Inactive Account Charges

Nick Aster’s PayPal scam spotting reminded me of this: a lot of companies seem to be closing out inactive accounts lately. Half.com emailed me today saying that I hadn’t sold anything in a while and that they’d be closing my account a month if I don’t confirm that I still want to use it. I got a similar message from cnet. (I had a cnet account? I don’t anymore…). It seems these companies are realizing that it’s not efficient to keep inactive users in a database. They might have some value if you could email them, but I think a lot of these places (which are actual, at least somewhat ethical companies) can’t get the value from the volume of names because they let people opt-out of mailings (and rightly so). The renewal requirement gives these places another chance to get those people to opt-in to email newsletters and advertisements.
It does something else too. In some cases (ie cj.com and cafepress), the companies have user agreements that allow them to charge inactive accounts. Cafepress won’t give me the $3 I earned on my primitive tortfeasor shirts (so I now make my own). They’ll let me have it as credit, but the reason I don’t want to use the account is because I don’t think people should have to pay $15+ (plus shipping) for a t-shirt online. I certainly don’t, and I’m not going to by a $12 (plus shipping) shirt from them either.
I think a reasonable account processing fee is fair for underused accounts. My three measly sales on cafepress were still sales. Sales through which they no doubt earned a profit. $3 to keep one web page active and to keep my name in a database might even be reasonable, but they are taking up to $24.99 from inactive accounts. $24.99!