Minimum support non-legit charge

Maybe I’m feeling guilty - I’ve paid Beeminder a reasonable chunk of change in derails over the years, but I’m getting better at avoiding those without too much lying and cheating, and I think I brow-beat Dr. Eeves into giving me the friends and family pricing back in 2013, so I don’t pay much in subscription fees…

All of which I’m ok with :slight_smile: , but I don’t like taking support time on non-legit derails if I’m not generating revenue.

I’ve done some searching and not found an answer… Have you thought about charging a couple of bucks for the derail reset? Even a couple dollars would help defray, and send the message that this isn’t free, and, when the alternative is a much larger derail charge, shouldn’t be too hard to swallow. And, you could have a first one’s free policy.

It might be interesting to see how it changed behaviours across the population. Would some treat it as the $2 weasel hunting license?

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Beemind it! Although I don’t like posting about non-battle-tested ideas, here’s my very recent goal to start emailing support less: nocrutches – ianminds – beeminder. Not quite sure how it’s going to work out in practice…

I can almost guarantee that it’d cause an Israeli daycare problem, and result in much heavier support burden overall.

I’d say we’ve already seen that effect in some interactions with folks who have premium, and felt that, well, they’re paying us that much, they must be entitled to more of support’s attention/speedier support/more in-depth support. (That is not one of the stated benefits of premium accounts. Those with Beemium technically have access to a chat that puts messages into a Slack channel for us, but that is with the heavy caveat that it requires one of us to be available at the time, and probably email is still better for anything urgent!)


Have you considered enabling no-excuses mode for your goals? That would probably eliminate most of your support interactions. Of course you could adjust your pledge caps to compensate for the broadened scope of possible legit derail reasons.

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That’s a great article! I’ll summarize it. A daycare (in Israel) had a policy (and signed contract) that they would take care of the parent’s children from 0730 to 1600. Parents sometimes picked up their children late. So they instituted a late penalty (as part of a controlled study) of about $3 [see footnote] for being late 10 minutes . Somewhat surprisingly, that resulted in more parents being late! Furthermore, when the fine was eliminated later, the rate of parents coming late stayed at the higher rate.

It’s speculated that before the fine, the penalty for multiple late arrivals was unknown. There may have been some apprehension about coming late. There’s the prospect of disapproval, confrontation, or even cancellation of their service. But after the fine was implemented, the parents could know exactly what the consequences would be, and therefore felt more comfortable in accepting those consequences and coming late.

* [The fine was equivalent to $3 USD in 1998. That’s equivalent to $5 USD in 2022.]

Prices are signals. What it means to charge $2 for something is to declare that you’d be willing to give it up in exchange for $2, no more.

If in a given case that is not a true statement, then one should avoid given that (false) signal. That is to say—the only way Beeminder could truthfully charge $2 for non-legit derailments is if they actually preferred the $2 over the additional support burden. Insofar as that’s not the case, a $2 charge would not just be a bad idea, it would be a falsehood, and (insofar as people were mislead by that falsehood) would have an unpleasant result.

That’s what happened in that Haifa daycare study, as described and linked to in this thread: beforehand, parents thought that picking kids up late was somewhat of a big deal. But the imposition of a fine of about ~$3 made them understand (falsely, it seems), that they were previously mistaken, and that picking kinds up late was not in fact a big deal, but rather something with about three dollars worth of importance (i.e. quite little.) That’s why even after the fine was rescinded the late arrivals continued: now that the parents knew (or thought they knew) just how much the daycare actually cared about late arrivals (almost not at all—only about $3 worth), they no longer needed to worry about their late arrivals doing some great harm.

That’s the most important part of the whole story, in my opinion. (That the parents continued arriving late even after the penalty was rescinded.) It comports very nicely with the textbook explanation of what prices fundamentally are. (A way of transmitting information about value.) And it warns us to be careful about setting false prices: yes, value is a matter of opinion, but that doesn’t mean that lying about it has no effect! Quite the opposite: misleading people into thinking you care less than you actually do is going to make them act accordingly. If Beeminder announces that they are perfectly OK with someone bugging support over trivial things (that is, over anything worth more to you than $2), then don’t be surprised if people end up believing that!


Right! This whole post is really well put.

Beeminder’s support team is, in theory, there as a safety net. We help when something weird or confusing happened, or to prevent people being charged unfairly… but we shouldn’t be an intrinsic part of users’ goals or how they use Beeminder.

I think that in practice, some people treat us more as a part of the service which they are paying for, even without an extra charge being incurred for each support interaction. Adding a charge would solidify that impression, and I’m pretty positive we’d get more people leaning on support as part of their goal because “well, I’m paying for it, they can’t mind”.

But that wouldn’t actually be good for people’s goals. It might well be good for Beeminder – yay, more money! But it would undermine the actual point of Beeminder, which is to set up commitment contracts, with a sting when you fail to uphold them. If it’s too easy to get out of the sting, if you’re doing it all the time, then that dilutes the sting – and too many exceptions to the contract blurs the nice bright red line Beeminder gives.

Even I’ve found myself doing it: sometimes, I fail at my most important goal (a cap on my working hours per day) because I’ve lost track of time. I didn’t mean to breach the goal, so it instinctively feels so unfair that I failed at it. I wouldn’t have, if I’d known how long I’d been working! But what that’s telling me is not in fact that I should be able to get out of that charge… it’s that I need to put in place a better system so I can meet the goal. The point of the goal is to fix the issue where I’ll happily overwork, so failing is an important signal telling me that something’s gone wrong. I need the charge to help me fix the behaviour I want to change. If I can just get out of the charge by saying I lost track of time, what on earth is the point of the goal? There’s no incentive for me to keep track of time, then!