Angry crafting moms blow up Cricut subscription ploy

Unrestrained by the Right to Repair, companies test the boundaries of ownership. People are pushing back, and recently forced the craft device maker Cricut to abandon a change to its terms of use. 

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Anne Marie Green
Right to Repair Campaign, Associate

Author: Anne Marie Green

Right to Repair Campaign, Associate

Started on staff: 2020
B.A., summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, Boston College

Anne Marie works to advance U.S. PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign. Anne Marie lives in Boston, where she loves to bake, take photos and play music.

When Danielle Lohman purchased a Cricut crafting machine for $350 on March 1, she never foresaw herself becoming an accidental consumer advocate, let alone within weeks. Stuck at home and looking for activities for her two kids, Danielle decided that Cricut offered an easy way to make impressive crafts. 

Her Cricut machine cuts out or prints designs on paper, fabric, leather and other materials. Danielle can make complex paper artwork and her kids can make their own stickers. 

Danielle’s artwork (left), and her kids’ stickers made using a Cricut machine. 

To cut or print a custom design, Danielle has to upload original SVG (scaleable vector graphic) files into Cricut’s software. That should  be an easy task because, as advertised on the product page before sale, Danielle could upload unlimited designs for free.  

Only two weeks after Danielle purchased her machine, Cricut attempted to change the rules. Cricut notified its users on March 12 that they would need to subscribe to a $9.99 monthly service to get unlimited design imports, on top of the $350 they had already spent. Otherwise, Danielle would be limited to 20 new design files per month. In other words, in order to use the product she bought as described, Danielle would have to pay an additional $119.88 per year. 

Free uploads were promised at the point of sale for Cricut machines (left), until the company announced its mandatory subscription fee on March 12 (right). 

Cricut isn’t alone in attempting to change its terms of use post-sale. With software becoming critical to how we use electronics, consumers’ control over their own devices is dwindling. Without more protections for consumers in our digital age, more companies could force us into ridiculous, unplanned service fees, obsolescence schemes, or in Cricut’s case, surprise monthly subscriptions. 

But even if changing the terms on customers isn’t illegal, customers like Danielle are letting companies such as Cricut know that’s unacceptable. 

Customers force Cricut to back off

Danielle chose Cricut over a similarly priced competitor, Silhouette Cameo, because it was the “Apple” of craft cutters. Cricut is well-respected, broadly used and has a lively online support community full of people like her, especially on the Reddit thread r/cricut. That online community is where Danielle learned about Cricut’s changes. 

“I’m an ‘Angry Craft Mom’ and a digital product executive,” Danielle told me, “they messed with the wrong consumer.” 

Ironically, Danielle’s day job is to help companies increase their subscription service base. She might recommend that her clients offer new services, market differently, or change the software, but she couldn’t understand why a company would force any subscription service -- let alone one that costs three figures a year -- onto a loyal customer base. 

Danielle began to wonder: Was Cricut losing money? Were their costs rising and they needed a new revenue stream to cover them? Looking for answers, Danielle studied the company’s IPO (initial public offering) from February, which details its sources of income. She thought Cricut was doing just fine. Page 86 of the IPO stated that Cricut made a steady 11 percent profit margin on hardware (the machines themselves), as well as a 32 percent  margin on accessories. However, Danielle found that Cricut would make an 84 percent margin on its subscription -- meaning the $9.99 monthly subscription fee would be largely profit. 

What appeared to be a phenomenal financial decision based on raw margins turned out to be a disastrous business decision. Cricut users were livid. Several members of r/cricut announced their plans to sell their Cricut machines and buy new ones from the leading competitor, Silhouette Cameo.

Cricut users on the r/cricut Reddit thread. 

In a matter of a few days, Cricut seemed to be in panic mode. The company released an apology, announcing that it would only impose the subscription fee on users who purchased a Cricut after December 2021. 

But this didn’t quiet the storm from users -- the company had lost their trust. Cricut finally decided to permanently redact the policy on March 18, all while affirming its deep care for the Cricut user community. 

Cricut’s statement on March 16, 2021 (left), and final decision on March 18 (right). 

Danielle isn’t convinced: Did Cricut think its users would go along with the new decision, or be aloof enough not to notice? Danielle thinks she could have found loopholes around the new policy, but that’s not the point. She suspects that Cricut sought to take advantage of its customers, many of whom are inspired or empowered by crafting. 

“I feel deliberately misled,” she told me, “Now I know what kind of company Cricut is, and I’ll take my business elsewhere.”

The future of ownership

Consumers won this Cricut saga, but it shouldn’t require a customer revolt to protect basic purchasers’ rights. As software increasingly dominates our electronics, manufacturers are testing the waters to see how far they can push changes in software support or surprise subscription requirements. Microsoft decided to stop servicing the voice assistant software for its Cortana speakers, and smart home company Wink imposed a $4.99 monthly fee on existing users, just like Cricut tried to do. 

Consumers are buying one thing and getting charged for another. What’s next? 

A reddit user in the r/cricut thread discussing the need for Right to Repair. 

We believe that it’s time for consumer protections to catch up to the digital age. With companies remotely deactivating devices, changing the terms of use and making products locked against repair, they are undermining the basic principle that when you buy something, you own it. Half the states in the country are trying to do something about it -- considering Right to Repair legislation. By passing these bills, we can make sure that consumers can keep using -- and keep owning -- their devices. 

Anne Marie Green
Right to Repair Campaign, Associate

Author: Anne Marie Green

Right to Repair Campaign, Associate

Started on staff: 2020
B.A., summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, Boston College

Anne Marie works to advance U.S. PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign. Anne Marie lives in Boston, where she loves to bake, take photos and play music.