I've Been To Hell And It Cost Me $9.95

  • by March 14, 2002
As an aspirant New Media-maven, I’ve defiantly announced to the industry that FREE is dead. “Consumers will pay either with their time or money,” I barked to anyone who would hear me. The truth was out there. We had finally closed the chapter of unprofitability.

But inside, I was taunted by the demons of hypocrisy as I flitted from free site to free site, neatly avoiding those services that actually had the gall to ask for my hard-earned cash.

And then one day I received this e-mail:

December 18, 2001
Sender: "MAIL.COM Forwarding"

Dear joejaffe,

Thank you for using an e-mail address powered by Our records indicate that your account is a forwarding account. This means your e-mail account is set to automatically send all new e-mails to another e-mail address.



Unfortunately we are no longer able to offer this service to you free of charge and on 12/01/2001 we made forwarding a premium pay service.

Sign up today for the ability to keep your email address and have it follow you everywhere! Take advantage of the limited time discounted rate of one year for only $9.95! Almost 50% off the normal annual rate of $19.95!!

For the next 45 days only, this service is being offered at an introductory promotional rate of ONLY $9.95 per year. Signup today!

So don't delay - become a Premium User to avoid interruptions to your e-mail account

The Team

Fools. Did they really think I would respond to this idle threat? Don’t they get it? This is my Web! And anyway, is this any way to talk to me – one of their precious eyeballs? But alas, those tenacious little Rottweilers didn’t give up.

Mail #2:

January 25, 2001
Sender: "MAIL.COM Forwarding"
Subject: REMINDER: Get your Forwarding Service for FREE!

Dear joejaffe,

This is your second notice regarding your Forwarding Services.

Previously we sent you an e-mail advising you that we will begin charging for the E-mail forwarding feature. Effective 01/31/2002 we will turn off the free forwarding unless you select to purchase our E-mail Forwarding Service or take part in our special promotion.

Special Promotion

Get a Net2Phone No Annual Fee MasterCard and get one year of forwarding FREE! For a limited time, if you apply and are approved for a Net2Phone MasterCard, we will automatically offer you one FREE year of E-Mail Forwarding. [Note: You have to be APPROVED, merely applying will not entitle you to the offer.]

The Team

Well, I’ve got to credit these guys with being resourceful. They capitalized the word FREE. They even offered a so-called “promotion” as an alternative – all $10 of value for yet another credit card. Let me repeat it again: It’s MY Web. No way, I’m actually going to pay for anything.

Note: January 31 comes and goes. My service continues uninterrupted. I called their bluff and was victorious.

Mail #3: Piece De Resistance – short and sweet

Date: March 8, 2002
Sender: "MAIL.COM Forwarding"
Subject: Your Forwarding Service has been turned off!!

Dear joejaffe,

This is to inform you that your forwarding service has been de-activated. This means that you will no longer receive e-mail sent to at another e-mail address.

The Team

So I clicked on the payment link given to me by those $#%@$# blackmailers. What awaited me was truly horrible:; your connection is not optimized. You have one message waiting. You’ve won a prize.

I was in cluttered hell and to make matters even worse, I had to pay to be there. Moments later, I had grudgingly completed the transaction and paid my $9.95.

A dejected and beaten man, I logged out (although I still got away with the so-called introductory price!)

The reality is that I had emerged out of a quite effective “relationship” marketing exercise. Knowing the effort and “price” of having to change all my newsletter forwarding details, as well as informing countless contacts of my change in e-mail address, had finally succeeded in “converting” a rather qualified and captive audience (read: lame duck)

So publishers out there: read and take note. If you have proprietary benefits – from content to community – especially with established relationships and equity, then you too could be victorious in the raging battle against FREE.

p.s. Feel free to e-mail me anytime at my not-so-free e-mail address for life!

- Joseph Jaffe is Director of Interactive Media at TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York, where he works with clients including Kmart, ABSOLUT Vodka, Samsonite, Embassy Suites and Cunard. His primary focus is to highlight interactive's value and benefit in meeting his clients' integrated business and branding objectives.

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