KidsStuff.com Silently Charges $18 Subscription Fee To Grandparent Who Shopped There Two Years Ago

C writes in with another lesson on why you should check your statements frequently:

Two years ago I purchased items for my grandchildren at KidsStuff.com. This month (March 2008) I found an $18.00 charge from them on my American Express card. I phoned the accounting department and asked what the charge was for. I was told that it was an “automatic” charge for “joining” the KidsStuff “club.” Of course, I never placed an order to join any such club. The accounting department offered to reverse the charge to be effective in five days. I demanded a reversal show up by tomorrow and promised to advertise their automatic charges everywhere I could. Believe me, I am a big internet purchaser and this sort of rip-off shouldn’t happen, especially after not having been on the site for over two years. The obvious lesson is to be sure you always go over every single charge on those credit cards. Those small $18 charges can add up to big money for unscrupulous companies.

C, we suggest you take a look at your AmEx statement from a year ago and see whether or not there’s an $18 charge then, too. According to the KidsStuff.com website, you’ll get a “free” three month trial with your first order, and then get charged $18 a year—so you may have been unwittingly paying for this “membership” for a while now.

Q: How Can I join?
A: When you place your first order, sign up for your FREE Three Month trial. You’ll get the reduced club prices for every item on your first order and for every order you place for the next three months.

Q: What does it cost me to join?
A: As a first time Customer, you receive a FREE three month trial. After that, it is only $18.00 per year for these great savings. At the end of the three month free trial, we’ll automatically charge the membership fee unless you tell us otherwise. If you forget to tell us and notice the charge on your credit card bill, just give us a call and we will cancel your membership immediately. We will also issue you a full refund as long as it is within 90 days of being charged.

KidsStuff, you might want to rethink how you bill for this service. Require a deliberate opt-in action after the 3-month trial period before switching your customer over a subscription agreement, and send out multiple reminders before the renewal date comes around.