Major Pricing Changes At WooThemes

*Updated August 5th*
WooThemes has published a follow up post that explains in more detail the reasoning behind the first post. It also contains apologies and although we could argue on whether their choice to customers should have been to opt-in or opt-out, the choice is there for customers regardless, which didn’t exist before. Lots of lessons to be learned from this whole ordeal. I hope commercial plugin and theme companies took their notes and don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Original Post:

woothemes logoWooThemes has announced a major restructuring of their pricing tiers related to their theme and plugin products. First off, I applaud WooThemes for being transparent about the pricing changes and the reasoning behind them. From a business perspective, the changes make sense. From their announcement post:

  • – We’re increasing the prices of all of our products (themes, plugins & WooCommerce extensions.)
  • – We’ve implemented a consolidated licensing system (the one we’ve been using for plugins & WooCommerce until now), which now includes themes too.
  • – We’re dropping our Unlimited pricing tiers in favour of a 25-site license tier.
  • – Support and updates will be capped to one year after purchase (with the ability for you to extend this).

As expected, not everyone is happy about the changes, especially customers who purchased products that would have unlimited support and upgrades and could be used on unlimited sites. Those customers will be grandfather-ed into the new licensing system where they will receive 2 years of support and upgrades. After that time expires, they will need to renew their license. License renewals will have a substantial discount attached to them but if the license expires, you’ll have to renew at full price.

This change in the way they are doing business is no surprise to me. In fact, I thought this day would have arrived sooner. When I asked WooThemes employee Mark Forrester why this change wasn’t made sooner, this is what he said:

Our fast growth, varying product offering, tech and pricing models complicated things. But yes we wish we’d done it earlier!

From the outside looking in, it appears that WooThemes could definitely afford to honor their commitments to customers in the unlimited pricing structure but at the same time, that’s a huge chunk of recurring revenue they would pass up. What we’re seeing now is that WooThemes understands the costly mistake they made by offering unlimited anything and while they didn’t have to, they did give those customers 2 years to get accustomed to the changes. However, I can also see the perspective that customers will now have to literally pay for their mistake, even if it’s two years from now.

I know how it feels to pay once for something labeled as unlimited and then later on in the product’s life cycle, I end up having to pay again despite the fact that it was supposed to be a one time buy. The terms and conditions page of WooThemes affords them the opportunity to make changes that positively affect their business, even if the customer gets the low-end of the deal.

At the end of the day, WooThemes has made some necessary changes that will help cement the company’s existence well into the future.

As for all other theme or plugin shops, if you are offering unlimited anything, please do yourself and your customers a favor and stop it. It’s getting to the point that if you’re offering unlimited anything, you might as well be holding up a giant sign that says “Want To Go Out Of Business“.

Related reading from David Peralty on WordPress Products Versus WordPress Services


125 responses to “Major Pricing Changes At WooThemes”

  1. If you have 5 or more sites built with a particular theme, honestly a good company/developer/team should be able to make profit out of it without caring about the license costs, if not, they’re doing it wrong.

    The only issue I see is the commitment, there should be perks for long standing unlimited members available for more than 2 years.

  2. It’s good to make sure you’ll be there for your customers in the future so I have no problem with Woo’s new pricing model. But it made me wonder (for the hundredth time) why it is that commercial plugins are often priced on a per site basis (using support/updates as the limit) while virtually zero theme shops do it that way?

    Why does the customer with 10 sites pay the same amount as the customer with 1 site? Doesn’t that mean the 1 site guy us paying more than he needs to? Raise the price on the 10 site guy and lower it on the 1 site user. (If Woo did this, they would not be concerned about somebody making 48 sites with Canvas worth $48,000 while they are $200 in the hole after supporting those sites.)

    Can somebody explain to me how it would be bad for the customer or the theme shop to have a model like this:

    1 site: $
    5 sites: $$
    25 sites: $$$

    This is how Woo prices plugins now, how EDD extensions works, how Gravity Forms works, and many others. But how many theme shops do this? I know of one.

    Is this not perfectly fair and sustainable?

    Expert theme and plugin shop owners, genius economists and marketers, please chime in!

  3. While I’m bummed I didn’t buy my WooCommerce extensions yesterday I did purchase today without hesitation. I’d rather have a viable business model ring used than have them fold in a year and be left out in the cold.

    Purchasing today is the best way to affirm their decision. We will never be able to shout down the people complaining.

  4. @Jeffro – I see that now, I didn’t really go through the comments. Just read one or two. If I was a woothemes customer, I would definitely want them to be around for support which would require paying for support. If not, you can still use their products and support yourself.

  5. @Steven Gliebe – I agree with the pricing structure you present, but I am currently unaware of a way to prevent a theme package from being installed on only one domain (other than only providing support for a list of domains), and maybe this is why Woothemes prices their themes the way they do. And if there is no way to police a theme being used more than once, pricing the way they do makes most economical sense.

    Do you know if it is possible to restrict a theme to be registered so it can only be installed on one domain or a way to detect if a license has been used more than once?

  6. I’m most disappointed at the price hike in the WC extensions. In particular the subscriptions extension. For a single site licence I’m now looking at an initial cost of $199 with a recurring fee after one year for continued support/updates. Ouch!

    Add on a few more WC extensions and it makes WC a VERY pricey shopping cart. My knee-jerk reaction is that it just feels like a rip off now. I wouldn’t mind if I could be certain that it comes with fantastic support, but I have used it on another site and support was satisfactory at best.

    With WC becoming the default choice for a WordPress cart they must feel confident that people will still payout. As for myself I’m still undecided. But as I don’t know of anything as robust as WC I may be left with little choice by to pay the increased price. :(

  7. @Mike Yasieniuk – Theme shops can handle it basically the same way plugin sellers already are.

    Easy Digital Downloads has a Licensing extension that can be used with themes and plugins. It can be used to limit license activation to X number of sites. It also delivers one-click updates, so the user needs to renew their license in order to continue receiving updates.

    It would not be good to restrict installation or use of a theme. GPL themes and plugins should be able to be used however the user wants. Updates and support, on the other hand, are up to the provider to deliver, so that’s how the “per site” pricing can work. Additionally, you can simply ask the user to pay the appropriate amount for their usage.

    I think with this model it’s important to make sure the customer understands up front what the renewal cost is and why renewal is beneficial to them.

  8. I’ve now learned to be wary of lifetime support. I always thought it would be lifetime unless the company went bankrupt, but they go from infinity to 2 – that’s not even close. Their contract may allow them to change it, but if the money is right, I could see some lawsuits. Also, chargebacks from credit cards if it was bought in the last month. After all, you didn’t get what you purchased – infinite support.

    Other than that – bravo for them on raising prices as needed to stay alive. Lots about the internet is “free”, but some parts can’t be.

  9. A sustainable business model is the reason products like Simple Comments are based on a subscription model. To continue to provide support and updates the revenue must support it. Offering products with an unlimited license is a pyramid scheme that will fail once there are no longer enough new customers to support the product.

    Many years ago fitness shops offered a lifetime membership only to go out of business. Out of that failed lifetime membership pyramid scheme came a class action lawsuit that resulted in a law that prohibits a membership from extending longer than 3 years. I am more confident the product I am purchasing will continue to be supported and updated if it is offered as a subscription.

    I use WooCommerce because it is extremely well designed and built, and has a sustainable business model supporting the development cycle.

  10. Three quick-hit thoughts:

    1) I don’t know the original terms of the WooThemes “unlimited”/”lietime” license, but if it was actually lifetime, then those who purchased it should be able to get their money back. (Actually: offer that to them, as a choice – your money back, or a two-year grandfather into the new licensing model. I bet the vast majority would take the latter. I also bet that, long-term, it would be cheaper for WooThemes to give those customers their money back than to continue to support them for another two years.)

    2) “Lifetime” and “unlimited” packages are never scalable/sustainable.

    3) If support for a Theme involves any number of “sites”, you might be “supporting” the wrong thing.

    Themes are a product, not a service (yeah, David Peralty and I disagree on this point). Support scope should be limited to the Theme installing/activating on a properly installed WordPress instance running on WPORG-defined minimum server configuration, free of bugs, and kept current with changes to WordPress core. If you’re “supporting” custom modifications to the Theme, or similar, then you’re essentially giving away consulting services under the guise of Theme support.

    That’s fine if you want to do that, but for it to be sustainable, you should probably figure out how to price/charge for it accordingly. Sounds like that’s exactly what WooThemes is attempting to do here.

  11. I tried to read more on the WooThemes site; clicked several links to their pages.

    Every link leads to the same near-empty page, with the same message:

    This site requires JavaScript and Cookies to be enabled. Please change your browser settings or upgrade your browser.

    Nothing else. Blank page. WooThemes refuses to let their pages display at all, if you have JavaScript turned off. That’s pretty strange.

    I look at a few hundred sites per week, with JS off. Sure, it messes up the page. Over the last few years I’ve visited many thousands of sites. JavaScript always off by default. I do regularly turn it on, to make certain content functional.

    I see a lot of different messages, ‘reactions’ to not using JS … different creative & cute ways sites are trying to cajole folks into turning on script. Very, very rarely do we see a site flatly refuse to display its pages on a browser with JS turned off. A handful maybe, over “years”.

    That’s a real pronounced oddity, to completely disable your website if/because folks don’t have JavaScript on.

  12. @Chip Bennett – Any theme seller helping with code customization is burning cash. The best response to those “support” requests is a link to the Codex and referral to a service like Tweaky. It sounds like that’s more or less what WooThemes does so their price changes are indicative of how large the support burden for “out of the box” features is, even with decent documentation.

    PS. Never give a mouse a cookie! They’ll ask you for more free consulting services…

  13. Unlimited supports and updates is not a sustainable business model for a plugin OR theme developer who plans on growing and scaling. On a small scale it works. On a large scale? It will kill you.

    Why don’t more theme developers adopt this type of model when a lot of plugin developers do? I have no clue. They should. If they were smart and wanted to build a longterm sustainable business.

    Some people use “Lifetime” as a marketing method, a feature,mot get you to buy and your your money right now. Who cares if a year or two down the road they’re support is terrible because they couldn’t scale to meet the support demands of providng support and updates? That’s one reason some theme shops provide lifetime support and updates.

    Most plugins, Gravity Forms, included, are run and developed like the software applications they are and therefore they are sold using a sustainable business model. Ironically the vast majority of our support is caused by poorly developed themes providing “lifetime” support. Most support requests aren’t due to bugs or a problem with our plugin itself.

    As for WooThemes somehow being in the wrong and somehow owing customers who purchased lifetime support and updates, that is in correct. Purchases are covered by the businesses terms and conditions, the terms and conditions state the terms can be changed at anytime by the business with written notice. WooThemes blog post outlining the change was the notice. They don’t owe anyone refunds nor were they even required to grandfather users like they did, they could have just said 1 year. But instead said 2 years.

    When Gravity Forms changed from unlimited to 1 year of support and updates we chose to grandfather users and maintain their lifetime support and updates. But we didn’t have to because of our terms and conditions and it doesn’t mean WooThemes has to either.

    We made the change fairly early. WooThemes has years and years with of customers. I can’t blame them for not grandfathering all users to include lifetime support. I think 2 years in the situation is fair.

    If you oppose this and you’ve never run a theme or plugin business that does a HIGH VOLUME of sales and support than frankly you have no clue what you are talking about when it comes to this situation. If you did, you’d have a completely different opinion on the matter.

  14. I think these price changes will be better for the WordPress community. You only need to look at Themeforest for example to see how many quality and feature rich WooCommerce themes are on there, majority of them would be slaughtering WooTheme’s WooCommerce Themes in sales. While there still are some poorly coded themes on Themeforest, and some bad support, these themes would be giving it to WooThemes.

    I think these price changes will only make people use WooCommerce plugins from other places, there’s already a tonne of them out there.


    As for the $500 to $1000 annually for each install, that would defiantly kill WooCommerce. Not sure where they got those numbers from though… Even if they did bring that type of pricing in, for example $500 annually for each install, and say they had only 60000 users using it, that would be 30 million a year… It would make me wonder where the costs would be going then, especially between 30 workers :P

    I think in the long run a premium support cost would have been a better option, leave WooCommerce free, provide support by a support plan. Same with theme users who use the one theme across heaps of sites and need customization help.

  15. Their business, their decision, but I thought this was a pretty deluded statement:

    If you are earning $1000 from a Canvas installation, it makes sense for us to earn a chunk of that, because Canvas has saved you a bucketload of time and effort.

    … a questionable presumption about how much cash the average WordPress site rakes in. Given that Woo was already making multiples millions in profit every year, what “chunk” should they now start kicking back to several FOSS projects upon which their business depends? Why should only their particular, thin layer of the stack warrant an ongoing, per-instance financial tribute?

    Also, this idea that each and every use of their product will demand a certain amount of support is ridiculous. Think about it: you might have questions the first time or two that you use a product, but, by the time you’ve used it in dozens of sites, the only thing you’d be likely to use support for would be to report a bug. Hell, most people responsible for running several sites soon learn that you can find answers more quickly in forums anyway, I don’t think I’ve submitted a support ticket for anything WordPress-related in years.

    Woo understand these usage patterns better than anyone but this isn’t really about covering actual costs, it is about getting that ongoing, continuous “chunk” of everything you do – if hammer companies could find a way to charge per nail, they would.

    But, look, this is their business, what they are doing is not unethical, if you use commercial products you must expect this sort of move, and this is not the first time that Woo have increased their prices, a company’s past patterns are simply part of what a consumer must take into consideration when making any commercial product a part of his tool-belt.

    From a purely commercial perspective, this is probably a fabulous idea for Woo: they have a large base of customers who are essentially locked-in, and they made the inspired decision, two years ago, to refocus their business on functionality (Woo Commerce) which is even harder to swap away from than themes. Right now, they are at the top of their industry, so, it is time to ratchet up the profits, that is what businesses do.

    This sort of evolutionary bubble n’ boil is also healthy for the rest of the commercial WordPress market: when established companies get relaxed and raise prices, it creates vital breathing room for smaller competitors and this probably is Woo’s Microsoft moment – plenty of easy money will continue to flow in for years to come but they may have now planted the seeds of their own eventual irrelevance.

    Finally, it reminds us why it worth remaining aware of, engaging with and encouraging the awesome code that our community creates and freely shares. Commercial products have garnered a disproportionate amount of attention over the past few years – big marketing budgets, paid promotion and affiliate schemes have certainly aided that distortion – but non-commercial WordPress is actually stronger than ever and we should celebrate that more.

  16. @Carl Hancock

    When Gravity Forms changed from unlimited to 1 year of support and updates we chose to grandfather users and maintain their lifetime support and updates. But we didn’t have to because of our terms and conditions and it doesn’t mean WooThemes has to either.

    Actually, it is worth noting that you didn’t just grandfather existing users, you announced the change a month ahead, presumably creating a massive burst in sales driven by the fear of missing a once-off opportunity.

    I thought that was a completely ingenious way to not only get a useful injection of cash but, also, to increase your army of early user-evangelists, solidly entrenching your lead over competitors, and I often recommend to “the Gravity Forms strategy” to the developers of commercial plugins.

    I would be very interested to hear if you now feel that the ongoing support burden created by those early users outweighs the value of the position that the strategy helped you to attain. I would have thought that any support burden would have diminished sharply as developers became familiar with Gravity Forms. Surely the vast majority of actual support (as opposed to bug reports and feature suggestions) is generated by new users getting to grips with the plugin for the first time? Surely longterm users mostly just generate more word-of-mouth sales?

  17. @Chip Bennett

    2) “Lifetime” and “unlimited” packages are never scalable/sustainable.

    “Never” is a tad absolute.

    If you are using lifetime unlimited packages as a way to attract early adopters and, hopefully, establish your plugin as the default choice in your niche, they might actually be the very thing that makes your business sustainable.

    Also, whatever burden those early adopters place upon your support resources becomes easier to carry as your business scales up in later years.

    Could they be scalable in the longterm? As I’ve mentioned in previous comments, I believe that experienced users require little if any support – if you haven’t learnt all you need to know about a product in your first year, you probably didn’t even get around to using it.

    One of my favorite commercial WordPress companies, StudioPress, seem to be able to make lifetime licenses work just fine.

  18. @donnacha of WordSkill – The way we handled our change from lifetime to 1 year of support and updates was planned for the exact reason you described. It wasn’t by accident and was handled exactly as we intended and planned in advanced.

    We turned something that would normally cause grumbling into a marketing opportunity to drive short term sales. Not only that but we marketed heavily to existing users to upgrade to the Developer License from the Personal License and Business License before the change went into effect.

    We actually did this for something like 2-3 months prior to the actual change in th Frms and conditions and it did boost both sales and upgrades prior to the change.

    I would say that those users don’t pose a support burden now. But those were still fairly early days, so the user base wasn’t as large as what WooThemes user base currently is. So I’m most definitely glad we made the change when we did instead of waiting too long. I think we were one of the first to go down this route. Or at least the first mainstream well known plugin to do so.

    We planned it out and executed it exactly as we intended and instead of receiving backlash we were able to turn it into a successful sales and marketing opportunity.

    Honestly the users the pose the biggest support burden are Personal License users as they tend to be less savvy. And as I mentioned before, the vast majority of our support revolves around issues caused by theme conflicts, plugin conflicts, and server related configuration issues rather than actual bugs in our code. But that’s life supporting a WordPress product.

  19. @Carl Hancock

    If you oppose this and you’ve never run a theme or plugin business that does a HIGH VOLUME of sales and support than frankly you have no clue what you are talking about when it comes to this situation.

    Nooo …. folks can pick up useful clues, without having to be old hands at the business.

    And, business has been around for a long time, educating all of us in its wiley ways. Highly doubtful that WordPress camp-followers hawking their theme & plugin wares are inventing anything that Madison Avenue and Wall Street haven’t been doing since the Stone Age.

  20. I don’t mind the pricing change for purchases going forward. It’s well within their TOS to do so and from a business standpoint the new pricing/tier makes complete sense. The community on a whole doesn’t seem to be baulking extensively at this; although we do grumble about it.

    I DO mind being told that my already purchased unlimited licenses were being retroactively changed to 2 years of support and 25 licenses. No where, not one place, in their TOS was anything like that mentioned and pricing change does NOT cover changing an existing purchasers license terms. I’m pretty sure the license change for existing holders might actually be considered illegal.

    I DO mind that after investing $8k ish in my start-up business for those unlimited licenses that I’m now being told my renewal fees could set me back anywhere from $5k to $14k per year; I have over 75 extensions all purchased as unlimited.

    I DO mind being told that I have a choice to renew at those rates, if I don’t I won’t get updates, and if I don’t renew before 60 days then when I do renew I have to pay the new full price of the plugin. Seriously who wants to use old plugins, there could be security issues, issues when WP or WooCommerce itself updates, etc.

    The way they are trying to change existing license holders after pushing us to purchase those licenses with assurances of being grandfathered in and now suddenly we’re not is fostering a huge amount of distrust and resentment. We were essentially lied to.

    They’ve seemed to chalk this up to support, but it’s not fair to users who rarely use support (once in a blue moon) for their existing licenses to be punished for those who do.

    I’m a very disgruntled Woo customer at the moment. : /

  21. @Pippin
    As a developer myself, I understand that viewpoint of course. You’re saving people plenty of time/money developing a product, right? So they should be willing to pay for it rather than develop it from scratch?

    I’m not questioning that at all, it was taken into account when I made my comment. Thing is, $199 for a single extension (when I probably need several) will still make me think VERY hard about whether I want to commit to that product. There is always a line where it starts to feel unreasonable. Plus, what if they decide to have another price hike in the future?

    UPDATE: Actually, forget all that. I’m giving up generic theme/Plugin development as of right now and becoming a full time WC extension developer! Who’s with me?

  22. It’s a free country and Woo can charge all they want.

    The real question is are developers going to buy into this.

    I can only speak for myself, no. I don’t need to. At the same time, there is something strange about having a theme license IMHO. Just saying.

    The beauty of WP was it was open. It made it easy to build for clients. Products that Woo offers make it even easier to build arguably speaking. Does this price bump make it easier? No, it doesn’t.

    I get having to charge for things. But if you sold products based on “lifetime” or “free”, you better stand by your word.

  23. “The way we handled our change from lifetime to 1 year of support and updates was planned for the exact reason you described. It wasn’t by accident and was handled exactly as we intended and planned in advanced.”

    Kudos to you, but that is the legit way to do it.

    WooThemes did the opposite, an underhanded, shady, and in my opinion, completely fraudulent way.

    They did a sale in July, told people that prices were increasing, but made no mention of the coming change in site licensing. They never stated that was once a one-time purchase would now become an annual one either.

    Obviously they did that to ensure maximum sales, which is essentially fraud. That’s what fraud is based on, an intent to deceive people for financial gain. How they think they will get away with that is beyond me.

  24. To set the record straight, if you go through the comments at woothemes, most of the customers are not complaining about the price increase (me included). We understand that an unlimited support model is not sustainable in the long run, and that has been observed development in other reputable premium plugin houses (Soliloquy slider, formidable pro etc).

    However retrospectively changing the key contract terms (lifetime updates, unlimited sites etc) of past purchases is NOT OK. Some even noted that their terms and conditions allow them to do that. There is such a thing call unfair contract terms, just because it has not been challenged does not mean it can stand the test of law. Its like buying a freehold land and suddenly the seller changed the terms to 2 year leasehold.

    There is also the issue of misrepresentation, like their recent a sales with staff members giving representation of “grandfathering” (go through the comments of their July sales blog post for such “representations”).

    There is also another line of argument that a $99 plugin that cost $40k (numbers quoted to simplify illustration) to develop is an absolute steal. I do not disagree with that. But try selling it at $999 and see how many sales you will get. The reality is that most wordpress ecommerce projects should be between $5k to $10k range (there are exceptions at each of the end of course), the cost of total plugins has to be within a reasonable range to leave some profit on the table for the freelancer/developer/agency. A good analogy would be iPad, it cost millions to develop, but would people buy if Apple is selling it at $9,999? Apple earns by selling more at lower price and creating a healthy ecoystem for other ancillary services to flourish e.g. accessories.

    Many are applauding their “bold” move, I hope it is on the point that they are moving to a more sustainable support model, which I support. If you are also encouraging them on their “bad” business practice of changing the key terms of their past agreements, even if it is legal (which I doubt so), this will be a sad day (in my opinion) for the premium plugin ecosystem.

  25. Gravity Forms did it right. Woo did it wrong. (I will never let my GF license lapse and support their model)

    Woo has set the precedence that what they say can now no longer be trusted. If we buy a 5 seat license going forward (and that’s a big unlikely if since some of us are facing thousands in renewal fees at this point) and they decide this new business model isn’t working what’s to stop them from unilaterally changing those licenses to 1. Their word? Oh wait… if they kept that we would be grandfathered in.

    How much faith does Woo have in this new business model if it’s trying to breach existing contracts and be fraudulent with the most recent July sale buyers by this change? To me it says they don’t. To me it says they don’t expect their new model to be able to sustain them. Which also says they need to re-evaluate that model and additionally stop pissing off their user base that helped them grow.

    It also grinds my gears to no extent to see articles praising this change from the “gurus” who many of us respect popping up all over the internet. Or comments saying we don’t want to invest in our businesses or care about developers etc.

    Guess what guys… That’s a load of malarkey! On a whole we AGREE with the change going forward. It’s not a problem. Individuals would have had no problem paying yearly since that’s the set expectation on those future purchases but do you think those individuals are going to keep buying now? Likely not. Especially if they’ve invested thousands and thousands and are now getting a Woo Scroo.

    We don’t agree that we should be slapped with breach of contract license term changes and thousands of dollars in “surprise” fees. This change has potentially made it so that invested users/small start-ups etc. will essentially sink if we’re not making the $48k per website that Woo feels entitled too; we won’t be able to support ourselves let alone the platform we love and the developers behind our favourite extensions.

  26. I see two scenarios from now on:

    1. Be mad as Amber here and take it to court. Sue the living shit out of WooThemes for breach of contract.

    2. Spend the next two years finding alternatives to WooThemes. Replace dat sht.

    Two years is a long time and some will still feel they got ripped off, but hopefully you will come on the other side as a happy developer that now thinks twice before you buy products/services with little or no time spent on reading and understanding the terms and conditions document.

  27. @Björn Sennbrink – Having now read a lot more about what was sold and what they changed, it is pretty shocking. All the folks, particularly on the selling side of the WordPress community, who took Woo’s reasonable explanation at face value, well, they should take the time to find out what actually happened. I didn’t even realize the amounts of money involved.

    Under any understanding of representation and sales law, what Woo did was blatantly illegal and this will cause a ripple effect which damages EVERYONE attempting to make a living by selling commercial WordPress products.

    Adii defended this by saying that there was a clause buried in their T&Cs, stating that they could change the terms at will … doesn’t matter. Legally, small print cannot override the promises contained in marketing – just having a get-out clause does not magically allow you misrepresent what you are selling.

    Neither Amber nor any consumer is obliged to comb through the small print, there is a reasonable expectation that terms which fundamentally alter the product being sold will be explicitly cited in all marketing materials, otherwise it is misrepresentation, plain and simple.

    It doesn’t matter if you belatedly discover a structural flaw in your business, you simply cannot turn around to struggling Web designers, who have made the huge step of investing thousands of dollars into what you told them were lifetime licenses, and say “lifetime now means two years”.

    It is also blatantly insincere to say “Well, we’re not taking the plugins away after two years, you just won’t have updates” when everyone knows that, as WordPress itself changes, plugins have to be updated.

    Woo were free to sell their licenses at whatever price they chose, that was their business decision, and their customers bought those specific licenses at those specific prices. Now Woo suddenly claim that each customer is sucking up more support, at $5 a pop, than the cost of their licenses – I call bullshit. This is not about “making sure the company is still here in two years”, it is a simple bait and switch, designed to claw back a bigger slice of the perceived pie and completely undervalue the skill, hard work and entrepreneurial effort of Woo Commerce integrators.

    Those individuals and small companies who invested money upfront in order to save in the longterm, many are now apparently looking at ongoing costs of around a grand per year per website. They acted in good faith but now they are the ones which will struggle to be here in two years.

    Of course, what Adii is counting on is the fact that his buyers are insufficiently organized and insufficiently resourced to take this to court – just because something is illegal doesn’t mean you can’t get away with it.

    Good for him, what a hero, and no doubt this retroactive strategy will now be copied by many other WordPress sellers, but let’s not kid ourselves that there is any sort of justification for screwing over the customers who invested most heavily in you. In the WordPress world, we often comment on how commercial the Joomla world is but I cannot think of a single example, there, of behavior as short-sighted, brazen and ultimately self-destructive as this.

  28. Reading their comments to their customers makes me think they must be the most arrogant individuals around. Adii thinks a “loyal customer” is one who is willing to accept their fraudulent practices and breach of contract.

    Mark Forrester on the other hand says they are being transparent. Where was this transparency on display when they did their July sale and only told their users that the prices would increase, but then withheld the fact that the licenses are changing and it’s now going to be an annual fee?

    Is this your idea of loyalty Adii? Your customer who bought your plugins in the past and helped build your company now has to pay you a second time for the same plugin if they don’t renew fast enough for you. Even if they are not using your plugin and support they still have to keep renewing or else pay you full-price a second time because they let their license lapse. That puts them on the same level as a brand new customer of yours who never supported you in the past. You reward them for their past loyalty by making them pay full price again, not an upgrade fee. There is no justifying that from the perspective of your tech support costs increasing because the person in that scenario wasn’t even using any tech support or even making money with your plugin. That’s just a money-grabbing decision, not something you need to do to cover their support costs.

    This is the “loyalty” that Adii believes he owes to his customers, but you should just accept whatever Woo throws at you or else you are disloyal to the “Woo clan”.

    If Woo doesn’t give their customers what they paid for they don’t just risk civil lawsuits but criminal charges too for fraud. You can’t sell someone a lifetime license that you have no intention of ever providing. It doesn’t matter what your T@C say, misleading people for financial gain is a criminal offense. Your T@C will never trump the legal system.

    It’s obvious their July sale was based on fraud because they sold people things they had no intention of providing. A one-time fee lifetime license does not become a 2-year renewable license just a few weeks later. That has nothing to do with needing to increase prices to keep yourself in business. That was a deliberate effort to deceive in order to get as many people to buy plugins as possible knowing very well that they were not going to be providing them with what they had just purchased. That act of theirs shows their true colors IMO, you can’t pin that one on a lack of experience from someone who has just started a business.

    If Woo Customers don’t stand up and fight against these unethical and shady business practices you can be assured that this will be the norm. Other companies will follow suit and their cheerleader bloggers will just rush to their defense trying to convince you that it’s just how things are done in the “real world”.

  29. “Of course, what Adii is counting on is the fact that his buyers are insufficiently organized and insufficiently resourced to take this to court – just because something is illegal doesn’t mean you can’t get away with it.”

    That will be a colossal mistake on their part. It’s now become a criminal issue because of their July sale where they sold things they had no intention of providing.

    Breach of contract is a civil issue. But fraud is criminal and everyone who works at Woo who is involved could be charged with conspiracy to commit fraud.

  30. Just last two points to make

    1. It does not matter even if your T&C is in large print, in English law, any clause that says you can change anything must pass the unfair contact terms test. Based precedents, any changes in clauses that are financially detrimental to the customer were viewed unfavorably in courts.

    I would not want other premium plugin developers to have the wrong impression that as long as their get-out clause is big and conspicuous they are safe. It is likely that your past agreements on lifetime updates could be changed i.e. you have no choice but to “grandfather” them. However you can gain extra marketing leverage by being the first to say “oh yeah we are gratherfathering old purchases” (even though legally you could not have done otherwise).

    2. WOO could have fixed their support model instead of still offering unlimited support (unlimited support even for a year could kill you if it is purchased by a less saavy customer). Those who are vocal is because they have invested heavily on WOO products. I only invested about $1,400 worth of WOO products this year and I have never opened a single technical support ticket. Therefore I can’t relate on the statement that it cost more than the purchase price to support. Even if I open 10 support tickets per year over the next 5 years, it will only cost them $250 in total for support cost (they stated the average support cost of $5 per ticket, 10 tickets x 5 years x $5 per ticket). What I see is they are still having a nice lifetime value of $1,150 out of me which they can invest in adding code and take home a nice profit. Even if the support scenario illustrated by me were to triple (from 10 / year to 30/year), WOO is still getting a nice chunk of value from my purchases.

    I suspect that there are many who have invested much more than me and likely to be more technically savvy, the cost to support to them should be even lesser i.e. your early adopter customers are likely to be savvy and requires less technical support and freely recommends WOO to their customers (hence building your brand equity along the way).

    The irony is this is the group of customers who now most negatively affected.

  31. I just read Adii’s diatribe on customer loyalty again and can’t stop chuckling. This is a company who deliberately mislead their loyal customers by withholding extremely critical info about their future plugin costs when they promoting their latest plugin sale.

    Now Adii wants you to spend money on his business ebooks so you can get his expert advice on how to be a successful entrepreneur.

    Lesson#1 – How to screw over your loyal customers in 3 easy steps. :)

  32. “your early adopter customers are likely to be savvy and requires less technical support and freely recommends WOO to their customers (hence building your brand equity along the way).”

    Even more reason to screw them over and make them pay full price again for the same plugin because they never renewed it in the time frame you arbitrarily decided on.

    Most people wouldn’t pay for renewing a plugin they are not currently using. That’s why Woo created this policy, so people would let the license lapse and then have to pay full price again for the same thing.

    I don’t know of any decent software company that wouldn’t give you credit for the money you already spent on their products. That’s how you reward customer loyalty, by not pulling stunts like these.

    Chalk this one up to another of Adii’s great business ideas. Making your loyal customer pay you twice in full for the same thing and then justifying it by talking about the tech support they were never even using.


  33. @donnacha

    Thank you. Finally, besides those of us that have been very vocal regarding all the reasons this is a illegal horrible change (for previous license holders) it was so refreshing to see someone more dominate in the community acknowledge our stance in your most recent comment.

    @bill and smehero
    As always I’m right behind you in support of the things that you’re saying in comments regarding this topic.

  34. Just continuing drama and false promises from a very unprofessional company.

    I switched over to Genesis/StudioPress months ago and life is good again. No drama, no price hikes, no back and forth.

    Its just a matter of time before WooThemes self-implodes.

    Goodbye WooThemes; Hello StudioPress.

  35. Nice to see that my comment sparked even more good comments on this important issue.

    I am one the customers (and WooCommerce contributor, and founder of Swedish Facebook support group for WooCommerce) that feel betrayed. I payed for lifetime updates, not a renewal fee every year. WooThemes can not be trusted.

    I have written a longer blog post about my take on this (use Google Translate, link at top of blog post now):

  36. Are WooThemes Practices a Problem for WordPress? It’s a fair question.

    WordPress has to be & is vigilant that ‘bad actors’ and shabby situations are not allowed to pull the rain in on the WP brand. This is not a ‘suggestion’ or a hypothetical. It’s reality on the ground, and WP HQ are actively engaged with the challenge.

    Although some think WooThemes are legally ‘covered’, in what they’ve chosen to do, and that it even shows good business acumen on their part, this episode does come across as shabby, at best.

    WooThemes may have their ducks arranged to come out ahead on this (one plausible business scenario is that they have identified a market sector that will embrace their new model …. and they’re ditching the market that was their earlier stepping-stone … which is not a novel business-dynamic). But how do WordPress’ ducks fare under this kind of “slick” business-maneuver?

    How does it affect the greater WordPress enterprise, as it becomes general knowledge that leading 3rd party products are engaged in “sharp” business-practices? That for anything at-all significant, you better have a good lawyer, going in?

    That when you shake hands with WooThemes, you need to count your fingers afterward?

  37. Dictionary Word of the Day

    WOOED – {verb} (rhymes with screwed)

    Definition: To mistreat or exploit through fraud, trickery, or unfair actions; especially : to deprive of or cheat out of something due or expected

    Example: “My website costs have unexpectedly been increased by 100%, I’ve been wooed.”

  38. In my opinion the long term viability of Woo Themes will not be determined by this price increase. It will be determined by whether they choose to honor the licenses they have already sold to their customers.

    It will be an interesting Monday, I’m looking forward to seeing their response. If they choose to thumb their nose at their existing customers then they can expect a very bumpy road ahead for them.

  39. “Although some think WooThemes are legally ‘covered’, in what they’ve chosen to do, and that it even shows good business acumen on their part, this episode does come across as shabby, at best.”

    The biggest problem in the WP community today is that there is now an inner circle of high profile players who are all friends with each other. They agree with each other, support each other, and publicly slap each other on the back.

    That leads to the false belief amongst some that they have been greenlighted to do things this and that it’s legal because people like Chris Lema said so and because he thinks it’s a good idea.

    There will be a wake-up call coming for developers who think that this is how things are done, that if your buddies support you then it’s all OK, you can do whatever you like.

    If these contracts are not honored this will be a defining moment in the WP commercial space. A line has been drawn in the sand.

  40. I believe these changes are necessary for the industry. As Chris wrote back in May, WordPress plugin prices are too low these days. WordPress themes and plugins have a unique ability to generate money even for non-experts. My first WP project was 2 weeks after installing WordPress. Where else can you do that? Something cheap that allows you to make a lot of money will either get expensive or cease to exist. I personally prefer the former.

    With that said, I can’t say I approve the way they handled their old customers. 2 years ≠ lifetime. As Carl mentioned, GF kept their promise and continued to provide lifetime support to their customers. We at Templatic did the same thing 2 or so years ago.

    Yes, WooThemes had every right to change their ToS; doesn’t mean they should have.

    Bottom line: Good move by WooThemes, but you can’t really be surprised old customers aren’t all that thrilled about it.

  41. I would like to point out to anyone saying that Woo had the right to change the Terms. The TOS section 13 that Woo kept pointing to was for PRICING and SUBSCRIPTION changes. It did NOT at the time of their change relate in any way, shape, or form, to PAST purchase LICENSE terms.

    Anyone who purchased a Woo plugin/extension prior to this change purchased as a 1 time non-subscription fee under the EXPLICIT instructions that it would be a 1 time charge (no renewals) and should any changes occur they would be grandfathered in; which Woo Team members can be found being broadcasting in comments during their July sale and sales past. It was also EXPLICIT instructions per their original pre-sales FAQ page that there would NEVER be a renewal fee for those purchases.

    As Donnacha and several others mentioned this is not only unethical but also illegal for PAST license holders.

    Even after their blog announcement they still had their pre-sale FAQ boasting unlimited updates/support and their TOS hadn’t been updated. So if anyone had not read that blog post and had purchased extensions/plugins it could essentially be construed as fraud given all the other materials that were available citing different conditions.

    So again, just to re-affirm those that keep mentioning the TOS. At the time of their “great change” it referred only to PRICING and it was NOT updated until they had already made their deceitful past license holder move and decided to close the comments on their article after it reached an explosive and upset 490+ comments (some 2 days after their change).

    The only “Good move by WooThemes” would have been changing this pricing/structure for all FUTURE sales, which again, as mentioned numerous times, the community on a whole did not seem to have a problem with.

    I’m also waiting to see Monday’s announcement but would like to point out that I truly believe that Adii and his team fully intended to go through with this unethical and illegal practice they’ve implemented for past license holders because they have since updated their pre-sale FAQ to read this:

    I made a purchase before the pricing/licensing changes. How long is my license valid?
    If you have purchased a product before 1st August 2013, it will be grandfathered into the new system with access to support and updates for two years. After two years, you will be required to renew the license if you want continued access to support and updates.

    I’m not holding my breathe and will have nothing good to EVER say about Woo going forward if they choose this deceitful route. It’s going to be hard for them to earn the trust back from the community at large after this debacle.

  42. All the while I have been receiving emails from WOO for sales and new products but there is not a single email to me on something as important as significant changes to my old purchase terms (legality aside). I have to chance upon their blog to find out this myself! WOO has 30 employees and they can’t even send out a courtesy email that my contract terms has been changed?

    Come to think of it this is actually quite a smart move (ethics aside), just imagine the out-roar if all their 100,000 customers get notified!

    Good grief that at least there are other honest vendors in the WP ecosystem, I received the following from Soliloquy on 5th Aug 2013 (bearing in mind this is a one-man operation but at least he sent a courtesy email and honor the old terms):

    This doesn’t affect you! :-)
    As of today, I have just implemented what I hope to be my final change to the support and updates structure for Soliloquy.

    This doesn’t affect you, but I wanted to share with you the structure change anyways so that you understand it going forward.

    When I implemented the token system, a lot of people were confused by it. Since I was selling lifetime support and updates, I needed a way to scale support so that I wouldn’t go under as a business. This was effective, but it had a few side effects that I did not count on.

    The biggest and most damaging side effect was frustration to users. Support tokens is a hard concept to understand, and I didn’t like doing that to users.

    As of today, everyone is grandfathered in with lifetime forum and email support. I ask that you not abuse this as I’m only one man, but I have granted it to you nonetheless. You can still enjoy Soliloquy and get quality support, too.

    How the New System Works
    There is nothing crazy about the new system – you have likely seen it before. All purchases as of noon EST today will be on the new system. Support and updates require a yearly fee equal to the amount paid for the original license. There is, however, and upper lifetime tier that is available for purchase as well that comes with lifetime updates and support. It is 2.5x the cost of a developer license.

    If your license expires, you will stop receiving updates and will not receive any support from anyone on the team. Your account will be prevented from sending out forum topics and email support.

    This new system allows me to scale support as needed and ensures that Soliloquy stays in active development for the long run. I know you all want that!

    Forum Access
    Zendesk is no longer being used for Soliloquy – they have been brought in house via bbPress.

    Forums can now be accessed at You have to be logged in to be available to post new topics and replies.

    One Final Note
    Thank you for being patient with me. I know there have been many changes in the past 6 months, and it should be a testament to my own fallen state. I make mistakes, and I admit I have made mistakes in the past and I hate that you were the brunt of some of them.

    I’m working hard to amend this, so thanks for sticking with me! Thanks for being a loyal customer, and I look forward to continuing to help all your plans succeed in the future with Soliloquy!

  43. @Vedran

    WordPress themes and plugins have a unique ability to generate money even for non-experts.

    The unstated predicate here being: ‘ … and such uniquely-enabling plugins & themes are only available from commercial developers.’

    Chris Lema’s wording for the same notion goes:

    It’s about empowering. There are some projects you just couldn’t take on without Gravity Forms.

    The first logical fallacy here, is the likewise unstated implication that because this or that commercial product may well indeed (uniquely) enable certain good things, “even for non-experts”, that these same non-experts therefore can’t do anything, without the ‘magic fairy dust’ of the commercial product. Oh yeah, they can, actually.

    The second, woolly mammoth in the living room fallacy we aren’t supposed to detect, is that the only source of enabling, empowering, leveraging plugins & themes, is our commercial developer community.

    Don’t look now, but WordPress Headquarters haven’t been on-board with that idea, for a long time now. If they ever were. Rapid strides continue, in what is plainly a Policy & Project fostered & pushed by top WP leadership, to enable & empower the authoring of better & more-significant plugins & themes, by non-professional and non-commercial amateurs & enthusiasts.

    The tools and educational materials are clearly being refactored (as the Devs like to say), to make them suitable for part-time & sometimes coders on the WordPress platform. That didn’t have to happen, and it doesn’t happen, ‘by default’.

    Creeping complexity, bloat, and outright messy code-environments form severe barriers to amateurs, but can be dealt with by deploying professional assets. To keep WordPress safe & inviting for the non-expert, requires an ongoing commitment – and we do see that work & effort taking place.

    It’s a sophomoric Fact of Life, that there is more than one way to get things done; more than one route from Point A to Point B. Gravity Forms comes highly recommended, and we don’t really doubt its quality & value. But that you gotta have it, to prosper with WordPress … is a sales-pitch.

    I believe that there are indeed ‘some’ good markets for ‘some’ commercial products. But these opportunities & venues are in reality fewer, narrower and more-limited than the picture some have rendered. There is an inner-cadre that is understandably engaged in a bit of self-interested evangelism and good-ol’-fashioned salesmanship.

    Capitalism isn’t a crime. But caveat emptor, naturally.

  44. @Vedran – Sadly, I am not at all surprised that someone from Templatic would think that it is “a good move” to sell people unlimited lifetime licenses and then quietly change them to 2 year licenses. Yes, indeed, “you can’t really be surprised old customers aren’t all that thrilled about it“, and that is probably why, instead of notifying them of this change by email, Woo slipped it into a blog post so vague and deceptively worded that, even after the 492 comments that managed to get posted before they slammed that door shut, most people are still confused about what is actually happening.

    Sure, Chris Lema writes that plugin authors should charge more … in a blog post packed with affiliate links to those plugins. I don’t doubt that getting a 20% commission on a $500 purchase is better than 20% on a $100 purchase, but even Lema isn’t suggesting that that it is acceptable to change the terms of a sale AFTER the sale has been made.

    It is also worth noting that the $2000 which Lema grandly states he sets aside each year for plugins, would not get him very far under Woo’s new pricing – the figures being mentioned in the Woo thread seem to suggest that the licenses for the average Woo Commerce site will now cost around $1000 per year.

    Nobody should forget that the availability of those unlimited, lifetime licenses – which cost considerably more that the normal licenses – were a vital tool in persuading Web designers to build their businesses around Woo Commerce rather than existing, more experienced competitors such as JigoShop, whose code they forked to create Woo Commerce.

    Think about it this way: if I sell houses at lower prices than anyone else, I will probably become the leading house seller. Having achieved that position, and having sucked business away from all my competitors, would it be acceptable for me to then announce that, in order to ensure the financial future of my company, I must now not only charge more for houses but, also, all you folks who thought you bought a home, sorry, that was actually a two-year rental … and anyone who whines about that is not a “loyal customer”, if you can’t afford the new prices that is your fault for not charging your clients enough!

    As I’ve already said, other commercial plugin and theme sellers will now undoubtedly decide that retroactive price changes are “a good move”, so, when will Templatic be breaking the bad news to all of your lifetime license holders?

  45. @donnacha of WordSkill – Unfortunately your selling homes for life and then taking them away is the best analogy for this issue. I held back an immediate response to their announcement fearing others wouldn’t fairly assess my comment for what it is due to the bad history between me and Woothemes co-founder — Adii.

    I’ve written an article on explaining my view. More developers should speak up for the customers instead of blindly praising Woothemes for the price hike. Educating customers the value of your work and charging what you’re worth are commendable, but that isn’t the issue here.

    If WordPress is your livelihood, learn about the details of their announcement and read comments by both sides before publicly supporting either side. Otherwise, don’t post ignorant opinions with 140 characters via Twitter as it’s clearly not the length required to explain something like this.

  46. @Donnacha. Man, I admire you IMMENSELY. A man with both character and wisdom.

    You said this:

    “Nobody should forget that the availability of those unlimited, lifetime licenses – which cost considerably more that the normal licenses – were a vital tool in persuading Web designers to build their businesses around Woo Commerce rather than existing, more experienced competitors such as JigoShop, whose code they forked to create Woo Commerce.”

    You hit the nail on the head. Those licenses were the primary reason why Woo became so popular, because they were affordable to the smaller “mom and pop” types.

    Now the same people who were responsible for them getting to be in the position they are in today are being blamed for Woo’s supposed financial restrictions in the future.

    How sick and twisted is that? You blame your supposed pending failure on the very people who helped make you a success.

    Woo could have taken two approaches here:

    A. Find other ways to grow their business and keep all their existing customers.

    B. Kick those people to the curb and lose 10% of their customer base. (Personally I think are underestimating how many they will lose, I’m sure it will be more.)

    They chose B because they have forgotten they are dealing with real people and see their customers as mere “data points” in their financial software model.

    The Woo story is the typical story of people who become successful and then become arrogant and forget all the people who helped them become successful and just step all over them.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what will win out tomorrow. Woo eating humble pie, or just more Woo arrogance.

  47. Just to prove how unprepared they really were in making changes to their information BEFORE all the shit hit the fan..

    They are currently still selling “Unlimited” Licenses for their “See You Later Plugin”. If anyone were to buy that, they would be deceived. Most of their product information changes were done AFTER the fact still giving time for new buyers to purchase with false information; here is a product they missed changing in their mad scramble after the 492 comments.

    Note that my following screenshots show they have added (as of this date) the “each license is valid for one year of updates/support” message but didn’t change the number of licenses to purchase in the dropdown as they did with every other plugin/extension. What happened to the 1/5/25 model?

    Additionally just to prove how unethical what Woo did to it’s existing users here’s a snippet right from their own pages about never having to pay more than a 1 time fee (guess this helps to show it’s illegal as well):

    I’d also like to thank individuals like Donnacha and Justin Tadlock ( for stepping up and speaking out for existing license holders.

    After this whole fiasco, as I said before, I’m not holding my breath for anything good coming from the Woo Team tomorrow; I’d be willing to put my money on “arrogance”; they clearly don’t care about the individuals that helped build their business.

    I’m actually wondering if they themselves are taking this time to look into the legalities of what they did which is why we’re left waiting “future announcements”.

  48. Woothemes seen on Twitter:

    WooThemes ‏@woothemes 3h
    @sennbrink Scroll all the way down –

    Note that they are using a defence that refers to a message stating: “Our company reserves the right to change or modify current Terms and Conditions with no prior notice.”

    This specifically shows there is nothing to indicate they have a right to change PAST terms and it boggles the mind they are trying to use it to defend themselves.

  49. “Sure, Chris Lema writes that plugin authors should charge more … in a blog post packed with affiliate links to those plugins.”

    I’ve lost all respect for Chris Lema. He has now resorted to turning off his comments after posting whopper lies like this so he can’t be challenged.

    He claims: “If, after two years, you don’t want to pay any more, and you still want to run an e-commerce site that isn’t profitable, you can do so. It’s completely up to you. You don’t HAVE to pay. Because all the code will still work. You just won’t get new features.”

    Chris, I know, that you know, that you can’t run an ecommerce site with outdated plugins that may have security flaws, or bugs or incompatibilities with the latest WP version.

    The fact that you can publish such lies just confirms what you are all about. According to Woo themselves when your license expires you don’t get any more updates, zero.

    Small mom and pop stores chose WooCommerce BECAUSE there were no annual upgrade costs. They invested in their plugins for this reason. It has nothing to do with a site not being profitable. A small site may indeed be profitable when the person has their costs under control. But if they suddenly have to pay several thousand dollars every year for updates then it is a big hit to a small business.

    These people could have gone elsewhere but they didn’t, and now their loyalty to WooThemes is being thrown in their face not just by Woo, but by people like you who portray them as freeloaders trying to get something for nothing.

    Obviously you have no problem with scams where people are sold licenses for a lifetime of upgrades only to have them downgraded to 2 year license just a few weeks later.

    I sincerely hope for Woo’s sake that they stop listening to your “legal advice” because you are so wrong on so many issues.

  50. During the gold rush In the 19th and early 20th centuries, we learned that the one who won were the merchants who sold the tools to dig gold. A few of the god diggers won when they stuck gold. The shovel merchants sold their tools at an a price point that can reach out to as many migration workers as possible. They did not have to bear the risk of failed gold explorations, they earned on every sale.

    The tools merchants sold products called shovels.The migration workers bought the tools to find gold i.e. they traded time for money.. oh wait there were no guarantee that gold could be found for everyone. Its a risk they had to take as there is no guarantee they would find gold. A few would eventually struck gold, good for them, but many actually did not find any gold or barely enough gold.

    Now Imagine we were in WordPress Ville, one of the famed towns with gold found. One of the tools merchant, say WooTools, innovated the design from another tools merchant ,JigoTools, and came out with a better shovel. It devised a brilliant marketing strategy to provide lifetime maintenance to the shovels they sold (they would sharpen your shovel every now and then during the lifetime of the tool). They even created a tiered product that allows their shovel to be worked on unlimited gold exploration sites. They were wildly successful, at the expense of their competitors, and sold to some 100,000 migration workers.

    One day WooTools realised that some of their customers actually did find gold. They had been selling the tools too low (although that had brought them marketshare and financial success). They thought that they should be entitled to share a chunk of the gold found. They should hike the prices of all their tools. However WooTools got even greedier, how about the existing pool of 100,000 customers who bought the tools in the past and the tools were now considered more valuable? hmmm..

    They announced a sales on pending price increase. The little urgency of pending price increase netted them one of their best sales record for the year.

    A few weeks later they pasted a little notice in their shop, stating that they were raising prices. There were some mumblings to the crowd gathering outside their shop but generally they were cool about the price increase because they liked WooTools and the folks who produced them.

    As the crowd read on, they realized that WooTools also announced that they no longer provide lifetime maintenance to the tools they sold in the past, lifetime had been “extended” to mean 2 years. And those tools sold with unlimited sites exploration license had unlimited redefined to mean 25 sites. That caused a big outroar from the customers as this business practice was unheard of in WordPress Ville.. (to be continued)

  51. Quote from Justin Tadlock:

    I was all set to agree with their pricing move and thought it was pretty smart until I saw the part about existing lifetime users losing their lifetime status. At best, it’s an unethical move that will at least allow them to keep the fanboys as paying customers while still pulling in new customers to replace the old. At worst, it’s illegal and could make for some hard times ahead for their company.


  52. @donnacha of WordSkill

    I am not at all surprised that someone from Templatic would think that it is “a good move” to sell people unlimited lifetime licenses and then quietly change them to 2 year licenses.

    By “good move” I’m referring to the price increase and moving away from unlimited (something most devs agree with). The 2 year thing is what I specifically mentioned as a bad move / bad thing. As I said, we went through the similar thing and kept the lifetime licenses. It feels like you didn’t read my whole comment.

    but even Lema isn’t suggesting that that it is acceptable to change the terms of a sale AFTER the sale has been made.

    And neither am I.

    when will Templatic be breaking the bad news to all of your lifetime license holders?

    Never. Seriously, read my comment again.

    We can’t be mad at WooThemes for increasing their prices or removing the unlimited option. In case the prices are too high the market will take care of it…that’s the good thing about capitalism. As mentioned earlier, them not honoring old purchases is the problem; and people have a right to be pissed off.

    Personally, I think they realize they’ve messed up and that this is too big of a shitstorm to ignore. They’ll be honoring those lifetime licenses. People forced a giant like Microsoft to change the new Xbox. With enough complaints, WooThemes will change their policy as well.

  53. @Vedran

    Xbox One. Don’t even get me started on that piece of spyware (even as a die-hard xbox girl) :P

    After a comment that I saw Woo make on Twitter just a few hours ago posting an image stating they are allowed to change current terms and conditions; I wouldn’t put money on it that they’re going to honour those licenses (I could be wrong but I don’t think so). This feels like it’s amping up to be a fight until the bitter end.

    It also seems that there are several individuals throughout the web that are promoting/condoning their blatant disregard for past customers/purchases so it’s deffinitely not helping. Especially when a select circle all jump on the Woo Scroo bandwagon and praise the behaviour.

    I seriously feel brain cells die each time I see someone agree with the misrepresentation and mistreatment Woo’s existing license holders are facing. However as the days go on , I do see a few more people slowly start to realize what actually happened (besides the pricing/license/support change going forward for new sales).

    The more people (especially the dominate players in the WP community) we can get to publicly recognize the issue the better.

  54. @Amber -Xbox doesn’t (and won’t) work in my country so I’ve been on the PS3 for almost 6 years. The One (man I hate that name) is improving and I hope it sells well. The better it sells, the harder Sony has to work. Competition WTF.

    I wouldn’t put money on it that they’re going to honour those licenses

    MS defended it as well for a few weeks. Finally gave up when Sony kicked their ass in preorders. Woo will do the same thing if they see a quick and massive drop in sales.

  55. @Vedran

    Woo will do the same thing if they see a quick and massive drop in sales.

    I want to say I hope so but I can’t even let myself have that small itsy bitsy ray of possible light. The reason being that I’m betting loads of Woo users probably don’t even know about what fully went on yet; I mean it’s not like there was any communication other than a blog post. I get Woo emails to several of my email addresses (promotions, updates, etc.) and not once did I receive anything in regards to these past license holder changes.

  56. “I want to say I hope so but I can’t even let myself have that small itsy bitsy ray of possible light.”

    Amber, there are people watching this story unfold who are not very happy about it. If Woo does not do the right thing you can be assured there will be legal action taken.

  57. @Amber, @Bill,

    Don’t be disheartened, you are not alone. More people will see the truth in time.

    There is a possibility that Woo might win the battle of deception this round (e.g. their sales actually kept up because the new customers are not aware of their dubious practices), but they certainly lost the war of trust.. time will tell

  58. @Vedran – I did read your whole comment and responded because it reflected an attitude that far too many commercial have expressed: that, although some existing customers “won’t be thrilled”, and it would have been nice if they could have handled it better, this change is necessary for the industry and, on the whole, Woo should be supported for this “good move”.

    My objection is that this lazily conflates two thing that should be completely separate:

    1. The industry needs to learn how to create better pricing models – Tung’s post expresses that very well – and a business should adapt its model, should be agile in changing the terms and conditions under which it sells going forward. A business is not even obliged to grandfather its existing customers with regard to increased renewal costs or incidentals for which they have not already paid, although, in an industry where reputation and word-of-mouth are everything, it does make sense to keep your existing customers happy.

    2. Woo have blatantly, quite deliberately and entirely illegally decided not to honor the terms under which they positioned their product in order to dominate their market, and continued to sell under those terms even after they knew they would be changing them. Quite simply, you cannot take money for something and then decide to take it back or to charge for it again. That is theft.

    Verdran, you did express you concerns but my point is that you, and so many others with a vested interest, should not soft-soap this, you should not conflate those two points, you should not be collaborating in Woo’s attempt to pretend that this is an unfortunate but necessary business decision, you should not be suggesting that people are angry because of increased prices or removed options when, in fact, they are legitimately furious that something they paid thousands for has been taken back.

    Everyone, on either side of the Buyer/Seller divide, should be outraged, should be distancing themselves from this theft and certainly shouldn’t be suggesting that there is any justification for screwing customers out of something they have already paid for.

    Sadly, I don’t think Woo will back down – I know this company very well and that sort of sensitivity has never been in their nature. This is not a US or UK company, they are from a far more hard-driving and less customer-oriented culture. The sort of mind that could have come up with this scheme in the first place, well, it is hardly going to suddenly develop ethics.

    There will be some minor concessions tomorrow, probably extending the two years, but they will otherwise bulldoze ahead. The majority of their lifetime customers have no idea this is happening, they don’t follow WordPress news sites, this will simply come as a nasty surprise at some point over the next year or so. Most will be upset, none will bother to take legal action and the majority will have no choice but to cough up more money. Adii will continue to make millions and will genuinely not understand why his reputation is in tatters.

  59. @donnacha – Probably no one reading these comments can say that what they did to their old customers was a good move. Even if they felt like that after reading the post, the comments likely changed their mind.

    Instead of placing all of these decisions in one basket I’m looking at them separately:
    New price = good
    New license = good
    Not honoring old licenses = bad

    At the end of the day, their decision to do this to old members does have a small upside. Other theme/plugins devs are taking notes. Once they announce price changes (matter of time), no one will dare to do this to their old customers.

  60. While my webhosting customers purchase hosting on a monthly / semi-annually / annually basis with no contracts or payment terms (they can come and go anytime), I’m always happy to keep customers on grandfathered plans. I roughly change my hosting plans once a year depending on my hosting costs and sometimes prices go down, sometimes up depending on new features etc.

    I have some customers still paying for grandfathered plans that went out window 4+ years ago and in my opinion it’s a great incentive for people to stick around. It keeps people happy to continue paying what they originally signed up for, even knowing there’s nothing hanging over their heads.

    I would probably lose a lot of customers if I moved people to new plans whenever I felt like it. Hosting has it’s fare share of costs including servers, software, maintenance, etc and keeping people on grandfathered plans does not even cause a burden to us or our running costs. We would just makeup the costs elsewhere.

  61. Here’s the reality, I just did a calculation of the “new” fees that Woo decided that its is “entitled” to in 2 years time -> $3,706 x 50% = $1,853 (assuming there is a 50% renewal discount), and assuming there is no price increase in the next 2 years (highly unlikely given that the average price increase was 50% for my the extensions I own since Jan 2013). I think I am more likely to have to pay about $3,000 EVERY YEAR, in 2 years time, to keep my extensions secure and updated.

    For the folks who think we are penny pinchers, think again. $3,000 / year is no small money.

  62. When I woke up this morning I will admit that I never expected the outcome to be in our favour; even more so when I read the first bit of their article.

    I was wrong. Woo has allowed us to reclaim our original license terms. I’d be lying if I said this experience hasn’t left me a bit wary going forward but I’m more likely to purchase new items now under their new model than I was over the last few days (before there was a 0% chance of that).

    A HUGE thank you to everyone who stepped up and spoke out against what was happening to existing license holders!

  63. First off, I want to thank everyone who participated in this discussion thread for keeping things civil without having to throw out personal insults and such. I’ve been monitoring the conversation here as well as in other places and I’m glad to see that WooThemes decided to honor the lifetime upgrades and support that their foundation of customers purchased.

    While it’s great to see this outcome, there has no doubt been a sour taste put into the mouths of many. Thanks to their post today, WooThemes will be remembered as a company that listened to the outcries of anger from their customers and turned things around rather than shoving their noses at their customers which would have possibly been the nail in the coffin for their company.

    So many lessons to be learned by this whole ordeal from how to deal with unlimited anything and lifetime this or that, to properly communicating changes to your customers, to not changing the contract terms and deciding one day that unlimited means 2 years.

    I hope that they are sending emails out to everyone of their customers regarding these changes because not everyone is going to come across their blog. Secondly, it wouldn’t be cool to see this spring up again sometime in the future from customers who had no idea this change happened.

  64. I hope that they are sending emails out to everyone of their customers regarding these changes because not everyone is going to come across their blog. Secondly, it wouldn’t be cool to see this spring up again sometime in the future from customers who had no idea this change happened.

    I asked about this and Warren confirmed he’d be sending out a mail mid-week.

  65. They have made the new terms opt-out, not opt-in.

    This means that all the people who paid for lifetime licenses have been changed over to two years. In order to get what they paid for, they must:

    A. Somehow find out about this.

    B. Work their way through Woo’s frankly confusing description of what they are doing.

    C. Explicitly change their settings.

    We have no idea how long the opt-out period will last, it could be a week, it could be a month.

    We have to presume that most lifetime license holders will fail to opt-out within whatever arbitrary time-limit they set. We have to presume that most will be blind-sided and only find out when their license expires.

    For Woo, it does allow them to give a satisfactory solution to the people who noticed and who are currently complaining. From a PR point-of-view, that is a good temporary fix and, of course, completely takes the steam out of any talk of legal action – the less wired-in folks whose licenses expire will not receive the same level of interest or support, because they won’t all find out at the same time, the story will be at least two years old by then and there will be a perception that it is their fault because they failed to change their settings.

    It is still illegal but Woo’s primary concern, right now, is to reverse the PR damage.

  66. @donnacha of WordSkill – Hmm, it definitely would have been better for all of their unlimited customers to not have been moved to the two year plan and then told they have to opt back into their original unlimited plans. Like I said, it would be beneficial to solve this problem without it having to be a problem two years from now. The opt-out doesn’t solve that problem. It prolongs it for two years :(

    Every time I think WooThemes did the right thing, someone reminds me that no they didn’t and they usually make sense.

  67. @Jeffro

    it would be beneficial to solve this problem without it having to be a problem two years from now. The opt-out doesn’t solve that problem. It prolongs it for two years :(

    Yeah, I’m actually surprised that, having been smart enough to realize they had made a mistake, they don’t understand how drawn out and messy this solution is going to be for their reputation but, again, I think this is a cultural problem.

    The obvious solution would have to write an extremely simple post saying: we messed up, our pricing will be changing but all existing licenses will be honored. In American and UK business life, it has been repeatedly and definitively established that a simple, straightforward apology and reversal is the way to row back from major mistakes and staunch reputation bleed. Instead, they are framing it as an essentially good decision that, sadly, some selfish assholes made a fuss about.

    The idea that people who paid a much higher price for lifetime licenses should now, voluntarily, sacrifice what they paid for is astonishing, perhaps they should also introduce donations, but the real sting-in-the-tail is that they are making this sacrifice automatic; to retain what you paid for, you have to go to a specific page and make the explicit choice to not “support Woo Themes”, a tacky and frankly bizarre guilt-trip tactic.

    I sense very immature egos at work here. Ninja’s and rockstars may never have to admit mistakes but the inability to do so can be disastrous in business. It is astonishing that in a company this big, 30 people, not one single person had the foresight to guess that this would happen, the basic legal knowledge to know that you can’t just unilaterally change a deal you’ve already made, or a sufficiently developed sense of ethics to tell them that this was wrong.

    If I was an investor in Woo, I would insist that they brought in at least one person with more real-world experience, in the same way that Toni Schneider was brought into Automattic as CEO. At the very least, they should bring in someone like Carl Hancock as advisor and ask him sanity-check stuff like this before they do it.

  68. Putting aside the snafus over changes/grandfathering in old users/letting people opt-out of the new license/etc. — can I ask a question to the people who spend are looking at spending thousands a year to renew their WooCommerce stuff a serious question?

    I assume that those fees are on behalf of your clients — right? As in, that’s not the cost for a site you maintain yourself — those are costs associated with buying licenses for sites you build clients. Is this a correct assumption?

    After you setup your clients ecommerce setup, do you still work with them on a support basis for upkeep/maintainance — if so, what do you usually charge? What I’m asking is — pretending that the license fee renewal thing wasn’t an issue — if your client today needed to update to a new version of the plugin in two years — you would be charging them to do that update, right?

    I ask because most of my friends who are developers charge their clients for the work they do, as well as the full price of whatever plugin/extension/software they install on their site. If there is a license, it’s always in the customer’s name and the customer is responsible for any future upgrade costs/license renewals. Ergo, if after two years, the customer wants to get more updates for the plugin they use to power their site, the developer doesn’t pay that, the client does.

    If I pay someone $10,000 to setup my ecommerce site today and another $500 a month in maintenance fees, as an example – and in two years, they say — “we need to upgrade your system to work with the latest stuff, it’ll be $2,000” — 9/10, I’m not going to have a problem with that. I’m certainly not going to expect the developer to pay the cost of upgrading the software running my site. If that extra $2,000 or whatever seems to be too expensive for my blood, I can start looking at alternatives or custom solutions — and maybe I’ll bitch at the developer for pushing me towards this platform, but if what I have works, I’m almost certainly going to be OK paying to keep it working.

    Plus, at that time, I could evaluate what features I need and what features I don’t need. Maybe I never use that digital subscription feature, even though I thought it would be a big part of my business. Maybe one of those payment gateways has been used exactly twice. Maybe I need to add more functionality or a new gateway.

    I guess what I’m asking is that since these fees should be passed directly onto your clients — who frankly should understand that they don’t pay a one-time $X fee for an e-commerce website — how much does the yearly support/update fee really matter?

    I’m genuinely curious to know if the deciding factor for WooCommerce versus another solution was really related to the promise of “unlimited updates/support” for the life of the product.

  69. Your question doesn’t make any sense Christina. First you acknowledge that people had fixed costs for the software updates, then you say clients should understand they don’t pay a one-time fee for an ecommerce site.

    Obviously they understand that if they need to change the site they are going to pay for those changes. But they won’t understand the increase in software costs when they were originally told that there wouldn’t be any because all future software updates are included.

    It would be like WordPress suddenly going from free to an annual fee. Don’t you think people would object to this if they never budgeted for it?

    People are aware of the difference between modifying a site to their liking, and the other various costs associated with a running site like hosting, software upgrades etc.

  70. Christina, are you aware that the type of client who typically would use WordPress to run an ecommerce site is a small business with limited overheads?

    While I’m sure there are exceptions, I don’t think a major eCommerce company is going to choose a blogging package like WordPress along with some third-party plugins to run their site. They will go with a large scale eCommerce solution that has been designed from the ground up to do eCommerce.

  71. @Jeffro: “Every time I think WooThemes did the right thing, someone reminds me that no they didn’t and they usually make sense.”

    They never did do the right thing. The “right thing” is something you do when you have the choice and option to do so.

    They had that choice on Friday, but did what they wanted to do over the objections of their users. Today they did the “legal thing to do” because they had no way out of this situation. They should only be applauded for having enough common sense to know that pursuing their original plan would have resulted in their company being sued out of business.

    Don’t mistake that for them doing the “right thing”. They only did their recent pullback because of comments on blogs like this over the weekend. On Friday they were thanking all the industry people who supported them.

  72. @Bill – I hear you Bill. For the time being, I’m going to let this comment thread stay open but if it goes too far off the beaten path, I’ll have to close it down. At the very least, customers now have a way to get what they paid for albeit as an inconvenience to them.

  73. @Christina Warren

    I’m genuinely curious to know if the deciding factor for WooCommerce versus another solution was really related to the promise of “unlimited updates/support” for the life of the product.

    TLDR: Yes, very much so.

    That’s a good question, and one that drills down to the fundamentals of who Woo think their license holders are.

    A few years ago we could have frankly said that customers “should understand that they don’t pay a one-time $X fee for a CMS” but things change. Cheaper alternatives emerge, the market shifts and, while there will still be stragglers who think you need to pay thousands of dollars for a simple website, the vast majority of business people cottoned on pretty quick to the fact that Web development is extremely competitive and, if you can’t squeeze a local guy to do it cheap enough, you can get some guy in India to do it for a few hundred dollars.

    WordPress has enabled a new wave of people to become Web designers but it has also dispelled the myth that creating Websites is difficult or should be expensive. The dominant model is now that designers quickly jigsaw together sites as quickly as possible, concentrating on volume because clients are simply not willing to pay much per site.

    That volume means that unlimited licenses for themes and plugins are particularly important, they are one of the few investments a designer can make in her business, one that slowly repays over time. Remember, too, that every designer who pays for these licenses is competing for clients with hundreds of thousands of other designers who pirate the latest themes and plugins, and who often have far lower living costs and taxes. They are now also competing with slick, easy and extremely inexpensive hosted options such as SquareSpace, which, honestly, are already transforming the industry.

    In the case of Woo Commerce, they enticed that particular segment of the Web design industry, most of whom would previously have stuck to simpler WordPress sites and targeted low-end clients, with the idea that it was now within their technical and financial ability to sell more complicated offerings, mostly into their existing network of customers.

    For those designers, struggling to establish their reputation in the ecommerce niche, a vital weapon against established ecommerce experts was price. Just as Woo Commerce went from zero to market leader in a very short time, based largely on price, their license holders gained a foothold by transferring those savings to their clients.

    There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the existence of lifetime licenses – allowing savings over time to designers hammering out a lot of cheap sites – were a decisive factor in the success of Woo Commerce: there was simply no other model that could have attracted all those designers to Woo rather than the many more established WordPress ecommerce options, or even into ecommerce at all.

    Woo now seem to be saying that was a pyrrhic victory, that the huge support costs are in danger of wiping out the millions they earn, which is puzzling when you consider the amount of customers who are mentioning the unsatisfactory support they received the few times they needed it, and the descriptions of posts going completely unanswered in their support forum.

    Perhaps the most telling indication that support is not the burden they claim is that they have absolutely ruled out the idea of unbundling support from their product. Unless a product is particularly bad, support is mostly bullshit, the same as the “insurance” that is frantically pushed when you buy electronics in retail stores, the vast majority of plugin and template buyers just want the updates, they’d far prefer to pay separately for support.

    Just to be clear, there are designers who can charge premium rates, especially in a country as rich as America, but I would argue that the majority, even there, are struggling far more than you might realize … designers often exaggerate about their clients and pretty much everyone lies about what they earn – you’re a journalist, you know that :)

    I suspect Woo have heard that bullshit too and, tragically, believed it. The main advantage that Woo had were its customers, desperately selling their little hearts out with the one true weapon they had – the low cost of WordPress – but they seem determined to believe, instead, that they are a product for heavy-hitters, happy and willing to spend enterprise-level cash.

    Having thought about this long and hard, I believe Woo have made a rookie mistake and allowed their egos to distort their perception of their market. If I am right, and the majority of Woo Commerce licensees are actually smaller players, how long is Woo Commerce, at roughly $1000 per year per site in licensing costs (and, now, the added headache of having to buy and manage each additional license), going to remain competitive against the $288 per year, all in, that SquareSpace charge for an easy and nicely-featured ecommerce site? How many more hosted services are going to enter the niche? How much better and more fully-featured are such services going to become? And how hard would it be for a “Woo Commerce Expert” to become, instead, a SquareSpace integrator and trainer?

  74. @Bill – Bill, I’m not trying to say two things — what I’m actually asking is — if we assume that clients already pay for ongoing support/maintenance/upgrades, why would a new software fee then be different? Yes — I can understand that clients might not all be happy with the situation. But it is what it is. What would happen if WooCommerce went out of business or more likely, one of the extensions used in a site stopped being worked on/supported and a new solution had to be used? I’m not trying to be obtuse, I just didn’t think people were truly selling buy-once, last forever ecommerce solutions — even if it is based on WordPress. I’d just assumed that you sell the solution as it exists now and if/when something in the future changes, the client understands that there may be additional upkeep or upgrade costs. The same way when you buy Microsoft Office, after a certain period of time, if you want to have the latest features or security updates or whatever, you need to upgrade.

    You’re right — I don’t totally understand the market of people who use WordPress as an ecommerce solution. That’s why I’m asking this question. I would assume that most of those customers are people that need things that hosted-solutions like Shopify can’t account for. As a result, I’m mentally pricing the cost for one of these sites as more than whatever it would be to setup Shopify and buy a theme and hire a custom designer.

    Look, I know there are a lot of people who sell dirt-cheap web solutions to clients who then expect everything under the sun. I also understand that some developers take the race to the bottom approach to try to gain customers by charging as little as possible. If that’s who the majority of WooCommerce buyers are — yes, this is a huge problem.

    However, I’d kind of assumed that we were talking about client sites that are budgeted at many thousands of dollars — plus whatever contract you have for additional support after the fact. I guess my point being, if I’ve already paid $X for a site and its crucial to my business, another $300 a year or whatever for updates isn’t going to matter to my business one way or another.

    But I fully admit I might not understand the average clientele people are dealing with. That, of course, is a much bigger problem than Woo changing its licensing and support term lengths.

  75. @donnacha of WordSkill – THANK YOU. Very, very helpful.

    Seriously — that puts MANY things in perspective and as you said, I think it’s an important conversation to have.

    The reason I asked is because, as you said, it seems like Woo is marketing themselves as being used by people who need something *beyond* Squarespace or Shopify, but it sounds like the typical developer is someone who wants to offer a cheaper version of those services (or alternatively, wants to try to get a bigger cut of the money that would go to Squarespace/Shopify).

    It’s interesting to contrast this conversation with how my friends who primarily work on ExpressionEngine do business. Most of them spend a minimum of $1000 per site on the EE license and on plugins that are absolutely essential to get started — this is before any custom stuff or ecommerce stuff. We’re talking like, just to get a basic site up. Yet their clients don’t care in large part because they don’t know. That fee was worked into the overall price of the site.

    Many of them could easily use Drupal or WordPress in place of EE, but EE is what they are familiar with and the client ultimately doesn’t care. They just want it to work. I wonder how much of the open source nature of WordPress and the early “everything is free as in beer” philisophy has impacted the way WP devs charge for their sites versus devs on other platforms.

  76. @Bill – “They only did their recent pullback because of comments on blogs like this over the weekend. On Friday they were thanking all the industry people who supported them.”

    Absolutely. There is so much that needs to be said about this incredible Woo fiasco. Thanks to Jeffro for opening up the WordPress Tavern. The discussion here was essential!

    @donnacha of WordSkill: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Thanks to Amber, smehero, Bill, Tung, Justin T., and many more people who commented on Woo’s blog and others, wrote their own blog posts, took to social media, consulted lawyers, and began to organize.

    This was the biggest insult and shakedown in all my years using and advocating WordPress. We have to stick together. It was saddening, to say the least, seeing all the industry people who supported WooThemes screwing over their most loyal customers.

    More needs to be said about all this, especially how Woo’s actions have damaged all people advocating WordPress.

    * This is not my real name.
    ** I am a WooThemes customer who has invested in the theme club, many WooCommerce extensions, customized WooThemes sites for clients and as donations. I’ve recommended WooThemes, supported them when they were down (for example, when their site was hacked), and invested countless time and emotion into their products.

    We want to be treated with respect.

    I’m willing to move past this with the hope that Woo will learn from this and genuinely respect us. I want to be a happy customer; even friends with Woo.

  77. @Jeffro: Thanks for allowing this thread to stay open for discussion. Alot of the follow up posts like Donnacha’s have great insight.

    @donnacha of WordSkill: I feel enlightened every time I read one of your posts. You put things perfectly into perspective. Most of the things I want to say you’ve already got covered! :)


    They only did their recent pullback because of comments on blogs like this over the weekend. On Friday they were thanking all the industry people who supported them.

    I agree with this and I’m grateful that the community rallied together. I’m left feeling very cautious about how I want to proceed with Woo. I have my license terms back… mind you I shouldn’t have had to “opt-in” for them since I never “opted out”… this whole experience is going to make me very hesitant not only with them but other companies that I might potentially invest in going forward as well; which is unfortunate because I want to be able to support the developers behind some of the better products.

    @Ryan Hobbs: I was glad to be a contributing voice to this, I’m not usually a very vocal person online (you could say this was my début haha -__-; ) but along with others couldn’t sit idly by and say nothing while an entire community was being negatively impacted.

  78. Christina, the thing about WordPress is that it’s perceived value, because it’s open source and free, is its a low cost solution for whatever it is that you are using it for.

    That generous mindset established by Matt Mullenweg has been the precedent that was set. People have known that if you build a site around WordPress it’s essentially very cheap and thus, available to the largest possible audience.

    But recently the winds of change have been sweeping this once peaceful and harmonious WP village because of the likes of people like Chris Lema who has been publishing article after article encouraging developers to raise their prices. That’s probably what influenced WooThemes to do what they did.

    What happened on Friday when Woo announced their changes were several comments that followed by other developers that they will follow suit. I mean who would turn down an opportunity to make more money if they can. :)

    So what appears to be somewhat innocuous, ie Woo raising prices, is actually far more foreboding for everyone in the WP community. It’s a precedent being set for other vendors to follow and increase their prices too.

    Since WordPress is a somewhat incomplete system it require many different commercial plugins. That means your costs can suddenly double or even triple if more and more vendors decide to follow suit and raise prices too.

    WordPress customers for the most part are not enterprise customers and people like Chris Lema are doing nothing more than introducing greed into the WP space. They are undoing all the good that Matt Mullenweg and other have done over the decade to make it a cost-effective and easy publishing solution available to the widest possible audience.

    WordPress should always be a lower cost solution because that will keep the market growing. Plugin developers will naturally make more money without needing to raise prices simply because their sales volumes will increase year over year.

    But this short-term profit grabbing will achieve the opposite effect. It will price WordPress-based sites too high and people will then start to use other platforms and it will essentially kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

  79. @Bill – Normally I wouldn’t do this but after conversing on Twitter about you specifically, I have to ask, why do you keep taking shots at Chris Lema. I was told you voiced your displeasure for his words on his own site multiple times, you’ve mentioned him quite often in your comments here, calling him out multiple times. I had the chance to meet and talk to Chris in person and he is one hell of a smart guy. That part is obvious after 5 minutes of talking to him. It’s almost as if everything that happened with WooThemes is all Chris’s fault, which it’s not. Your beef should be with WooThemes and WooThemes only.

    I don’t like censoring anyone as this is an open forum. Always has been and always will be as long as I’m at the helm but now, you’ve gotten my attention at targeting Chris. What’s the deal?

  80. I thought I was quite clear in my posts why I have an issue with him.

    1. He has been repeatedly blogging that developers should raise their prices. You don’t get to being able to have 100,000 paying customers and 30 employees like Woo has if you are not making enough money.

    2. He deliberately published false information in an article supporting Woo stating that if you don’t want to renew your plugins you don’t have to, they will still work.

    Can you honestly tell me that is a true statement? That a plugin that is not updated will keep on working no matter the WP version it is running on, and no matter the version of WooCommerce it is running on?

    Can you? If you can, as Chris said, then my next post will be an apology to him.

  81. @Bill

    [People like Chris Lema recommending higher prices (and some chanting ‘greed is good’)] are undoing all the good that Matt Mullenweg and other have done over the decade to make it a cost-effective and easy publishing solution available to the widest possible audience.

    The merits of this push for price-escalation, and both the general business savvy and the customer-instincts on display, all seem quite dubious to me. We agree on that.

    I doubt that things work as these folks imagine, in the real world. They will get about ‘so far’ out on the limb they think leads to greener pastures, and it will break beneath them. Darwinism in action, ho-hum.

    But the broader question can be posed: “Is what these entrepreneurs are doing a potential threat WordPress itself”?

    I have no stake in Cris Lema’s proselytizing, nor in WooThemes business-adventure. But I DO have stake in the well-being of WordPress.

    Although virtually my first thought on this thread was for the possible blowback on WordPress … I have not actually been able to identify anything in this line taking place.

    I would be very keen to read how & in what ways, specifically, you see WordPress getting damaged from this? I think the question of harming WordPress itself is really the primary matter. Thanks!

  82. @Bill – Well, judging from all the posts I read after he published his on raising prices, the majority of people including developers thought we was dead on. However, my beef was that I didn’t want to see plugins and themes be priced to outer space limits. What is the best price commercial theme and plugin devs can charge is relative to their market. Each commercial vendor has to figure out through trial and error what price point works best for both business and consumer. Simply raising prices won’t solve everyone’s problems.

    As for your second point. It’s been proven already that certain plugins can exist way beyond their shelf life or stated version of compatibility. Granted, those plugins are ticking time bombs as to when they’ll break but they are out there and people are still using them. So yes, if a plugin is not updated for a very long time, depending on other factors of course, it can continue to work without a problem.

    For something as complex as WooCommerce, I wonder how long one version would last without updates? Considering the fast paced nature of refinement that centers around e-commerce, I’d say not very long. I can’t predict the future and neither can anyone else but if folks didn’t renew their Woo License, I’d be willing to bet that within a year or two, even if the plugin still worked, it wouldn’t be nearly as good as it’s future counter-part. So while the plugin would most likely work soon after NOT renewing the license, the downsides to not renewing would be very apparent after about 6 months to a year.

  83. “I would be very keen to read how & in what ways, specifically, you see WordPress getting damaged from this? I think the question of harming WordPress itself is really the primary matter. Thanks!”

    I think from the perspective of people associating the WordPress brand, which was equivalent to free, or low cost and democratic, to something too focused on the profit motive. Profit is ok, greed is not.

    What Woo did specifically, and all the associated backslapping they received from developers makes me think there is a pent up desire for developers to start getting greedy. Read Woo’s post, they see other people making money off their products and now they want their share, they feel entitled. But they already got paid for their product, so why do they think they are entitled to more?

    Ford doesn’t expect you to reward them because you used their car to drive to work each day and earn money.

    How do people who were able to create a multimillion dollar company from of all places, South Africa, feel they are not doing well enough and are being taken advantage of? How much money do you need is the question.

    Woo keeps raising prices but seems to offer less and less. They have reduced the number of themes they are releasing to their club members, but at the same time increasing their fees. If WordPress user base is growing in size then there are more customers. If there are more customers then the prices should be going down, not increasing. Economies of scale.

    So why do developers feel shortchanged? You have a growing market of people, but you are complaining. It makes no sense. You are producing a theme or a plugin and reselling the same thing over and over. You have no more costs to produce one than you have to produce 10,000.

    On Themeforest there are some people who have generated over a million dollars in sales off one or two themes. How can that happen if there are not enough WP customers?

    If support costs are the issue then offer separate paid support options. Many people in the WP community help each other at no cost, it’s easy to put up a forum so people can help each other and save money.

    Woo had one, and then took it down. Why would you do this if it was saving you money in support costs? If there is a common problem then let people know and others can get the same info and save money and time.

    Why put in a ticket-only system unless you purposely want people to have to open tickets so you can justify charging them for support? Even their paid support was not great. I’ve seen many people complaining about tickets not being responded to fast enough, or just poor responses given.

    People notice things like this, where things can be done cheaper and easier for users but are not and you pay more but get less. It makes you feel taken advantage of.

    How does it affect the WordPress brand? Because when the market leaders like Woo do stuff like this it makes you weary of using WordPress at all. Don’t forget, these are the same people we personally see at WordCamps, and who sponsor various events and speak there.

    It’s a tight knit community and when this behavior becomes the order of the day the whole WordPress brand is affected by it. Many years ago I witnessed the partial destruction of the DotNetNuke community for similar reasons. It became too commercialized, too expensive and I moved on as did many others.

  84. Here is a question that anyone can answer.

    If you don’t know what a person’s sales volume is, and you don’t know what their investment costs are, and you don’t know what their overheads are, and you don’t know what their profit margins are, how can you say they need to raise their prices?

    How do you know that their price point is too low and not too high? How can bloggers suddenly start saying this? What is the yardstick they are using to say the prices are too low?

    A person can sell something for $5 and make more money than someone who sells something for $500. Your price point does not determine your profitability,

    Therefore, how does Chris Lema arrive at the overall conclusion that the prices are too low across the board for WP plugins and themes?

    Every prominent WordPress company I know of seems to be growing in size, how can this be happening if prices are too low?

  85. @Bill

    How does it affect the WordPress brand? Because when the market leaders like Woo do stuff like this it makes you weary of using WordPress at all. Don’t forget, these are the same people we personally see at WordCamps, and who sponsor various events and speak there.

    With folks in this community having the level of education & intelligence that they have, it’s a little startling that such elementary principles would have to be carefully pointed out.

    Read Woo’s post, they see other people making money off their products and now they want their share ….

    Ok, let me get this straight. I sell the carpenter a hammer, or a snazzy tool-truck, and then we’re sort of like partners, with me picking up a slice of our joint earnings. Right?

    Then, along comes the Great Recession. The carpenter’s business dries up, and he’s losing money hand over fist. Darn. As the tool-provider in a share-and-share-alike relationship, I’m now covering the guy’s mortgage. His kids stay in college, thanks to my enlightened product-benefit sharing philosophy. The family credit cards all stay paid up, on my ledger.

    Right? I do understand what this concept actually means, don’t I?

  86. “So while the plugin would most likely work soon after NOT renewing the license, the downsides to not renewing would be very apparent after about 6 months to a year.”

    After seeing how often bug fixes are made to Woo Extensions I think 3 months at best, that’s not even taking into account changes to WordPress or Woo Commerce or common plugins like Gravity Forms.

    You could also be running several Woo Extensions where the update of one then impacts the other at it no longer works.

  87. @Bill

    Every prominent WordPress company I know of seems to be growing in size, how can this be happening if prices are too low?

    The reason that WordPress is holding its own reasonably well these days, five years into the worst economic setback in generations, probably has something to do with the fact that it is ‘the economical solution’. As businesses steadily adapt to tougher times, there is a general movement toward more-economical solutions to their needs.

    In bad economic times, there are indeed those who come up smelling like a rose; who actually benefit, within the general climate of misfortune. WordPress is well-positioned to be one of those who normally sits low on the totem-pole …. but when the wider industry suffers a set-back, is an affordable hire for what remains to be done.

    Some of the businesses & people now coming into the WordPress market, have in the past paid steeper prices for their web-presence. Some of them will at first be relieved, by product prices that seem high to us. For awhile, WordPress product providers may see an uptick in their prospects.

    But …. the underlying reasons for what is happening should be examined & studied carefully, and the longer-term implications of the phenomenon factored in realistically.

  88. I just posted this in Woo’s latest post, and hope this will give a flavour to the others why I was so vocal for the past few days, especially to the bystanders who might not be vested enough to appreciate the implications of Woo’s actions:

    Thanks for honouring your past contractual obligations, which is right thing to do legally and most importantly, ethically. Otherwise your business might not be sustainable, which is the very thing you started in the first post to want to save.

    I did research before I purchased your products, based on the customer segment I am going after, and the overall price points (i.e. including updates for years to come), which I thought made WooCommerce a pretty ACCESSIBLE ecommerce platform to the small medium businesses in the country where I operate in.

    However the announcement would have come across as more sincere and authentic if we do not have to explicitly opt in (we never opted out in the first place), and it will definitely generate a ton of support tickets (since the message of opt-in might be quite confusing) when you mass email to your base of 100,0000 customers mid-week (which you repeatedly state is the root cause of your unsustainable business) .

    It would certainly be more efficient to run one-time query to opt-in all past purchase. I would not want to speculate your real intention of doing so (btw it sounded like emotional blackmail to me) but would offer a suggestion to you: You could provide a button for customers to opt out anytime instead. This would give a true metric of the number of customers who believe in your sustainable story and support you, which you have the next few months or years to earn it.

    I have no issue with the new price increases and support/updates structure, I will continue to purchase if it make sense for my particular situation. But I do want to get back the terms which I made my original purchases, because those were the very terms and promises that shaped my decision at the point in time, and shaped my pricing at that point in time. Doing otherwise will ironically make my small business unsustainable, which I do not expect my customers to pay for my honest mistake for believing that my cost of business is a one-time fee. I have no problem of the price increases with new customers, but I do have problems with old customers..

    I know I had stated before and I will state again, you gotta fix your support model. The early adopters are unlikely, based on my experience and anecdotal evidence, cost much to support. In fact, through their word of mouth and usage of your products, they strengthened your brand equity, which now enables you to charge a brand premium (which you did in your recent price increase, and quite substantial in fact as I calculated that my portfolio of extensions are now 50% higher).

    In fact, I am willing to donate a license of the excellent XenForo forum to restart your community help forum again (which I thought its a proven model to scale support and possible fix to your support model), and offer to run it too at my own expenses. Let me know if you are keen to take it up.

  89. I think what certain people do is just use other industry’s/software prices as a yardstick and then claim the prices are too low by comparison.

    But that’s a brainless argument. If you are catering to a different income group or customer type, or a much bigger community where you have more sales volume, and you don’t have to pay WordPress a license fee to develop plugins, then there is no reason why your costs should be the same, they should be less.

  90. “In fact, I am willing to donate a license of the excellent XenForo forum to restart your community help forum again ”

    Woo have repeatedly resisted idea this for a reason. IMO they don’t want you to be able to get self-help support from a forum because then they can’t justify charging you more because of the need to provide you with support.

  91. @Christina Warren

    I researched on a lot of ecommerce solutions before I decided to focus on WooCommerce early this year. I have implemented OsCommerce, Zen-Cart, Interspire Shopping Cart (currently know as BigCommerce) and even building my own ecommerce solution in .NET in my 15 years in the IT industry.

    To put together a commercial grade ecommerce solution in WooCommerce, one would need a generic set of about 10 extensions (I bought 22, some 5-site license and mostly unlimited site-license). That setup would cost about $1,000 (assuming each extension costs $99 which seems to be the average price point now). With the revised pricing, assuming an annual renewal fee at 50%, the on-going running cost per year is now $500 / year, in order to keep the solution updated and secure. All is cool and fine, but in the country that I operate in, the customer segment that I am serving are the small business owners, they do not care that the solution that I provided previously now cost $500 / year to operate. They might be willing to pay upwards of $500 / years as retainer/service fee to me to maintain their ecommerce solution, but that will leave me with nothing, all the $500 / year will now go to Woo.

    Therefore I have no choice but to look for alternatives for this segment of customers. Case to point, the stand-alone ecommerce solution cs-cart ( cost a set-up fee of $395 and a ongoing maintenance cost of $110 / year. So its a no-brainer now what I would recommend for this particular segment of customers of mine. Hence to me, WooCommerce is now no longer as ACCESSIBLE as before. WordPress is popular primarily because it is ACCESSIBLE to bother bloggers and coders.

    What about the other customer segments, the medium and big size businesses, who are willing to pay? Well for them, either Magento or proprietary or custom developed solutions would be a more viable (sometimes its political viability) solution for them or selling to them would have a much longer sales cycle. These are the segment of customers better served by the bigger Agencies. Perhaps this is the customer segment Woo thought their solution should be recommended to.

    So to me for now, WooCommerce is definitely not the first choice when it comes to recommending to small businesses.

  92. @jeffro – I understand Bill’s frustration with Chris Lema and other developers. Industry people were quick to defend Woo from a very black and white point of view on pricing. If pricing was the only controversy, it wouldn’t spark a 492-comments discussion. Woo raised the price before and it went well. The real problem is multifaceted.

    I don’t need to rehash the entire story here do I?

    Furthermore, we don’t need to fully understand Woo internal workings to voice concerns, offer suggestions/alternatives, and defend those being screwed. That’s how a community works. The way Woo presented the problem is very black and white, doom and gloom. Yet, it took them only several days to back track with a revised announcement. It proves they haven’t considered all options otherwise they would simply suck it up, deal with the criticism, and move on with the original plan as they would have no other choice.

    Bill is pissed because some of our peers are patting Woo on the back for transparency and making sound business moves when it’s clearly not the case. That’s not transparency. That’s getting caught red handed. I refrained from commenting on the issue until several days later to see what was really going on so I gave them the benefit of the doubt to begin with.

    I personally feel disrespected as well by the Woo supporters. I’m not a “dumb side-seat driver” who knows nothing. While I might not have experience scaling my business to 100,000 active customers. I have experience handling support, know that when selling products not all of your customers will need support, and I know people like Justin Tadlock — a one man team handling a community one-tenth the size of Woo on his own — exists.

  93. Thank you for speaking up Tung, people of character like you, Justin and donnacha are few and far between.

    For some reason I expected the industry leaders to step up and put Woo in their place. To check them, but unfortunately all we got were cheers and praises for their “transparency” that never existed in the first place. As far as being “bold” goes, let’s just say ballsy is a better description. :)

    Woo is getting praise for their decision to reverse course now on their blog, but I have no reason to doubt that had the vocal critics on here not let it rip all weekend long they would never have capitulated. Not in a million years.

    Credit must be given to Jeffro though for allowing this all to take place here. The lesson learned here is to never rely on the industry bloggers to police the community because they are not on the side of the user.

  94. @Bill – Out of curiosity Bill, is that your real name or a pseudo name? What is your real bame if not and what is tour background? Do you have any actual experience running a successful WordPress plugin or theme business or are you basing your opinions of purely that… your opinion?

    I’m just curious. Because my company develops arguably the most successful commercial WordPress plugin not developed by Autmattic. Our product is coming up on its 4 year anniversary and was in development for quite a while before that. I have a wealth of hands on knowledge and experience when it comes to just what exactly is involved in developing, growing and supporting a successful WordPress business and product(s) with a very larger user base and a lot of your opinions.. well… are completely off base and some are just flat out incorrect.

    What is your experience with selling and supporting commercial WordPress plugins or themes? Because you are extremely opiniated but I’m curious as to if you have the credentials to back up your opinions?

    I am well known within the WordPress community for being opiniated and someone who will seak my mind when others won’t. But I have done so with experience and success under my belt to back up and support my opinions and thoughts through firsthand experience running a verynauccessful business based around commercial WordPress products.

    What have you done to back up your stance on the wide variety of issues that are being discussed here?

    This isn’t meant to start a flame war. It’s a legitimate question and I’m genuinely curious as to what your experience is as far as building a WordPress theme or plugin business that allows you to think you know as much about it and how it should be done as you seem to think you do?

  95. “I just couldn’t see how they could scale support when WooCommerce had taken off so incredibly. And as I saw them hire more and more friends to help them, I started doing math.”

    Better get that calculator and recalculate then. Justin Tadlock apparently supports 10,000 users all by himself, just one guy.

    Woo had a great user supported forum that they closed down. Why would you close down a resource that people loved and was helpful to so many? It makes no sense.

    If I was running a Woo type business and was concerned about my support costs increasing here is what I would do.

    Create a user-driven forum just like Woo used to have. Then see who the most active helpers are. Make these people moderators and throw them a couple of free plugins and themes for their time. No cost involved there.

    Tell users that the fastest way to get support is get help on the forums. Encourage that all over the place. But, tell them if you really need more help we will give you a support ticket and take care of you. With a system in place like that you will significantly decrease the amount of paid support you need because many will get help from other users at no cost to you.

    Why do some people believe that the first line of support should be a paid person doing one-on-one support for every issue, no matter how small and trivial? That’s very inefficient and very expensive.

    If there are people who abuse support all you do is create a limit for how many tickets you can submit in a month. Problem solved.

  96. I’m curious if this new model will even cut down on their support requests or if it will continue to be an issue.

    While the new model did increase prices/set limitations on licenses there was nothing that I saw that limited support per user after a purchase. The same individuals that are apparently “chewing through support” are still going to be able to do so.

    Following this logic it would seem likely we’d see more price rises in the future would it not? So in this instance I would agree that creating some type of forum system and really encouraging users to help each other (despite their data) seems like it would be more beneficial.

    I would hazard a guess that even the people opening mass amounts of support tickets would venture onto a community like that considering they probably know how long it takes a ticket to get serviced; of which after days and days it usually takes another 3-4 rounds of back and forth to hammer home what your issue is before it might even come close to getting resolved or they send you off to contact the plugin developer (yup that has happened to me).

    If it were me, I’d reopen the community forums, following what Bill mentioned above (assign moderators and provide incentives to those mods for continued efforts), I’d then look at not limiting the number of installations/updates (let them keep their unlimited updates things NEED to get updated regardless) but the renewal fee would be based around the amount of support requests /year that can be submitted (not referring to bug reports either). Not sure if that is naive sounding or not from a business perspective but as I mull it over I can’t see why it wouldn’t work. actually has something similar to this for a few of the small extensions on their site. It appears they’re selling the product as “support licenses” with options such as “no support, three, two, and one requests”.

  97. @Carl Hancock

    Hi, I only dabbled in WordPress early this year and am quite interested in the product business side of WordPress, in particular on support. Woo has stated repeatedly that their data point shows that support is “killing” them financially, however not much is shared on the details.

    Can you point to any link that you have previously shared on this?

    1. How big is your customer base? What proportion are grandfathered customers?
    2. How big is your operation i.e. how many headcounts? And what’s the distribution i.e. how many are support, how many doing development?
    3. It seems that you are moving (or already moved) from forum-based to ticket-based support, what are the challenges that triggered you to make the transition?

    Appreciate your sharing :)

  98. @Carl Hancock

    I don’t profess to be an expert at running a WordPress company. But I am a developer who has spent many thousands on plugins and software over the years. I even spend money on your product Gravity Forms. That makes me your customer and someone you should be paying attention to. At least that’s how it works in the non-WordPress world. People listen to their customers.

    Since you chose to engage me, why don’t you respond to this issue. Custom Post Types have been around for a while now. Why is it that Gravity forms relies on a third party plugin to post to a custom post type?

    And why do customers get such a poor response to this very valid question when they post about it on your forum? You seem very defensive about it? Why not just add it and be done with the issue?

    After buying your plugin I ended up buying Formidable’s too because of their superior support for custom post types. So now I have to pay both of you.

    Give me some examples of what you don’t like that I said here and I’ll respond.

  99. Thank you for this discussion! I’m a long-time WooThemes customer and would like to add my thoughts here.

    Yesterday I was feeling very uncomfortable reading through the blog posts and comments on the WooThemes blog. Of course I agreed that they were acting unfairly, unethically, etc. But something else was nagging at me that I couldn’t pinpoint. Then this morning I read a hearts-and-flowers comment from a previously outraged customer who is now extremely grateful for WooTheme’s wonderful turnaround — and it hit me. Her response reminded me of a victim in an abusive relationship.

    Whether intentional or not, WooThemes is playing a dangerous game on many levels. Maybe everything will work out fine for both Woo and their customers; maybe it won’t. I’m not taking any chances!

  100. I’m really curious how the support forums play into this. I keep seeing Woo being patted on the back for their transparency, but something just doesn’t add up. They ditched the forums with no warning (or little warning, I don’t really remember) and went to an all ticket system, which users hated, so then they moved to a hybrid ticket/forum system. And now they claim support costs are too high. It seems like those two things might be related to me (and to many of you, obviously); where’s the transparency to that relationship? Where’s the Big Picture transparency?

    I’ve entered support tickets. Personally, I hate it. I would rather search the kb and forums. Honestly, some of the tickets have probably said “I know I’ve seen how to do this but now I can’t find it.” Some of my sites are behind a firewall, in which case they just say “sorry, nothing I can do”. Troubleshooting based on what a user describes is out of scope, if they can’t get credentials and log in, they don’t want to bother. And granted, that level of support is probably too expensive for them. I would be willing to pay a support fee for assistance in cases where “Ninja” and I are doing some serious back and forth, figuring out a problem. Blanket raising of prices to cover support costs when most tickets are probably just links to documentation that no one can locate anymore? Ugh.

    No doubt their business model wasn’t sustainable long term, but their harping on SUPPORT! COSTS!! being the issue, combined with their shady handling of the change, just isn’t looking good. (And Adii’s answers in the comments of those posts certainly weren’t doing much to make them look better.)

  101. Lisa, in my opinion their forcing you to use their ticket system was a deliberate and intentional act done so they could then justify charging you more down the line later because of their increased support costs.

    Because how can it make any sense that someone who looks at their support costs 2 years ago and sees them increasing then decides to take down a support forum that resulted in many of their customers helping each other at no cost to them, and then replacing it with a more costly one-on-one paid support ticket system?

    You are concerned about your support costs increasing, and your response is to then immediately increase your support costs by making people helping each other for free no longer an option for your users.

    As you have mentioned here that was very popular with users. But Woo took it down and without even consulting with their users. And when their users complained they never listened and refused to reinstate it.

    What does that tell you? It tells you that they have some other agenda that is not being driven by their customers needs, but by their own profit making plans.

  102. Does anyone remember when they just decommissioned themes without giving us customers an alternative?

    They simply ignored my recommendation that they provide custom css files that would mimic the decommissioned theme using Canvas as a base childtheme.

    Then they got hacked and my downloads in my account were simply gone.

    Then they deleted the forums that I used every day.

    At that point, I decided I simply couldn’t trust these scoundrels.

    I did a lot of research and chose Genesis. Since joining StudioPress, I have not had any problems and none of that ‘Woo Drama’ whatsoever.

    StudioPress is a very professional company. Their forums are wonderful and the Genesis framework allows me to switch StudioPress themes without all the hassle I had with Woo.

    I really appreciate all the comments in this Post – they make sense of why I abandoned WooThemes. Thank you.

  103. Lisa, do you remember what happened after that forum debacle? They apologized and promised to be more transparent. They even wrote a blog post about it in Oct 2012 and pledged to change.

    Cut to July 2013 and they are doing their 5-year sale and telling people prices are increasing, but not disclosing that a lifetime license is now going to become a 2-year license just a few weeks after their sale, even if you bought one during that sale.

    A leopard doesn’t change it’s spots because they just engage in the same behavior all over again.

    They are getting praise from people on their site, but only because those people are clueless about this blog post and what work it took all weekend to force their hand.

    They don’t realize that Woo would probably have been sued out of existence and ostracized by the WordPress community at large (apart from one supporting blogger) had they not agreed to abide by the law and give people what they had previously sold to them.

    Even my father who knows nothing about software knows that you can’t sell someone something and then after you get their money refuse to provide it. That’s just a common sense principal in law around the world.

  104. “Her response reminded me of a victim in an abusive relationship. ”

    You hit the nail on the head Marie. These are people who are emotionally invested in Woo and feel dependent on them. In their minds they need Woo and therefore will accept whatever comes their way.

    It’s like an abuse victim getting smacked in the face and then being grateful later on when their abuser apologizes. They quickly forget the smack but remember the apology.

    I think the minds behind Woo feel this sense of power and therefore act in this totally illegal way and abusive way because they believe they have the control here. Just like an abuser feels control over his victims. If they believed they would be held accountable then they would never be smacking their victims around in the first place. That’s why abusers typically don’t start smacking their victims around until after they have gotten control over them.

    In their minds they must believe these people are not going anywhere so they can do as they please and just backtrack if, and when, the outrage gets a little too strong and then apologize, as in this case.

    They keep control by making people afraid of turning against them and losing the very thing they need, their products. Just like a batterer makes their victim feel they cannot financially survive without them if they go and report them to the police.

    It’s about creating a dependent relationship and then exploiting it.

  105. @Marie

    Honestly many of us are grateful to the extent that we didn’t have to fight tooth and nail to the very bitter end (lawyers, etc.) to get existing customer’s license terms back. Many of us were willing to and it’s a mild relief that we didn’t have to go that far (mind you it shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place). I don’t mind saying that I’m less likely to be spitting fire and brimstone; but that doesn’t mean we’re not wary going forward and weighing our options heavily before making any new purchases(if we make them at all).

    Not to say that it needs to be hearts and flowers but showing mild appreciation (thanks for honouring our licenses) that they took what we said and reversed their decision never hurts; as stated they could have attempted to fight us to the end (which is what I thought was going to happen) and that wouldn’t have been pleasant for anyone. Although, like mentioned, many of us are sure that the only reason things worked out like they did is because Woo got caught with their hand in the cookie jar and called out on it in a way (WP Tavern, DevPress, Twitter, FB, etc.) that cast a lot of negative light on them.

    The only reason that I’d make purchases going forward (if I’m working on a WooCommerce based site) is that I trust the quality that comes from some of the developers behind those products and would want to support them. Before purchasing anything new from Woo I’ll likely be contacting those developers to see if they’ll be selling individually from the Woo site. At this point I’d rather give my money to the source of the plugin and not the source of the problem when the option is available.

  106. Perfectly summed up, Bill. I wonder if any of the 30-member Woo team will wise up and leave. Or if the developers wise up too. I hope this thing doesn’t go away and that they’ll be investigated.

    Amber, I’m glad people don’t need to fight tooth and nail with them either. Still, my concern is that this “reversal” is part of a plan to encourage dependency (as Bill described).

  107. Marie they should be investigated, if not by some legal authority then by WP Headquarters themselves.

    Unfortunately the price increase seems to have confused a lot of people who assumed the outrage was based on that when it wasn’t.

    As you know it was based on:

    – The wholesale breach of contract that Woo was planning on engaging in with all their existing customers.

    – A fraudulent July sale where “lifetime” licenses were sold to people that Woo had no intention of ever providing.

    What is even more disturbing is the belief by Adii Pienaar that he can unilaterally declare that “lifetime is now 2 years” and that somehow protects him against charges of fraud.

    A company who not only cooks up these schemes, but believes they can also get away with them is in my opinion a very dangerous company to have in the WP community.

  108. @marie

    I am pasting part of a discussion which is taking place in their support ticket area. Please read it carefully:

    Aug 02 18:55 (UTC)

    Hello Mark,

    Thank you for your reply. I will await the outcome of your blog post, however, it is likely that I will want a full refund for the plugins that I have purchased and have not used.

    Firstly, I will tell you something about terms and conditions that you may wish to know: You cannot change Terms and Conditions to cover fraud or any other illegal wrongdoing, nor can you have an “all encompassing” clause which covers every possible scenario – even illegal ones.

    My understanding of the law here in [removed] is quite clearcut in this respect and bait and switch is illegal and you cannot add terms or any clause to your conditions that pin illegal practices on them. You have made many mistakes with this license change, you have not emailed your user base and you have issued no prior notice of a very important change which effects them. Even if it were legal it is grossly discourteous to do what you have done with no warning. Shows massive disrespect to your customers.

    Secondly, I do not want this to turn into an abusive relationship. I note from many of your comments that people are accepting of your abuse because they stand to gain from it.

    This is an extremely dangerous position because the abuser gets to justify the abuse, because the person on the receiving end is sticking around and putting up with the abuse when in reality, we all know that abuse is wrong and the abused should be walking away from the abusive relationship.

    The person being abused also knows this is wrong, but they stay because they wonder how else will they get fed, who will buy their food and clothes for them?

    You can now see how pernicious this relationship has become.

    Since you have offered me a full refund, I have decided to accept your refund. The refund is for the remaining purchases which are unused and total $1,038.40.


  109. Good for you Jacqui!

    People need to wake up like you did and realize that cutting out the middleman like Woo will result in more choices for them from more developers soon.

    That $1,038.40 is now available to developers who will appreciate your business.

    WooCommerce is open source, anyone can develop plugins for it. I personally have pledged to not buy anything from them ever again and to support independent developers.

    Previously when I had the choice of buying similar plugins from Woo or an independent guy I chose Woo, now, I will not do that anymore. That also goes for any other vendor that decides to take advantage of me. No more money from me.

    As to other companies jumping on the “raise your rates” bandwagon. Good luck, I plan on cutting you guys too because I already support several companies whose products and support I barely use.

    This is a good time to trim my expenses.

  110. @Bill – Reading your lastost I must point out a few things…

    Better get that calculator and recalculate then. Justin Tadlock apparently supports 10,000 users all by himself, just one guy.

    This quote right here tells me you are in way over your head in this discussion. Comparing what Justin Tadlock does to the support involved in supporting a product like WooCommerce is like comparing supporting tic-tac-toe vs. the latest next generation console game.

    I can tell you from 4 years of experience developing and supporting Gravity Forms that support involved in supporting an APPLICATION (because that’s what it is,mtge term “plugin” marginalized what products such as WooCommerce and Gravity Forms really are) such as WooCommerce and its vst array of extensions is orders of magnitude harder and more time consuming than anything Justin Tadlock creates.

    It’s clear that people simply don’t realize just how complex and advanced some of these plugins are and the support involved in maintaining them.

    To make matters worse, I can tell you from supporting Gravity Forms for 4 years that the vast majority of support requests we assist customers with are NOT bugs or issues with Gravity Forms itself. It’s problems caused by theme and plugin conflicts introduced by poorly coded themes or a poorly coded plugin. It’s server and DNS issues related to sending email notifications. It’s server related issues with URL rewriting, file permissions, etc.

    I have a background in ecommerce and I can tell you that ecommerce is an even bigger beast than forms from a support standpoint because it requires more handholding PLUS they encounter the same issues that we do where most support isn’t actually an issue with the product itself.

    You greatly underestimate the support burden that comes with supporting a product like WooCommerce and the wide array of extensions they offer. And I didn’t even mention themes which they also do.

    Trust me, I know what I’m talking about and I have no horse in Woo’s policy change race because we already have a similar policy and have for years. So I’m not saying this as some sort of Woo fanboy, I’m saying this because I know what I’m talking about and it’s the truth.

    Why do some people believe that the first line of support should be a paid person doing one-on-one support for every issue, no matter how small and trivial? That’s very inefficient and very expensive.

    Why? Simple. BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT THEY ARE PAYING YOU FOR. Relying on other users to provide support to your customers isn’t good business. Sure it works with free open source products, but that’s not what Woo does and it’s not what my company does.

    People pay us to provide them a product AND forus to support that product. We have a responsibility to provide our customers with support.

    What do you do when you have a problem with your iPhone? Take it to the Apple Store and get help. What do you do when you have a problem with your new car? Take it to the dealership and have them fix it.

    Users don’t pay us to provide other users with support. Users pay us for us to support them and that is what we do.

    That is why WooThemes does the same thing. Because when you sell a product you have an obligation to your customers to provide them with support if it is included with ther purchase.

    You keep making comparisons to Justin Tadlock and his model, which no offense to Justin – I love Justin – but comparing what he does with what some of the major plugin and theme providers and the difference in volume and scale is simply a greatly flawed comparison.

    Based on your many comments on this post it’s very clear that you know very VERY little about what it takes to run a successful WordPress plugin or theme business. Take it from someone who does. Read my comments and maybe you’ll learn something because its clear you are in over your head when it comes to discussing viable commercial plugin and theme business models.

    Since you chose to engage me, why don’t you respond to this issue. Custom Post Types have been around for a while now. Why is it that Gravity forms relies on a third party plugin to post to a custom post type?

    And why do customers get such a poor response to this very valid question when they post about it on your forum? You seem very defensive about it? Why not just add it and be done with the issue?

    Why? Simple. Priorities. If you think it’s as simple as just “add it and be done with the issue” then you greatly underestimate how to properly manage a successful software product. We aren’t in a feature war.

    We could add custom post types tomorrow, and we old XYZ apt he next day and the day after that. But that’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to creating a REAL sustainable software product.

    User feedback is great, but what is your priority may not be our priority nor the priority of the vast numbers of other GF users. Once you start letting users dictate your development plans, you will lose control of your product and ultimately fail as a business. Trust me. I’ve seen it play out many times. Not just in WordPress.

    We do plan on adding custom post type support. But when we do so its going to be part of a complete overhaul of how post creation is done in Gravity Forms and its going to kick ass. It’s not going to be some simple feature we just throw in. We know exactly what we are doing and where we are going and that includes how we plan on introducing support for custom post types.

    We don’t just add features willy nilly. We plan things and do things very methodically. It’s why we have one of the most successful commercial WordPress plugin available.

    Again, I respect that as a user you have needs. But you must keep in mind that its clear you know absolutely nothing abut the business end and what is involved in properly developing and supporting a WordPress software solution successfully. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. As I mentioned above. Read what I’ve said and it will help you to understand things a bit more.

  111. Carl, with all due respect. I find your claim that custom post type support is not a much needed user feature in Gravity Forms to be beyond absurd.

    People have been asking for it for 3 years now and you have been promising but not delivering for 3 years now.

    Any developer doing anything out of the box right now in WP is using some form of custom post types. Are you going to tell me that supporting an integral component of WordPress like custom post types is less needed and less important than supporting a third-party paid service like Zapier?

    I work with custom post types all the time, but the first time I heard of Zapier was when you created your add-on for it.

    Seriously, this has to be the most dubious claim I have seen after Lema’s “you don’t need to upgrade your plugins they will still work” claim.

    The third-party plugin from Bradvin has been downloaded 29,495 times already. The problem is it was last updated about a year ago and now people are having problems but nobody is supporting them. Gravity forms customers, people who paid you already and are trying to use your plugin to insert into a custom post type.

    You could have easily forked the existing plugin and kept it updated which would have taken a few hours of your time, but you couldn’t be bothered and all those Gravity forms users, your customers, now have to struggle.

    You call that providing tech support, I call that BS…..


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