The ethics of subscriptions

I awoke this morning to an email reminding me that I need to update my credit card details so that my Vimeo subscription can renew. Vimeo is a video platform that competes with YouTube. Outside of the fact that Vimeo has only a small fraction of the YouTube videos and audience, there are several things I prefer which is why I’ve been paying to upload and distribute videos on their platform.

My business debit card has expired and Vimeo wants the new number so that they can get their $600 for the upcoming year. Perfectly reasonable.

Unlike years past, however, when I was uploading tons of video to their platform for my courses and interview series Jazz Master Summit, my upload volume is modest. Do I really need the same plan, I asked myself.

I went to Vimeo to review their various plans and saw that mine was the lowest on their grid. I could stay with my current subscription or pay them even more money to upgrade. That seemed odd, so I opened up a private browser window that doesn’t identify me and searched for Vimeo subscription plans. 

What I saw was disappointing. Their list of plans to the anonymous viewer started with their free plan, then went to $12/month, $20/month, and then to my plan. Vimeo hid those cheaper plans from me when it knew my identity.

Now, I know that Vimeo is not the only subscription service to invest in complex programming that shows only the subscription levels above one’s current plan, but I have a problem with this practice and I think goes to a broader question of online business ethics.

Is the goal of a business to do everything it can to get as much money from customers as possible or is it to do everything possible to serve the customer’s needs? The Reluctant Marketer would like to believe that it is the later, but that opinion may unfortunately exist in the minority. This contributes, by the way, to so much distrust of business today.

I’ve written here and elsewhere that the role of the marketer is to do what they can to motivate their audience to buy. After all, left on our own, we will likely procrastinate and put off buying indefinitely. We need the marketing nudge!

But I’ve also added that there is a line each of us needs to draw between motivating our buyers and misleading them. Vimeo certainly won’t take my advice, but I think they should show me all of my subscription options. I’ll even go further and recommend that they should include a link for downgrading my subscription if I so choose.

Yes, they will probably make less money in the short-term, maybe even in the long term, but it is the right thing to do if their focus is on meeting the needs of their clients over maximizing revenue by any and all means possible.

I also thought, what if my card had not expired? Would I have received a notification that they had charged me $600 for the renewal or would they have not wanted me to know? 

We all have choices in how we maximize our monetary return for our professional efforts. Put aside outright fraud, in which Vimeo is not at all engaging, where is the line you draw between making it easy and attractive for your audience to buy AND hiding relevant information that prevents them from making the best decision possible for themselves?

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