All entries for Sunday 24 January 2010

January 24, 2010

Reckless Comedy in Leamington Spa

Should have written this ages ago, but anyway, I’m promoting, running and MCing a new comedy gig in Leamington. I say new, it’s basically the old Reckless Moment gig, insofar as it’s in the same place, with the same aim, at the same time, and hopefully with the same awesome crowd.
Just now being run by me, and Tom and Pete kindly let me use the Reckless name.

We have a Facebook page for the first show

Our first show is this Monday (Jan 25th) and the details are like this:

Doors 8.30pm, Comedy 9pm
Entry just £2

Comedy returns to the basement of Robbins Well in much the same state it used to be in, but a bit different. Same confectionery, fewer 80s music icons.

We kick off a run of shows on the 25th January with some awesome acts, bringing you some of the best funny people on the comedy circuit.

Possibly the funniest night out you can have in Leamington – please come along and tell all your friends.

Nick Helm
Owen Niblock
Gareth Morinan
Jonathan Elston
Nick Hodder
Catie Wilkins
Luke Mason
Dean Love

My experience with Audible UK

Addendum 1: The following blog entry has been edited following a complaint from Audible UK’s MD, Chris McKee. I have no intention of getting my lovely blog provider in trouble, so I have removed the ‘offensive’ personal attacks. Ever wondered what a company MD does on a Monday morning? Vanity Googling, it turns out.

Addendum 2: It may be entirely unrelated, but a few hours after their MD saw this blog and complained about it, Audible have now finally agreed to refund my money – sometimes getting angry does work!

The story starts simply enough. I’ve been saving iPoints to get an iPod Touch. You sign up for free trials and such and just make sure you cancel them on time and you get points. You do enough, you can get something nice. I should point out at this point that most of my points were from signing up with online casinos. Now online gambling is probably one of the dodgiest sectors out there: the whole concept is flawed, as the software could be cheating you (hey, the card draws aren’t random) and you’d never know. They always have a load of offers designed to sucker people in and everything I’ve heard about them says they’re often not run by the most savoury of people.

From about ten different casinos, I’ve never been fraudulently charged or lost any money unfairly from doing this. Occasionally they’re a bit reluctant to hand over the points, but they all do in the end after a bit of prodding. Casinos tend to offer around 5000-15000 points, incidentally. Audible was offering just 450, but it was the last 450 I needed to get a 32gb iPod Touch.

So I signed up, and then cancelled right away. Here, I made a mistake. I didn’t check for a cancellation e-mail. So something went wrong at my end, or something went wrong at their end, and it wasn’t cancelled. Come the end of December I get charged £7.99 for the first month of au Audible subscription.

To explain how Audible work, you can buy stuff outright at crazy prices, or sign-up for a subscription and get two credits a month, each of which you can trade for an audio book. So no problem, I thought, I haven’t spent these credits, I’ll just e-mail them, explain it, and get a refund. No big deal. After all, the reason I did this free trial is that Audible proudly proclaim that they are “An Amazon company”. They are owned by Amazon and Amazon are awesome.

You ever wonder why Amazon won the whole web-retail thing back in the 90s? I bought a book from Amazon back when all they sold was books. It turned up with a very small, barely noticeable scuff on the cover. It also came with a note, explaining that they were aware of this, but it was the last one, and they figured I’d rather have it now with a small scuff than wait months (it was a US import) for another copy. But if I didn’t I could send it back to a freepost address, and they’d send me another when they got one in. That’s customer service folks, and even though they’re not as good as they used to be, they’re still one of the best.

My hackles were raised when I remembered how you had to cancel an Audible account. You either had to phone a number, or send an e-mail with a very specific subject line. It’s a fairly normal if foul practice to make cancelling more inconvenient, as it has to go through a person, who can try and dissuade you, and it allows them to claim some lag time, so if you cancel just before the new billing date, they can still charge you for the next month as the cancellation hasn’t be processed. There’s no reason to not let you just click a button to instantly cancel. Oh yeah, the original cancellation e-mail was still in my Sent Items folder, the one that never reached them. Error at their end then.

Customer services respond, tell me they have no record of my cancellation, and won’t cancel my account as I have two credits in it that I’d lose, and can’t give me a refund unless I can prove that I cancelled. I have the cancellation e-mail I sent them, but no confirmation (never got one). It isn’t good enough. Some more back and forth and it ends with me telling them to refund my money in five days or I’ll have the bank do a chargeback. That’s a white lie out of frustration. I can’t do that as it’s a debit card, but it’s a Visa Debit card and lots of people don’t know they exist yet and assume any Visa is a Credit Card, which I would be able to charge back on.

So I wait. They don’t respond at all.

Tonight I need to re-cancel before they bill me for February, and time I’d spent on this was already more than £8’s worth of my time. I figure I’ll give up, but if I’m doing that I may as well grab a couple of audio books with the credits I have before I cancel. Logging in I find I don’t have any credits. I check my bank account – no refund. They’ve taken my money and provided no service whatsoever. I assume they’ve cancelled the account, but I half expect them to bill me again next week and tell me the first two credits were eaten by gerbils or something.

Now, so far, so much shitty customer service. It’s annoying, I might blog about it to embarrass the company concerned, but it’s not abnormal.

As you might have noticed from the sub-title of this piece, I’m a little bit more angry than that.

The Audible UK business model is set up to get people to subscribe then make it as hard as possible to unsubscribe. You see, it’s £7.99 a month. You get two credits per month. Two books. Other than the inconvenience of signing up and cancelling, you can effectively just buy two credits for £7.99 whenever you want. Subscribe, spend them, cancel.
So they could just sell credits for £8 for two. It’d be the same thing.
The scummy bit is, you can’t keep credits on your account unless you have an active subscription. So if I find I’m not using the service much, I can’t just cancel right away, I have to spend the credits I already have. There’s no reason for this, no reason an account can’t have left-over credits even if you don’t subscribe, other than to try and stop you from doing so.

Likewise, in my case, I got charged for a month and given two credits. There’s no other benefit to having a subscription, I didn’t spend those two credits so didn’t get anything back from the money I spent at all. So there’s no reason that customer services couldn’t be told to refund people’s money in such cases. But instead, they’re told not to. And when they tell that person they won’t refund the money and remove the credits, they delay things even more. As the customer won’t want to cancel right away as they then need to spend those credits to get their monies worth and if they forget to do it on time… they get charged again.

This folks, is a scam. If you have a good product and a good company you can get away with just selling it fairly to the customer. Maybe your customer service is good, maybe it isn’t, but you just sell a product. The entire Audible sales model is based on suckering people in with free trials and hoping they forget to cancel, then trying to lock them in as much as possible when they do. I’m appalled to see such a cynical system used by an ‘Amazon company’.

The company is just set up to rip people off. Someone in it made the decision to not let people keep credits after they cancel. Someone made the decision not to let people get refunds on credits they don’t want. And they made those decisions to rip people off. Chris McKee is the MD of Audible UK, he made or signed off on, those decisions.

The sad addendum to this rant, is that Audible’s range of titles, and level of pricing, is awesome. And I love listening to spoken word stuff on the bus but don’t have enough podcasts to keep me going. Had I been treated fairly, I’d have probably subscribed with them at some point in the future. As it stands now, I won’t ever touch them again. I’m sure they’re happy to be keeping my £7.99, as it must be worth far more than the £100s they could have got off me in the future, had they not been cunts

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