December 10, 2020: This matter has been settled now, meaning Flickr appears not to be in trouble, and my account due for renewal will be automatically renewed. I’ve appended what settled the matter to the bottom of this post. Note that it also raises another question, about subscriptions. — Doc
I have two Flickr accounts, named Doc Searls and Nfrastructure. One has 73,355 photos, and the other 3,469. They each cost $60/year to maintain as pro accounts. They’ve both renewed automatically in the past; and the first one is already renewed, which I can tell because it says “Your plan will automatically renew on March 20, 2022.”
Hmmm. The Digital River link goes here, which appears to be in Ireland. A look at the email’s source shows the mail server is one in Kansas, and the Flickr.com addressing doesn’t look spoofed. So, it doesn’t look too scammy to me. Meaning I’m not sure what the scam is. Yet. If there is one.
Meanwhile, I do need to renew the subscription, and the risk of not renewing it is years of contributions (captions, notes, comments) out the window.
So I went to “Manage your Pro subscription” on the second one (which has four days left to expiration), and got this under “Update your Flickr Pro subscription information”
Plan changes are temporarily disabled. Please contact support for prompt assistance.
Cancel your subscription
The Cancel line is a link. I won’t click on it.
Now, I have never heard of a company depending on automatic subscription renewals switching from those to the manual kind. Nor have I heard of a subscription-dependent company sending out notices like these while the renewal function is disabled.
I would like to contact customer support; but there is no link for that on my account page. In fact, the words “customer” and “support” don’t appear there. “Help” does, however, and goes to https://help.flickr.com/, where I need to fill out a form. This I did, explaining,
I am trying to renew manually, but I get “Plan changes are temporarily disabled. Please contact support for prompt assistance.” So here I am. Please reach out. This subscription expires in four days, and I don’t want to lose the photos or the account. I’m [email address] for this account (I have another as well, which doesn’t renew until 2022), my phone is 805-705-9666, and my twitter is @dsearls. Thanks!
The robot replied,
Thanks for your message – you’ll get a reply from a Flickr Support Hero soon. If you don’t receive an automated message from Flickr confirming we received your message (including checking your spam folders), please make sure you provided a valid and active email. Thanks for your patience and we look forward to helping you!
Meanwhile, I am wondering if Flickr is in trouble again.
I wondered about this in 2011 and again in 2016, (in my most-read Medium post, ever). Those were two of the (feels like many) times Flickr appeared to be on the brink. And I have been glad SmugMug took over the Flickr show in 2018. (I’m a paying SmugMug customer as well.) But this kind of thing is strange and has me worried. Should I be?
[Later, on December 10…]
Heard from Flickr this morning, with this:
When we migrated your account to Stripe, we had to cancel your subscription on Digital River. The email you received was just a notice of this event. I apologize for the confusion.
Just to confirm, there is no action needed at this time. You have an active Pro subscription in good standing and due for renewal on an annual term on December 14th, 2020.
To answer your initial question, since your account has been migrated to Stripe, while you can update your payment information, changes to subscription plans are temporarily unavailable. We expect this functionality to be restored soon.
I appreciate your patience and hope this helps.
For more information, please consult our FAQ here: https://help.flickr.com/faq-for-flickr-members-about-our-payment-processor-migration-SyN1cazsw
Before this issue came up, I hadn’t heard of Digital River or Stripe. Seems they are both “payment gateway” services (at least according to Finances Online). If you look down the list of what these companies can do, other than payment processing alone—merchandising, promotions, channel partner management, dispute handling, cross-border payment optimization, in-app solutions, risk management, email services, and integrations with dozens of different tools, products and extensions from the likes of Visa, MasterCard, Sage and many other companies with more obscure brand names—you can understand how a screw-up like this one can happen when moving from one provider to another.
Now the question for me is whether subscription systems really have to be this complex.
(Comments here only work for Harvard people; so if you’re not one of those, please reply elsewhere, such as on Twitter, where I’m @dsearls.)