I've cancelled all of them. Never refunded... I'm not a big ol' jerk... but I've never remained in a membership site that was delivered as a product.
Here's the pattern I've seen.
You tell people "I will teach you X, Y, and Z."
You say "It's twelve easy monthly payments, or you can pay all at once."
If you pay all at once, it's only ten payments. So if you have a $400 course, you charge $40 a payment, for a total of $480.
Now, you get into the course. You make your first payment. And behold, you get a load of fluff about how cool things are going to be later.
So you go okay, the value must be in the forum. And you go to the forum, where people are asking questions and nobody is answering them.
And you go okay, the value must be in the blog. So you watch the blog, but it's all just more fluff.
So you get in touch with support, and they say "oh, all the pieces will come together, just wait."
And you start to understand that the entire explanation of X, Y, and Z is going to happen after you make your final payment. You don't really get to pay as you go. It's layaway. You don't actually get anything more than promises and hype until the whole thing's paid off.
But this is just smart business, right?
Because at the end of the course, if you're really mad and want your money back, you can only get those last two payments - the ones you made less than 45 days prior.
And if you cancel before the end, you didn't actually get anything valuable, you just gave the vendor money for nothing. He'll take it, and he'll keep it, and you're just an idiot for not sticking around. "Thanks for the money, sucka!"
But here's the problem.
Every time I join one of these courses, I'm taking a risk. I'm not ready to hand you $400 for your product, because I'm not convinced it's going to do what you say.
I take the payment plan because I want to be sure it's a good investment, and the extra money is my way of compensating you for letting me try it in bite-size chunks. It's so I can go "ooh, no thank you" and bail before I give you the whole $400. I'll give you $80 for the privilege of buying it in a dozen pieces.
But if you don't deliver real info during the first couple of modules, I'm not sticking around. I'll risk $40, or even $80, to find out whether you'll deliver.
But if you don't, I'm out of there, and I am not going around raving about your course. I am just going to get progressively more upset that the first month wasn't worth $40, and the second wasn't worth $80, and now you're telling me month three will be worth $120? No it won't. Month 12 will be worth $400. Trouble is, I'll have given you $480.
This looks like a great recipe for dissatisfied customers.
(Oh, and when your customer cancels? I advise against sending him a snotty email about what a loser he is. Not good. Memorable, but not good.)
What about the rest of you? Experiences with products as membership sites? Good, bad, indifferent? Because some people are saying this is a great way to deliver products, but as I try products delivered this way, I'm honestly not impressed. Upset, yes, but not impressed.
How should a membership site be constructed to deliver a product? What makes a product-as-membership system work well? What do you like as a customer? What have you tried as a vendor?