Autorenewing Subscriptions

I just got off the phone with my bank. They put a hold on my credit card because, at 0800 EST, there were three declines. All were from an effort to renew a subscription on Substack. This subscription autorenewed with my old information–and an apostrophe(!) and so it was rejected. Substack attempted three times to validate the card with out of date information. This caused the fraud bells and whistles to go off. The account was blocked.

Fortunately, I’m traveling in the US and so could reach the fraud department. After fending off queries about the apostrophe, why I won’t use their app–if the phone gets lost, so does my money–I was finally able to get the account unblocked.

Were I overseas this would have taken days to resolve, if it could have been resolved at all until my return to the country guarded by Homeland Security. Need I point out that today I have no cash, having overtipped the car wash guys last night? So no coffee for me this morning.

The culprit was Substack. I changed my address since the time I subscribed. Nevertheless, Substack hit my card three times, one after the other, mimicking the actions of a thief using a stolen card. So my bank blocked my card. It took me an hour on the phone to sort it all out, but I could not have done so had I not serindipitously been in the US. I hate autorenewals precisely for this reason. I don’t want a free sub, companies deserve to be paid. But I cannot do business with Substack, it is simply too much risk.

The autorenewal used information on file; information that has since changed. So when the fraud department asked if I had authorized any transactions today–I hadn’t–all hell broke loose. Legally, of course, I had authorized a transaction, one year ago, but I didn’t authorize that transaction for today. Believe it or t not, a one year-old Substack subscription wasn’t the first thing that popped in my head as the cause for my account being blocked.

Autorenewals operate stealthily. Companies don’t want to ask for the money again because people may say no. It’s much easier to take the cash a year after the decision to subscribe was made. The difference is that today’s autorenewal attempt not only ended in a “no,” but an angry one. Because of autorenew, Substack lost a subscriber. I might well have stayed on had they asked me and given me the opportunity to update my information.

Not to mention being confronted–again–with the apostrophe.

Bottom line: I’m happy to send the money for a subscription, but I can’t risk having my account frozen due to Substack’s autorenew practices and multiple hits.