An online purchase I made towards the end of last year back put me in mind of an episode of The Office (US) where the Michael Scott Paper Company realised that it was selling paper at unsustainable prices; Michael himself rang a customer to ask them to pay more. The goods had already been paid for and delivered.
After much soul searching and consideration, I have decided to publish details of this episode.
For ages I had been searching for a reasonably-priced way to safely store my large personal photo and video collection in a cloud-based, secure location to protect me from the usual fears: fire, flood, damage, theft, hacker sabotage, pestilence and plague. I stumbled across JustCloud.com, and this seemed to provide the solution I needed, and the special offer seemed to be great value.
After two weeks of uploading my >500GB collection, I was a little happier that I was covered. I paid up front for 2 years so I got Unlimited storage for EUR 166.85. UNLIMITED. Their word, not mine.
A few weeks later I was looking at application screens telling me I had to upgrade to keep the same service I was already using and had paid for. So I looked carefully at this in order to understand why; the three USB hard drives I kept permanently connected to my machine were the reason – suddenly, JustCloud decided I had to pay more for backing them up. But they decided this unilaterally and without warning. The amount they were demanding (also by email, by the way) was EUR 239.85 – far in excess of my original two year payment, and this was on top of my original payment.
I don’t need to tell you how or why this is wrong, and why I then demanded my money back, in full, without delay. I would have gladly have taken them to court for breach of contract for their nefarious practices, were it not for the complex, costly and time-consuming aspects of legal jurisdiction. I live in Ireland, they are based in the UK. But I would have dearly loved to have taught them a lesson.
Here is a snapshot of my initial angry email, sent in response to first discovering their trickery:
Message: Support, Having signed up to JustCloud and having used it since around August 10th, I now find that it is asking me for an additional EUR79.95 per external drives. Drives that it has been backing up since the start of my subscription. This is absolutely outrageous. You cannot change the terms of business part-way into my subscription. Unless this is rectified very quickly, I will expect a full refund of all monies paid and removal of all of my private files from your backup servers.
Their answer to this was of the cut-and-paste variety, and almost passive-aggressive in its tone. And what angered me further was that they seemed to be completely ignoring my point – that they can’t just make it up as they go along.
Hi Alan, I am sorry to hear you wish to cancel. The last thing we don't want to frustrate our customers, we had to put these additional charges in place to keep running our subscriptions at such a low price. As a valued customer we would be happy to offer you the Video Backup ***and/or*** Files over 1GB add-on for free. I just want to clarify that it is still possible to Drag & Drop or right click on a file that is anywhere of any type and back it up without these additional services. Please confirm how you want to proceed. -- -- XXXXXX XXXXXXXX User Experience Team www.JustCloud.com
But to tell me that they “…had to put these additional charges in place to keep running our subscriptions at such a low price” – a startling tacit admission that they were, in fact, making it up as they went along. There’s the court case winner right there, in a single sentence.
My next email was this:
The one thing you are doing, at least in this case, is frustrating a customer. It's fairly outrageous that you can decide to move the goalposts and tacitly admit to breaking your contract. Clearly, I am not a valued customer as you have just asked me to fork out an additional EUR 240 per year for the service you have already agreed to provide to me. It's not my fault your company has not properly costed its offering. Also, do you see the ridiculous irony in charging a *lot* more in order to "keep running our subscriptions at such a low price"? This is management speak at its worst and I'm not falling for it. Please cancel and refund my subscription payment, in full, as soon as possible. And please remove my backed up files from your servers. I will report this to Visa if my refund is not complete, to the penny. And I will get it too. I paid for two years up front. You really have quite a cheek forcing me to pay more, at this point, to get the same service you contracted with me to provide. I will now have to look again for an alternative replacement service, and for a service that is somewhat more trustworthy. I expect this behaviour will damage your business, and I don't care if it does. I will also take steps to warn those friends of mine I had already recommended your service to of this experience. And I will make a larger audience aware of it too. This sort of nefarious practice will simply not stand. Sincerely Alan Shanahan
After a couple of days I checked my credit card statement and saw that they had refunded me all of my payment, less approx. EUR 13 which I can only presume they kept to pay for using their time in responding to my emails. Call me a coward, but I couldn’t be bother going through the admin headache of chasing it.
By chance, I came across this Facebook page: Avoid JustCloud
I was not alone. It’s a fair assumption that you will only ever hear of a small percentage of unhappy customers, because many people will not take it upon themselves to chase these things up, complain openly or to join such unhappy public forums.
It’s outrageous that a subscription business thinks this type of nefarious practice will stand: simply because they cannot accurately build a cost model into their business. Getting a small minority of (potentially) loyal customers to pay for their business risks is no way to guarantee business survival; if anything, it’s only going to help guarantee failure. Do we really have to return to Business 101 by stating that the most important asset of a business is NOT its people, it is the CUSTOMERS? For the record, I actually annoyed myself typing that.
There are some damning reviews at this link: C|Net user reviews of JustCloud
I could continue to bore you with the subsequent relentless emails I got from them – almost as if none of this had happened – but I won’t. An automated marketing engine totally lacking in intelligence or any form of personal touch, all of which was glaringly obvious.
I wonder how much of my recurring business they lost. And how many lost referrals, on my part. And who will read this and decide not to use them? That’s one hell of a business strategy.
My message to the owners of JustCloud: Unless your business is comedy, don’t let comedians run your business.