We bought Directbuy memebership on site on March 24, 2006 and read complains in this website few days later. We tried to cancel the contract but failed. So we filed complaint with Illinois Attorney General and now we got our payment back. I would like to thank all the people who filed the complaint. They disclosed this true scam to us. And we wish our letter addressed to Illinois Attorney General would be helpful.
April 10, 2006
To Illinois Attorney General, Consumer Fraud Bureau,
Re: Complaint against Kushner Family Inc., DirectBuy of Hoffman Estates
On 7:30pm, March 24, 2006, my husband and I attended DirectBuy of Hoffman Estates' Open House at 2200 N. Stonington Avenue, Hoffman Estates, IL. We listened to the presentation provided by Dave Kushner, which included a half-an-hour TV advertisement. According to Mr. Kushner, DirectBuy, as a buyer's club, would offer home furnishing and improvement items at manufacturer's price with claims of savings from ordinary retail price. Only members would enjoy the privilege and make such purchases. The perception portrayed to us was that with a membership at DirectBuy we would have exclusive and insider pricing unparalleled by any retailers. When we questioned on how it was possible for DirectBuy to offer such highly marked discounts, he explained to us that it was due to DirectBuy has a large membership group and thus grants it with buying power. When we asked Mr. Kushner about the return policy, Mr. Kushner told us they did not really have many customers returning products.
Since we are buying home, we were impressed that DirectBuy would provide with excellent saving potential. Since the membership fee is as high as $4900 for one lump sum payment (or $790 down with 36 payment of $148 which charges 17.75%APR), we were very hesitant. Since our house would be closed 1 month later, we asked whether it is possible to decide it later. Our sales representative Janet Hornof and Mr. Kushner advised us that this was a once in a lifetime offer. We could not take the proffered contract home to think it over. If we did not join that day, we would not be allowed to join later.
In order to reassure us that DirectBuy could indeed provide savings, Ms. Hornof told us she personally joined DirectBuy and bought outdoor fireplace, patio furniture and couch for home and she saved thousands of dollars Ms. Hornof told us we could join it today by writing a check for payment of membership fee and cancel the check in 3 days. By this way, we have option to step back. We did not take the check so we paid by credit card and Ms. Hornof told us we had 3 days to cancel the membership. It was nearly 9pm, Ms. Hornof finished up everything rather quickly without drawing our attention to the fine print of the contract terms and the specified date of cancellation, which was set by her at March 27, 2006.
On that evening, we did not have the chance to read the catalogue of the manufacturer's products and price list. Ms. Hornof told us we could schedule an orientation program with Sales Representative Sandra to learn how to check that information. Since we were still skeptical about DirectBuy promises, we called on Monday trying to schedule an orientation program as soon as possible. I asked specifically about if we joined on previous Friday, what was the last day for me to cancel the contract. The staff answering the phone told me - Wednesday. Since DirectBuy did not work on Monday, he told me we could simply show up on Tuesday for orientation.
After checking manufacturer's list and their product catalogue, we did not feel we would be able to find things we really like from DirectBuy. We decided to cancel membership. So we called DirectBuy on Wednesday intending to cancel the membership. The staff said someone would call us back. There was no response from DirectBuy. We called again on Thursday, same answer and no response after that. Finally, my husband had to go there personally to discuss this issue. He met Customer Service Representative Ted who instructed my husband to sign the cancellation space on our copy of contract and told us he did not think this would be problem but Mr. Kushner would not be available until Saturday and he would discuss with us personally. On Saturday 11:00 am, we met Mr. Kushner and he argued since the 3-business-day period has passed and they already processed the membership (ironically we never received any formal membership card even 16 days has passed from March 24, 2006), we could not cancel the membership and no any refund could be made and all financial obligation would still bind us.
We would like to have Illinois Attorney General, Consumer Fraud Bureau to assist us to have our hard earned money back because of the following reasons. First, we were surprised to find out Ms. Hornof put March 27, 2006 in the cancellation space without out knowledge and Mr. Kushner defined the calculation of 3-business-day period in a way purely favorable to himself. Because March 24 was Friday, we as reasonable consumer believed that Saturday and Sunday are weekends. The 3-business-day period shall start to run from Monday. Not to mention this company does not work on Monday. According to our phone conversation with staff of DirectBuy on March 27, even staffs in this company have different understanding on 3-business-day period.
Second, DirectBuy used high-pressure sales tactic to market their membership. They pressured us from the first moment to join and threaten that if we walk away without joining the doors to DirectBuy will forever be closed to us and we will be stuck being a consumer subjected to the inflated ridiculous prices of retail. They have hundreds of catalogues with so called manufacturers secret prices in full view however they were not keen on allowing us to see any catalogues unless we sign the contract.
Third, by reading through the terms and conditions of the contract, we found those terms of the service, which is such a contrast from DirectBuy's presentation:
The Club disclaims all warranties regarding the merchandise, express or implied, including without limitation, all warranties of merchantability.
The entire merchandise purchase price plus handling fee, estimated freight and sales tax is required as a down payment at the time of placing an order with the club.
Only the supplier has the right to cancel an order. However, you can request a cancellation, and be notified of cancellation if it is acknowledged in writing by the supplier. No order cancellations will be honored or deposit refunds made once the factory has acknowledged the order. All acknowledged orders are contingent on the manufacturers' ability to complete such order. The fulfillment orders are contingent on the manufacturers' ability to complete such order.
Suppliers reserve the right to change their prices without notice. Adjustment in price due to unknown increases in suppliers' wholesale prices will be charged to the members and is payable within 7 days of receipt of such information. Any ordering member agrees that each order is subject to such price adjustments, and the member agrees to pay any resulting price increase. Any additional charges for freight, sales tax, delivery and installation will be added to orders as they apply.
Any need for subsequent repairs or service, after receipt of merchandise, is member's own responsibility.
Check your suppliers' catalog for estimated delivery information, since it will vary for individual suppliers. The Club has no control over the actual delivery time which may vary from estimated delivery times.
If the original estimated delivery date has passed, the Club, upon receiving a request for the status of the member's order for merchandise, shall provide the member, within a reasonable time not to exceed 14 days following the request's receipt, with the revised estimated delivery date of the member's order.
MEMBERS ARE WARNED NOT TO ACCEPT MERCHANDISE AND SIGN FOR IT UNTIL AFTER THEY HAVE CAREFULLY EXAMINED SAME TO MAKE SURE THE MERCHANDISE CONFORMS TO THE ORDER, AND THAT THE CONDITION OF THE ITEM IS ACCEPTABLE TO THEM, SINCE THE CLUB WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR MERCHANDISE ONCE ACCEPTED BY MEMBERS, AND MERCHANDISE MAY NOT BE RETURNED.
Members do not have the right to terminate this Membership Agreement without paying the amount remaining for this Membership. The Club is only obligated to arrange benefits as described in this Membership Agreement. No oral promises or statements not contained in this Membership Agreement shall bind or obligate the Club. This Membership Agreement is not conditioned on the use of this Membership.
Those contract terms, which are inordinately one-sided in DirectBuy's favor and overly harsh on our side. From above terms, we could picture our future buying experience as 1) paying full amount when placing order; 2) price of the product could be changed without prior notice to us and does not require our consent; 3) no order could be cancelled at the willing of the consumer side; 4) after we pay for the product, the chance to have this product is still contingent on the manufacturers' ability to complete such order; 5) DirectBuy disclaims all warranties regarding the merchandise, express or implied, including without limitation, all warranties of merchantability even we purchase the product through DirectBuy; 6) no assistance could be expected from Directbuy since any need for subsequent repairs or service, after receipt of merchandise, is member's own responsibility; 7) delivery time is always disclaimed to be estimated which means you could wait forever after having paid the full amount.
It is quite conceivable that we as a member could very well end up paying for services which we may never receive since the service being offered by DirectBuy is to facilitate buying of items from a manufacturer or supplier who decides when and if those items will be supplied, but it is entirely conceivable that those manufacturers could decide not to fulfill orders and we will have no recourse since DirectBuy disclaims any warranties/ordinary services even we purchase items through DirectBuy.
DirectBuy's selling practices are extremely misleading and deceptive by failing to disclose those material fact and critical terms that the contract would deny most of our rights and benefits we could reasonable expect as ordinary retail consumer. We were so overwhelmed with the extensive presentation and hours of convincing about the deeply discounted pricing, massive saving we would receive which would not be honored anyhow. The presentations we received are highly inconsistent with the actual service would be provided by DirectBuy as DirectBuy disclaims any special service which ordinary consumer would be offered. This actually constitutes fraudulent inducement since DirectBuy utilized deceptive selling practices by concealing, suppressing or omitting such material fact within intent that we as consumers would rely upon such concealment, suppression or omission. Their failure of proper disclosure of the essence of their actual membership service causes confusion and misunderstanding of the service and the benefits we, as consumer would reasonably receive. This is obviously pure selling tactics without any good faith.
Fourth, it is also extremely unfair that the contract states Members do not have the right to terminate this Membership Agreement without paying the amount remaining for this Membership This Membership Agreement is not conditioned on the use of this Membership. No attention would ever been drawn in terms of the above by DirectBuy until we raised the issue of cancellation. Such no refund, no cancellation policy is unethical and illegal. From the contract terms, it is conceivable that DirectBuy would terminate its relationship with the member but the member still has to pay up the membership fee. It is a way of threatening consumers in order to prevent them from filing suits or requesting refunds. If under a service contract, we, as receiving party decide not to use this service, DirectBuy has no reason to bind us for this large amount of service fee. It is far beyond the reasonable processing inconveniences suffered by them or the reasonable penalty other ordinary business would claim. And till to date, we could not see any results of their process of our membership.
We would like to have the assistance from Illinois Attorney General to take our down payment of the membership back and terminate the contract with DirectBuy since we believe DirectBuy fraudulently induce the consumer to enter the contract by utilizing high-pressure selling tactics and by concealing and suppressing the material matters of the service they would offer which literally no service apart from providing manufacturers' catalogues. Those catalogues might offer the chances to save on furniture but not quite in the way how DirectBuy represented to us. By stressing the savings, DirectBuy omits to disclose we are buying a disguised service that contains no ordinary service.