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Entertainment &Online Video &Reviews &Software Wes Novack on 07 Feb 2014

GATHR by AOL: a subscription bundling train wreck

This week I received an email offer from “GATHR by AOL”. I don’t know how I got dumped into their mailing list and I’ve never heard of the service, but I decided to check it out due to a $10 discount offer.

GATHR

Here’s a snippet from the email that I received from them.

“It’s official: Gathr is ready to save you a bundle on your favorite brands in movies, music, shopping and more. In fact, if you sign up for Gathr today, AOL will give you $10 off the first month of your subscription—with our compliments.”

Cool, $10 discount and a $10 Amazon bonus card for signing up… Intrigued. But what exactly *IS* the GATHR service? And how the heck do you pronounce it? At first I was saying it as “GAWTH-ER”, but then I had the realization that it is intended to be pronounced as “gather”, which makes sense since they accumulate various products and services into a monthly subscription bundle.

Selecting a GATHR subscription package

I clicked through to the GATHR site and was urged to create a package for “only” $20 per month. The $20 subscription package includes 4 categories, numbered 1 through 4.

Category 1 was the “Bonus” item, and I was presented with the following choices; $10 Amazon giftcard, $10 iTunes code, $10 ticketmaster cash or a $10 Starbucks card. I opted for the $10 Amazon giftcard.

Category 2 included the following options; $10 Fandango gift card, $10 Groupon gift card, $10 Domino’s eGift card, $10 Barnes & Noble eGift card, $10 Toys”R”Us eGift card or a $10 Zappos.com gift card. I opted for the $10 Groupon gift card.

Category 3 had a lot more choices, included the following options; Pandora One, National Geographic magazine, ShopRunner shipping, Consumer Reports online, LegalZoom legal planning, Maxim magazine, Cosmopolitan, Norton AntiVirus, LifeLock, Private WiFi, Car and Driver magazine, Good Housekeeping magazine, Woman’s Day magazine, Scrabble club pogo, PBS Kids Play!, ABCmouse.com, National Geographic Kids magazine, National Geographic Little Kids magazine, National Geographic Traveler Magazine Digital, National Geographic Traveler magazine, LoJack for laptops, IGN Prime, Wizard101 or National Geographic digital. So yeah, lots of magazine options. I opted for the Consumer Reports online membership.

Category 4 options were; LivingSocial $10 promo code, $25 Restaurant.com eGift card, $6 Amazon instant video gift card, Pandora One, National Geographic magazine, ShopRunner, LegalZoom, Maxim, Cosmopolitan, Norton AntiVirus, LifeLock, Private Wifi, Car and Driver, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, Scrabble club Pogo, PBS Kids Play!, ABCMouse.com, National Geographic Kids magazine, National Geographic Little Kids magazine, National Geographic Traveler Magazine Digital, National Geographic Traveler magazine, LoJack for laptops, IGN Prime, Wizard101 or National Geographic digital. Lots of repeats from category 3. I opted for the $6 Amazon gift code.

Signing up for GATHR

After your package is built, GATHR prompts you to register if you don’t have an AOL or GATHR account. Strangely, the site would not allow me to register with any of my wesleytech.com email addresses, advising me to ‘try another email address’. I find it pretty odd that they would whitelist only certain email domains and limit potential customers, but ooookay. I then tried a gmail.com address and was able to register successfully.

So to summarize, my $20 per month package includes the following monthly products & services; a $10 Amazon gift card, a $10 Groupon gift code, a subscription to Consumer Reports online and another $6 Amazon gift code. $26 in gift codes and an online membership. I only had to pay $10 for all of this for the first month, due to the promo offer. Essentially, I netted $16 in gift codes by taking GATHR for a spin.

I used a one-time virtual credit card number (thanks Citibank) that expires in 2 months and has a $20 limit to sign up. This should help protect me from any extraneous charges or from them trying to bill me repeatedly.

Once I grabbed all my gift card codes and applied them to my appropriate accounts at Amazon and Groupon, I went back into my GATHR account settings and cancelled the service. GATHR is hoping that whoever takes the bait for this subscription bundling scheme will forget all about it and let the billing continue on month after month, indefinitely.

Why GATHR sucks

One of the most insidious parts of the service is that if you don’t “reveal” your gift codes during the current subscription month, by logging into your GATHR account and clicking on the appropriate button, they will disappear and will no longer be available or redeemable. So yes, it sounds like it’s possible to be billed $20 by GATHR and then not even receive any gift cards or codes.

Other gift codes, such as the LivingSocial one, expire in the same month if not used. Short windows to obtain gift codes and short windows to redeem them? That is just doubly lame.

This type of business model is just totally unfriendly to the consumer and I can’t see myself using this type of thing long term. I do like free money though, so thanks for the $16 GATHR!

Try GATHR and get $10 off

If you’d like to try GATHR out for yourself, I have a few one time use $10 off promos that you can use to get the same deal that I did.

Get $10 off your first month of GATHR link #1
Get $10 off your first month of GATHR link #2

If those 2 links get used/redeemed and you’d like me to generate a new one for you to use, just post a comment below and I’d be happy to do so.


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