I called SMC after viewing a late-night infomercial featuring Tom Bosley. Even though I am fully aware that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is, I was still intrigued by the opportunity and called for more information. The high pressure sales technique that they used on me, coupled with the late night hour allowed me to be sucked in. I did have the presence of mind, however, to write down everything that the representative told me about the program. I was told by Gwen that I would be contacted for free coaching on how to be successful, use the set up my website, etc. I was also given phone numbers for coaching, member services and tech support (for the e-merchants club). It all sounded like it was well put together and well supported. I was told that I would pay an initial fee of $24.95, that my shipping and handling for the membership materials would be waived and that I would have a 30 day free trial. I was also told that I would receive a $100. merchant coupon, a free website and a free merchant account so that I could allow my customers to use credit cards. They told me that there would be 2 mailings of catalogs per year at a rate of $49.95 each that would come on the 19th of the month. Details on the website included set-up within the next w weeks and there would be a hosting fee of $29.95 per month. If I wanted to cancel, I could call the tech support phone number. Further information was given to me on how to set up my merchant account, to review my application, to talk to a coach and who to call when my kit arrived. I was excited by the prospect of selling specialty items on the web, at home parties or by catalog. They told me that I could cancel within 30 days and receive a refund of my membership fee. I was NEVER told that there would by any further charges or fees beyond the initial $24.95 and the website hosting fee. My expectation, from what I was told, was that, if I decided to cancel within 30 days, I would get my $24.95 back and if I cancelled my website, I would not have hosting fees. It did not seem like a major risk to me.
After receiving my authorization number and hanging up, I decided to do some research on the web and, as you might expect, I discovered that there were numerous complaints regarding the business practices of SMC. I immediately decided to cancel my membership and, the very next morning I called to do so. Unfortunately, I discovered that speaking to a human being at SMC was relatively impossible. When I finally did, I told them that my husband had told me that he definitely did not want to participate in this business and I wanted to cancel. I was given no further instructions on what to do beyond notification at the phone number. I wanted to be sure, after all of the horror stories that I had read, that no money would be taken from me, so I called my credit card company that day and cancelled that card. I explained to the credit card company the reason for my cancellation. This was only the next day after opening my account with SMC. A couple of weeks later, I was contacted by someone from SMC asking me to set up an appointment to talk to a coach about my website! I told them that I would not need a website because I had cancelled my SMC account. They said, No problem, and I heard nothing further from them. Shortly after that I received my membership packet in the mail. I wrote my first letter to SMC, reminding them that I had cancelled my membership and asking them what I should do with my kit. I got no reply. A few weeks later, I got a bill from SMC for a membership payment of $39.95 and an original contract amount of $464.40! I called the company and, with great difficulty, got to speak to a representative who told me that I had not cancelled within the 30 day period and had not returned the membership kit in the allotted time. I told him my entire story and he all but called me a liar. I sent the kit back to the Simi Valley address on the bills that were sent to me. I also received another package from SMC, which I surmise probably contained catalogs, but I refused it and it was returned by the post office. Contrary to what I had been told by Gwen, the initial cancellation request had to be in writing. I did everything in the way that I was told that first night when I signed up. Since then, I have written several letters and each time get a form letter denying my request to cancel my membership. They fully expect me to pay the full $464.40 or they will turn it over to collections! This company is a rip-off and a scam. I am filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and everywhere else that I can to expose them for the frauds that they are. I am also consulting an attorney. I never agreed to a contract and they have no signature or voice authorization for anything of the sort. I am outraged.
Fort Collins, Colorado
U.S.A. Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on Specialty Merchandise Corp. SMC