Beware online shopping clubs that trap you in hard-to-quit subscriptions

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Online services that trick you into signing up for an automatically billed subscription and force you to call customer service to cancel are evil. Whenever I sign up for a service, I try to do it through PayPal, which makes it easy to cancel payment.

Here's a Bloomberg story about a sneaky lingerie company called Adore Me that "is among a group of buzzy Internet retailers accused of sometimes placing customers into unwanted and hard-to-cancel retail subscriptions."

Adore Me's checkout screen defaults to VIP Membership.

Here’s how a seemingly straightforward purchase on Adore Me’s website pushes people into ongoing membership in an underwear club.

You can’t look at lingerie without first entering an e-mail address, a feat that requires passing through two different pages dedicated to advertising a deal: “First Set for $24.95,” the website declares across a backdrop of models in brassieres. The fine print at the bottom explains that the offer is only valid with a VIP Membership, offering no explanation of what that entails.

Once at the actual shopping part of the website, Adore Me opts every first-timer into a VIP Membership. The price of your purchase shows up with the members-only discount, and the checkout screen automatically rings up your initial purchase as if you’re a VIP. That’s also where you can learn the details of Adore Me’s membership model—but only by clicking to reveal an informational page.

To buy underwear a la carte, you must click a dull, gray strip of text at the bottom corner of the purchasing screen.

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Potentially habitable exoplanet: The fine print

Kepler-22b is a newly confirmed exoplanet, orbiting a Sun-like star 600 light years away from Earth. The exoplanet sits in the "habitable zone"—a range of orbits around a star that are, based on what we know about life on Earth, most likely to provide the right conditions for life to happen.

That is pretty damn cool. But it does not mean there must be life on Kepler-22b. As Phil Plait explains on the Bad Astronomy blog, there's a lot we don't know about this exoplanet yet, and "within the habitable zone" is not a guarantee of habitability. Case in point: Our solar system. Earth is within the Sun's habitable zone. But so are Mars and Venus, and you may have noticed that they are not especially teeming with life.

Kepler detects planets when they transit their star, passing directly in front of the star, blocking its light a little bit. The bigger the planet, the more light it blocks. The astronomers going over the data determined that Kepler-22b is about 2.4 times bigger than the Earth. The problem is, that and its distance from its star are all we know. We don’t know if it’s a rocky world, a gaseous one, or what. It may not even have an atmosphere!

Another good post to read on this subject is Matthew Francis' explanation of "habitability" on the Galileo's Pendulum blog. Even the statement, "Kepler 22-b is within the habitable zone," comes along with a lot of assumptions that may or may not turn out to be true. Read the rest