LetsTalk Triples Price Of Phone, Won't Refund Difference

Reader Brandon writes in to share a painful story of shoddy customer service and questionable pricing policies with LetsTalk, an online mobile phone and plan retailer. After ordering a $99 phone with a $100 mail in rebate, the order was delayed, then changed to add a free car charger to apologize for the delay (so far so good), then changed again without notice to $299 with a $200 mail in rebate. After calling to dispute the charges, he was promised the price would be changed back to its original amount—but the next day it was shipped out and his account was charged for $299.

This is where it gets fun, because at this point LetsTalk entered into a creative game of empty promises and excuses (for a while it was a “computer glitch”). Then, in a particularly ballsy move, they told Brandon that they reserved the right to change their prices at any time as per their fine print.

He found the fine print:

Despite our best efforts to keep pricing information accurate, there may be rare occasions when our pricing is outdated. We reserve the right to update our prices at any time, but will always contact you to confirm any change before you are charged or before products are shipped.

What seems apparent is that Brandon wasn’t given the opportunity to confirm the new charge—in fact, he was told by a CSR that they’d change it back to the original charge before shipping.

Our primary advice in this sort of situation is to return the phone immediately, and in this particular case consider filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. He can also call LetsTalk’s corporate offices in San Francisco at 415-357-7600. As of March of this year, their CEO was Delly Tamer, so look for that name in the corporate directory rather than leaving a message in the “general mailbox.”

After threatening legal action, Brandon said they agreed to a return, but he’d already canceled his old plan and decided to stick with the new one. So we’ll modify our advice for other readers, in recognition of how difficult it is to get untangled from a new cell phone deal that’s gone sour: if LetsTalk puts your phone on backorder, cancel the order and look for something else rather than risk a similar pricing/CSR nightmare.

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Comments

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  1. Esquire99 says:

    The easy way to handle it is to take it out of the company’s court. If they say no, simply dispute the charge with your Credit Card company. Problem solved.

  2. Doc Benway says:

    Which part of refuse the shipment and dispute the charge with your credit card issuer does this person not understand? Besides you should know better than to buy from mobile phones from Lets Talk/Wirefly or any of the other names they do business with. Amazon is the way to go.

  3. krom says:

    Aren’t you authorizing a specific amount when you provide someone a credit card? It would seem that charging you a higher amount would violate that agreement.

    This is worse than going to a store, ordering an item thats out of stock for a set price, coming back and finding out the price is raised — because theoretically you don’t pay until you receive the goods, so you can back out of the new deal.

  4. omgyouresexy says:

    Most of what’s gone on so far is me trying to handle the situation without bringing in outside legal council. The problem is that it took so long for them to actually get back to me with an answer.
    Since finding out about the refund denial, I have spoken with a lawyer about whether the company’s actions have any legal standing taking into consideration their ordering policies, which he assured me they did not. I filed a charge dispute with the bank as well, but I guess the optimist in me was hoping that they would do the right thing an honor their original price. Guess not.
    I’ll post with the results, which will hopefully be Let’s Talk agreeing to give me a refund without turning it into a fight. This has been a big headache to save $250.

    - Brandon

  5. Trai_Dep says:

    On the bright side, instead of saving $100, he gets to save $200! Yay!!

    Oh. Wait.

  6. FLConsumer says:

    Charge-back time

  7. boandmichele says:

    @trai_dep: lol you must own a lot of dell computers!

  8. Buran says:

    I use temporary credit cards these days. I authorize these cards for either the exact amount or the next conveniently rounded-up number (I bought something last week for $49.xx, the temp card was authed for $50). If a merchant tries to charge this card for more than the item+shipping is supposed to cost, the charge is refused for being higher than the limit. That scam would have failed if the purchase had been charged to a temp card with just enough of a limit to work for the advertised purchase. If you can do this in the future, I’d recommend it. That, and if anyone gets hold of the number, no worries about your real card being scammed. (I emailed the temp card number mentioned above to the guy who would do the charging, since I don’t care if it gets out once it gets used, and the guy checks his email a lot during the day and charged it ASAP).

    It’s also useful for force-cancelling orders from merchants that refuse to do it for you. I bought something as a pre-order some time ago, the seller refused to cancel the purchase when I needed it cancelled, and the only reason cited on their website that they’d cancel orders was if they couldn’t process your payment. So I yanked the temp card number out from under them – I expect to get a “we couldn’t charge your card, order cancelled” notice any day now. (I won’t buy from that place again!)

  9. Buran says:

    @Buran: I should append that the charge-by-email thing was from someone I knew and trusted, but who didn’t have a Paypal account. Don’t do this unless you know who you are dealing with!

  10. Geekybiker says:

    @Doc Benway: That used to be the case. Amazon got into bed with inphonics awhile ago and their service took a real nose dive.

  11. hypnotik_jello says:

    @Buran: Any specific temporary credit card that you recommend?

  12. Doc Benway says:

    @omgyouresexy: Penny wise pound foolish my friend. If you paid with an Amex card they will take it back if the merchant doesn’t. Also, try the Unscrewed solution: Write a press release documenting, dispassionately how they screwed you. Fax it to their marketing department with a letter explaining that you plan on sending this to every newspaper and online source you know. Perhaps, they realize that $250 is cheaper than a lot of bad press.

  13. Doc Benway says:

    @Geekybiker: I am sorry to hear that. At least as far as I can tell, Amazon doesn’t change the price and will ship you the phone ASAP. And if its out of stock they give you an opportunity to cancel. Not speaking directly about the mobile phones, but with books and electronics they have been super nice and super customer friendly with me anytime I have had a problem.

  14. oldbluebox says:

    uhh pretty sure he should have done his research before buying from a place like that. the BBB has tons of complaints about letstalk.com.

  15. Nicholai says:

    @oldbluebox: Oh? I know no one will believe me this age were everyone takes everything With a “false until proven otherwise” attitude, but my dad’s girlfriend’s cousin owns let’s talk.com. according to dad, he’s the “get rich quick” kinda guy…

  16. @Buran: Hey Buran, what’s your method for getting temporary credit cards? It’s an interesting idea. Does your credit score take a hit for opening and closing multiple accounts frequently?

  17. basilsinclair says:

    I, too, fell prey to the LetsTalk scam and had an almost identical experience. The hilarious part? I sought out LetsTalk after reading a story in Newsweek that proclaimed it a revolutionary, quality company that offered deals so screaming they were supersonic. The writer probably got a free phone. Everyone else gets screwed.

  18. Buran says:

    @Chris Walters: Nope, these are the one-time-use card numbers that some credit card issuers allow you to create on their website. I have a Bank of America card and BofA calls this “ShopSafe”. The transaction shows up on your real card’s transaction list and is billed to it. Because it’s not actually a separate account, it doesn’t affect your credit score at all.

    I don’t think my Chase card offers this yet, but I know other banks out there do offer this, and I think Discover does too. Maybe AmEx. Still, I’ve only had experience with BofA.

  19. wesrubix says:

    For what it’s worth, I had a great experience with LetsTalk. I was one of the lucky bastards to get a Nokia N95 for “only” $650 (other places including ebay were 750+). They sent me an email indicating a delay in my order because the phones were backordered from their supplier. Not a problem. I called customer service one day, the nice girl said no new updates, maybe tomorrow. Call back tomorrow and I find out the new stock should be arriving at the end of the week I called (this was Wed), or Mon the latest. The phone shipped, I got it fine, and it was a good deal. (Yes I know a new one has come out since that supports US 3G freq. not the time or place for that discus.). But what I did was stick with just a phone. If you buy a phone AND service from any online phone seller, you are risking all sorts of problems with porting on time, higher cancellation fees, and return policies! This is just an unfortunate bernald who went to buy something because of a rebate, and should’ve reversed the charge once it wasn’t ok with him. (I’m still surprised he didn’t get an email from Letstalk telling him about the change.)

  20. omgyouresexy says:

    @wesrubix: Well, I’m not sure what a bernald is, but it wasn’t just a rebate thing that attracted me to this phone. The phone itself was $99.99 before the rebate. It was $350 in the store with the same rebate. I wanted a pocket PC and being on a college budget, I knew the only way to afford one without digging into the savings was to buy it in this route. I know you have to exercise some amount of caution, but if you let a total fear of something like this happening govern your shopping behavior, then you wouldn’t buy anything online and would probably end up spending a lot more money for the same stuff.

    Either way, Pam from Let’s Talked called today and they have refunded all my money. I left Delly Tamer a voice mail message yesterday in his mailbox and that plus the story probably contributed to the pleasant outcome. I’m just glad its done with and I have my money back. Thanks, Consumerist staff.

  21. zimmermankeith says:

    I bought a cell phone family plan through LetsTalk.com, Inc. The LetsTalk representative suggested a plan for protection against loss or damage. After the representative assured me that the plan covered losses such as dropping the phone in a swimming pool (as had happened to my son), I bought the plan for my daughter’s phone. A couple days ago she accidentally dropped her phone in the toilet and it stopped working. LetsTalk then referred me to a 3rd party company called National Cellular Owners Association (NCOA) that was the actual plan provider, who responded saying “WATER DAMAGE AND CORROSION” – “Water damage is excluded from coverage. If the white dot under the battery is now red/pink, it is water damaged.”
    In my opinion, NCOA is most certainly a scam. I doubt whether they cover anything that the manufacturer’s phone warranty doesn’t already cover. I believe that someone from there belongs in jail for fraud and for stealing. I don’t promote violence, but given this outfit’s behavior, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to read in the news that someone went into their office and shot it up with a machine gun or something. Take my advice – Stay away from both NCOA and LetsTalk.com.