Monday, October 31, 2011

Tricks, But No Treats: Beware Of This Scam While Shopping Online

By Manifesto Joe

Have you ever been charged for something that you have not asked for -- or even worse, been charged for something that you specifically turned down?

I've seen both these scenarios many times before. It's not that such practices didn't already exist before the Internet. But shopping online has given greedy, unscrupulous capitalists (I sincerely hope I'm not being redundant there) lots of new opportunities to gouge consumers.

A few days ago I went online to reorder bank checks. I ordered four boxes at a discount price, chose a secure, tracked UPS method of shipping, for a fee, and then was presented with an option of buying a form of identity protection insurance for a fee of $9.80.

I had already chosen a good UPS shipping method with theft in mind, and I already have the means of identity protection if the problem arises. So, I have a very clear memory of moving my computer mouse to the "no" circle, clicking it, and seeing the little dot appear inside the circle that was to reject the coverage.

I kept moving to the "view shopping cart" page, and saw a final charge of $69.52. Without thinking much about it at first, I hit "place order."

Big mistake. I should have noticed that the $69.52 was too much. When I checked the itemized list on the shopping cart, they had sneaked that $9.80 insurance premium in on me.

I immediately called the toll-free number given on the order page, and after a few minutes of automated bullshit I finally got to speak to a live representative. Explaining what happened, I was told that my bank's checking account would be debited $69.52, but then get a credit of $9.80. I threw in a comment that I'd seen this sort of thing before -- I truly have -- and that I think it's an unfortunately common method of gouging the customer. That day, my rep had little to say in response.

By the next day, I had gotten an e-mail notification about my order being received, and that the total charge was $69.52. Nowhere was the refund of $9.80 mentioned, so I thought I'd better call them again.

I got a different phone rep this time. After I asked why the $9.80 credit wasn't on the e-mail notice, she said she had a record of a different rep talking to me the day before, and that this rep had filled out a requisition for the credit to be made. It wouldn't show up on bank records until the next week, I was told.

OK, but why isn't it on the e-mail notice, I asked. I told her that I'd encountered this sort of thing before while shopping online, and regard it as something very intentional and insincere.

I got a speech about how "accounts receivable" charges for the insurance as a separate item, and how they have to process the requisition separately. I was also told that I had the opportunity to view the shopping cart before final approval, at which time I could have rejected the insurance fee.

I have a very, very clear memory of rejecting the fee once, when first presented with it, and I told her this. Telling me that I should have checked over the shopping cart later, I said, is telling me that in order to reject the fee, I would have to have rejected it TWICE.

As if well-rehearsed -- and I suspect that she was -- she started the "accounts receivable" speech all over again. I let this go on for two or three sentences, replied, "I don't buy it," and hung up.

I've kept all the pertinent paperwork, and plan to check with my bank this week about that credit. If I don't get it soon, I plan to take that $9.80 out in phone rep time (at typical wages, perhaps an hour's worth) if they don't give it to me. $9.80 isn't much to some of these corporate types. But to someone like me, it's a good home-cooked meal for three people.

I was born, but it damn sure wasn't yesterday. I know exactly what these people are up to, and why this is common on the Internet. They may eventually have to refund me this money. But think of all the senior citizens out there, and all the younger people who are just bad at math to begin with, who wouldn't notice anything wrong. If they already rejected the fee once, they would think they were done with it and just pay the total without giving the matter any thought.

That's exactly what our corporate lackeys are counting on. There will be enough people of those descriptions who will be unknowingly gouged.

Beware of this trick, and don't give such bastards any treats. That's my advice on Halloween. I wish I'd taken it all earlier, myself, because now I'll have to fight for my money. Maybe you won't have to fight for yours.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Old Scout said...

Joe -
There's a similar scam:
While checking out, the opportunity to double ones' savings is offered. If declined, there is no path to the check-out.
When one accepts the double the savings with money back guarantee, there is no money back with the guarantee. When half the order is returned, it happens that the whole order must be rejected and must all be returned at the same time.
One ends up without the merchandise and without the money.
My mother paid 98.00 for wax for her car when she only wanted half that amount.
It's criminal. When I referred the matter to the County attorney, he informed me that the crime occurred where the call center was located or where the server supporting the internet commerce site, not where the fraud was effected. That's just one more reason for businesses to move jobs off-shore --- legal immunity for fraud.

Frank Henderson said...

$9.80 insurance premium or not, $60 for bank checks itself is outrageous.
I don't even use checks any more. My bank offers a free payment service that mails a check to anyone I want. I've likely saved a bundle in postage alone over the years, (not to mention gas for going to the post office--as well as the hassle of writing checks and addressing envelopes).
Via my bank's Web site, I've set up all my payments to be automated. I don't have to fool with checks and I don't even have to invest any time in paying bills.
In fact, with my smart phone, I can deposit checks without even going to the bank. (The phone's camera takes a photo of the check and sends it to the bank). Once again, I get to save on gas costs.
And no, I didn't spend a bundle on a fancy phone. I got one real cheap on Craigslist.
If your bank doesn't offer free payment service, you ought to consider another bank.

John Myste said...

Unfortunately, most people will be unknowingly gouged, and most of those who know will not take the time/effort to challenge it.

Sadly, I am in one of those groups. Time is precious, just like the greenback.

Manifesto Joe said...

Hi, Frank:

Yeah, I'm hearing about lots of people going checkless these days, and I'd estimate that I use less than half the checks I used to. But I haven't gone off them "cold turkey" yet.

Hi, John:

Yeah, at the wage level where I'm at, I'd estimate that $9.80 is worth about 26 minutes of my time. But when a principle is involved, I tend to become a little obstinate.

Hi, Old Scout:

That sounds even worse than what these check-printing companies are doing. Outrageous.

Motivated In Ohio said...

That is outrageous. They try and get you for a few bucks here and there, then hope you will give up.

This is what is wrong with capitalism today. There is no accountability for anyone. When local stores do business, they don't want you to bad mouth them. There is not the same thing online.