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 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 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.


Edit Your Comment

  1. ezacharyk says:

    Now that is just sleazy. They seem right in line with porn sites. They must share a billing department.

  2. hegemonyhog says:

    You may want to change the title – it’s, not

  3. socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:

    Thats not uncommon. Most companies that offer things like this will do that. Take magazine subscriptions. You get the first issue free, then they send you a bill for the next 11.

  4. MaxSmart32 says:

    Oh, come on now…people have to be on top of these things, I mean, clearly, it was stated right there in plain text, must we have people holding hands every step of the way?

    What next, if people get the wrong pills at a pharmacy because they screwed up we should blame the PHARMACY for heaven’s sake?

    Thats sarcasm right there, son.

  5. Pink Puppet says:

    @maxforrest32: It was a little scary up until you got to the pharmacy part. That was an impressive imitation of the blame-the-consumer folks on the site.

  6. Amelie says:

    @socalrob: No it is NOT common. You magazine comparison is not comparable, since you are specifically ordering the magazine under these terms. This was in the fine print – if at all, by simply placing an order for merchandise. When you buy a product, you don’t expect to be enrolled in a club.

    @maxforrest32: You’re not even trying. Your company needs to get better shills to hang out at the consumerist.

  7. AMetamorphosis says:

    Oh, but all the FREE items and GREAT saving you will glean from these unsolicited exclusive memberships are where the SAVINGS are to be had (if you read the BOLD print)…

    You should fee privlidged you were allowed to let them steal the 18.00 bucks two years later …

    WARNING: [] does the same thing with their rewards program that automatically steals $$$ each month from your linked account.

  8. Amelie says:

    @maxforrest32: It appears I misread your comments.

  9. MaxSmart32 says:

    @Amelie: Thanks. I only get one shot at being sarcastic like that a day, glad it worked out in my favor today.

  10. MaxSmart32 says:

    @Amelie: haha…its okay, no hard feelings. I was a bit puzzled at first though…

  11. SkokieGuy says:

    This is very common with catalog and internet orders.

    Miss Smith, if you join our Customer Club, you can save $35.00 on your order today and get free shipping…….. Naturally everyone says yes, forgetting the automatic charges each year.

    I’ve had Barnes & Noble retail clerks do this. I believe the register automatically prompts them with the amount of potential savings if I join.

  12. SkyeBlue says:

    That is what these companies that give you a “free trial offer” hope is that you will forget to call them and cancel after the specified period of time. Occasionally I will sign up for offers like this but I make a point of writing down on my calendar a date to cancel the offer and I also ask for a confirmation number for the cancellation.

  13. TexasBelle says:

    Disposable credit card numbers: Don’t shop on the ‘Net without ’em!

  14. spinachdip says:

    @SkokieGuy: @SkyeBlue: Not the same thing – both those things are optional memberships that customer reps try top upsell and a customer has to opt-in to. The enrollment for KidsStuff Club is automatic, or so it appears.

  15. squikysquiken says:

    Just a comment about: “I demanded a reversal show up by tomorrow”. I know the OP is upset (and I was upset too when I got taken by one of those ReservationRewards scam) but as consumers, we must try not to make unreasonable demands. To be clear, I DO NOT MEAN that it’s unreasonable to ask for a refund and ask for it immediately. However even if they process it today on their end, the banks will take their sweet time reflecting the transfer (float anyone?).

  16. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    Didn’t the dirtbags at GirlsGoneWild get busted for pulling this kind of crap?

  17. @TheSpatulaOfLove: Kind of, at least GGW would send you a new video every month… what I hear it’s just damn near impossible to get them to stop… (and omg, yes, what total dirtbags)

    My fave example of this was the smilin’ Bob penis pills, where they would send you more pills and take more money every month… you could only get them to stop IF you got a doctor’s note stating that your penis is still the same size as before you took the pills. That’s gotta be one uncomfortable Dr.’s visit….

  18. LawyerontheDL says:

    She should have complained to AmEx. At least that would have been more of a headache for the Kidstuff people. As much of a pain as AmEx can be to its customers, it’s even more of a pain to its merchants.