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  • Writer's pictureEmily Ainscough

An Open Letter to Wine52

Updated: Jan 26

I know I told you I'd share my pain relief tips this week, but I have a problem to solve so I'm afraid you will have to wait!

Most advertising is unethical, okay, that's just the world we live in and it's nobody's fault. Different demographics are disproportionately targeted, often because that demographic is a marginalized group and members of that group subsequently often suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety, depression or externalized psychopathology, and these people are more likely to spend their money on shit they don't need. Its one of the many fucked up byproducts of capitalism that is going to need some serious thinking to solve. I am one such individual that has a tendency to spend money I don't have to solve problems it won't fix. I would call myself...psychologically vulnerable to this kind of targeting. My bungalow is like a museum for ripped open packaging and poor financial choices.

I'm not trying to solve all the myriad problems of capitalism and commercialization today. I just want to fix one thing, and it's a pretty easy one to fix (if they will cooperate).

So, a few months ago (probably at like 3am on my period...which is the backdrop for most of my impulse buys) I decided to sign up to a subscription service called Wine52. Normally I just drink whatever is on offer, but I was feeling boujee and maybe I thought that if I drank nicer wine I wouldn't feel so crap. The box came, I enjoyed the wine (it was a lovely selection of Sicilian bottles, can't recommend them enough), I flicked through the lovely magazine they sent in a luxurious long bubble bath. It was great. 10/10. But as lovely as the wine was, when it arrived I was no longer on my period, no longer in dire need for an instant dopamine hit and I had my day-time mid-cycle sensible hat on. I knew I couldn't afford the subscription so I went online to cancel it.

Now here is the problem. They were quite happy letting me sign up without talking to me over the phone, just a click click click there's my money. But to cancel... the only option displayed on the screen was to call the number. I am not non-verbal, but I do suffer with periodic aphasia and speech difficulties due to my FND, and I was having such an episode at the time. I had to wait till a couple days later until I could speak again, and I spent those days feeling really unwelcome and stressed. So on Friday I call in the number, wait half an hour whilst I jam to their funky hold tunes, and then I tell the customer service person that 1. I would like to cancel my subscription and 2. I would like to give some feedback (since the website specifically said they welcome this).

The feedback I gave was that some people are non-verbal, some people suffer from aphasia, and some people get social anxiety and find phone calls stressful. It's really important for those people that there are other options available to cancel their subscription. I delivered this information calmly, kindly and eloquently. I was not accusing them of doing this intentionally. I expected to hear them respond with "Ah, I see! Yes, we will add alternative options to the website. Thank you for the feedback!" but instead I was met with a very defensive argument from somebody that continually refused to hear me. It was actually a really hurtful conversation.

They roughly said, 'well my relative is non verbal and we would do the phone call with him...' well that's great, but not everybody has that support. They then said, 'you could have emailed us...' to which I responded, 'Amazing! If you can just tell people that that's an option on the website then that will be really clear!' But they didn't want to do that. In defense they said, 'it's in the terms and conditions that you can do that,' but what I am trying to tell you is that that isn't good enough.

I was trying to help a company that I had had a pleasant experience with make their access easier for people with different needs, I could not possibly understand why they were arguing with me? If it's in the terms and conditions (which, by the way, nobody reads) then why can't you just pop it on the website too? Their answer was that "people were exploiting the generous welcome offers and cancelling after one month". This is not a defense of making the cancellation process difficult. Clearly those people cannot afford your wine. The response to the 'exploitation' (which, by the way, is a ridiculous choice of words to describe customers partaking in fair trade) should be that you STOP OFFERING WELCOME OFFERS, not that you make cancelling a subscription harder in a way that disproportionately targets people with different needs.

It's not just about technically having the options there if people look for them, it's about making people feel important, making people feel heard and valuable. Especially customers. Even ones who want to leave.

This blog post is not me trying to name and shame, it is a sincere plea to change. After all, I tried talking to Wine52 directly first and the customer service person cannot be held responsible for the whole company. Lot's of companies are guilty of this kind of subscription trap, and most of them don't even know that they are doing it. I always want to make charitable assumptions about their motivations and give people my feedback so that they can adapt and grow. So please, don't be defensive, don't be angry, just change your websites!

And you're welcome, by the way. Not that you thanked me.

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