Free means free.

I admit it. I am to blame and it is my own negligence that cost me money. Bottom line, I got suckered. I am angry first with myself, but mostly with those who engage in reptilian marketing tactics. Back in April, I came across a very cool and intuitive web-based product. I am not going to name the product because I don't believe in smear campaigns. And, they are not the only ones engaging in this idiotic marketing strategy. I loved the product and the interface. I tested it and found that the best features were available in the premium version (s u r p r i s e). It was available "free to test for sixty days".

I swore many times prior to this incident that anyone who wants my credit card as part of a free promo is not going to get my business. I don't want to have to remember to cancel the subscription. I hear you. Why don't you just schedule it on your calendar? I did. I got sidetracked.  The trigger that led to my recollection was an email reminder that my $49 monthly subscription was charged to my credit card.

Enough about me. Our all-things-digital world (in other words you're always one click away from getting me or losing me as a customer) has a few unwritten laws; anything can be found and you better be transparent (honest) because...it's all out there in bits and bytes.

So, if you want me to test your powerful product for free, then make it easy: email, password and go enjoy yourself. The ONLY reason someone pushed for getting a credit card as part of the "free" process is because it is easy money. I am the proof you needed that there is a lot of money to be made from honest or stupid mistakes.

Here's why this is an idiotic marketing strategy that shows total ignorance to buyer-behavior. This story would have had a totally different outcome had I received an email notifying me that my trial is about to end  and stating  "we think you will agree that this is an awesome product. You can buy it today for $49/month, or we can extend your trial for sixty more days at a reduced rate of $29/month".

I truly loved the product. I would not have hesitated to extend my trial. I thought $49/month was on the high side. But I was a fan. I even told others about it. I was a perfect testimonial to why free works when it comes to software. But, I was duped and even if it was my own error, I am angry for having been put in a position of having to remember. Free means free.

As marketers and sales people we have choices. I know companies that "fudge" their shipping costs and automatically had a set fee to the standard UPS charge. After all, how many of us check if we've been ripped off on shipping charges. But some of us do. And, when we find out we never come back. So, someone in a corner office looks at her numbers each quarter with a big smile. I made my numbers this quarter, thank God for $34,344 in shipping overcharges. Or, thank God for $12,899 in recurring "free" charges.

Here' the simple math: I loved the product. I may have chosen the $30/month option instead of paying $49/month. This meant an acquisition worth $360/year and a happy, loyal customer. Instead, the company "made" $49  for a net loss of $311.

You see, when you do business this way, free is not free. Free is ruining a good thing and losing customers in the process.