Why is it so hard to cancel certain products?

There’s an episode of Friends where Chandler is trying to cancel his gym membership.

He finds it so difficult to cancel that he devises a plan to cancel his bank account instead, to stop the payments going out.

He then can’t cancel his bank account either.

Funny episode – but does this sound familiar? Have you ever tried to cancel an account or a monthly subscription and found it difficult?

Here are a few examples.

Netflix

The main thing I noticed when cancelling my Netflix account was, while they naturally would rather you stayed, they seem keen to leave you with a good impression than make it super difficult to cancel.

They make it easy to downgrade to a cheaper plan – and receive emails about new shows, even after you cancel.

There’s the reassuring step that if you restart your membership within 10 months, your details will not be lost.

And there are clear, easy buttons to either cancel – or resume your membership. None of this trickery where you have to go through lots of steps.

LinkedIn

Cancelling LinkedIn Premium gives you a familiar page where you choose from a list of reasons saying why you want to cancel.

At first it seems like they’re gathering data and not much more.

However – before you actually cancel, I was offered a one-off discount of 50% for 2 months. This is also after an initial free trial – so not bad.

While this is nice, and I’ve seen many other sites do it – it feels a bit like quitting a job, and getting a counter-offer.

Where was this lower price when I signed up?

Plus, you know it’ll go up to the higher price later, so it’s really just kicking the can down the road (you’ll probably cancel anyway).

Amazon Prime

For Amazon Prime, I want to talk about the hard sell rather than cancellation.

Prime is advertised all over the place – but it really comes into its own when you buy something online as a non-Prime customer.

Partway through the checkout process, I always see a page that nudges me to pay for Prime. It’s often difficult to see how to NOT pay for Prime.

On the order summary page – before I pay – the delivery options often default to “a free trial of Prime”, even if I deselect it.

It’s an interesting tactic. The upsell is extremely aggressive, creates a great deal of friction, and seems to be pushing the product on the basis of it being annoying to constantly say I’m not interested – rather than leaning into the benefits.

Cancellation is an obtuse process and not where I expected to find it – a process I had to go through after I once accidentally submitted an order with Prime selected.

I’m not seeing how this is a good experience…

Thoughts on cancellation

The idea behind making it hard to cancel is a weird one.

If someone really wants to leave, why hold them hostage?

If you can get a discount by threatening to leave – whether on the phone or online – is that a price reduction your business could sustain if all customers tried their luck?

Think about whether it’s a price cut across the board – or if you should stand firm, and not discount prices when people want to leave. Avoid a “race to the bottom” where the price gets lower and lower.

If you have a valuable product with a price that people are willing to pay, there should be no need to have “exit discounts” like this.

However, if you have a few price plans or a “freemium” model, these can be good options to share with customers if they’re thinking about leaving.

I think Netflix does a good job of this. LinkedIn needs to decide if it’s offering a premium product that doesn’t need to be discounted – or if they want to hit a lower price point for professionals who pay out of their own pocket.

Photo by Rayson Tan on Unsplash