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Cooks Country Jacks Up Online Access Price 175%

I know I've groused about Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Country price gouging on Chowhound before, but today, the company took it to a whole new level. I hope anyone who's a subscriber to their web sites takes note.

It's bad enough, as many people have mentioned here and other places online, that the company essentially makes you pay for access to their content on any and every single platform: print subscription, web subscription, iPad subscriptions are all separate - and not inexpensive - fees. The $29.95 annual price for cooksillustrated.com access - which you need to make use of their "free" iPhone app - doesn't even get you access to the full site's contents. For that, you pay an additional fee of $14.95 for the "Editors' Choice" Membership, which includes a select number of recipes for their published books (many of which I've purchased as well).

Together with the separate subscriptions for both pubs on iPad, I have a total of EIGHT subscriptions and associated fees for TWO publications.

For the most part, I've swallowed the fees and told myself that, given the number of good meals I've enjoyed from their work, it's worth it. Maybe not a bargain, given all the other sources of really very good recipes online, but manageable.

Today I received a notice from the company, however, letting me know my annual membership to cookscountry.com would expire this month, and it would be renewed at "the current regular membership price of $34.95."

Nowhere do they mention that this is a price increase of 175% year over year. That's right - last year, the annual membership to cookscountry.com was $19.95. Now, it's $34.95.

Worse yet, I went online to cancel my membership so they would not automatically charge my card on file this newly exorbitant price. Despite being paid up on my last annual membership through April 5, the site cancelled my access immediately. Talk about a huge middle finger to anyone who's had it with their price gouging. It took 15 minutes on the phone with a customer service representative to reinstate my online subscription for the remaining time I'd already paid for.

Although I love the content put forth by this company, their shading marketing practices and ham-fisted pricing strategies leave such a bad taste in my mouth, it's hard to remember how good their recipes are. I'm now thinking about cancelling all my subscriptions to the various and sundry products I've already paid for and just cooking from my enormous backlog of issues (or picking up the occasional "Best of" collection, which they seem to issue every other month).

I'm sure I'm in for another similarly insane price increase for online access to cooksillustrated.com when my annual membership for that expires soon. I'll have to let that one go as well.

Or, like their rip-off online cooking school, maybe enough subscribers will cry foul that they'll come to their senses and readjust their pricing. We'll see.

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  1. Yep shady marketing and price gouging is exactly why I dropped my online subs a few years ago. They can KMA.

    1. I read them both at the library. If there is anything I really want, I just make copies. Also, the library has many of the ATK cookbooks.

      There is no way I am paying that much money. I can live without it.

      1. Anywhere in the fine print did it say 'we will cut off your access the day you cancel'?

        1 Reply
        1. re: pdxgastro

          The same thing just happened to me, and I don't think I was sufficiently warned.

          Frankly, even if they do warn you, it's a lousy business model. Let people use a service for as long as they're paid up.

          Why should I risk waiting until the last moment and forgetting to cancel?

        2. Go to Amazon.com and search for Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country bound annual editions. You can buy used copies of past years for usually under $10. I have nearly the entire set (used) at really good prices.

          1. The "no advertising" concept has its consequences.

            1. My least favorite new trick of theirs is the "Editor's Choice" up-selling popup ad that appears whenever I log in to the CI site. It must be clicked to make it go away every single time you log in, there's no "don't ask again" check box or anything. And this is how they treat their *paying* customers!

              1. wow... That is a pretty ridiculous business model. Charging multiple times for content on different devices.... yikes...

                3 Replies
                1. re: ylsf

                  It's not that unheard of. I get MLB app for my iPad every year, but if I want the same for my Android phone I have to pay again.

                  1. re: JonParker

                    As someone who used to work for FOX, Jon, I tell tell you there's a significant difference in the cost of licensing professional sports content and the cost of roasting 50 chickens to see which way is "best." I don't think anyone who's a fan of America's Test Kitchen has an issue with paying a premium - just paying several premiums at every single turn to engorge the coffers of ATK.

                    1. re: mrkinla2

                      Well, this year I only had to pay once for MLB anyway.

                2. I'm just going to get their DVDs and books instead. I subscribed to them years ago and discovered I only had access to one site when they had 3 different ones with different prices then. It was $19.95 then and after my subscription was over, I did NOT renew.

                  I'm sure plenty of people will sign up in place of those cancellations but that reality left me very disappointed from that point on.

                  1. Now they have a combined super-website. I have website subscriptions to Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country websites. Now with the combined website, it's so segmented, if you want to see a recipe, video, article, etc. half of the time you can't view the item unless you subscribe to that portion of the combined website. Guess what? When my web subscriptions run out, I'm done. No more. I'm tired of being gouged at every turn. Goodbye to Cook's Illustrated, Cook's County, America's Test Kitchen, Mobile version, web version, electronic cookbook version, cooking school version, video version, paper magazine version, e-magazine version etc. etc. etc. with separate charges for each one.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Antilope

                      I used to subscribe to the Cook's Ill magazine. I don't any longer, I got tired of the formulaic articles and the increasingly outlandish "solutions" to non-existent problems.

                      I don't miss it one bit. I find it's easy to hear what recipes are bubbling in the blog-o-sphere and from there it's easy to search and find any of their recipes for free on the internet.

                      Free, free, free.

                      Sorry, Chris Kimball, I'm not going to subsidize your next Maserati.

                      1. re: Antilope

                        My web subscriptions have run out and I did not renew them. I had 2 subscriptions, one to Cook's Illustrated and one to Cook's Country. I got tired of surfing their combined websites to find a recipe, only to discover it required another subscription to view it (ATK for one). Bye bye, I'm done. Now If I want one of their recipes, I search Google. Usually the good and popular ones have been posted outside their pay wall. By being so greedy and requiring multiple subscriptions, they lost any business from me.

                        1. re: Antilope

                          I refuse to subscribe on principle. Every other show has recipes available on line for free. Even food magazines like Food and Wine and Bon Appetit. And, I'm not crazy about their over thought recipes - sometimes a trick might work but where's the fun? I like the equipment corner though, but I will not pay for it.

                      2. I learned this about the company several years ago. They are relentless and aggressive in their marketing and pricing. God forbid you should ever give them your credit card number. I will offend many New Englanders here, but, as a former Bostonian, I have some experience with how business is conducted there. Christopher Kimball is the poster child for "Yankee" stinginess. Their down-home persona is a fraud (albeit he owns the place in VT and has gone there most of his life with his parents for summers, etc). Their offices and ATK studios are on Brookline Avenue in Boston, about 3 miles from Fenway Park. The price increase the OP refers to is outrageous and I hope they get the message, but don't hold your breath.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: sandiasingh

                          Yeah I used to think ATK recipes were pretty good but no way would I ever get into their 'subscription' scams.
                          When carefully compared with other recipes for the same dish ATK ones aren't that special IMO.
                          Also they have shown totally contradictory methods on their TV shows at times.
                          Like GR dumping OO onto boiling pasta water one time and not on another show. Both shows were supposed to be the 'only way' to make the perfect pasta.
                          ATK does that.

                          1. re: sandiasingh

                            Kimball isn't a New Englander, he's a New Yorker, what native Vermonters call a, flatlander. I've always found him fake and gimmicky, and his show the same.

                          2. I hear you about the membership prices and am also annoyed that you have to join their book club just the get the annual edition.
                            But, $34.95 isn't a 175% increase over $19.95 -- it's only a 75% increase. If it stayed $19.95, that would be a zero-percent increase, not a 100% increase! $15 is 75% of $20. So, the price has increased $15, or, 75%. The entire title of your post is completely misleading. If the price were actually jacked up 175%, it would be $54.90, not $39.95.

                            1. I too love Cooks Country and ATK, especially their shows. I am hesitant to subscribe to their publications as I buy their cookbooks. Every year they publish a compilation cookbook, which I love, but it makes me give the prior year's version away. And really the price they charge for shipping is ridiculous and slow! If you buy their other cookbooks, there's a lot of repetition of the recipes. I'd rather buy through amazon, with free shipping.

                              I remember I bought a book, and they automatically sent me the next year's with the note that if I didn't want it, I could return it (at my expense!) For a group that touts themselves as a consumer reports-type organization, they definitely are not consumer friendly.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ScubaDeb

                                "I remember I bought a book, and they automatically sent me the next year's with the note that if I didn't want it, I could return it (at my expense!) "

                                ScubaDeb, if they sent you the next year's book without your approval, it's a gift, and they're not allowed to charge you for it. Nor do you have to send it back.

                                If when buying the first book, you agree in their terms that they can send you the following year's book, then it's no longer a gift and yes, you either buy it or send it back. Although "REFUSED - RETURN TO SENDER" written in big black Sharpie on the outside packaging (provided you haven't opened the package) usually takes care of it.

                              2. I have been reluctant, but almost willing to pay for the recipes online because the few I've been given for free are so good. Today I came close to paying the $34.95, but something made me chicken out, so I closed out the page. Immediately a small window appeared offering me the same package for $24.95. What if I had taken the first offer? Now I feel that they and whomever is running their subscription services are less than professional, and no matter how much I enjoy the TV programs I will not be taken in like that. Too bad because they do have some very unique offerings.

                                1. why should we pay for a membership just for a recipe, i like to watch the series but to be force to pay a membership for a recipe that they say you can get for free. BS, thats a ripe off plus false advertisement. go bye chris. peaches

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: peaches66

                                    You can get the recipes from the current season of the show on their site for free, FYI. Just not their entire library of recipes.

                                  2. They now offer a choice to subscribe to CI, CC, and ATK for about $65. I find it very worth it. I no longer get the print mags.