HULU Plus Streaming Video - Why I Pulled the Plug

Hulu Plus -- Offered in the Roku Channel Store

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How to Make an Informed Buying Decision


Most people, when offered an opportunity to try a product or service for free, will accept that offer, even if they intend from the first to cancel after the trial period. The ‘Free Trial Week’ offered by Hulu Plus streaming video service seemed a good way to test the service and discover if I liked it well enough to add the monthly cost of $7.99 to my budget. This offer would allow me to make an informed buying decision before making a commitment to pay.

In spite of (or perhaps, because of) the fact I worked for a major telecommunications/cable TV corporation for twenty-two years, I do not subscribe to cable as a retiree. I understand why it costs so much, but still don’t think it’s worth it…especially to me. I also know why a la carte is off the table, and that’s a deal-breaker.

Instead, I use a Roku device (a reasonable one-time expense to purchase) that allows me to watch streaming video services on my only TV set. I subscribe to Netflix streaming service ($7.99 per month) and Acorn Online TV streaming service ($49.99 per year, equivalent to $4.17 per month). These two services provide plenty of viewing options, including children’s TV show episodes and movies that my great-grandchildren enjoy when they visit me, for an annual cost that is less than $150.

TV Set + Roku = Frugal Entertainment

One TV set
One TV set | Source
One Roku device
One Roku device | Source

Two Current TV Shows I Like

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Source

One Advantage of Hulu Plus over Netflix


However, there is a downside to both Netflix and Acorn: having to wait at least a year or more to view the current season of favorite TV shows. This gives Hulu Plus a distinct advantage. The day after the latest episode of the series ‘Blacklist’ airs, it becomes available as streaming video on Hulu Plus. I also like ‘Blue Bloods’, for which the first four completed seasons (though not the one in progress) are available on Hulu Plus.

I’ve read that there’s a limited version of Hulu at no cost, but have never seen it listed in the Roku online channel store or shown on the Hulu website. Is the ‘free version’ a myth used to promote interest in Hulu Plus? (If you know the answer, please enlighten me in the Comments section.)

I registered for the one-week free trial of Hulu Plus on the date the first 2014 season episode of ‘Blacklist’ could be viewed, which required providing my debit or credit card information. Instant gratification. That first evening I also watched several episodes of ‘Blue Bloods.’ I greatly enjoy the police procedural genre in both reading and viewing, so I realized there was a chance this show about a family of Irish Catholic cops would become addictive. It did. I was hooked after watching the pilot and two subsequent episodes.

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Perfect Casting: Tom Selleck

Tom Selleck plays the NYPD police commissioner. I couldn't have cast the role better myself!
Tom Selleck plays the NYPD police commissioner. I couldn't have cast the role better myself! | Source

A Near OD on 'Blue Bloods'


My normal viewing habits are usually limited to a couple of evenings per week because I read a lot, write, listen to or play music and chat with family and friends. I consider myself a ‘light’ TV/movie viewer.

Not so during my ‘free trial’ week of Hulu Plus. I almost overdosed on a marathon of ‘Blue Bloods’ every evening for a week—beginning after dinner and lasting until 1:00 a.m. or later every night and including afternoon ‘matinees’ on the weekend. I was determined to get as much value as possible out of my free trial week by watching four full seasons of this program. I’m more than a little embarrassed to admit I accomplished it!

Main Disadvantage of Hulu Plus


However, on the very first episode of this TV show I liked so much, I encountered a situation I definitely did not like: the frequent insertion of inane-to-irritating commercials before, during and after the programming. Even worse, these same commercials played during every episode of a season. By the time I completed watching the first season of ‘Blue Bloods’, the sellers of—for example—flavored potato chips or Oxyclean could not have given their products to me free of charge, and I will definitely never buy them! ARRRRGH!

It's ironic that I initially majored in marketing before changing my college major to business administration. Back then, I was captivated by the prospect of writing award-winning ads. Now, I simply find most taped commercials and print ads insulting to my intelligence. I learned the psychology of advertising too well and, because I understand its intent, easily overcome ads' insidious temptations.


Chant with me: "NO TV COMMERCIALS! NO TV COMMERCIALS! NO TV COMMERCIALS!"



My Decision, Why I Made it, and the Snafu


Long before my ‘free trial week’ of Hulu Plus was up, I made my decision. There was no way I’d pay $7.99 per month for the dubious privilege of being bombarded with idiotic commercials (even with the sound muted) before, during and after every TV show. No way!

That decision made, I not only went online at Hulu.com and completed the form to cancel my subscription two days before the ‘free week’ ended, I also phoned the Hulu customer service number, told an agent I’d canceled and acquired her promise to send me a confirmation email of said cancellation within the trial period so I would not get charged for the service I would not keep. Overkill? I thought so at the time, but as things transpired, it wasn't enough.

Imagine my ire when I checked my bank account and discovered a pending charge of $7.99 against my debit card by Hulu two days after my cancellation (within the initial one-week free trial period). I phoned customer service again, and was told by another agent that the first one made no notes to my account. She also did not send me a confirmation email. This was not an example of competent customer service personnel!

Neither could the second agent find any record of the online cancellation form I submitted—a form which asked my reason for cancelling the service. In short, even though I took the precaution of using two methods of cancellation—online and over the phone—both were ignored, and I was charged for an upcoming month of service I didn’t want.

So much for the integrity of Hulu’s ‘free trial week’ offer! Once a company has your credit or debit card information, you are at their mercy for any shady (or just plain incompetent) practices.

I leave it to readers to form your own opinions about the Hulu Plus ‘Free Trial Offer’, whether or not you’re willing to take a chance on it and either (1) cancel and expect to not be charged, or (2) decide to keep the service—innumerable commercials and all—at the rate of $7.99 per month. Your money; your choice.

By the way, Hulu Plus is now offering two free weeks if you talk your friends into also trying the service at the same time.

I caution that if you decide during the trial period you don’t want to continue the service, call Hulu customer service and ask the agent who answers for her/his name or employee number and a confirmation number denoting you actually cancelled the service within the appropriate time frame. Insist on receiving a cancellation email that same day. If you don’t, call again. At least you will be armed with evidence that you met the terms of your ‘free trial period’ if your credit or debit card is incorrectly charged and you have to do verbal battle with Hulu customer service to get a refund.

That’s another point of contention. They immediately put an authorization hold on your money and it becomes pending for payment (instantly) on the day after the free trial period. Getting your money refunded takes longer—up to a week when the company can use your money. Multiply that by all the people getting this treatment, and Hulu probably makes a tidy profit off these ‘free’ trial offers by investing other people's money on a short-term basis. I got a hint that others may have been victims of the same snafu (or was it an unplanned accident?) when I heard a message while on hold that there were 30 callers in queue before me.

That old adage, ‘There’s no free lunch’, seems proven by Hulu…at least to me. If I consider all the free viewing I crammed into one week, it may—just MAY—be worth the hassle required to get my money back and ensure the channel is canceled. I’ll have to give that some thought.

As for viewing a TV screen, I reached saturation point during my gluttonous intake of ‘Blue Bloods.’ For the foreseeable future, my TV and Roku will remain unused while I catch up on reading, writing, music, interaction with real people and other activities that make more use of my brain.

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Uh-oh. I discovered that full episode videos of the current 'Blue Bloods' season become available on the CBS website after they air on the network. No doubt I'll watch the show weekly on my computer, but won't pay a fee for the privilege.


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Popularity of Hulu Plus Streaming Video Service

Would you try Hulu Plus with or without a free trial period?

  • Are you or have you been a Hulu Plus subscriber?
  • Would you use a free trial of Hulu Plus before deciding to subscribe?
  • Do you think Hulu Plus programming is a value at $7.99 per month?
  • Are frequent commercials on a paid streaming video service annoying to you?
See results without voting


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Comments 17 comments

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks for your comment, Ron. I'm glad if I saved you a customer service "headache." It's really sad that true customer service is so rare these days, isn't it?

Regards, Jaye


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

I've only used Hulu for free viewing of old shows, like the 1950s program "Sea Hunt." After seeing your example of their level of customer service, I won't be going for their free trial offer. Thanks.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

You're very welcome, Deb. Isn't it maddening when those 'special' offers include automatic charging of your credit card (usually in small print so you don't notice it)? We have to watch out for that stuff!

Have a great weekend. Jaye


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Definitely thanks for the warning on Hulu Plus. I had a problem with one of the services in Maine and didn't realize that I'd ben charged until I got the bank statement. I was told that it was too late. I paid for 30 days of service without using it.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Hi, Audrey....Frugality became a way of life for me when I had to retire early and my income took a big hit. Between Netflix and Acorn Online TV, I pay very little for streaming video. Both services are commercial-free. I also keep Smithsonian and PBS channels (both free) on my Ruku channel lineup because I enjoy the documentaries, and PBS Kids has a lot of shows that my great-grandkids like to watch when they visit.

I've had my Roku device for several years, but works great. Even the newer models are not expensive, though, and buying it is a one-time expense--no 'per-month' cost. Jaye


brakel2 profile image

brakel2 2 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Hi Jaye - You try to be frugal like me, and everything is expensive or a ripoff. I should be smart like you and look into those programs you have. Cable is so expensive, and the programming is even worse. I hate all the commercials and the B movies from the 90s. Thanks for alerting folks to the downside of Hulu. Sharing Blessings. Audrey


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Shyron -We have to watch out for this type of trickery that seems to be the rule rather than the exception whenever anything is advertised as 'free.' There's always a price to be paid...somewhere down the road, usually sooner rather than later.

As my son recently commented, "Yes, those jalapenos may be free at the condiment bar, but sooner or later there is a cost."

This made me chuckle until I realized its simple truth. There is no 'free lunch' even though marketers try to make us believe it is so in order to sell their products and services.

Thanks for reading, dear friend, for your comment and votes. (I hear you chanting!) Jaye


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

Chant with me: "NO TV COMMERCIALS! NO TV COMMERCIALS! NO TV COMMERCIALS!" AND NO MUSIC DURING THE SHOW!!!

I went through this with my service provider and a magazine company. I am so glad you warned everybody about the shady treatment from Hulu.

Voted-up, UAI and shared.

Blessing dear friend


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Audrey - Thanks for the read and your comment. I daresay a large percentage of customers who pay for cable do so for the exclusive sports 'packages.' Those customers who care nothing for sports (and don't watch them) must pay more because of the high programming fees. It's a win/lose situation, and guess who is on the losing side?

Jaye


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

I first learned of Hulu --the free version--not the plus version--some time back--but I haven't watched it in a while--we still have cable so that my husband can watch sports--but I hate cable and would love to be rid of it


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks for the votes, Mary. There's no need to be embarrassed about enjoying movies. If I weren't a lifelong reading 'addict', I might have begun watching a lot of TV during the years I worked for a large telecommunications/cable corporation. For nearly a quarter of a century, I received free cable service.

Except for a few shows I watched intermittently and about one movie per week, the free service was mostly wasted on me, but that's because I had limited leisure time and chose other activities. That's the great thing about individuality. What is most enjoyable for me may not be right for another person, and vice versa.

While my unrestrained viewing during the Hulu Plus trial week was unusual for me, I discovered a TV series I like and will continue to watch on a weekly basis. I just won't be viewing it on Hulu Plus. I think it's really neat that CBS and other TV networks stream shows online (free) after they're shown on prime time.

JAYE


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York

Red faced she says, I have cable and am a movie addict. I like some tv shows as well. Its easy, its there, and yes, its expensive.

You've done a great job of explaining the pitfalls of a "free trial period". Well done and certainly valuable.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Bill. I normally don't watch a lot of TV, either, but the availability of multiple seasons of a series that captured my interest plus a 'free' week in which to watch them was a terrible temptation...to which I succumbed.

All my life I've read copiously, but immersing myself in multiple books during a week of evenings is quite different from the passiveness of watching stories unfold on a screen for hours. Reading stimulates the reader to imagine characters' appearance, voice tones, physical aspects of the setting, etc. It's a 'fill-in-the-blanks' activity which exercises the brain. Watching so much TV is not healthy, either physically or mentally. I felt lethargic after my marathon viewing--similar to the way I've felt after consuming too much rich food at a holiday dinner.

I began re-reading Ruth Rendall books a few evenings ago. She's one of my favorite writers and a master of the psychological suspense genre. When I read Rendall, I do it both for enjoyment and to study how she creates plots and characters. I wish I could gain her skill by osmosis!

How's the new job? I hope you and Bev are having a good weekend. JAYE


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

I always value your opinion. Anyone who doubts that has not read my novel. :)

We don't watch much tv...or Netflix...or Hulu....but I know you've done your homework, so now I'm armed for the future.

bill


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Randi - For some reason, the free version of Hulu does not show up on my Roku Channel Store list. I checked the Hulu website and typed 'free TV episodes on Hulu' in the search box. One of the shows I like (Blacklist) is apparently available to watch there online the day after it airs at its regularly-scheduled time on a network. The other is available on the CBS website, so I've got them both covered now. Thanks! Have a good weekend.... Jaye

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John - Since most 'free trial' offers require a person to input credit or debit card information, there are risks involved. (1) If whatever is on offer isn't canceled within a very strict period, it's automatically charged to the card. (2) Sometimes it's very difficult to stop automatic payments, and the card itself will have to be cancelled to end them. It all depends on the integrity shown by company personnel. Unfortunately, I don't have much confidence in corporate ethics these days.--a lesson learned the hard way.

Thanks for reading, voting and commenting. By the way, it's good that you have more time for writing...an example I should follow. Hope your weekend is going well.... Jaye


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Good advice here for people to beware if signing up for the Hulu free trial offer or any other, there is often a catch. I am not subscribed to any streaming video or tv service, because we have Satellite Internet and have a download limit..it is also too slow to watch any videos without interruption. Very backward here but it gives me more time for other things like writing. I hate commercials too. Voted up.


btrbell profile image

btrbell 2 years ago from Mesa, AZ

Interesting and informative. I have not tried Hulu Plus but have used the free version. It was convenient for watching some of the programs I'd missed. Often you could watch a tv program as soon as it's finished its broadcast.

Up+

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