ZoneAlarm's alarming pricing glitch

A Gripe Line reader smells a bait and switch when the price for his security software mysteriously jumps at checkout

Gripe Line reader Sigurd wrote in with suspicions of a bait and switch being perpetrated by software vendor ZoneAlarm. "I ordered a renewal of ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite online," he said. "I chose a two-year subscription and was offered the price of $69.95." On the next screen, Sigurd requested a CD of the product for $9.95, declined the offer of extended support, and entered his credit card information. But when he got to the final checkout, the price for his subscription had jumped to $79.95.

Irked, he cancelled the order and initiated a support chat in hopes of getting his original price. "Sorry for your trouble," the support person told him. "I can offer you a one-year subscription for $29.95." That sounded good to Sigurd, so the rep gave him a link that would take him to his discount. Again, he ordered the CD for $9.95 and declined the additional support. This time when he got to checkout, the price had jumped to $49.95.

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That's frustrating enough to make any budget-minded security software shopper get hot under the collar, and Sigurd admits he was ticked off. He tried chat again and got nowhere. He also posted two -- somewhat strongly worded -- posts to the forums. (They were subsequently removed for their "disparaging comments.")

Then he came to Gripe Line. "This is classic bait and switch," he said. "Make an offer, then change the price before the transaction goes through. I realize it's probably bad Web programming -- but there should be some way to register a complaint that has some chance of getting through to someone who can fix this."

I forwarded Sigurd's complaint to ZoneAlarm, and a company spokesperson responded with an apology, an explanation, a request, and a gift.

Sigurd's suspicion -- of Web programming errors, not an intentional bait and switch -- were confirmed. "We are working hard to find problem areas on our site," explained the ZoneAlarm rep, who also thanked Sigurd for pointing out this particular bug, which the company was working to re-create and correct.

"Not that you have the time," said the spokesperon, "but if you do and are interested in helping, we would very much like to have the link that you used that caused your problems. Even when the news is that we did not attain our goal of high customer satisfaction, I appreciate it when people like yourself take the time to send us a well-written complaint."

To show his appreciation for Sigurd's letter of complaint, ZoneAlarm emailed him a coupon good for a copy of ZoneAlarm's three-user, two-year Internet Security Suite Software.

Got gripes? Send them to christina_tynan-wood@infoworld.com.

This story, "ZoneAlarm's alarming pricing glitch," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Christina Tynan-Wood's Gripe Line blog at InfoWorld.com.

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