eBags: Where Even The Free Stuff Costs $7

from the you've-won-a-lovely-parting-gift dept

As e-commerce matures, it seems like some online retailers are at pains to re-invent the process and innovate with unnecessary, bloated new features on their sites — that are often poorly thought out and implemented — or to make questionable business decisions to wrench another drop of revenues out of their customers. I found out the hard way yesterday that eBags, a site I’ve ordered from before and considered reputable, has resorted to some very shady (and incredibly obnoxious) tactics to boost its sales. I ordered a bag for an upcoming trip, and all was well until I got the order confirmation email and noticed some funny language at the end saying they appreciated my business, and were awarding it with a “complementary” subscription to some magazine about television: “The price of your subscription is included in your order. If you later decide that you do not want a subscription to Inside TV, we will send you a check for $7.00. To receive this refund, send a self addressed stamped envelope to… Make sure to include a copy of your credit card statement verifying your paid order.” You have got to be kidding me — padding the price for $7 for some stupid magazine subscription that I can get back by sending in a copy of my credit card statement? Why not just take $7 off the price of the bag, and let me order the magazine subscription if I want it? I guess I don’t have to worry about ending up on some mailing list, either: “Your name will only be shared to fulfill the subscription and will never be sold or solicited to a third party outside of Inside TV or eBags” — yeah, that makes me feel comfortable. Needless to say, I cancelled the order. I was under the impression that eBags was a reputable company, but this kind of bush-league e-commerce trick definitely makes me think otherwise. I thought this type of subscriber referral deal only happened with online porn, but apparently it applies to luggage as well. Instead of trying out all these gimmicks, why not stick with the original premise of e-commerce — low prices and high convenience? That’s a model people are pretty happy with.

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Comments on “eBags: Where Even The Free Stuff Costs $7”

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Vlad says:

It's all about the crossales

Welcome to the sweet world of cross selling. Most certainly, online pornography was the first market to deploy this gimmick among the first in ebiz, and more and more are realizing that it’s very convenient to subscribe a customer to trial offerings that eventually turn into a paid service. Many folks don’t pay proper attention, they click the “Submit Order” button and don’t realize that within 2 weeks their CC will be billed with an amount vaster than the initial order to begin with.

Is this concept new? Of course it’s not. Brick’n Mortar stores have been cross selling for ages. How many times do you walk up to the checkout line and pass by the shelves with the cheap crap? Sure, it’s slightly different than to sell you a TV with the Sub-Zero fridge you just paid for, but it’s similar tactics. Make the customer buy more of your products, that is what it comes down to.

VonSkippy says:

Power to the People

You did the right thing – cancel the order and vote with your dollars. Unfortunately, most people are way way too stupid and will put an easy (and automatic) $7 into ebags pocket. Between bad politics (yeah, lets make it a law to teach myth in science class – aka Kansas schools) and just plain bad public education, it’s only a matter of a few generations and America will be the richest (for a while) third rate nation on the planet.

Observant in Texas says:

It's still creepy, but...

… I just went over to eBags.com to check this out, and before you commit the order, there is an opportunity to opt out of the magazine subscription. It’s not QUITE as jerky as doing it automatically — and is therefore probably not illegal.

However, it’s still Weasel territory. I’ll take my dollars elsewhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It's still creepy, but...

I’ll opt out from using eBags.com. How’s that? They’ve proven they can’t be trusted.

So, I can opt out, but I don’t get my money back unless I sent a stamp and wait six weeks? From an internet-based company? Am I really that stupid?

The only option I can see is that I can choose to get something for my seven dollars (a magazine), or nothing for my seven dollars(opting out). Either way, I’m out seven more dollars. Gee, I’m glad they give me the chance to choose getting nothing for my money. How nice of them, and how stupid of me not to choose it!

They don’t lower the price by seven dollars if you opt out, so even if I’m ‘smart enough’ to opt out, my purchase subsidizes the subscriptions of others, as you subtly put it, “too stupid” to click.

Sure, I have an option for getting my seven dollars back, a method slightly less heinous that most “rebate” offers.

I don’t trust eBags. Period. It’s over. I won’t go back. Deal with it, call me stupid, tell me how I don’t know how to click, try to convince me how wonderful it is that they take my money and give me the option to get nothing for it, or whatever you want to do, but deal with it.

They won’t get any of my money ever again.

Gretchen Wingert says:

eBags "Magazines"

Ah hah!!!! So that’s where those two mysterious magazine subscriptions came from. I started receiving two different magazines with no explanation. And now that I think of it, I had placed two separate orders with eBags. I just don’t remember a difference in what my credit card was charged. I’ll have to keep my eyes open.

Anonymous Coward (user link) says:

Promotion Explanation

I am from eBags marketing and I wanted to thank you all for the feedback you have given in regards to the promotion. I can understand where you might think you are purchasing something you have not, but I wanted to clear up the nature of the promotion. This is a free gift with your purchase and not one that you ever pay a cent for. We thought that it would be of value to our customers, who fit into the demographic of the publication, to have a few free issues. I agree that the wording can be confusing and why you would think you are paying for the publication. It is simply a free gift from us to you that you may cancel at any time. If you cancel, you will be given (not refunded, because you did not purchase the publication) $7 for accepting the publication in the first place. We ran this promotion because we thought our customers would appreciate a publication that seemed to be in line with what they may be interested in. Going forward we have decided to change from an opt-out promotion to an opt-in promotoin, in order to alleviate any customers from believing they are getting something they did not want. I truly appreciate everyone’s feedback here and want you all to know it is taken into serious consideration for future promotions such as this. Thank You.

rightnumberone (user link) says:

Re: Promotion Explanation

“The price of your subscription is included in your order. If you later decide that you do not want a subscription to Inside TV, we will send you a check for $7.00.”
Sorry, this is NOT a free gift. And I bet my Attorney General would agree.
It’s a $7 gift that eBags customers pay for unless they can figure out how to opt out. This is illegal in my state.
If you decide not to order, you can either forfeit the $7 to eBags (which probably sends $5 to the publisher and keeps @2, or go through a WHOLE BUNCH of rigamarole to get your own money back for being forced to buy something you never sought.
Which, hey, let’s face it, is the reason why they do these promotions … because they know you won’t go to the trouble of sending in for the refund.
Here’s what eBags would have done if they were really interested in giving you a free gift: they would have said:
“The price of this magazine subscription is NOT INCLUDED in the price of your order. The only thing INCLUDED in the price of your order is THE eBAG YOU JUST BOUGHT. However, we’re going to buy you a magazine subscription with NO STRINGS ATTACHED beause we value your business and we know you aren’t a schmuck who falls for stupid emarketing tricks. Thanks for shopping eBags.”

Steve Mueller (user link) says:

Lowering Prices

Anonymous Coward wrote:

so are you going to lower your prices $7 per item accordingly?

Why would they? As the eBags rep made clear, you were (supposedly) never charged $7 for the subscription. The $7 is money they’re giving for having accepted the promotional subscription. So you could buy a bag, get the magazine and then request the $7. Think of it like a $7 rebate if you don’t want the magazine.

Saying “The price of your subscription is included in your order” certainly made it sound like you were being charged for the magazine, so I understand the concerns, but the eBags rep clarified that. This means there are only two weasely things that could be going on:

  • They raised prices $7 or so before starting this promotion (but does anybody have any evidence of that?)

  • The subscriptions automatically renew (although I’m not aware of any magazines that do that)
Carlo Longino (profile) says:

Re: Lowering Prices

While I’m glad to see some backtracking from eBags here, this whole “promotion” is still very odd. Why pay $7 for having accepted a subscription, only if the user cancels it? I guess it’s like a rebate — but it’s pretty much the worst rebate mechanism I’ve ever seen. Never mind the fact they want to share my address and whatever other info with someone without making it clear beforehand they were doing so.

The process was shady, and judging by the comments here, doesn’t look like it’s won eBags a lot of fans. Whatever rhetoric they want to wrap it in, saying they’ll pay somebody $7 (even if it isn’t a “refund”) if they cancel creates the perception that they’re charging a buyer $7 for something they probably don’t want, and at the very least, haven’t been informed pre-purchase they’re getting.

It’s the same principle as a rebate, I’d imagine, only sort of in reverse — generate enough referrals (for which presumably they’re being paid) to the magazine so that paying the few people that actually jump through the myriad hoops to get their money back still allows for a profit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Lowering Prices

Well, I think you’re pretty much on the right track, although I don’t doubt that eBags truly did *intend* for this to be simply a “here’s something extra from us to you! Yay!” sort of promotion. The problem is that it was probably the marketing dept. that came up with this idea, everyone jumped on board: “OOooh! Cool! Let’s use some fancy-schmancy data-mining combined with some free shit from this magazine company and customers will love us!”, and they just went and put the whole campaign in place.
But did they ever ASK their customers if this is what they wanted? Did they do any pilot program or email a small portion of their customers to test the waters on this idea? Clearly, they did not. It’s a common practice I’ve seen in my own company with the sales/marketing/client relationship folks: little forethought to what the customer truly wants. They put out fires, they come up with “great” ideas, and they just DO IT! Unfortunately that’s not a great way to go about making changes to an established business.
Your customers come to your business and buy stuff because you’re good at providing them with that “stuff”, but when you decide to sell your existing customer’s ‘new’ stuff, or ‘different’ stuff, or even just ‘give them stuff for being good customers’ you need to really evaluate whether your customers want or need that stuff. Obviously eBag’s customers don’t need or want free magazine subscriptions.

Eric says:

Single use CC numbers

Discover as well as some other cc companies offer single use cc numbers through their websites, or a small downloadable app. it basically generates a one time use #, so you don’t have to worry about get billed later. I used it for a “Free” credit report that you have to cancle later, or else you get signed up for the service.

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