Survey: US Consumers Underestimate Subscription Services Cost


US consumers grossly underestimate what they are paying for subscription services collectively, according to a new survey by Waterstone Management Group. What's more, the data suggests the initial impressions of consumers is that they are paying even less than their underestimations. For example, the survey — which involved 2,500 people interviewed on their spending habits in May, 2018 — asked consumers to quickly guess (10 seconds) how much they spend on subscription services in total each month. They were then asked to guess again while being afforded triple the amount of time (30 seconds) presumably to allow them to make a more thoughtful and calculated guess on their spending. The two figures were then compared against each other, as well as against the actual amounts they were spending on subscription services.

On average, consumers first though they spent around $79.74 per month. This then increased to $111.61 per month when given more time to calculate – the first indication they were underestimating their spend. In reality, however, the survey found the same consumers were actually spending on average $237.33 per month. A figure that equates to more than double what their best (second and revised) guess originally was. Adding to the results, the survey found that 84-percent of those questioned underestimated their spend with the highest percentage (27-percent) of the 84-percent underestimating by at least $100 per month.

In total the survey included 21 subscription service-related categories, such as mobile phone service, Wi-Fi, video and music streaming services, Amazon Prime, and more. While asking them to estimate their expenses, the consumers were also asked to rate how "hooked" they were on each subscription service. Based on the results, it would seem the video and music streaming services were the ones that saw the greatest levels of "happily hooked" along with Amazon Prime. In contrast to the likes of mobile phone service and Wi-Fi which saw a greater number of "unhappily hooked" compared to the other options. The takeaway from the survey is that in spite of the less aware nature of consumers on their spending habits when services are broken down into individual subscription services, they were still happy with the ability to choose between services and pay for what they access and/or use. Even though, some of those subscription services resulted in more unhappy customers than other services.

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Freelance Contributor

John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]

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