Just got my VISA statement and saw this $25 charge. Called the number, automated voice response system. Took ten minutes of pressing 0,#,*, lying, swearing, before I got an operator. Then what does she ask me for? MY CREDIT CARD NUMBER. Hi, I'm a moron, I don't know you from Jack, here's my VISA so you can look for my account?
Then they asked for my name and a zip code. Well the name is no problem, but I live in Canada. No good, system doesn't accept Canadian postal codes. Then the good part, they insist they can't find me by name or address alone. What kind of service centre would have such a restriction programmed into their search utility, except one intent on NOT providing service? Then their operators are able to say with confidence that they CAN'T locate your account. Unless you give them your VISA number.
As for the reference number on my statement? "Oh, that's the publisher's subscription number". But that won't bring up my account. Except that their IVR *ASKS* for it when you first call. Why would they ask for 'useless' information? Hmmm...
Then the fun begins. I am now speaking with Juan Hermida, who says he is the call centre supervisor. His manager Luis Gonzalez is not available. I ask where the company is located and am told Stamford CT. Could I get the head office number? They don't know it. Could they look it up? Not a chance. Address? Same. I did get the president's name, Michael Loeb. He must be on the road a lot -- well, constantly! since he has no office.
Now I'm suspicious. I've worked for twenty-five years in customer service, from small companies (<10 employees) to large (>25,000). I also have an extensive background in collections. Nothing screams RED FLAG more than not being able to get the most basic corporate information. I'm not blaming the call centre people. They have been deliberately set up NOT to succeed.
I've seen lots of these magazine trial offers on the Internet. Nothing new, used to see the same ones by direct mail. First three months free, then an automatic charge to your credit card. Heck, AOL does the same thing. Only difference is, most of these offers aren't available to Canadian addresses. Usually they state this up front. However, I recall one time where it stated this only AFTER taking my VISA info. I immediately backed out and thought I was OK, since I was on a reputable site/link (or so I thought).
I should have little problem getting my bank to reverse the transaction after their investigation, especially after I send them a link to this site. I'm even willing to file a complaint with the FTC, although as a Canadian I could use some help with this. What burns me is the thousands of people who have been charged improperly (judging from the number of complaints on this site alone), and pay up without questioning the charge. Talk about a freebie -- for the company. Then to have every obstacle placed in your way to get it rectified. Illegal? I don't know. Despicable? Definitely. I'm sure that the publisher of your magazine would like to know -- it's their rep on the line too. Trust me, they will fire a marketer if they're bad enough.
One last thing. If I DID subscribe over the 'net, why wouldn't they use my e-mail address as the reference?