This is a comprenensive investigation into Rype, designed to inform you of a number of red flags that I've observed with this company over a handful of years in the language learning industry.
This is not one of my usual 2000+ word reviews, where I go into depth of a service, app, or tool, like my many other reviews on this site.
You can find a lot of those for Rype on Google already, from people who have signed up and tried the service.
So, instead I'll focus on the many red flags that I've seen, and why I think you should stay well clear of Rype.
Just to be clear, I have nothing personal against Rype, and I'm trying to stay as objective as possible.
I do work with a few trustworthy competitors of Rype, that may pay a small commission, should you decide to give them a try on my recommendation.
While this may affect my neutrality a bit, I hope you check out the rest of this post for the evidence and make your own opinion after.
Let's dive in.
Table of Contents
- Table of Contents
- What is Rype?
- What does Rype Cost?
- My investigation into Rype began in 2016!
- Finding 1: Rype Used Fake Testimonials
- Finding 2: Rype used to shill, A LOT
- Shady “Free Trial” Practice
- Why Would Anyone Subscribe for Language Lessons, Anyway?
- Rype Teacher Quality and Welfare
- Suspicious Rype Reviews Online
- Findings from the Trustpilot research
- Reviews on the Rype website
- Is Rype a Scam?
- Rype Alternatives*
- Disclaimers, acknowledgements and updates
What is Rype?
Rype is an online tutoring subscription service, where you pre-pay a number of lessons on a monthly basis.
You can then spend these lessons with any of the teachers inside the Rype dashboard, as you please.
What does Rype Cost?
The cost to use Rype is not insignificant, with the smallest monthly fee being: $59.99 if you pay 6 months upfront.
There's something weird about their pricing though, check out the price difference between buying 10 hours a month or 6 hours per month.
- 4 hours/month: $79.99 or $19.99/hr
- 6 hours/month: $99.99 or $16.67/hr
- 10 hours/month: $179.99 or $17.99/hr
6 Months Pre-paid
- 4 hours/month: $59.99 or $14.99
- 6 hours/month: $84.99 or $14.165/hr
- 10 hours/month: $159.99 or $15.99/hr
Both the monthly and 6-monthly package is more expensive if you buy more hours.
Have you ever heard of a company that charges more per hour, when you buy more upfront?
At the time of writing this post the cost per hour for buying their biggest package, and biggest commitment (a $959.94 commitment, no less) you're actually charged almost a dollar more per hour than if you got the medium package.
And check out how their price table says “Best Value” in the middle of it, isn't that strange?
Imagine going to McDonalds and paying less per chicken nugget when you get 6, compared to when you get 20?
Just as a point of reference I would consider anything above $10 to be on the higher side for online language lessons.
$20 would be super-high compared to the average, only to be paid if you have a super serious, professional teacher with qualifications offering an extraordinary service.
My investigation into Rype began in 2016!
Before we get into the rest of this post, I want to just point out that I have been keeping a close on on Rype since 2016!
Here's the timeline of my original (investigative) google sheet:
Link to full document:
Note, it's a while since I worked on this so some of the data is no longer valid, and some of the proof is not accessible anymore.
What originally caught me on to investigate Rype closer, was the lack of credible reviews and mentions about the website out there.
So, I went to their website and did a lot of thorough research.
An earlier version of Rype's homepage featured a lot of testimonials, and to me there was just something off about them – so I started digging…
I did, among other things:
- Reverse Google Image searches of testimonials
- Searches of their names in Google, and on Social Media
- Searched freelancer platforms like Fiverr
- Trawled the web for any kind of review or mention.
Here are some of the conclusions I came to back in 2016.
Note, that after I indirectly brought this to the attention of the founder, a lot of these practices were stopped (as far as I can tell)
The reason I'm sharing them with you here today, is because I feel like it paints a picture of the company's ethos, and how they are likely to be operating in other areas as well.
I don't have a grudge against Rype, but I recently ran into a lot of negative reviews whilst I was doing some other research, so I felt like the time was right to publish my findings.
Let me first show you some examples of this feedback:
These were just some some of the first results I could find. There are surprisingly few genuine reviews of Rype (and even less positive, genuine reviews.)
Anyway, let's get into my research about Rype:
Finding 1: Rype Used Fake Testimonials
It did not take me long to discover, that almost every testimonial I could find was fake.
Here is one part of the proof where I found 3/4 of the video testimonials from their homepage, on the outsourcing website: Fiverr.
While I couldn't find the last seller at the time, the video gave off the same vibe.
Just for legal reasons: I'm not insinuating that Rype are using fake testimonials in 2020, but they definitely did back then.
Finding 2: Rype used to shill, A LOT
One of the biggest trust problems is the obvious shilling that Rype used to do, like this forum post below:
(Sean Kim is the founder and CEO of Rype)
Sean Kim, is also a former contributor to Lifehack.org, which was (and continue to be) a much smaller version of the hugely successful Lifehacker.com
During his active days he published a ton of articles, virtually all of them linking back to the Rype website.
My theory is that he contributed content entirely to heighten Rype's domain profile in the eyes of Google, and didn't really care much about Lifehack.
Most of his articles are poorly written, and short anyway.
The worst offending post was this one:
Which features 10! in-text links to Rype.
You think that's enough?!?
Now, in 2020 there is a description in his author-box giving his official title as CEO of Rype away, but back in 2016 this was not the case.
Again, imagine the CEO of Mercedes writing 200 articles pointing out how awesome Mercedes is, and in no way, word, image, or otherwise make clear that they are affiliated with Mercedes – how would that make you feel?
I've included all the links I found back then in the research document, which I've made freely available:
As this is my original document from 2016, some of the information might not be current, and some of the proof might not be accessible anymore.
Shady “Free Trial” Practice
Okay, so the elephant in the room, and the cause of most of the complaints online is that Rype uses the dreaded “free trial trap”, where they lure new customers in with a free trial (you just enter your card details)
They also tempt you into the 6-month subscriptions, as they offer the best pricing (as I mentioned earlier.)
This is very reminiscent of what fitness centres / gyms do today.
Come for the free day or lesson, sign up to a membership you'll hardly ever use.
After the 7-day trial you get a short window to cancel the subscription, or your card gets charged the full amount (with no refunds offered past that point.)
This is fairly clear in the process, so they are not overtly trying to hustle anyone – but we all know that a lot of people do fall traps to these trial offers.
My problem with this is more, if you are a serious company – why do you need to resort to using tactics like this?
Why refuse the refunds?
I just don't get it, and that makes it seem like it's all done completely intentionally.
Cherry on top of the free trial shadyness:
If you spend too long on the frontpage, you will be offered this popup.
Notice how it says “limited time offer”?
Yeah, that offer has been there since 2016.
I guess with that perspective, every offer is a limited time offer…
Why Would Anyone Subscribe for Language Lessons, Anyway?
On a quick side-note to the above point, with so many great options online for ad-hoc lessons (italki being the major player in the industry) why would you ever subscribe for limited language lessons?
The ONLY time I can see it making sense is when you get unlimited lessons in return (which is something Rype actually used to do.)
In that case you can really take avantage of the offer, and supercharge your learning.
This is what Baselang offers for Spanish, at $149/mo they are not cheap, but they offer truly unlimited Spanish lessons and cover about half the day with lots of teachers to choose from.
Note that Baselang also costs less than 10 hours of Rype lessons, and doesn't suck you into a 6-month contract.
I have a good relationship with Baselang, but even then I don't recommend it to everyone as 99% of learners are better off just getting ad-hoc lessons via italki or other platforms.
(As it happens a lot of the 1% of language learners seem to stop by here…)
Rype Teacher Quality and Welfare
According to this reddit post:
We can easily say that the idea that teachers on Rype are somehow hand-picked and vetted, is complete bogus.
The reddit user writes:
There isn't any process of selection at all. I was interviewed by a guy wearing pyjamas and he just accepted me without even asking about my teaching method or experience. He had a nice cat, though, and he was petting it.
It also reveals the teachers being paid just $10/hr for their work. If we assume this rate is still in play, Rype is making about $4-$10/hr off their teachers, equal to between 28.5 and 50%
italki, as a point of reference charges teachers just 15% on payments, which I consider to be fair.
The teachers are also not employed by Rype, so they have no pension, health insurance, sick pay, or any other benefits that employees get.
I totally understand that hourly rates in many of the countries that Rype sources teachers from are much lower than what we are used to seeing from the western world, and there's a lot of freedom and flexibility that comes with a job like this that means it's OK to have lower wages.
However, in a direct comparison with italki – it's just not fair to take 30-50% of the money.
Either charge customers less or pass more of the profits onto your teachers.
Suspicious Rype Reviews Online
My final findings of this investigative piece is Rype's online reviews, starting with their Trustpilot rating.
In case you don't know, TrustPilot is an online review site, allowing anyone to review any website/business.
Trustpilot has come under a lot of criticism in the past, by allowing companies to manually invite customers to leave reviews – thereby grossly manipulating the review rating of a service.
This seems to be happning for Rype too.
Now, there are 42 published reviews of Rype on TrustPilot, and like the crazy idiot I am I went through all of them and gathered the results in the investigation document.
The first thing you need to know is that companies can invite customers to leave feedback on Trustpilot directly.
Typically what companies will do is invite their best or most loyal customers to leave a review, and direct all problematic customers to their customer services instead.
However, to remain transparent Truspilot does show that the reviews are “invited” like this:
I'll get into more specific numbers in a second, but a whopping 87.8% of reviews left on the Rype trustpilot site were invited to leave the reviews manually.
Findings from the Trustpilot research
If you want to take a look at the comprehensive investigation into all 42 reviews, here is the full document (tab: Trustpilot)
Let's dive in, and see if we can find other things that stand out.
Here's the first:
25% of the reviews come from Teachers working directly on Rype
(and they are almost exlusively 5 stars)
This is perhaps the biggest breach of ethics we'll overtly see on Trustpilot.
What's worse is that 100% of these teachers were manually invited to leave the reviews.
This is not Glassdoor (a website designed for employees to review workplaces) this is a consumer review site.
Imagine being a freelance teacher with no job security, working minimum wage being asked to go and leave a review of the people who pay you…
Would you dare leave anything but a 5 star review?
There aren't a whole lot of reviews
For a site that claims to have a community of over 100,000 people this Trustpilot is disctintly empty, especially with such controversial billing practices and aforementioned shady practices.
Here's the claim from their new app kickstarter “Rype Go”
I'm unsure what community refers to anyway, as I doubt they have 100,000 active students – that would easily make any of the rich lists!
Now, there's nothing criminal about having few reviews online, but if almost 90% of your reviews are requested, and 25% of them are from your own teachers – then I highly question whether you have the volume of students as you claim you do.
A lot of the reviews are, well, fishy
Again, please refer to the full document for my notes on every review.
I don't know what it is, but a lot of these 5 star reviews that didn't come from a teacher and didn't include some kind of complaint just sound very weird to me.
It's hard to put my finger on exactly, and I'm definitely not saying every review on there is fake, but have a look at a review like this:
I don't know about you, but to me this just smells fake.
No mentions about any language learning, lessons, teachers, or anything. Just generic praise of their customer service.
And what kind of recurring problems can arise on a tutoring platform, where you've been for 3 years?
In the doc I've put some notes and guesses as to which reviews are genuine and which are not.
Most do not sound natural, and only 13.89% of the reviewers have left more than 1 review on Trustpilot before.
This isn't too surprising though, as Rype invited them to leave the review, so they may not be habitual Trustpilot users.
Review Distribution is Off
This might be a function of having very few reviews, but there is definitely something wrong with the distribution of ratings.
Typically most businesses on Trustpilot will have an inverted bell-shape with most of the reviews concentrated around the top and bottom.
Like Fitness World:
Compare this to Rype's current distribution:
Obviously, I'm not a statistician of anything but the bottom data set seems highly manipulated.
Again, could just be because of a small sample size.
Reviews on the Rype website
Here's where things get really funky.
Does this seem legit to you?
Accessed on rypeapp.com/reviews, April 15.
Just i case Rype deletes the evidence later, here's where I found these reviews, in ther bottom footer navigation.
Now, there's no way in hell I'm going to go through all 684 of these to add to the document.
So, check out this video instead to see what's going on with almost 700 reviews published on Rype's own website.
- The latest review was published in November, 2018 – has no-one used Rype in almost 18 months?
- Almost every review is 5 stars and doesn't sound natural
- There are batches of reviews published on the same day, then no activity, and then a lot of reviews published again.
My guess, for legal reasons, is that these are all or mostly fabricated by some outsourced writer, who would write a bunch of them and then publish them one by one every once in a while.
Is Rype a Scam?
Rype is not a scam.
They are almost definitely engaging in a lot of shady marketing, and billing practices, but my conclusion from all of this is that they are a real company, with real customers, and real contracters (i.e teachers.)
However, this doesn't say anything about the quality or price offered by Rype, as it seems to leave a lot to be desired.
It's expensive compared to its competitors, and they pay their teachers less.
Don't get me wrong, just because it isn't a scam doesn't mean I would recommend it in a million years.
Especially due to the high prices and subscription traps they lay out for people.
And, I do worry a lot about the recent kickstarter campaigns for an A.I. App version of Rype, called Rype Go, which has taken over $100K from backers, and is already behind the originally scheduled release date by 4 months.
But, they do provide a service in exchange for the money they receive, and people could just read the terms of conditions of what they signed up for to avoid getting trapped in unwanted subscriptions.
You can't blame Rype for that, although I still don't see the need to have that as a business model anyway.
So, if you want to give Rype a try – by all means knock yourself out, just don't come and tell me I didn't warn you if it goes badly wrong.
For ad-hoc single lessons use italki (the biggest platform in the world) they have a great booking system, cheap rates, and they let their teachers keep 85% of all they earn.
If you are crazy serious about Spanish go for Baselang.
They offer unlimited lessons for just $149 a month with no contract or annoying traps to avoid.
There you have it!
I can confidently say that the question: “Is Rype a Scam?” has been well and truly answered.
Incidentially, this post was just meant to be a quick one, but I kept falling further down the rabbit hole of suspicious online activity by the folks behind Rype.
Disclaimers, acknowledgements and updates
All information was correct as of April 15, 2020.
There were a lot of other data points and examples of shady practice that I could have explored in more detail, but I feel like the main argument has been made, and the post is already ridiculously long.
If you find any more questionable business practices from Rype, do leave me a comment below and I'll add it to the post!
* I am a partner of both italki and Baselang, and do receive commissions if anyone decides to use their services through my links above (at no additional cost to the buyer)
Kris is the founder of Actual Fluency, and has spent the last 8 years becoming an expert in language learning software, methods, and techniques.
Originally from Denmark, he now lives in Portugal and speaks 5+ languages at varying levels. His other interests are Wine, Online Marketing, and Travelling.