The people at Video Professor, a mail order company that lures in customers with words like “free” and “trial” and then hits them with $290 in charges, are drifting back to their old habits again. They don’t like it when people accuse them of being a scam, even though they deliberately minimize or leave out altogether the expensive details of their offer, and even though hundreds of people have complained about difficulties getting refunds. This time, the targets are TechCrunch and the Washington Post, but as usual the whole “silence my online critics” strategy has backfired.
The current issue started early last month, when Michael Arrington of TechCrunch mentioned Video Professor in a post he wrote on scams. The Washington Post syndicates some of TechCrunch’s content and ran the story.
First, the Video Professor people contacted Arrington directly to complain that they feel they aren’t a scam–fair enough, but that certainly doesn’t require that Arrington print a retraction or agree with them on any level. Arrington’s response, in fact, was to write back, “It’s a huge fucking scam. And you know it.” Then they went to the Washington Post, both to complain that they weren’t allowed to comment on the article before it was published, and to rat out Arrington for using the word “fuck” in his response to them.
The Washington Post said, “Take it to Techcrunch’s editors, not ours,” and that was that. They left the story unedited.
For the record, here’s what Arrington has to say about Video Professor and why he thinks they’re scammy:
What you see when you first hit the site depends on how you got there – directly or via an advertising partner. The least scammy version is what you see if you go to videoprofessor.com directly. On the home page in very small font is a statement that you are going to be charged $290 if you engage in a transaction with them. But that’s the only on-screen disclosure you’ll see. Click on a product and go to the next page and you are told you get lots of stuff for free, all you have to do is pay up to a $10 shipping charge. You choose your product and you’re on to the checkout page. Nothing is stated about the $290 charge. After that you are on the final checkout page, showing a total price of $4.56. There’s no fine print, just two links on the page to pages with hugely long agreements with text hidden in the middle of it all that you are actually being sent tons of products and you’ll be charged $290 for them all if you don’t cancel in ten days.
Needless to say, people who get this stuff either don’t read fine print and are charged, or try to return it. There are hundreds of user complaints about refunds not being paid. 271 complaints to be exact, on RipoffReport alone.
You’d think if a company wanted to charge people nearly $300 for some training CDs, they would want their customers to understand full well what they’re getting into. It may not be a true old-fashioned scam, but the game they’re playing is certainly designed to trick people into an agreement while hoping they haven’t fully understood the actual cost of the transaction. Is there another word for that, one that’s not tied up in legal definitions?
“Video Professor Tries To Bully Washington Post, Fails” [TechCrunch] (Thanks to Tero!)
“Scamville: The Social Gaming Ecosystem Of Hell” [Washington Post]