A bias for scamminess

Avoid stamps.com.

How is that a sleepy, conservative organization like the postal service ends up licensing its brand to a company that can't resist every honey pot scheme and opt out technique in the book?

I needed to send a package today and figured I'd try them out. Visited the site on my Mac, got all the way through registration, entered my card to pay for stamps and then (and only then) did I find out their software doesn't work on a Mac. Of course, they knew I was on a Mac but didn't bother to alert me early on.

Now they have my card, but hey, it's the USPS, so I trust them. Just for kicks, I call in to ask about the Mac compatibility issue. It turns out that by entering my card to pay for stamps, I've agreed to pay them $15.95 a month. Forever. And ever. Or until I notice.

I go online to cancel my account and discover that you can't cancel your account online. You have to call them. Oh. (The people on the phone are friendly, for what it's worth…)

Can you imagine this sort of thing happening at a store? Or in a sleepy government office?

They told me that they have 400,000 paying customers. I wonder how many of them are paying a monthly fee without realizing it…

Can I suggest three simple principles for ethical dealings online:

  1. When charging someone, tell them exactly what you're charging them for, on the page itself, not buried in a link.
  2. If you're billing someone monthly, send them an email every month to tell them you're doing so. If that's going to lead to people quitting, the answer isn't to avoid the email, the answer is to make your service more valuable.
  3. It should be as easy to quit something (even a free service) as it is to join it.

There's something about the mechanics and arms-length nature of the web that just begs companies that know better to treat people in a way that they'd be humiliated to try face to face.