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The Truth About Subscription Fees

by Alexander Tucker

Ahh subscription fees. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and get delivered in different ways. Some subscription fees are small and you are aware what you are signing up for. Others appear small and then the fine print locks you into three months of payment, unbeknownst to you. You look at your bank statement a few weeks later and ask, “Why me?”.  The list of questions echoes on in your head: Why do companies charge these fees? How can I watch out for subscription scams? If subscriptions are so dishonest, why ever pay them?

Sneaky Fees: Jimmy’s Subscription Horror Story

While many people research a product before they buy it, there are  also many consumers who don’t. These often include people like Jimmy’s parents, who are looking to buy him a new Playstation 4 game for Christmas. They purchase Destiny, listening to the store clerks advice. Jimmy is thrilled after a month of play. One day, he logs on and tries to do a multiplayer activity. For argument’s sake we will assume the ficticious Jimmy is a teenager and has no job or money to pay for that convenient Playstation Plus subscription. Jimmy can no longer play online, severely watering down the quality of his experience. Meanwhile his parents are disappointed that they bought a game that gave them no notification of a subscription fee because it’s technically “not required” to play. If you can’t play the game the way was meant to be played, is it really worth having the game? This is ultimately up to Jimmy; he can either get a job and pay for the fee or beg his parents to pay it for him. Either way, the parents unknowingly pledged more money than they originally considered when buying the game. Jimmy will either stop playing Destiny or pay up.

But It Doesn’t End There

Jimmy is pretty fed up with not being able to play online, so he decides to have some old fashioned fun and read some books. As he orders his books on Amazon, he can’t help but be irritated by the idea of waiting a week to get the products. He signs up for a free trial of Amazon Prime to remedy this. Satisfied with himself, Jimmy orders the books and they come a speedy two days later. fast forward a month; Jimmy has long since finished the wonderful books and is out at dinner with his girlfriend. He gives his card (that his parents so generously put money on so he can pay for his PS+ subscription) to the waiter who returns it, saying that it declined. Jimmy pulls up his bank statement on his phone and notices a 79 dollar charge from Amazon. Luckily, Jimmy’s girlfriend brought enough cash to cover the meal. Jimmy was suckered into losing 79 dollars, and could no longer pay for Playstation Plus.

The Moral of the Story

I’ve been a Jimmy. You might have been a Jimmy too. You probably know Jimmy’s parents, whether they are yours or someone else’s. If you don’t want to get burnt by a game or service, research it online. Look for reviews. Read the fine print. It would be bad for sales to openly advertise that certain games are only playable or at full capacity with a subscription fee. Companies will naturally try to sneak them in with a “oh, and by the way” right after you’ve made an initial investment. Do your homework before buying a product or signing up for a service. It’s the only way to avoid being a Jimmy. While some might think this is simple, the Jimmy’s of the world beg to differ.

In the Eye of the Beholder

Whether a subscription fee is worth it or not is in the eye of the beholder…or the holder of the credit card being used. For many, Netflix and Hulu Plus are fees worthy of the service. People value the experience they receive from these entertainment providers because they are relatively up front about the costs. There are also many who are victims of the forced-subscription, yet submit to the costs because they simply love the product too much to leave it behind (That’s you, WoW players). Be wary of what you are signing up for, and be able to judge if you will be able to fight the urge to pay for recurring charges you can’t afford. And if you don’t care? More power to you. A subscription fee is worth as much as you feel it is.

 

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