A couple of months ago, what I thought was Sports Illustrated sent me a "Thank-you reward" of "maximum reward value: $183." Of course, I believed it to be from SI. I had no reason to question its legitimacy; I understood my subscription (account number 0059328567) was approaching its first anniversary. We have thoroughly enjoyed reading SI, and had wished we'd subscribed sooner. Of course there is never a charge for a reward, and there was no indication on the mailing I received that there would be any charge associated w/receiving these rewards (listed as valued at ~$6-$43). I selected items adding up to nearly the amount listed, sent it in and forgot about it for awhile. After some weeks I began wondering why I hadn't received the stuff. I didn't really care, as I had no real need for any of it, nor did I particularly want it. Shortly thereafter I began receiving my rewards. It was the first of 6 shipments: jewelry of dollar-store quality which would be worth the zero dollars I was led to believe I was paying for it, some cheap gadgets and some software on CD. They had been clearly portrayed as rewards with retail values as opposed to prices listed, and not as items for purchase at retail prices.
Again, at just about this time, I checked my bank statement. Lo and behold, there was a charge for $199.64 on 6/26 which I had never authorized. I was unable to identify the entity from whence the charges originated. It was listed only by the letters TWX, I immediately called the bank to report this fraud and dispute the charge (46 shy of grand larcenyvery cool) by this outfit posing as SI as being unauthorized. I informed them that I had investigated the letters TWX online. The letters had been associated with innumerable incidents of unauthorized charges in the names of multiple business entities I'd previously thought ethical and scrupulous including AOL, Best Buy, FYE, BankCard Services and others, as well as SI. I was being *charged* for my so-called rewards. Based on some of the incidents described on many web sites I visited in investigating the company, it was clear that the mailer offering me the rewards was just a tiny piece in a massive campaign to deceive recipients whose bank card information was already on record.
My bank informed me that the charge was associated w/some sort of subscription and would incur further charges over time. I had only my subscription to SI, but I didn't associate such a reputable institution with unethical or fraudulent business practices, so, as I hadn't authorized payment for my rewards, I thought it prudent to change my account number to avoid another unauthorized charge for an unauthorized subscription. I was advised to return the rewards, call the company (TWX) at an 800 number the bank gave me, report to them that I had changed my account number (which account number I'd had for 17 years) to avoid further unauthorized charges from them, and that I would be returning the rewards. Only at that point could I officially dispute that charge through the bank.
I told them that I had received only 2 of several (which were a vague memory by that time) items I had selected apparently associated with this charge. They reiterated that I would need to return them all first, however long it took for me to receive them, and whether or not I remembered what I had selected by then.
Nearly simultaneously I received my last chance. It was a duplicate of the original Thank-you Reward mailing, advising me that there was a deadline associated with eligibility to submit the form to Redeem for (the) rewards. Seeing the form, I was able to recall the items I had chosen from the reward offer. I since discovered that TWX was, in fact, the stock symbol for Time-Warner. The SI name had actually been used legitimately in this deceptive, unethical practice. No one actually seeing these rewards on a store shelf would ever pay the values listed.
As of three days ago, I have received all but one CD of seven I'd selected. The six other CDs came in a package which could barely fit the slip of paper that was the invoice for the mailing. It stated that there were seven CDs enclosed. Apart from this erroneous record of delivery, I have not received all the rewards and thus cannot return them for refunds. Wishing to report the omission. I called the 800 number as directed by my bank, another 800 number listed on the return slips in the various shipments, and the 877 number listed on my bank statement. All three numbers directed me to the same circuitous voicemail message that offered no option for my situation: reporting an item listed on the invoice as not having been included in the mailing. I have returned all the items except the CDs. There is no resource available to me for finding out what to do about the situation.
Who would pay $199.64 for $7.50 worth of merchandise at what Time-Warner calls our discounted price once one finally gets through most of the options on their voice mail. Time-Warner sunk to this new low at least 5 years ago, according to the reports I've read online. It's easier just to rip off the working stiff to keep profits and stock values up in this ailing economy, so any of their legitimate businesses are probably just filler. It is unfortunate that I won't be able to renew my SI subscription. We will miss it, but we certainly can't afford the financial risk.