Holding your users captive is not a business model

I live and breathe innovation.  Now that the company’s grown and better technical folks than meImg_1807 make the trains run on time, I mostly focus on looking for the next thing our clients need.  Just as often I’m spending my time chasing down the subtle reason why a particular company’s offering isn’t going to take off.  People will say, "That’s so cool!"   And I have to explain why it will never get past the concept stage.

Often my analytical skills overlap with my personal life as a consumer, as it did this week after my return from Cape Cod.  We shared a house with dear friends who took lots of photos with their digital camera and then uploaded them to Snapfish.com.  As I perused a photo of Moishe and I at the Wellfleet, MA fire station, I got excited and went to download it.

No go, Snapfish.com wants to charge me $.50 to download a photo of myself taken with a friend’s camera.  A photo of me.  And I have to pay for it.

I asked my friend for a copy of the photos, but all she could send me was the 180×180 pixel versions.  This isn’t her fault, she’s not a computer nerd.  But really, does Snapfish.com think that tricking their customers into becoming the ‘roach motel’ of their photos is a good business model?  I’m not saying their business will fail, but it will certainly be vulnerable if groups of people complain to each other about having to pay for photos of themselves.  "Hey, great time at the beach.  Here’s our photos.  Now go pay some jerk $8 to get a copy."

I ended up paying $8 and change to get the photos I want, but something more important happened: I swore I would never, ever use Snapfish.com.  In addition I wrote this scathing blog post which all but says, "Snapfish sucks". Frankly, if I were snapfish.com, I would easily pay $8 to avoid alienating a customer and creating a critic.

But hey, that’s just me.  What do I know?  I’m only a customer who spends thousands of dollars on photo-related products every year, between printers, paper, photobooks, custom prints, and frames.  I’m frankly a dream photo customer, with a new child, too many cameras, and scads of relatives.

Nice work Snapfish.com, you’ve certainly made an important impression on me.

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