Like many of you I read in awe about the accomplishments of the Washington Post since Jeff Bezos acquired the company two years ago.
The killer chart is below:
In the article it raved particularly about the WaPo’s amazing mobile app and how Bezos personally intervened to get the team to improve loading times – whatever the short-term costs.
“His focus on customer experience has become a near mandate within the news operation.
Executives say Mr. Bezos has encouraged experimentation and building scale ahead of short-term financial gains”
I have been a long-term admirer of Bezos. I also have been a long-term reader of the Washington Post. I’m a political junkie and an admirer of the news media world having studied it since college. When the New York Times got ahead of the WaPo in the digital world I subscribed to a paying digital edition of the NYT. I didn’t really feel like I needed to pay for both so the WaPo took a back seat.
With this article, plus my recent frustrations with the NYT mobile (cr)app, I thought I’d give the WaPo a try. I downloaded this beautiful app on the App Store and was instantly hooked. The article was right. Load times were fast, the UX/UI were beautifully done and I could easily navigate and find what I wanted to read quickly.
I used the app for 7-10 days and my time drifted from the NYT to the WaPo and I thought I might make a habit of this. Then I hit the paywall. I had viewed all of the articles I could view for free. Fair enough. It was put-up-or-shut-up time for me. Either I believe in high-quality journalism or I don’t. And I do. So figured I’d subscribe even though I already have subscriptions to the NYT and the WSJ.
I clicked on the subscribe link and they wanted $15 / month. NFW. $180 / year when I already have 2 other subs plus I know I can read WaPo free by scrolling through Firefox, Chrome and Safari across computers and mobile devices and get all I want for free wasn’t worth it.
I didn’t want to cheat. So I went online to search for other subscription options. It turns out the $15 / month version was for national/international plus local DC news version. While I’m in the DC area for the holidays (maybe they geo-coded me here?), I have no interest in paying for local DC news as somebody who lives in LA. But it turns out for $10 / month ($99 / year) I could get the national + international version plus the mobile app.
Bingo. I’ll do that. So I did.
Then I went back to the beautiful WaPo app to log in with my credentials. And it tells me that I can’t use this version – it is the national/international/DC version only. WTF?
So I searched the app store and there is a different WaPo app for the international/national edition – the one I just paid for. I downloaded that. How different could it? A world different, it turns out. In fact, it’s a piece of shit. And I was the proud owner of it for $99. I was seething.
Crappy UI/UX. Limited stories. It felt like a total bait-and-switch and I was already 45 minutes into trying to be an upstanding individual and supporter of the WaPo.
But now I felt forced to Google “How to cancel your WaPo subscription.” Helpfully they listed an 800 number for iPhone customers. I called it. Apple had impeccable customer service. Really – a 10/10 in helpfulness, politeness and speed – and all on Christmas day. We spent 20 minutes together – me and Apple support. I got to speak to two reps, check my Apple ID and my wife’s and neither showed any signs of a subscription.
After walking me through my process of subscribing they realized that I hadn’t subscribed through Apple (I wish I had) but in stead had subscribed through the WaPo website so I had to cancel my subscription there. Ugh. Ok. Well, thank you for the super helpful customer service and have a Merry Christmas, Apple.
I went to the WaPo help center to figure out how to cancel and there was one easy button to push. Nice! I figured I’d cancel and then later try to figure out whether there was some way to subscribe to what I wanted after all. I cancelled. At which point WaPo informed me that they would be keeping my $99 and my subscription would be cancelled in 364 days.
Now my blood was boiling. I was an hour-and-twenty into this process. I clicked on the customer service, contact us page, to talk with a rep. Surely if Apple could answer WaPo could. Nope. Call during business hours. As in 3 days from now.
Maybe I’ll remember on Monday. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll get my money back. Maybe I won’t. But any way you slice it I started out today a huge FanBoy of the WaPo – mostly their OpEd articles and more recently their mobile app. And I ended the day a hater. Seething in their terrible customer experience. And certain that while Bezos had helped them solve their load times as outlined in the WSJ article for which I gladly pay, he hadn’t told them that having two separate apps and bait-and-switching buyers vs. making it super easy to buy different subscriptions from your beautiful apps is ludicrous.
So with 80 minutes of sunk-cost into my WaPo relationship I decided to invest another 40 minutes: In sharing what a horrible experience it has been to try and buy the product they no doubt spent millions to build and then leaned into PR to tell us how great it was.
It’s a shame you didn’t think to make it easy to purchase. That would have been even easier than improving page-loading times.
(Cross-posted @ Both Sides of the Table)