PSA: In February, I was caught by a mammoth trap.
Of course, I mean this figuratively, and not literally. I did not stumble upon and fall into a 15,000 year old pit designed for the now-extinct fuzzy elephant, †Mammuthus primigenius*. That would have been very exciting, even if leg-breaking. Some researchers did discover these whopping 25m x 1.7m holes in Mexico, as was reported in 2019. Apparently we humans used to hunt them.
No, in February I signed up to a 30 day free-trial to the subscription company Scribd to check out an audiobook. It appears to offer like a gym membership where you pay monthly. Instead of doing exercises and getting buff you can sit on the couch and listen to books and podcasts.
Shortly after, I cancelled my subscription. Fast forward to now, I noticed that the company has continued to bill me for what I thought was a cancelled subscription.
So at first I thought it was my own dumb fault, for not cancelling properly.
But after some digging, it turns out that this is definitely intentional on the part of the company: when you hit ‘cancel’, a confirmation page comes up to let you think you have cancelled, but there are several pages you have to wade through with “Are you sure?” AT THE BOTTOM which you can only see AFTER SCROLLING, after they let you think you’ve cancelled. Which is deceitful.
This interface design for conning money from users falls under dark patterns.
Scribd’s shady practice has been going for several years. I found many comments online angrily complaining about the same thing.
Scribd has a trustpilot rating of a spectacular 1.9/5 (2238 reviews)
Here is one Reddit post about it.
Wish I had seen all this earlier! I’m usually alright with doing my homework after some stupid mistakes in my twenties, but fell down a hole this time. Oops! Now passing this information about the modern-day trap on to fellow readers.
Happily, the bank is taking my side – almost as soon as I clicked “dispute transaction”, I received confirmation that a refund was coming (and no pages of ‘Are You Sure!’). This happened immediately outside office hours, which means no bank-human reviewed this dispute. I wonder if Scribd is on a refund list for dodgy charging?
Another good thing is that I signed up via PayPal, so Scribd never saw any card information, and have since removed my card even on there.
Stay safe! Have you truly cancelled your unwanted subscriptions? What’re some of your tips to stay safe online?
* † If you notice this symbol, the “dagger”, next to various species and genuses in Wikipedia, it is used in biology to mean they are extinct.