Every so often, the warning signs appear--slow at first, then faster and faster. Images fail to populate, leaving behind nothing but question marks. Pages refuse to load, with only the 'refresh' button to rescue them from certain abandonment. Videos neglect to play, offering the viewer nothing but blank rectangles and empty air. That's when you know.
You see, our story begins nearly 14 years ago, back when dial-up Internet was still widespread and floppy disks were more than makeshift coasters. Each time our service provider was about to launch some "new and improved" offering, it seemed our current Internet service would miraculously diminish. But, with the advent of DSL, we bought into the hype because I was moving into the AP stage of my high school career and my family really wanted free reign of our landline again. (Though I'll admit that I truly miss the days when my Internet usage was limited.)
However, as the years pass, this pattern refuses to relent. Every now and then--once or twice each year, I'd say--our Internet connection begins to falter. Whether I'm having trouble browsing through photos on Facebook or struggling to view videos on YouTube and Vimeo, the smallest quirks often give way to full-blown outages. Service continues to plummet, until suddenly we receive that perfectly timed notice in the mail: "You're eligible for an upgrade!"
Our service provider tells us that our neighborhood has just been rewired to accommodate this new "high-speed Internet" they're pedaling. Except experience has proven that such promotions always have been and always will be lies. It seems that, any time we've believed such nonsense and upgraded our connection, our service rarely exceeds its previous performance. Instead, it simply returns to the same level we received prior to its decline. Essentially, our Internet provider keeps trying to sell us, the customer, precisely what we've had all along.
Of course, now we just grumble at each incoming notice and subsequently toss them in the garbage, for we understand that calling our provider and waiting on hold for an indiscriminate amount of time typically proves to be fruitless. (If we wait it out, service usually returns to normal once the promotion expires.) But it really makes you wonder how many other brands and industries operate under the very same business model. Assuming that consumers are oblivious certainly doesn't bode well for your customer relationship strategy, after all. No one wants to feel manipulated, but these subtle moves are deceptive at best, and will inevitably hinder any trust or loyalty the company has built thus far. Consumers want to know they're getting the most for their hard-earned money, but tricking them into purchasing what they already have may just drive them toward the competition in the end.