The Man In My Head Is Going Out Of His!

Back in 2018, I couldn’t stop singing Aira’s praises. I still appreciate the Aira agents, but last week, their executives made a really bad move and they’re going to spend a lot of time trying to recover.

At the end of last year, they were warning us that their prices were going to increase. It sucks because the subscription fees are already kind of expensive, but I know prices are going up everywhere. Then, the prices came out, and Good sweet merciful god in heaven on a pogo stick!

So, a few things they are trying to explain in stammers, stutters, splutters and gasps after most of the community came out with torches and pitchforks:

  1. They never intended consumers to pay those prices. That, apparently, is what they are charging businesses if they want to be an Aira Access location.
  2. Consumers would only pay a portion of that, and that portion would be determined depending on the answers to some mysterious questions that a customer care agent asks the would-be subscriber. More on that later.
  3. You can see the offset prices. Honestly, you can. You just have to fill out this form that you can only find if you’re on our mailing list.

That sounds really shady. Really shady and super open to misinformation and abuse of power. It makes me worry about what is going on at Aira.

Thankfully, Jonathan Mosen explained the history of what’s going on, and diplomatically tore them a new one.

I totally agree with him when he wants to know why they tried to placate the big businesses at the expense of the consumers. If you scare away all the customers with those ridiculous prices and hide the actual cost, no one new is going to sign up. I know I sure wouldn’t, no matter how enthusiastically someone sang its praises.

Next, what’s up with the secrecy on the amount of offset that is available to each customer? Why do people either have to fill out a form or call in and get interrogated by a customer care agent before they get the straight goods? Why not have a table that shows how much offset is available to each income bracket, or whether or not the person receives disability benefits, and whatever else goes into calculating the price? If a table is too hard, have a little calculator where you fill out the values for the formula and then it spits out the results. Anything is better than making people call in to find out what their offset will be. Plus, I worry that making people call in to get their magic number leaves the customer completely at the mercy of the customer care agent. What if they decide they don’t like your face, so don’t allow you to get the offset? How are you going to fight that? You have no proof of what the offset should be.

But one point that made me raise my eyebrows a bit was this one:

At first, the disclosure of these plans without information about the subsidy caused considerable confusion and distress. Anyone who knows how a lot of screen reader users engage with information could have told Aira this would happen. When I ran Mosen Consulting, I used to have what I believed to be clear text when you added a product to the cart, telling people how to download their purchase instantly and that a link may not always reach their email because of spam filtering. No matter how clear that message was, I would frequently get people emailing me not realising that they had missed the opportunity to download their purchase right away. The reason for this is that many screen reader users will search for key phrases, or controls on a page. So I can imagine that a lot of consumers searched on a dollar-sign and completely missed the messaging, misguided though it was, about the prices being listed not being what they would be asked to pay.

I definitely agree that sometimes, we look for controls. But there’s a time and a place for searching for controls and a time and a place for lots of reading. I would think, when there are 9 pricing brackets, that’s a time to slow down and take in as much as you possibly can.

Personally, I did not search for the dollar sign. I read the whole page, and I was still mad because they were being all vague about whether or not I would get an offset, and they wouldn’t tell me how much. Then I saw the prices. Without knowing the offset, I ran screaming.

I still find their tactics shady and sneaky, but I appreciate Jonathan’s blog post at least trying to explain what was going on in their head, even if their thought process was dead wrong. One thing is for sure. If things don’t change by the end of the year, I am going to have to do some really hard thinking about whether I stay with them moving forward.

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1 Comment

  1. When you showed me these prices last week, I damn near fainted and shat my pants simultaneously.

    I’ve benefited from your subscription because I live with you and because we go places together. I’ve also watched you do things that have made your life much easier, like make slides for your presentations without having to chase down and beg coworkers who are just as busy as you are for help. But dear lord, there isn’t enough benefit in the world to justify prices like those. They’re completely out of line with reality, especially in the unclear manner in which they’re presented.

    I’ll be honest, even if I were a business who wanted to do good, I wouldn’t be eager to pay so much for so little. $65 for 15 minutes on the low end? How’s about you get the fuck outa here? If the purpose of my business is at all time consuming, even on the high end of the scale I’m chewing through minutes like crazy if I’m even moderately popular. And if I’m not, how do I justify that cost?

    And as a consumer, between the lack of clarity about subsidies, the having to call in or give up my email to accomplish anything productive and the insanity of the price list itself, the whole thing is a non-starter just like Carin said. It’s almost as if they designed this entire pricing structure in the hopes of attracting 0 new customers. I can’t imagine they did unless the company is somehow worth more dead than alive, but it’s hard not to think that.

    I hope they can sort this out and learn from it before whatever good will they have left evaporates. It really is a valuable service and it would be sad to see it go. Especially sad if it went for such a dumb and preventable reason.

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