4 Subscription Horror Stories for Halloween

Don’t cover your eyes, because in this post, we’re going to look at subscription horror stories in the context of popular horror, dark comedy, and sci-fi books and movies. Sometimes you need to look your worst fears in the face so you can avoid them.

Now you can rent a movie and call it market research! You’re welcome.Learn what to avoid with your subscription customers by studying a few popular plot lines.

I Know What You Did Last Summer

In this movie, based on a book by Lois Duncan, a killer knows the dark secret of a group of teenagers, and sets off to exact deadly revenge. First, however, he lets each one know that he is watching.

Real-world subscription equivalent: A subscription business that uses its subscriber data for dubious purposes gives subscribers chills. Remember when Uber published its “Ride of Glory” data about customers using the service for casual hookups? Yes, that was creepy.

How to avoid it: Be careful about what data you collect and who can access it. Use common sense; you never want to appear to be stalking your subscribers.

2001: A Space Odyssey

One of the most chilling moments in this classic sci-fi movie is the famous conversation between Dave and HAL, the computer, in which Dave begs Hal to “Open the pod bay doors” to no avail. He’s talking to a computer that refuses to listen.

Real-world subscription equivalent: Ever had a similar experience when trying to cancelor change a subscription? Trying to get through an automated calling system, leaving messages, or otherwise hoping to reach a human being, to no avail?

How to avoid it: Make it easy for subscribers to view or change subscription options with simple online systems. Help subscribers connect with a real person when they need to. And create an exit plan for subscribers who need to leave. If you let people leave gracefully, they may return later.

The Sex Tape

The premise is simple: private data is unwittingly released into the world. The movie is billed as a comedy, but if happened to you personally, it would be anything but funny.

Real-world subscription equivalent: Sadly, this plot plays out around us every day in data breaches for all kinds of businesses. Back in May, hackers stole personal data about millions of users of the Adult Friend Finder site. The site describes itself as a dating and hookup community. More recently, hackers broke into and released data from the “infidelity dating” site Ashley Madison.

Every business is susceptible to data loss, no matter what industry it participates in. The Information is Beautiful site maintains an online, dynamic visualization of the world’s largest data breaches. Take a look and be afraid.

How to avoid it: Maintain subscriber information in a secure system. Don’t collect more data than you need. And if problems happen, take action quickly to correct them.


In this Stephen King novel and movie adaptation, a novelist is trapped by an over-ardent, unhinged fan. [Spoiler alert] She feeds him painkillers and reacts to his attempts to leave by relieving him of body parts. (Thanks to Zuora’s Gabe Weisert, subscription expert and Stephen King fan, for this example).

Real-world subscription equivalent: Every subscriber’s worst fear is getting stuck in a too-intimate relationship with a business that owns your credit card and data.

How to avoid it: Make sure customers know what you’re doing with their data, and what will happen to their data if and when they leave. Be responsible about managing subscriber data, and created an exit plan before it’s needed.

It all comes down to trust.

The ultimate horror story for a subscriber is being exploited or betrayed. Subscription businesses sometimes put customers in these situations inadvertently, not with evil intent. From the subscriber’s perspective, any of these scenarios feel like betrayal of trust.

In a subscription-based business, it’s essential to establish and maintain a trusted relationship with customers, starting with marketing and extending through the entire customer relationship.

To learn how to avoid these and other horrors, download the value nurturing checklist from SubscriptionMarketingBook.com/resources.

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