Automatic billing…

I find automatic billing to be annoying.  Yes there are services that I find that automatic billing is important.  My internet connection, my phone, stuff that I use everyday for years on end.  I will call these ‘non-optional’ services.  But when it comes to optional services, services that I do not need or will not use 365 days a year, it does not make sense.

Some time ago my company has asked us to start taking courses, whether it be online or from some university or college.  Ok, fine, lets leave out the fact that it has to be done on ‘our’ personal unpaid time and not done on work time, which is another gripe.  So I have been looking around at some of the sites.

I have actually taken a few courses at Coursera.org.  So far it has been generally positive.  The courses are free unless you want some certificate of completion and then you pay for the course.  You pay per course.  Brilliant!  I like that model.  Pay for what I want.  I will be continuing paying for courses with them.  The courses are not that cheap but it looks like the instructors do make an effort.  Coursera.org has been hit and miss though.  One course was incredibly poorly run where the instructor was not even following his own course timeline.  I felt bad berating him to keep him honest.  There were many students who were missing deadlines and getting zeros because of it.  The software has been changing a lot as well.  Some growing pains in all.  Their customer support seems to be pretty good.

At work a manager suggested Pluralsight.com.  Pay a subscription fee for unlimited access to all course material.  Sounds like a deal except that you will be automatically billed every month if you use the service or not.  Hrm…  The cost is way more per month than Netflix and if I was subscribing to Netflix I suspect I would use it way more than Pluralsight.  The good news with Pluralsight is that with an MSDN subscription at work I get free access to 30 ‘tutorials’ (I hesitate in calling them courses since all a course is, is a collection of videos) for about 30 days or a year.  Conflicting information.  No need for adding my credit card information and such.  So this trial is giving me an insight on how good the tutorials really are at Pluralsight.  They are pretty good the ones that I have seen so far.  The interface is a bit annoying.  In order to get to the free courses via MSDN I have to go to my account settings to find them.

Another option I am getting in my email is Lynda.com which is related to Linkedin.com.  “Try a 30 day free trial!”  Ok, sign up, get to step three which is asking for my credit card information…  WHY?  “So we can bill you after the free trial is over.”  They warn you but this but I still find this dishonest.  It is not exactly free.  You have to give up your payment information before you have a chance to evaluate whether or not they are deserving of that information.

Plus, who has ever signed up for a trial period with the reasonable expectation of not continuing with the service.  Meaning, you signed up to evaluate whether or not the service is going to be good for you.  I have, and as you may expect, I forgot when it was to expire and got dinged for it.  Usually with little or no warning by the service that, “hey, your trial will be up in X days.  Make a decision before then!”  Lynda.com.  Take your ‘free’ offer and shove it.  Seriously.  Be nice and not shaft people when they forget.  Just offer the free trial without billing information and just lock out the user until they are willing to pay.  It should not be that hard to program that up.

I will never sign up to an ‘optional’ service that auto renews a subscription.  Never.  Most magazines do not do that, although some have the option, it is ‘opt in’ not ‘opt out’ as in the case of Lynda.com and Pluralsight.com.

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