Keeping tabs on auto-renewals

Several columns ago I talked about the "subscription" option, i.e. leasing, for Microsoft's productivity software suite "Microsoft 365" as opposed to buying "Office" outright. Another example, commercial anti-virus software, operates under a similar principle where they require their users to annually renew (pay) to continue getting the virus signatures to prevent known viruses from infecting your computer or identifying virus infections and eradicating them by using the updated digital antidotes.

I'm confident that many of you are seasoned geeks who can fix different ailments our technology devices succumb to. I also know some friends who opted for computer repair services from office supply stores or big box electronic stores locally. For the latter, many technology services have also adopted the subscription model to sell their preventative services after repair.

The volume of robocalls and SPAM calls were exacerbated in the weeks leading up to the recent election. I also noticed that the increased volume has become a new baseline for unwanted call volume. Literally the day after the election, "different" 10-digit numbers started to leave messages with the "same" content in my voicemail: "From the billing department of computer services. This is to inform you that $399 is going to be charged from your checking account or plastic card, which is attached in our system for the auto-renewal of your subscription. If you want to cancel the subscription, please press 1 or call us immediately at 854-222-9342."

My dear readers know that I always preach to let unsolicited calls and texts, even if the Caller-ID says they are from local area codes like 440, 216 or 330, to let them go to your answering machine or voicemail (the latter an answering machine in the cloud). My assumption is that if important, they'll leave a message.

Since the digital world has embraced the subscription business model, from movie streaming services to computer repair/preventative services and anything in between, you may have several subscriptions active at any given time. Whether monthly or annually, it may also "auto-renew" to the credit card you initially used to buy the product or service. I can only speak for myself but I will never remember all the different subscriptions and the renewal dates so I keep a spreadsheet of subscription renewal dates and associated contact information. But why?

Another Tak-ism is that technology evolves very fast hence although auto-renewal is convenient, a year is a long time for any technology-based product or service. I would want to reevaluate whether I should renew with the same product or service for another year.

The message left on my voicemail did make me wonder which subscription it might be – a knee-jerk reaction due to the $399 renewal amount. That is when I just referred to my spreadsheet. Even if one of the subscriptions was $399 or close to it, I will definitely NOT call the number left in the voicemail but rather rely on the contact information in my spreadsheet (or keeping a paper notebook is fine too). Stay safe!

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation

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Volume 12, Issue 22, Posted 9:20 AM, 11.17.2020