Sunday, December 23, 2012

Free Stuff not Always Free, Duh...

Boy, it's a tricky marketplace out there, isn't it? If you're like me, someone who uses Google a lot to do research on products, companies, doctors etc., you know there's a lot of "Free Trials" going on. You also know by now, it's only been recently that some of those products/services actually are free.

I've already written about my online experience with eCig, an online product for quitting smoking. It billed itself as a $4.95 "trial," and, like a dummy, I fell for it. Also, my biggest mistake when I signed up, was not reading their Terms of Service. I've also written about how important that is, as well.
Needless to say, when I got my first shipment of eCig filters, I also discovered my credit card was charged $69.95! It was a total surprise. And that for only a month's supply! It took me a month to put two and two together, and after some digging, I found their number and called them to cancel.

Their rep was pleasant but firm, "You have to cancel within 14 days of receiving the shipment." This was day 20. No refund. Even I know contract law. Once you agreed by clicking "I Accept," you are bound by their Terms and Conditions. Not yours. Not what's fair. Not what makes sense. Just theirs. That's the risk you take everytime you buy something online, or anywhere for that matter.

However, these companies, like Carbonite (Cloud backup), are now much smarter about it. No $$$ necessary for your "Trial!" None. No credit card info etc. Actually try it free for 14 days. Cool right? Well, yes, if you read their Terms of Service, like the product and the cost, and trust them. You see, they only show you their Ts & Cs at time of signup, not at time of payment, so its easy to forget. I don't. When I buy stuff I like, trial or not, I print out a copy of their Ts &Cs, you should too. It seems only us geeks do that.  Well, you've been warned.

Also, you have to put up with their daily notice "Your trial will expire in 5 days! Don't be stupid! pay now!"

Also, if they won't let me see or print their Ts & Cs, I just don't sign up, or buy from them at all. You may notice some online companies are like that. That's why we need internet usage laws -- and a universal sales tax.

It's no different than going to Staples or Bed, Bath & Beyond. Look for the signs that say "Store Policy. " Like Best Buy or Burlington Coat Factory (BCF). BCF is a good-sized company, and I did a phone interview with them for a Buyer's position, but didn't get it. They seemed nice enough. But, most things at those stores have to be returned within 14 days. If not, you may only get a store credit, if that. That's worth butkus when you don't need anything else there.  But it could make a reasonable Gift Certificate. It's not as good as getting the cash back, however. The deal with eCig was that their fine print said I only had 14 days to cancel a shipment. BUT, I couldn't cancel it AT ALL once I received it. Ha! They had me.

I was able to cancel the contract though, but only after I had to pay them over $75 and insisted over the phone. But it was worth it to learn a valuable lesson.  Now, BEFORE, I click "I Accept" or give credit card info, I read their Terms of Service, their small blue link hidden on the page. I've saved myself $$$ doing that, and agita from bad deals.

Speaking of cancelling, never cancel a service or subscription without first calling the company and telling them you want to cancel. I've written about that as well, when we cancelled Opimum/Xfinity/Comcast? (I get the names confused), and signed up with FIOS for two years at $99.99/month. $99/month! For TV phone and Internet. It should be more like $40 or $50. I'm tempted to get Magic Jack just because it works and is cheap, just to spite all those cable companies who rake us over the coals. Europe's services are much cheaper, and their Internet is much faster.

After Optimum got our cancellation notice from Verizon, a man was at our door two weeks later. Offered us a $50 discount to stay with them, and other services for free! If I had known that would happen, we might not have actually cancelled! But it was too late, FIOS was installed (took half-a-day), and we weren't going through all that again. The Optimum rep came back months later, and actually offered to pay the FIOS early termination penalty if we switched back!  Bottom line, everyone in business knows it is easier and cheaper to retain current customers than it is to find new ones.

So, just a reminder, click the little blue link, and scroll through the company's Terms of Service, what I call Ts & Cs -- Terms and Conditions. You'll be glad you did.

Future blogs: Agreements and contracts, and what terms mean, like Liability and Indemnification.

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