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.