Scams & Mind Games Parting You and Your Money

‘Tis the season to be…Scammed. I’ve had two in the last 2 weeks, and you really need to be on your toes to catch them. The Time Warner magazine renewal is especially obtuse these days. You certainly wouldn’t call it customer friendly or brand building! I had 4 magazines for 1 year free as the result of another promotion. Then of course the renewal fees kicked in without any notice, on my credit card. They’re hoping the Status Quo Bias will take effect and I’ll do nothing, yielding revenue for them.

The Word Dance

Well, I called. There is a recording for cancellations of course, because they annoy so many darned people that we all call in to cancel. Here’s the tricky part. The wording I’m sure passed through several direct response marketers and a legal team to make it obtuse enough but still legal, to ensure you are confused and basically renew at the end.

(1) The first automated selection is to not cancel, and get another 6 months free. What they don’t tell you is that at the end of the 6 months you have to call again to cancel or you end up in this annoying process all over again.

(2) The second automated selection is really interesting. It offers to cancel the new term extension they just offered– but you will end up paying for all your magazines. It sounds like you’re canceling, but the language is so obtuse that it’s hard to figure out, especially if you’re multi-tasking on anything else at the time.

How the Words Affect Your Decision

A bit of Anchoring is going on here. The first offer is 6 months more – FREE. This means your mind now starts thinking about the last free year, and another 6 months free as the comparison point to all other options they’re about to give you. Even though 6 months would have been of benefit to me, I value my time even more and didn’t want to go through the cancellation process again. They’re betting many will take it because consumers like instant gratification, and the Status Quo Bias will kick in 6 months from now.

The Quick Out

If you really want to cancel, the way to avoid the mind games is simple. Bang on the pound sign multiple times until you get a breathing service representative. Interrupt them when they start with the “good news….” cross selling pitch for yet another option, and just cancel. My $176 is being used elsewhere.

Carrie Rattle is a Principal at, a web site for women focused on the mind and money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence. Thoughts always welcome:

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