I can’t afford this ‘free’ product

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

The product arrived in the mail, just like promised. I ordered the free sample of some sort of face cream for my wife.

I wasn’t too worried about it, since the product offer was through a company I trusted. As it turned out, that company had nothing to do with the promotional product other than selling space for it on the bottom of its website.

A few weeks later while checking one of my accounts, I saw that there were two withdrawals totalling almost $200. It was from the company that sent the free product. I allowed them to draft a small shipping charge for the product. That’s how they got my account information.

But I thought that the offer came from the nationally respected company I had been doing business with for a while. I didn’t know that they were just peddling my name and contact information.

Luckily, the online information on the withdrawals also included a phone number, which I called right away.

“We’re sorry that you are not satisfied with the product. It’s a great product. I use it myself,” said the poor soul on the other end, who knew what was coming. I was probably not the first person to call with sticker shock. She probably had been handling calls like this all day long.

It was my responsibility to read the fine print and cancel the monthly orders, she said. Otherwise they would be shipped for six months straight.

That’s almost $1,200, I replied. I can’t spenf that much money on face cream. I need to cancel everything right now and would like a full refund.

“That’s against our policy. You didn’t call before your 14-day trial period expired.”

“Are you for real?” I thought to myself. I was getting a full head of steam by then. But I worked hard to control myself. I have learned that losing your patience is counterproductive in such situations. It only weakens my case.

“I need it canceled now, please, and my money refunded. This is not the way to do business,” I said in a semi-calm manner.

She put me on hold, and when she came back, she informed me that my account had been canceled. However, the current charges could not be reversed, and she hung up.

That was a mistake. I instantly pushed redial. The last time I was this mad was when a big corporation inserted its flyers into the paper unauthorized and then one of its representatives decided to insult me rather than fix the problem.

It happened three times, and each time I complained, I was brushed off as a nutcase.

Then I sent a certified letter to corporate headquarters and copied it to the rude person who enjoyed hanging up on me so much. Inside was a detailed account of how the corporation will be sued, when and where, and an invoice. Two weeks later we were paid in full.

I should have also asked for an apology in writing, but was too busy taking the check to the bank.
Back to the face cream rip-off. Another voice came on the line. “We have already canceled your account.”

“I want all my money back. This is deceptive and stealing. You can hang up on me also, but I’ll just get more mad, and I’ll call back again,” I said in a fairly nice voice.

A few useless minutes later, I finally had enough. “Get ready to come down here with lawyers, because after I report you to every state and federal agency under the sun, I’ll also sue you in beautiful Brazoria County. I don’t even care if I get anything out of it. I’ll just do it because you are stealing people’s money.”

It felt good to say that. After being put on hold again, she came back on the line and made a counter offer: A 50 percent refund, and I accept this month’s product. She was anxious to give me a confirmation number for the refund.

OK. I’ll take it. She also recorded me saying that I would not pursue legal action. That’s fine. I’m not going to. We never talked about any other action, though.

The company names are HCI Health Care in Florida and BDI Health Care in Georgia. It’s the same company. Its number is 1-800-380-8606. Costco sold them access to me and probably thousands of other customers. Do not respond to these type of offers of any kind. It’s a trick by some very dishonest people to pick your pocket.

Live and learn. If they offer a free product but want your credit or debit card to process shipping and handling, run. They’re about to rip you off.

To be continued.