This blog post partly comes out of internal conversations we have all the time here about Ting pricing and promotions on both Ting Mobile and Ting Internet. But to be honest, it mostly comes out of a phone call I had with my cable company recently.
On behalf of Ting (without actually running it by everybody first), I vow that we will never do any of the following:
The bait and switch
This is where you promote a big, bold monthly rate with a really subtle message that it goes up after twelve months and then again after twenty-four months. Oh, here’s a great example. Click “Pricing & Other Info.” on any of those packages on that page (also shown at right).
A trial period is cool. I suppose some sort of clearly communicated timed pricing tiers could even be something that people would choose willingly. But ask a bunch of folks on this plan what their pricing will go up to at twenty-four months. I don’t think anybody knows.
I definitely didn’t. This was the subject of my call with the cable company.
Competing with this tactic sucks for us. We will always hear, “Hey, your price is higher!” and then we have to explain, “No it isn’t because that’s our real price a year from now. Click that small link…” But doing it sucks worse. So we will not.
I love this one. This is where you sell something that would be absolutely unimaginable to use without a particular feature or function and then you charge extra for that feature or function. “Oh, you wanted brakes on that bicycle? Hmm, well, that’s going to cost you.”
Leave it to cellphone companies to take this to the extreme. “You want to get on our network? Absolutely, welcome, enjoy yourself…oh, you want to use a phone? Well…”
To be clear, there are times when a la carte pricing makes perfect sense. Some people need static IP or international roaming and other don’t. No reason to charge everyone for it.
Again, the test here is whether people are shocked by the extra charge or whether they might happily choose to forego it. If it is universally expected or considered essential to the service, we will include it.
The reverse grandfather
This is absolutely ubiquitous in our industries and absolutely perfect when you need to get more competitive on pricing to acquire new customers but don’t want to give up the inflated revenue that you earn on your current customers. So you do just that. You roll out the new plan and you hope very few of the current customers call you on it. If they don’t, they stay grandfathered at rates that seemed great when they signed up fifteen years ago. This is why phone companies and cable companies come out with so many aggressive promotions and plans but their average revenue per customer never seems to go down very much.
Again, to be clear, we will certainly offer credits or discounts on devices sometimes to help get new customers through the door. But those are tiny one-time incentives relative to the hundreds of dollars we help customers old and new equally save on their annual service.
I’ll also admit that we avoid this particular practice as much for our own sanity. Who the hell can keep track of cohorts of customers all on different plans…and trumpet deals to prospects just quietly enough that customers don’t hear…and deal with angry customers every day….
The common thread here is this. We will never build pricing on the hope that our customers are not paying attention or not willing or able to make the effort to demand their money back. Said differently, we will never inspire a Consumerist guide to understanding your monthly bill.
We won’t lock you in and hike prices when you’re already committed. That should be obvious enough. It hardly makes us saints. But it seemed worth putting in writing.
It’s funny, I had intended for this post to sound less bitter and more proud. I guess the truth is I am still a little bitter from years of being a cellphone and cable customer and now very proud to be a different kind of cellphone and cable company.