Birchbox hates you.

Birchbox hates you and they’re not the only ones. The good news is that its maybe not on purpose.

Lets first be clear about one thing: A/B Testing and ‘Data driven decision making’ is about 1 thing: Manipulating consumer behavior. Consumer experience goes out the window as everyone looks at some Key Performance Indicator (KPI) and decides that as long as decision A affected KPI A in any positive sense then surely the consumer has decided with their actions. By itself, this idea isn’t a horrible thing. But when the levers being pulled are essentially click-bait-and-switch then the business is saying one thing: I don’t care what your personal experience is as long as in aggregate my action gets me what I want.


On to the example at hand.

Like many of you, I’m over all subscription consumer services. Birchbox, Lootcrate, etc etc. I’m sure 3 new ones just got funding while I was complaining about the space.


Like some of you, I gave a them a shot. Both to feel informed about marketplace offerings, as well as to tempt ‘the universe’ into showing me something new and exciting.

Those days are done.

Today I woke up with a singular purpose: cancel all my existing subscription services.


Now, the truly best way to do this is to just cancel/change your credit card from the bank side. They can’t bill you anymore, and surely if they can’t bill you - they’ll stop sending you stuff and life is beautiful: no more boxes piling up near your door, no more excess tissue paper littering your otherwise lightly messy house.

I, however, decided to log in and actually just cancel my subscription.

This is where the manipulation comes into place.

I log in and go to my account where there is readily a cancel my subscription link.


Great! They definitely made it easy to find the option. On to the action!

Step 1: Title: ‘You sure?’

Illustration for article titled Birchbox hates you.

Now, I’m not surprised by their ‘hey click my nice shiny button’ ignore that ‘ugly text link’ base style manipulation. Its not unlike what you see on horrible software download sites, porn sites, torrent, etc. It’s accepted behavior. Make a sexy button with your goal.

I know what I want so I click ‘Proceed to Cancel’ bc hey I know what I’m doing.

Step 2: Title: ‘But whyyyyy!?’

Illustration for article titled Birchbox hates you.

Ah, I see we’re sticking to the ‘pretty button’ vs the ‘ugly text link’ idea.

You won’t trick me! I learned my lesson last page and will click on the right side: where UX and UI has always agreed the ‘cancel’ should go. Left side : agreement. Right side: disagreement.


As a reminder: I, as a consumer, have decided I no longer what your service. Your goal as a business at this point should be to not give me any new reasons to hate you and to create as friction-less a process as possible. (See: One-click-unsubscribe.)

Step 3: ‘Gotcha!’

Illustration for article titled Birchbox hates you.


Now the big ‘pretty button’ is for Cancel and the ‘ugly text link’ is to keep your subscription.


Did you catch it? Did you fall for it? Was your mouse already on the right side of the screen?

Yeah. Maybe.

Now, lets say I wasn’t as discerning a consumer as I am - and I click keep my subscription by accident and/or because Birchbox did A/B testing and determined that when they did this their ‘month over month attrition rates were less adversely affected’ than when they didn’t try and GROSSLY DECEIVE YOU WITH SPATIAL AND VISUAL TRICKERY:

Who wins here? Birchbox gets another month of my money because I accidentally got 75% of the way through the process and then they pulled a click-bait-and-switch on me?


Thanks Birchbox. You have truly proven how gross the subscription consumer model is, where this was initially a temporary cancellation because I’m sick of having boxes of small, questionably valuable, consumer goods yield cardboard and tissue paper in my living room: this is now a permanent cancellation because you’re a disgusting purveyor of confusion and manipulation.

Sample this!

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