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After Taking Flak For Sketchy Promotion, Carwash Startup Cherry Changes Wording And Cancels Trial Memberships

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Some people really don’t like a recent promotion from Cherry, the startup that brings car washes to its users. In a series of tweets which he then aggregated on Storify, Rod Begbie declared that Cherry was made up of “scammy rip-off artists who deserve to die unloved and alone” — and it looks like the company is responding to his criticism.

Begbie’s complaint is with a free carwash promotion that Cherry was offering. Turns out that promotion came with some strings attached: The carwash is indeed free, but people who sign up for it were automatically enrolled in a Cherry membership plan with recurring payments that automatically start after the trial period. Begbie wrote:

No confirmation email. No banner saying “You’re now in a recurring plan.” This is the kind of bullshit that Zynga never dared pull.

Though their language may not have been as colorful, other commenters on Twitter were also suspicious of Cherry’s tactics.

When asked for an explanation, CEO Travis VanderZanden told us via email, “We’re experimenting with a free trial membership and we now realize that our copy wasn’t obvious enough, so we’re changing the button copy to be more clear.” And indeed, if you go to this page, you can see that the sign-up button now reads “start trial membership” instead of “accept free carwash.” VanderZanden also said that Cherry will be canceling the current trial memberships for anyone who signed up under the old wording.

But why take this approach in the first place? VanderZanden said the company switched to a membership model (plans start at $29 per month) because it was the only cost-effective way to deal with “extremely dirty cars.”

“We either needed to raise prices or keep prices low ($29) with a membership plan which allows us to automatically keep cars clean each month, which takes less time [and] therefore is less expensive for everyone,” he said.

Update: Begie later tweeted a thank you to Cherry for making the change, and he did get that free wash.