Online subscription renewal getting more and more burdensome

"Our Time Is More Valuable than Yours"

by Conrad Weisert
© 2003 Information Disciplines, Inc., Chicago

NOTE: This article may be circulated freely as long as the copyright notice is included.

The old way

Every six months or so we used to get those annoying renewal forms for free trade-journal subscriptions. In order to qualify we had to answer dozens of multiple-choice questions, some of which had no valid answer. If we did so consistently and in a way that would persuade advertisers that we were members of their target group, then we'd continue getting that publication.

That was tedious, but we could do it at our convenience. We might fill out part of the form today and the rest of it next Friday. We might fill it out on a train or airplane. It was a suitable activity while we waited on telephone hold. As long as the form remained in our input queue we were reminded to complete it and stick it in the mail.

The new improved way

We don't get those forms any more. Instead we get a note, either by E-mail or in a small envelope. That note:

When we follow those instructions, we're confronted by a lengthy form similar to the paper ones we used to fill out. But there's a difference: We don't get to see the whole form. We have to fill it out in sequence a page at a time and then click a link to the next page. They don't tell us how many pages there will be. Each time we think we've finished, we discover another page of detailed questions to be answered.

If we wish to work on the form incrementally, as we did with old paper forms, we look for a way either:

Some of those web sites allow one or the other of those options, but many don't. They expect us to sit at our console dedicated to the chore until it's done.

Easing the reading backlog

After the first couple of those annoying experiences, I declined to play. If the notice has a return E-mail address, I notify the senders that I don't fill out long-winded online forms and ask them to send me a paper form. So far only one of them has done so, but only as a .pdf attachment that I still had to print.

Eventually after some "last chance" reminders a subscription runs out and I stop getting that journal. So far, I'm surviving.

If you agree, feel free to refer them to this web page.

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Last modified March 5, 2003