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I recently registered for a business summit that includes a year's subscription to a national business publication. If I don't want to receive this magazine, I need to send a copy of my registration e-mail to a third-party fulfillment company in order to get $12 refunded. What would you do? What do you think of this negative optioning approach?


Some background to my gut response to this:
Several years ago, anyone who subscribed to Rogers Cable in Ontario, Canada, was vulnerable to negative optioning by the monopoly cable supplier. According to Toronto Star consumer advocate and writer, Ellen Roseman, "Rogers Cable tried to get customers to pay for new specialty TV channels in 1995, unless they said they didn't want them. There was a huge uproar and Rogers backed down."
Consumers were definitely incensed. So much so, that in 2005, the Ontario government passed a law outlawing negative option billing.
A similar experience happened more recently to Bigsnit blogger, Robert Ouimet, who was charged $59 USD on his Amex statement for a renewing Classmates.com subscription he thought would expire after the first two years. Even when he tried to get American Express Canada to remove the charges, "American Express sides with the vendor, leaving the customer hanging in the cold," he says.
So, now back to my dilemma. Many people wouldn't bother to take the time to mail in a receipt to get back $12. But, in this economy, maybe there's a greater incentive now. I sent it in on principle. As Lewis Green always says, marketers today need to be authentic and trustworthy, and negative option marketing just doesn't fall into that category. In fact, I think it besmirched the summit host's brand.
What do you think? Would you have requested a refund or just shrugged it off?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Elaine Fogel

Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of Solutions Marketing & Consulting LLC, and a marketing and branding thought leader, speaker, writer, and MarketingProfs contributor. She is the author of the Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most for Small Business Success.

LinkedIn: Elaine Fogel

Twitter: @Elaine_Fogel