Shaw Academy, with offices in Dublin, Ireland among other places are an online learning company which has grown greatly over the last 10 years or so. They are a fairly well recognised brand and I’ve often thought of signing up for a course with them. At the beginning of December I spotted an Ad on Facebook for a Sound Engineering Course which is right up my street. I’d seen the ad loads of times but finally decided to click on it and sign up. The ad was for a 4 week, no catch free trial. You sign up, add a payment method, PayPal in my case, and get access to your course. Or so I expected.
My thinking was that I had a bit of free time coming up over Xmas and might get through the course in those 4 weeks but as soon as I subscribed I was told the earliest I could start the course was the following Monday, about a week and a half later and a week and a half out of my free trial. Also, I noticed that the course material and certificate also had to be purchased. Not so free after all eh!? Deciding that that was a bit underhanded and didn’t suit me, I decided to cancel the trial before I started. Free trial cancellation links are always hard to find but I found the link. I was pretty surprised to find that I had to call a number and talk to someone to actually fully cancel! Really!? I was soon to find out why.
A South African sounding girl came on the phone and asked me how she could help me. As soon as I asked to cancel my account she started off on her sales rambling and didn’t allow me speak. I thought I was talking to a machine at one point. I was offered all kinds of incentives to stay including free access to course materials, free certificates, free add-on course time, etc.. I calmly and patiently let her finish, angry now that she ignored my simple request to cancel and even more adamant that I wanted away then when she finished I repeated again that I just wanted to cancel. She dejectedly gave in and said my membership had been cancelled and apologised for any inconvenience caused. I hung up satisfied and relieved and noticed a cancellation email come in almost immediately:
Imagine my surprise when the cancellation email was followed swiftly by a PayPal payment notification of a payment of €39.99 to Shaw Academy!? There was no indication on it what the payment was for either as you can see below:
I immediately emailed Shaw Academy and also created a PayPal dispute over the payment. No reply. A week later and PayPal cant find in my favour as I couldn’t provide any documentation re my billing agreement with Shaw. Something they never sent me, On purpose I’m guessing. Shaw finally replied to me and said they couldn’t refund as the payment was taken for a certificate I apparently purchased and once the certificate is created it cant be taken back. A certificate I purchased for a course I never took and never even started!? Ok. Also, I’m still getting a ton of emails telling me I’ve missed course dates for a course that’s supposed to be cancelled. What a flawed system! Shaw sent me a link to their terms where I seen this straight away:
The modern world of marketing is a very competitive place and companies routinely use whatever marketing tricks they can to make money, regardless of the customer experience. Shaw Academy is one of the worst examples I’ve seen in a long time. The desperate measures they go to to take money for services never provided and the lack of caring they have for the customer experience is breath-taking. They might make a short term profit but ultimately they and companies like them will fail as more and more people look for real honesty and value from companies.
For more about honest marketing Seth Godin has an excellent book:
And for a better and more professional online learning experience, try Lynda.com now “Linkedin Learning”: