Subscriptions: to subscribe or not to subscribe…

Deciding whether to take out a subscription to online tutoring.

Subscriptions: to subscribe or not to subscribe…

A subscription is intended to provide a convenient way for people to spread payments, but for some it send shivers down the spine. Will you be able to cancel? Will you have to send dozens of unanswered emails? Will you spend hours queueing to talk with “John” in a remote call centre? Or worse still will you forget to cancel altogether?

For some, the fear of subscriptions is so great they are prepared to miss out altogether.

I hadn’t recognised the true depth of that fear until we ran our national Target 250 Competition. It offered 4 weeks free access to our platform, with a top prize of an iPad for the winning student, and free access to Plytime Learning for schools. And it came at a great time of year, helping students practise and improve their maths just before the SATs exams.

But we operate a subscription service, and everything is set up on that basis. So, although we provided discount codes setting the amount paid to zero, entrants still had to subscribe and enter their details into Stripe. And this was made very clear to everyone interested in participating.

Now we have no way of knowing how many people were put off by this. But we do know that half the parents who went to the trouble of creating accounts for themselves and their children stopped short at the subscription stage. I was amazed. Sacrificing a free opportunity to help their children’s education purely because it involved a subscription – that was free.

To some extent, I understand. According to Citizen’s Advice, almost half a billion pounds are wasted annually on subscriptions that people don’t really want. And there are many big companies with dubious, if not immoral practices, making it too hard for people to get out.

But used the right way, subscriptions should make life easier. 

So, what's the benefit of a subscription for tutoring?

Subscriptions give parents total control over spending on their child’s education.  There’s nothing worse than paying upfront for a lengthy period and then finding, half way through, that it’s not for you or it clashes with something else.  We believe it should work for you.  So that’s why Plytime uses subscriptions – to spread the cost, with no tie-ins, and the ability to easily cancel at any time from your parent dashboard.

We also help by monitoring user behaviour and, if we see a user hasn’t been active for a while, we get in touch to check on them. If we don’t think a child is using the platform and we can’t get hold of parents we even cancel it for them, so they don’t incur unnecessary charges. Our aim is to help students improve and that requires active users, not inactive subscribers.

When it comes to subscriptions, people do need to be careful. You should avoid companies that think it’s acceptable to tie you into something you don’t want or that seek to benefit if you don’t use it and forget to cancel. But not all subscriptions are the same. Check out the terms in advance and don’t let fear of the unknown get the better of you.

As Shakespeare might have said if he’d been around in the subscription age:

To subscribe or not to subscribe? That is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to risk
The financial heartache of forgotten subscriptions,
Or to limit thy horizons by opposing,
And never dreaming of what might have been,
For the unknown makes cowards of us all.

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  • Post last modified:1st June 2023