Just Cancel the @#%$* Account!

Thirteen Strikes

I used 13 criteria in evaluating subscription services. Each is expressed here as a negative experience (from most annoying to least) for the would-be unsubscriber. Obviously, the ideal score would be zero hassles.

  1. Found nothing on the Web site about how to cancel the service.
  2. Received one or more bills for service after canceling.
  3. Found cancellation instructions only after extensive site sleuthing.
  4. Had to call for a refund.
  5. Experienced long hold times while canceling via phone.
  6. Had to make multiple phone calls to get customer service for a cancellation question.
  7. Had to begin the cancellation process online, and then had to call to cancel anyway.
  8. Subjected to an exit interview and/or an agent's pitch for upgraded service when canceling via phone or the Web.
  9. Had to call to cancel.
  10. Encountered a fine-print surprise.
  11. Experienced moderate hold times while canceling via phone.
  12. Found cancellation instructions only after moderate site sleuthing.
  13. Received commercial e-mail even after canceling.

In my real-world tests of 32 services, only a couple--Consumer Reports Online and The New York Times TimesSelect--posted perfect marks. But those two deserve special praise for making unsubscribing a truly hassle-free experience and for setting a standard that other services would do well to emulate.

Senior Reporter Tom Spring works out of PC World's Boston office.
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