They are great folks, and even did a movie about Fanny Farmer and re-created one of her signature menus from back in the day. If you have Netflix, it is a good watch. Sadly, their food empire is based on using negative-option, and this sort of is a buzz-kill. I no longer feel warm and fuzzy about them. I feel about them the way I would about a cable company and that says a lot.
In the meantime, I googled "Cook's Country bills my credit card" and get page after page of complaints. This one is typical. The complaints are all about the same. People thought they cancelled the service only to find new charges. Cookbooks arrive without being ordered. It seems no matter what you do, they keep charging your credit card, without your authorization.
So yes, you get the clueless demographic with this approach. And I guess America's Test Kitchen, being a PBS show, gets a lot of clueless older people who subscribe to Smithsonian and don't check their credit card statements too closely. But long-term, they are alienating subscribers, which does not bode well for their business model.
The problem, of course, with even that approach is that marketers have screwed that up. I was getting dozens of "renewal" notices for various magazines which were either not renewal notices at all (but rather offers for a new subscription) or were far in advance of the expiration date - sometimes by years. You send in a check and find out you have renewed your subscription until the year 2035 by sending in responses to all these "renewal" notices. Or you end up getting two or three or even four copies of the magazine in question.
They don't make it easy to know how many issues you are subscribed for, how many remain, how much you are paying, and when the actual renewal date is. And newspapers are no better, using "negative option" subscription services in the same way as well as being opaque (intentionally) about your subscription, when it starts, ends, and renews.
They say print is dead - I wonder why? It is just cheaper and easier to read free stuff online, even if the content isn't as good. Paying for content is problematic because they play games with your payments. Honesty is in short supply in the subscription business, which is why a lot of people are hesitant to subscribe to things.
Angie's list recently switched to a non-subscription model because of the negative publicity surrounding their negative option model. No one wanted to sign up for a hassle, just to read about plumber recommendations. Whether they will succeed with this new model remains to be seen. Some argue they are now making their money from the tradesmen themselves, which creates an interesting conflict-of-interest.
So maybe people are realizing negative option is odious. When you treat your customers like shit, in the long run, they will flee to the next available alternative. The railroads and trollies found this out the hard way - people flocked to more expensive auto transportation, as it was less painful. Cable companies are mystified as to why no one wants their "content" when they can stream on the Internet for far less. There is a lesson here, for marketers, if they chose to learn it.
When you make doing business with your company a toxic relationship, people will flee eventually. It may take a year, five years, or a decade, but eventually, you will be left with nothing.
UPDATE: Cook's Country issues a refund, after Bank of America already canceled the charge. So I guess I have to call the bank again to cancel the cancel.
Also, a reader alerts me to an article in the New York Times which illustrates why they may be using negative option so aggressively - there is a schism in the organization between one of the founders and others who want him to step aside.
It is very sad to read, as it illustrates how greed takes over once something becomes popular. The media types want to turn it into some sort of monster empire, like Martha Stewart's failed "Omnimedia". The founder just wants to do his thing - but a lawsuit may be preventing him from starting a new enterprise.
I guess his only consolation will be the tens of millions of dollars he made from this. Boo-Hoo.