that my opinion was wrong!

      So what I got was instead of a simple thank you, I was put into the position of having to explain and defend what I had written, which had obviously offended the marketer, who felt it necessary to tell me how few unsubscribes they ever received and how badly he felt that I in particular was leaving the list.

      For what it's worth, I had expressed my opinion in a very matter of fact and calm way. It was just that the tone of the writing was not to my taste.

      Martin, I would encourage you to go ahead and cancel and do not share your reason unless you want to. And if you do, I hope they do not try to chase you down and argue about it!

      Marcia Yudkin
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      • Profile picture of the author Martin Luxton
        Marcia,

        There was no refund involved and no recurring fee to cancel. I simply wanted to cancel the membership and not get any more emails.

        To some people this might seem like a small matter, but recently there seem to have been a lot of threads where people are not happy with the WAY they are being marketed to (as opposed to complaining about being marketed to, per se)

        It seems to me the gap in the market for marketers who are more respectful of people's time and feelings is growing.

        Martin
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  • Profile picture of the author gyar29
    Martin,

    Is it Illegal?

    I'm not qualified to render a definitive answer to that question. However, my gut tells me that it would not be. Perhaps if they checked your comments against a DB of correct comments, and then did not allow you to cancel unless you guessed correctly, it would be illegal. But I doubt that just the act of making the cancellation form inconvenient to complete would be.

    Additionally, the owner may have made that textfield mandatory on accident. Many people use a form generating software, fantastico has one you can easily install on your site, if they had any mandatory fields at all they may have engaged the "make mandatory" check box for the text field without realizing it. Stupid I know, but then would it really surprise you?

    BTW, are you sure that canceling your membership unsubed you from the list created by the owner from the site's membership list? The cancellation form does not necessarily have to also delete you from his list. If it does not tie in with his auto-responder provider, if he uses one, then it doesn't. And you may still receive emails from them. Emails you may have to unsub from separately.

    Would it be counter-productive?

    I'm not sure that someone canceling their membership to your one-off membership site is your biggest fan before they fill out the cancellation form. Pissing them off by requiring them to fill out a textfield on the form may not make them any less your fan than they were before they started. So the benefits you gain from the input you receive may out weigh the possible disadvantages that could occur. Of course you should be prepared to sort through the nonsense comments and the fyou comments you're bound to receive.

    On the other hand, if I was a marketer that had 50 different lists, then my take on this might change. The person canceling their membership on one of my sites is probably on another of my lists. So making them (more) angry with my cancellation form may just encourage them to unsub from all my lists. Wouldn't want that.

    In the end I guess my real answer to your counter productive question is it depends. And ain't that the answer to most of the questions an IMer has?

    Gene
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    • Profile picture of the author Martin Luxton
      Originally Posted by gyar29 View Post

      Martin,
      BTW, are you sure that canceling your membership unsubed you from the list created by the owner from the site's membership list? The cancellation form does not necessarily have to also delete you from his list. If it does not tie in with his auto-responder provider, if he uses one, then it doesn't. And you may still receive emails from them. Emails you may have to unsub from separately.
      Gene
      Gene,

      Nope, not sure I will be unsubbed. Then again, if I'm not and the only way to unsubscribe (without contacting the helpdesk) is to login in to the recently cancelled membership that would be interesting.

      Would it be counter-productive?

      I'm not sure that someone canceling their membership to your one-off membership site is your biggest fan before they fill out the cancellation form. Pissing them off by requiring them to fill out a textfield on the form may not make them any less your fan than they were before they started.
      I was doing a big purge of my inbox and when I came across this it stood out as something I thought was intrusive. It was just one of many unsubscribes until I became irritated by the mandatory comment box. Some of the unsubscribes I might take a look at again in the future but this one is very clear in my mind as somebody I want nothing to do with in the future.

      On the other hand, if I was a marketer that had 50 different lists, then my take on this might change. The person canceling their membership on one of my sites is probably on another of my lists. So making them (more) angry with my cancellation form may just encourage them to unsub from all my lists. Wouldn't want that
      .

      Good point.

      In the end I guess my real answer to your counter productive question is it depends. And ain't that the answer to most of the questions an IMer has?
      Amen.

      Martin
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      • Profile picture of the author Michael Mayo
        Hi Martin,

        Nope, not sure I will be unsubbed. Then again, if I'm not and the only way to unsubscribe (without contacting the helpdesk) is to login in to the recently cancelled membership that would be interesting.
        I'm not sure if it is illegal or not but I was under the impression that it was
        required to have a way for subscribers to opt-out inside the email they
        receive via the source. I could be wrong and it may just be a courtesy for
        marketers to do so? Any way, If not it won't effect me as I offer a way to
        do so in the emails I send out.

        Just my .02
        Have a Great Day!
        Michael
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      • Profile picture of the author gyar29
        Originally Posted by Martin Luxton View Post

        Gene,

        Nope, not sure I will be unsubbed. Then again, if I'm not and the only way to unsubscribe (without contacting the helpdesk) is to login in to the recently cancelled membership that would be interesting.
        I didn't think of that one. That would definitely be something that would start me unsubscribing at a rapid rate. Not to mention thinking mean and vicious thoughts about the owner.


        Originally Posted by Martin Luxton View Post

        I was doing a big purge of my inbox and when I came across this it stood out as something I thought was intrusive. It was just one of many unsubscribes until I became irritated by the mandatory comment box. Some of the unsubscribes I might take a look at again in the future but this one is very clear in my mind as somebody I want nothing to do with in the future.
        And that is the rub. How do you balance our need for information against the possibility of alienating someone enough to have ourselves placed on their blacklist?

        Taken even further, balancing our need for the current sale against the possibility of losing a future sale. How far do we push?

        Scott Ames started a thread asking if being on the Rip Off report site is beneficial to the IMer. I've read the entire thread and I still don't know the answer to that question. In the end I suppose it becomes a question that must be answered by each of us individually.

        For you, requiring the comment was intrusive. For me, depending on my frame of mind at the time, I might have seen it as a legitimate information gathering tactic.

        The standard answer is to test and see. But that doesn't really address the underlying question does it? So how far do you push? That depends.

        Gene
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
    Hey Martin,

    If the list owner is using a service (AWeber, GetResponse) why not contact the service? Perhaps they have rules against forcing people to leave comments, and may appreciate that their service is being misused.

    I know it would take extra time, but that's the first thought I had.

    There should be no barriers to unsubscribing.

    All the best,
    Michael
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    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      If the list owner is using a service (AWeber, GetResponse) why not contact the service? Perhaps they have rules against forcing people to leave comments, and may appreciate that their service is being misused.
      One of those systems is set up in such a way that when you're asked why you want to unsubscribe it's not clear whether or not you've already been unsubscribed at the point where you're asked, so you do not have to answer, or whether you do have to answer.

      It might be that this is the system that bothered Martin and that he's asking about.

      I agree that if we are talking about autoresponders, no one should HAVE to give a reason for unsubscribing, and I would add that it should be clear that giving a reason is optional.

      Marcia Yudkin
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  • Profile picture of the author Shana_Adam
    I don't think its fair on the subscriber to be coerced into leaving comments.

    Look at big companies that do market research you still have to give reason for canceling a cellphone subscription or what ever it is you purchased once.

    Its just the way the cookie crumbles as they say!

    What you could do is to let them know how bad they are and why to really get on their T***.

    Funnily enough you'd be surprised you would get an email back - because you got their attention - they usually give freebies or an apology
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
    Hi Martin,

    As you're in Australia, this may not apply.

    Here are the hgihlights from the US FTC page on the latest update to the CAN-SPAM Act.

    The CAN-SPAM Act: Requirements for Commercial Emailers
    What the Law Requires

    Here's a rundown of the law's main provisions:
    • It bans false or misleading header information. Your email's "From," "To," and routing information - including the originating domain name and email address - must be accurate and identify the person who initiated the email.
    • It prohibits deceptive subject lines. The subject line cannot mislead the recipient about the contents or subject matter of the message.
    • It requires that your email give recipients an opt-out method. You must provide a return email address or another Internet-based response mechanism that allows a recipient to ask you not to send future email messages to that email address, and you must honor the requests. You may create a "menu" of choices to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to end any commercial messages from the sender.

      Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your commercial email. When you receive an opt-out request, the law gives you 10 business days to stop sending email to the requestor's email address. You cannot help another entity send email to that address, or have another entity send email on your behalf to that address. Finally, it's illegal for you to sell or transfer the email addresses of people who choose not to receive your email, even in the form of a mailing list, unless you transfer the addresses so another entity can comply with the law.
    • It requires that commercial email be identified as an advertisement and include the sender's valid physical postal address. Your message must contain clear and conspicuous notice that the message is an advertisement or solicitation and that the recipient can opt out of receiving more commercial email from you. It also must include your valid physical postal address.
    It doesn't look like what you describe is mentioned in this excerpt.

    I found the second one about misleading subject lines to be the most interesting.

    All the best,
    Michael
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  • Profile picture of the author Kelly Verge
    "Click here if you would like to leave us feedback as to why you are leaving."

    That wasn't hard.

    I don't like the forced forms either.
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  • Profile picture of the author davebo
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    • Profile picture of the author Martin Luxton
      Davebo,

      Welcome back.

      Good to see you continuing your old habit of not reading the whole thread before sticking your oar in.

      All but one of the unsubscribes I did asked me politely for a comment. It was optional. The 2 questions I am asking in this thread are about the one that doesn't let people unsubscribe unless they comment.

      1. Is it illegal?

      2. Is it a good idea from a marketing point of view?

      You might also take a note from Michael Oksa's book and do some research. What is legal in the US might be illegal in Australia. The consumer protection laws down under are much more comprehensive than those of most other countries.

      One interesting point that has come up is what happens if I cancel the membership and I'm not unsubbed from the email list. As there would then be no functional mechanism for me to unsubscribe they might fall foul of the third point Michael mentioned

      It requires that your email give recipients an opt-out method. You must provide a return email address or another Internet-based response mechanism that allows a recipient to ask you not to send future email messages to that email address, and you must honor the requests. You may create a "menu" of choices to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to end any commercial messages from the sender.
      Martin
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    • Profile picture of the author gyar29
      Originally Posted by davebo View Post

      It's not really hard to type "na" into the form either.

      If you complain about this, you must have a problem with submitting your request once you click through the link. I'm surprised people aren't complaining about that as well.
      Wow. Bit of a harsh, and perhaps unwarranted, response.

      First Martin is asking if it is illegal to force a comment on the cancellation form your members would have to complete to cancel their membership to your membership site. Not from an email list. But even if he were referencing an email list, the can-spam act that Michael posted does not appear to address the issue at all.

      Secondly, Martin is asking if requiring a comment from your members when they attempt to cancel their membership to your membership site is a tactic that would do more harm than good to an IMer's business.

      In his opinion it does. An opinion he has every right to. Regardless of how easy it may be to circumvent the purpose of the textfield in the first place. An opinion, I might add, that seems to be held by others.

      Thirdly, another question arouse during the conversation. If canceling your membership to a membership site does not unsub you from the owners list and having access to the members area of the site is the only mechanism to unsub does it then become illegal?

      In my opinion it does. The emails you may receive from the site's owner and the membership to the site are two entirely different things. Again referencing the can-spam act posted by Michael, any marketer that uses email marketing as part of their business tactic must provide an opt-out method in the emails themselves. If the only mechanism available to the members to opt-out of the list is found within the members area of the site, then there is no opt-out method supplied in the emails. Thereby putting the marketer in violation of the can-spam act. Apparently unless you reside in Australia.

      Finally, all the above is just my opinion. Please feel free to respond anyway you like.

      Take Care,
      Gene
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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
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    I would be pissed at the forced comment as well and they would probably be sorry that they forced an opinion out of me.
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