Many of you Blogcritics and perhaps a few regular readers know me as The Guy Who Got Mugged. And Beaten. Some of you may refer to me as The Guy Who Deserved To Get Mugged. And Should Have Been Killed But We’ll Settle For Beaten. But I digress. I’m also the guy with a 12-month EMusic.com subscription plan who got mugged. (For those living under rocks or in civilized parts of the world, Emusic is an MP3 online music store specializing mostly in artists on indie labels.) As unrelated as these facts seem, they do intersect. After having all my credit cards stolen, I promptly — good debtor that I am – canceled them. EMusic attempted to register a charge for my monthly subscription fee. My bank choked: what with having to deal with all the bizarre, post-robbery 75-cent charges at 7-11, Safeway and other pedestrian sorts of establishments open at three in the morning, who can blame them?
EMusic sent a notice that their automated credit card transaction had failed, could I please contact them and update my credit card information? I notified them that I was presently in plastic-cash limbo and would update my account as soon as new cards were issued, allowing them to bill me for this month as well as the remainder of my subscription, every month individually as my contract stipulates — for about six more months.
Everybody step back: They sent me a polite cancellation notice, waiving all pending and future fees associated with my contract. When does this happen? A company holds a valid contract with a paying customer; there is no issue of customer dissatisfaction; and the company releases the customer from the contract with a Fare thee well, along ye merry way.
My money says EMusic is trying like hell to dump existing old-model subscribers so they can update their business model to compete with the sudden glut of online music distribution outlets. Compare it to the declared Democrat presidential candidates: Apple is like Howard Dean or John Kerry on a good day; nobody wants to be… damn, can’t remember his name… you know, that slouchy guy with gray hair, bad tie… oh didn’t he drop out anyway?
All this speculation is well and good, until you read the fine print. I’ll sum it up for you: As of 8th November 2003, you no longer get your all-you-can-eat subscription plan even if that’s what you signed for and are contractually committed to; your account will automatically convert to a new service with a maximum download limit; or those with existing accounts may convert to a special plan, as in especially expensive: for $50 a month your limit is extended to 300 downloads.
I’m on thin ice, as due to my credit card rejection, I may be failing to fulfill my contractual agreement, giving EMusic the right to terminate my contract. But what about other subscribers? The ones who were expecting a full year of unlimited downloads and now face restrictive limits or appreciable fee increases for higher yet still restrictive limits. The ones who weren’t mugged, smacked about like rag dolls, likely bearing permanent scars on prominent features, all for a free tin of Skoal and a Pepsi… But again I digress.