I consider myself to be a fairly astute person, especially when it comes to the web. When Facebook posts look suspicious, I usually check them out to see for myself. And a lot of them are scams or, at the very least, misinformation. I try not to embarrass the Facebook friend posting them, though occasionally I’ve been unable to resist temptation. But I’ve always thought of myself as smarter than that.
And then, one day…
I’d been looking at my tired, 58-year-old face in the mirror and wondering if there wouldn’t be something I could do to perk my skin up a little. The facial I had at the spa this year was wonderful, but it only lasts about a day. So when the ad for this amazing Retinolla cream showed up in my Facebook feed, I got curious and clicked.
It was only $7.95 for each little jar, one was a moisturiser, the other an eye cream. For $16, how could I go wrong? I thought it was worth checking out.
I filled in my info on the website, and a few days later, I received my little package. What the heck? If I liked it, I would get some more.
A couple of weeks later I was checking my bank account online and to my horror, noticed an almost $400 charge on my credit card. Whaaat?? When I saw it was the company that sold me the Retinolla, I was furious! I looked everywhere for some way to contact them and finally found a phone number, buried in an email they sent. I called right away. “You are the 3rd person in line to talk to one of our representatives,” the automated answer said. I waited, my furore rising even more.
When a live person finally came on the line, it was all I could do to keep myself from screaming at her. What the hell is this $400 charge on my Visa? I paid for your product! Why are you charging me again, and why $400?? I was beside myself by this time.
She spoke English well, but had an accent. I wasn’t sure what country the number was from, but I knew it wasn’t North America. She calmly explained that I had passed the 14 day limit on the product and was being charged the full amount. The full amount? No where did it say there was another charge coming. Oh well, yes it does on our website. Right. The conversation continued until she finally told me that they could give me a small refund on the product. By this time, I knew I was beat and I accepted. I felt like such a complete and total sucker. We will cancel your account, she said.
Yes, that’s right. So let me tell you how this works:
When you do a Google search for Retinolla, the ad comes up at the top of your results. Today’s price was even better than what I “paid”!
Only $4.95 for the kit! What a bargain!
When you go to the website, it’s full of the usual “before and after” pictures. But of course there’s a VERY LIMITED supply of the product and a countdown clock, so you know you’d better hurry and buy it NOW! I filled in my info and credit card, etc. They wanted to sell me more…on $7.95 for this too! It was hard to see how to bypass and go straight to the checkout, but I finally figured it out before they suckered me into buying more.
That attempt to trick me into buying more should have been my first warning sign, but I must have been brain dead that day. The other thing I didn’t do was read the fine print. Another huge mistake.
Because if I had read it, I would have seen this:
“Risk-free trial offer: By ordering our special trial Retinolla Beauty Kit, you agree to enroll in our AutoRefill Program. You will be charged applicable shipping and handling fees upon placing the order and will then have 14 days to try our products and return them if you are not completely satisfied. If you choose to keep the kit, you will be charged the full cost of C$179.95. We will then automatically send you a replenishment of the products you have ordered according to our common replenishment guidelines (normally, every 30 calendar days). Your card will be charged C$129.87 accordingly upon dispatch of the replenishment package. AutoRefill can be cancelled at any time by simply logging into your account.”
Only the font was this small. And buried in between all kinds of other “info” that you probably wouldn’t bother reading at the bottom of the page. Well, at least I didn’t. That’s also where you find out that the company is in Prague.
I did some research and found lots of complaints from others out there too. You think you’re spending a few bucks, and then you’re charged more. At least I wasn’t alone in my stupidity. In the UK, for instance, they actually advertised it as a “free sample”. So people were shocked to be charged anything at all. The clue would have been when you had to enter your credit card info for something that was “free”. But because they were advertising the $7.95, I was not suspicious entering my credit card.
The auto-refill really got to me though. I had no idea I was creating an “account”, I thought I was simply putting in my address for delivery purposes. They know what they’re doing, these scammers.
When they sent me the email cancelling my account and offering the small refund, I had to promise I wouldn’t take any legal action. Yeah. There you go.
In the end, two little jars of this stuff (and they are little), cost me $256.
I was utterly embarrassed at myself because I thought I was smarter than that. In fact, I really had to think about posting this at the risk of embarrassing myself even more. But I think it’s important to give fair warning to any of you out there who are the least bit tempted to purchase something on line.
Read the small print, they always tell you.
Oh, and I still look 58.