Four of the most underhanded schemes merchants have used to rack up profits on the vulnerable consumer.
Subscription and Perpetual License
About fifteen years ago Norton allowed you to buy their anti-virus software as a one-shot deal for your personal use. Significantly, they offered upgrades in order to fix bugs often shortly after you’ve acquired the software. In addition, they sometimes offer upgrades which contain new features that they feel could improve your user experience. This kind of upgrade is usually offered at an additional cost. The drawback for this moneymaking frontier was that many people did not take the upgrade because they didn’t feel that the upgrade would make that much difference to their current user experience, or they saw it as an unnecessary expense. As a result of Norton’s inability to profit from this feature, they began to push subscription, and did so without appropriately informing consumers.
Indeed, I purchased the Norton software for a new Microsoft computer I had acquired. At the time of the purchase, I wasn’t informed that it was on a subscription basis. Also, I didn’t know that Norton would hold onto my credit card number and would later try to auto-debit my account two years later. However, at the time when they tried to charge my credit card it had already expired. Furthermore, for want of a better choice of words, they had rigged the software to stop functioning properly after a two-year time frame. At this point because of the chaos the software was causing, I came to the determination that the best thing to do would be to uninstall it. But Norton had made it so that the software could not be easily uninstalled, and offered very little help when I reached out to their support center for help. In fact, at one point while working with a representative, instead of uninstalling the soft, the representative deleted all of my songwriting audio files off the computer. I eventually was able to download a software off their website that helped me uninstall the software.Ultimately, I never used their software again.
A class action suit was brought against Norton and because I was once their customer I received a letter regarding a possible share of the settlement. However, when I filled out the form for my possible compensation instead of complying, Norton simply used my personal information to try to recruit me to start buying their products again. I never received any compensation.
In 2009 while I was an undergraduate student in college, I was able to buy a student version of Microsoft Office from the college bookstore at a one-time payment of $89.00. When I was in Graduate School, the college sent me an email saying that Microsoft was trying to figure out how to give students Office 365 for free. Students soon learned that the way they would do this was through the use of Microsoft OneDrive. In the beginning I ignored the emails I received from the college, simply because I believe there had to be some kind of catch to it. However, I later recognized the convenience of my being able to pull up documents I created at home while in the library at school, and vice versa. Ultimately, I decided to make use of the offer.
About a month after I had earned my Master’s Degree, I was trying to engage a document that I had created using the 365 app, when I received a message telling me to buy a license in order to access my documents. In fact I was locked out of the software and would not be able to access my documents unless I started a subscription. I was very irritated. The reason why I was irritated is because Microsoft neglected to mention that when you graduate from college you will have to buy a license. Had they told me that in the beginning, I would never have used the software because I was quite satisfied with the version that I owned. In fact, I think Microsoft knew exactly what they were doing. What better way to rack up profits if not by disallowing students the use of their documents after they graduate college until they purchase a license. It is not typical that students get a job within a month after graduating from college. So at this point I feel that Microsoft behaved like a snake. My workaround, was to simply uninstall the 365 app and go back to using my own version.
Unfortunately, Microsoft wasn’t the only company who took students on a head-trip. Computer companies like Dell and Apple also pressed their luck in ways such as pretending that they were offering you their hardware at a discount, even as they were offering it to you at the exact same retail price they were offering it on the market. I know this for a fact because I did my research. Anyway, I am deviating. This is a topic for another blog.
In thinking about Microsoft Office, I offer that the inner workings of the softwares are already stretched to the limit, and because of this, much of the so-called upgrades add no value to the consumer’s user experience. There is just not much more ways Microsoft can change it and claim that came up with something new to improve the user experience, and left as is, there would be no more revenues for this software, which most people would have already owned. As a result in order to attract buyers, Microsoft began dangling 365 at the price of $9.99 per month. The idea is to give you a manageable way of paying for the software, but if you are not mindful in ten years you will have given Microsoft $1,200.00 of your hard earned money. Besides, if Microsoft has 1 million subscribers, they stand to make around 1.2 billion dollars in 10 years. So this idea of giving you a new way to manage to pay for the software is just a new kind of neoliberalism moneymaking frontier for companies like Microsoft and others to rack up profits. Indeed, the younger generation who are just starting out and have never owned this product before are really at a disadvantage.
The upgrade Microsoft 365 is simply a rearrangement of the fields that were in the previous versions. This rearrangement makes it difficult for people who are familiar with some of the previous versions. The only two notable new features are the ability to dictate rather than write, and the ability to read back to you what you wrote. Still, the ability to dictate has problems. For example, it often writes down something that you didn’t say, and sometimes backs out something that you did say and replace it with something it thinks you should say. Also while dictating you have to pay strict attention, because the microphone only engage for a short period of time, and so if you look away that might be the time the microphone chooses to stop recording, and you could end up with a whole paragraph of spoken words unrecorded.
The other feature is it’s ability to read back to you what you write. This feature makes it easy to find your mistakes. However, even as these are some decent features, offering software on a subscription basis is a disadvantage to the consumer, because as described above, in the long run it would end up costing way more than it should.
Another company that has began offering it’s software through perpetual license is Avid. Avid is a company that sells music making softwares such as Protools and Sibelius. Avid’s products are used by a majority of musicians filmmakers and music producers. Back in 2003 when Digidesign/Avid introduced Protools version 8, it was offered at a one-time cost. Today you cannot buy Avid’s software unless you buy it on a perpetual license basis. Like Microsoft and Norton, Avid wants you to believe offering you a perpetual license is an affordable way for you to own the software, but as I said before this kind of transaction will end up costing the consumer a lot more money in the long run, and allow these companies to rack up billions of dollars in profits.
Two years ago I considered upgrading the Avid software, but to do so I had to buy a brand new dongle for $60.00, even as I already owned one. The reason is they changed it out because they have decided to sell you effects processors with the so called upgraded software. Upon buying the dongle and trying it out I was very disenchanted with the very buggy Protools version 12. Aside from this it came with a shopping basket and although I found the shopping basket cool, they put that basket right in the spot where an important drop down field used to be, and that annoyed me. In addition, the extension of all the effects were changed, and they now offered you very little effects. In fact many of the ones that once came with the software, you now had to purchase. (as mentioned before the need for the new dongle.) Indeed, the shopping basket was the stealth reason for the shopping basket.
Moreover, Autotune an effect processor, which cost me over $450.00 was rendered useless because of the fact that they changed the extension of the effects in this so called new version. To use the new version I would have had to upgrade the Autotune and buy Avid’s effects in order to have a good experience using the software. As I said before the effects came with the older versions. I saw this as clearly a money-making scheme, and I was livid. At the rate the software was being offered, I would have ended up spending thousands of dollars if I were to upgrade. Aside from that, I would have to get a new computer and a new midi-interface hardware. I soon realized that Digi 002, Protools 8 and Mac OS X 10.3 the version I have owned since 2003 will have to be the best combination for me at that point. I will have to be satisfied with this for a very long time, because I will not allow them to break my pocketbook with their perpetual license and the buying of effects that were once included as part of the package.
Many online digital music platforms are also asking for subscription.
If you have their app on your desktop, you know what I mean. Every time you try to listen to a song you own. You get a pop up blocking your pathway to your song, which shows you more pieces from said artist and asking you for subscription. This is very annoying. You have to know how to get around them to prevent accidentally signing up. To their credit though, these companies also allow you to buy a song or album at a one time fee as well.
Extended support is another money-making frontier that companies use to try to rake in income. Today every company that sell you hardware will try to attach extended support to your purchase. However, the consumer has the option to take it or leave it. On the other hand, Avid package their Protools software whereas the support is a condition of the software. In other words, the consumer must buy support for the software if they want to purchase it.
If you own an Apple or a Microsoft computer, then you know how annoying it is when they cut into your routine to upgrade the software on your system. Now think of Avid as either of these companies whose software often have bugs in them which need immediate fixing to improve your user experience, and the question becomes why should you purchase support in order for this company to tell you how to fix its buggy software? This brings me to extended warranty
Nowadays you purchase an item for as little as $20.00 and a sales representative will ask you if you want to buy extended warranty. Years ago depending on the product warranty would sometimes go into ten years. But again some one came up with this idea to steal your money by trying to ingrain in your head that your item will break quickly and you won’t have any recourse but to get a new one. While it is just a scam in order for them to rack up earnings. I often wonder if they give the representatives who manage to convince a consumer to buy extended warranty a percentage of that sale towards in earnings.
Finally, if you as consumers allow companies who has adopted these neoliberalism money-making frontiers like the ones I have described above, to continue to thrive then we should consider the following scenarios: Perpetual license/subscription; extended warranty/extended support for your home furnishings, clothing, bed linen, toiletries etc., because they might just start asking you for subscription for these items next. Indeed they are already deep in some of our pocket books with extended warranty/support on home appliances, kitchen appliances motor vehicles etc. The companies mentioned are not the only companies that have adopted these money- making schemes. This has actually become the norm for a majority of merchants who sell these kinds of products.