Free, Online, Too

Every once in a while, I receive an email like the above, which reminds me that there are honorable companies out there that strive for their positive initiatives and ethical practices to help sell their products (Notice that Dropbox doubled our storage capacity ‘as a thank you for being a Dropbox Pro customer’ and uses ‘an extra thanks’ to help promote their paid services to our friends, colleagues and/or family members.)

In light of my post about online companies promoting free products and gradually stripping them away (Free, Online), as well as the recent rant, Don’t Upgrade Quickbooks, I decided to compile two lists of  online businesses:

1. Bad Practices: Those that have been guilty of luring customers in and paring down their offerings (or steepening their prices)
2. Good Practices: Those that have withstood the trend by doing the complete opposite, providing additional free services.

I’d love your help with these lists, citing company names and examples of how they’ve fallen into one of these two categories. Send me an email or comment on this post to be added to the list.

Bad Practices

  • Intuit / QuickBooks – Stripped free services from their offerings and coerced users to pay for new versions under the assurance that these free services would be restored
  • Geni – Changed their free account from five (5) generations of family members to only 100 people/family
  • Spotify – After six months, makes tracks unavailable after five (5) plays, listening limit of ten (10) hours/month
  • Sovereign Bank – Inversely charges based on customer ‘value’
  • Dell.com – Allows you to cut the queue for tech support if you pay premium rates
  • Network Solutions / NetSol – Hides common tasks associated with transfer (remove credit card information, uncheck the auto-renew feature, etc.) so that it’s hard to leave their service.
  • Starbucks – My Starbucks Rewards Value Assessment
  • Sears.com – Falsely advertise (inapplicable, expired or completely unrelated) discounts online
  • Windows Mobile – Instability
  • Creative Hotlist – Paid portfolio service offered by Communication Arts where the only functional, modern feature is their payment auto-renewal.
  • Sprint – Charges $10/mo for any smartphone added to an account for “premium data add-on charge,” independent of usage charges or 4G-enabled (sorta a VAT for phones).
  • Verizon – Charges $30 “upgrade fee” anytime you renew your contract as a reward for being a loyal customer.

Good Practices

  • DropBox(see above)
  • Pandora – Removed their 40-hour listening cap so that all users have unlimited listening
  • Google Docs – Free, online version of Microsoft Office
  • Valley National Bank – Removes minimum balances, wire/ACH fees, transaction limits to small businesses
  • Panera Bread – MyPanera Guaranteed Value
  • Krop.com – Free online portfolio service with modern design and regular new/free features

2 Replies to “Free, Online, Too

  1. I’m surprised sprint’s “premium data add-on charge ($10.00/mo)” hasn’t made your list yet. That kinda gratuitous billing drives me nuts.

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