How much is your product, really?

When buying a car, I’ve become accustomed to having to research pricing until smoke billows out of my ears because I hate finding out that the “special deal” I received wasn’t very special. Multi-level pricing has oozed into the retail software industry and is especially rife with companies selling direct. After a couple of (expletive) purchases, I’ve become habitual at trying the Tijuana Haggle or fishing around for a better deal on the same product elsewhere.

Last night, I received an email newsletter from Anonymizer, a company that sells a proxying service and software allowing you to surf anonymously. This is something you’d use if you had an anal-retentive IT department with nothing better to do all day than monitor its worker’s lunchtime surfing habits and send those workers’ managers nasty emails about said workers installing unapproved products. Like Anonymizer. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Inside Anonymizer’s email was an offer to upgrade to their latest and greatest version


  • Anonymizer 2004 1 Year Subscription — $29.99
  • Total System Sweeper ($30 Value) Software Download — FREE!

The first thing that stands out when playing the shop around game is how well-formed the link is. The “200405” looks like … a date! And, more interestingly for my point today, “seg4” is probably a customer segment. Now, perhaps I’m compulsively mischievious, but I must see what happens if I hack the link!

seg3_order.shtml — hmmmm… the package is $10 cheaper, but it doesn’t include the “free” software:

  • Anonymizer 2004 1 Year Subscription — $19.99

seg1_order.shtml — hmm… same price as the first one, only this has two “freebies:”

PrivacyShield Newsletter Offer $29.99

  • Anonymizer 2004 ($30 value) 1 Year Subscription — INCLUDED
  • SpyWare Killer ($30 value) Software Download — INCLUDED
  • Total System Sweeper ($30 value) Software Download — INCLUDED

seg2_order.shtml — yikes, that’s a lot more expensive.

PrivacyShield Newsletter Offer $99.99

  • Total Net Shield ($100 value) 1 Year Subscription — INCLUDED
  • SpyWare Killer ($30 value) Software Download — INCLUDED
  • Total System Sweeper ($30 value) Software Download — INCLUDED

seg5_order.shtmlBad link. Whew. I thought this was going to be even more tedious. I won’t try 6, 7, 8 …

Also curious is the add-on offers. For example:

Zone Alarm Pro – The best personal firewall available – block hackers, spyware and more! USUALLY $49.95, SAVE $30!
Add to your order for ONLY $19.99!

Zone Alarm rocks, and this is a good price for the full version because if I went to Zone Labs, I’d have to pay $49.95… unless I have a UPC code from a competing product, which would entitle me to special double-secret competitive upgrade pricing. Or I could just get the freebie version and do without some of the extra filtering.

To summarize:

Anonymizer’s product is either $19.99, $29.99 or $99.99.
Zone Alarm is either $19.99, $49.99 or $59.99. Or free (slightly limited)

Although this is ridiculous, it’s less pricing turpitude than software rebates, a subject I’ll rant about tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “How much is your product, really?”

  1. Wow! Great sleuthing (did I spell that right?). Their obfuscation mechanism seems to need some help. Someone in the IT dept needs a good beating.

  2. another one: Steganos, which makes a firewall, anonymizer, and trace destroyer, sells for three different prices:

    Internet Anonym 6.0 pro:
    49.95 purchased direct
    34.95 for an upgrade from a previous version
    19.95 if purchased on zonelabs’ site

    Security Suite
    59.95 purchased direct
    49.95 for an upgrade
    29.95 if purchased on zonelabs’ site

    It’s unfortunate upgrade pricing isn’t the same as buying it new from someone else.

  3. John Wilcox

    I stumbled upon your page while surfing for, you guessed it, a cheaper price for some software. I found your responses very informative. I’ll have to start trying them out myself. I’ve noticed over the years that products bought online (since that’s where I do the majority of my shopping) usually have a wide range of prices but I didn’t know about hacking a vendors link. Thanks for the tip. I’m interested to see what you have to say tomorrow about mail in rebates. I could fill 2 pages about how I feel about them but I’ll leave that for you. Regards..

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