May 24, 2017

iThemes “on making money” and being there for you “when you need help, support”

I posted a while ago about what I felt was a disturbing trend in pricing that some of the companies that sell “premium” WordPress plugins were moving towards. I won’t repeat myself as the post is available here.

In the wake of that original post, some feathers were ruffled. I will admit that I was challenged by the frenzy of comments to take a fresh look at my viewpoint. The result is that I have tempered my views somewhat. There are some “premium” plugins that are way more complex than I alluded to in my post. An example of such a plugin would be Gravity Forms. Definitely a notch or two above others in terms of coding complexity and support offered.

However, I still believe the model of pricing based on annual renewal fees sucks. And if you are not a developer by occupation, yet still run a few sites and purchase a few “premium” plugins, you will quickly be running up a costly to maintain annual subscription model to support your “premium” plugins.

In any case, I was mildly amused when I became aware of a relatively recent video published by Cory from iThemes in which he was making the justification for his company charging for their products. You can view the entire video, but below the video in this post is the pertinent portion of what he had to say…

“…our true ideal customers will come back and say “no no no, we want you to charge us money for this because we want you to be in business. We want you to be in business a year from now, five years from now, when we come back for updates or need more help, support, all that kind of stuff.” … and trust me, as our true clients, you want us to make money cause you want us to be here and I’ll say this one warning to those few that are lookin’ at different other companies and everything… I like to talk mostly about us but I’ll just say this one warning ,is that you really need to look at those, where you invest that money to make sure those people have a long term sustainable business model wrapped around those products because in a year, six months from now if they vanish off the face of the earth…. you wanna know that they’re going to be there for you when you need help. And so that’s why I’m confident, that’s why I share this about pricing, about getting paid and all that kind of stuff.”

Sounds like what Cory is trying to say is that when you buy something from them (iThemes), that they are “going to be there for you when you need help.” So it would stand to reason that if you bought something in late November 2008 and that if you had a problem with it scarcely 5 months later, you’d eagerly get the support you needed from iThemes, right? I mean afterall, they charge money and all that good stuff to be there for you when you need help and support. That’s what he said, right?

Well, let’s investigate that statement a little bit. In November 2008, I bought the 2009 Theme Club membership from iThemes. It was not inexpensive. As the months went by, I found that several of the themes that were part of that slowly growing bundle of themes contained bugs and in some cases had features that did not work. Seemed I was frequently visiting the forums to report the bugs I had found.

Specifically, the theme BizCard was coded to have an address field that could be filled in from the Dashboard. It had several fields; Street 1, Street 2, City, State, Zip, Phone number and email address. The problem was that due to an error in the coding of the theme, the Address 2 field did not work correctly. I posted this issue in the forums several times and got no reply from iThemes. When I emailed iThemes for support, I received no solution or fix. I then made a Tweet about my experience and Cory replied to me in this way… (keep in mind, this is from the guy who has just told you that iThemes is “going to be there for you when you need help”)…

Here is what Cory told me in his reply…

michael, i always appreciate your input – but seriously?! we’re not even actively selling it – think we might have more pertinent issues?

What could be more pertinent than supporting a buggy theme that your company developed?

So do you get the support you pay for with iThemes? I sure didn’t. Good luck with that.