Way back in August 2015 I wrote about my first impressions with my Karma Go hotspot device. The service was just what I had been looking for: a no-fees, pay-as-you-go hotspot for those times when I was away from normal Internet connectivity.
Last week, I canceled my Karma Go account. I used it with fair frequency in the intervening months, but the service offerings changed so dramatically from what was initially presented that it just wasn’t worth it anymore. When the Karma Go was introduced, the company emphasized that users did not require subscriptions:
With Karma, you always pay-as-you-go. We’ll alert you when you are almost out of data and confirm before you pay. Simple.
This was just what I wanted. Karma called this their “Refuel” account. Later they added a “Neverstop” option that allowed for unlimited access for a monthly fee. This was eliminated eventually, and other services were added, all of which seemed to require some kind of subscription. But Refuel limped along until last week. That’s when I received notice that Karma was no longer offering the Refuel option. I was given the choice of grandfathering in my Refuel account for “a small \$2.95 monthly Grandfather account fee.” That was it for me. I canceled my account.
I see two reasons for Karma’s rapid move away from Refuel accounts and unlimited data accounts:
- Simple bait-and-switch. Get a lot of people using the service, and then swap things out in order to make more money. This is the cynical viewpoint, and I try to avoid this, but the alternative isn’t much better.
Poor business planning. It could be that the folks at Karma really wanted to offer the service they set out to provide, and were too naive to realize how people would take advantage of pay-as-you-go and unlimited data options. This is simply poor planning, and shows a lack of understanding in how people use the Internet, how people pay for services, and the costs of providing such a service.
This was one of those instances where I found a product that seemed ideal, and slowly morphed into something that was more of a hassle than it was worth. I wonder how many Refuel users will opt-in to the Refuel program and pay the monthly fee. I decided to opt out and cancel, leaving data on the table. Three dollars isn’t that much, but months go by when I don’t use my Karma at all. Karma started out by promising no subscription, and has since morphed into what seems to me to be an entirely subscription-based service. That’s not the kind of service I’m looking for, and it’s not the kind of company I’m looking to give my business to any longer.