Note: this post is about restaurant.com, not restaurants.com. The two websites are not related. Tracey emailed us today to let us know that she just found a mysterious $14.95 fee on her credit card. It turns out a company called Shopping Essentials is now billing her as a monthly subscriber, and all because she bought some gift certificates via restaurant.com in December. To make matters even more shady, Shopping Essentials never contacted Tracey to let her know she signed up for anything, or to send her information about their services, or to call attention in any way to the fact that she now pays them a monthly fee.
Thomas did something dumb and he wants to warn others not to follow in his footsteps. He assumed (incorrectly) that his $7.99 per month subscription to XBOX Live would roll over into a yearly subscription once he’d paid $50. (A yearly subscription costs $50, obviously.) Yeah, it didn’t.
Here’s a reminder that one must remain ever vigilant against shady direct mail offers that masquerade as bills that you are expecting.
“If Radiohead can do it, so can we,” writes GOOD on their subscription page. They’ve temporarily changed their subscription model from $20 annually to pay-what-you-can, as long as it’s at least one dollar. If you’re on a restricted budget but want the hard copy version of GOOD, here’s your chance. [GOOD]
Blockbuster debited Anthony’s PayPal account two days in a row for the same monthly plan. PayPal won’t help—they say it’s between Blockbuster and Anthony, offering further proof that PayPal is a great service only as long as nothing goes wrong.
How would you feel to learn that not only had your household become subscribed to a magazine against its will, you were not getting threats that your account was overdue and was about to be sent to a debt-collection agency? That’s exactly what happened to husband and wife Keith and Stacy with New York Magazine. After our post went up about them, NYmag, wanting to defend what Communications Manager Lauren Starke called, “the good name of our circulation department—one of the most solid in the industry.” We put them in contact with Keith. After a flurry of testy emails between the two, here’s what happened.
You know we’re at death’s door for the print industry when they have to resort to a sleazy subscription tactic like this debt collection warning New York Mag sent Keith’s wife for a subscription she believes she never signed up for. Keith called the number on the back of the card and a customer service rep said that an “affiliate” put in the order. Dawn let Keith cancel the order without fuss. When Keith asked why the company was threatening to send people to collections for something they never ordered , “Dawn” said, “Don’t worry…it doesn’t make a difference since we don’t have your social security number and we will never ask for it.” As if that’s going to protect you from a debt collector. UPDATE: NYmag says the subscription renewal was valid and the customer must have forgotten about it. Full response inside.
A second Hollywood Video employee has written in to counter the claims made last week by an anonymous employee—he writes, “It sounds like whoever wrote in initially has a particularly evil district manager who is instituting his own policies,” and says that person should “go over his DM and talk to someone at corporate.” But for the rest of us, what matters is that “The EW [magazine subscription offer] never went away, they just stopped requiring employees to push it. They’re actively promoting it again. There’s no ‘silence is acceptance’ however, and we need to scan your credit card (an additional time) to activate the offer.”
First, we want to say thanks to TIME Magazine for naming us one of their top 25 blogs. Now that’s out of the way, and we can ask why they’re using such a misleading ad on the masthead of their site: “Subscribe to TIME Magazine for just $1.99” it says! Yes, but when you click through to the sign up form, you see that your “subscription” is for six issues—six weeks—and that the fine print indicates you also agree to an auto-renewed fee of $19.95 every six months. We don’t mind the $1.99 tryout period, but hiding the real subscription fee in fine print is sneaky. Any magazine with the good taste to recognize our blog should also respect its readers enough to be upfront on the details of its subscription offers.
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.
DirecTV is jacking up rates by 4% as of February 27 and is reminding newly disgruntled customers that DirecTV still ranks higher than cable according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Most customers can expect a $3-$5 increase, but don’t count on award-winning customer service.
We’ve received two letters claiming that Hollywood video is signing their customers up for magazine subscriptions without their consent. The scam sounds similar to the ones that Best Buy is accused of in their on-going racketeering lawsuit.
Kevin Trudeau isn’t the only one writhing in the icy grip of justice this week—one-time magazine subscription entrepreneur Richard L. Prochnow was ordered to pay over $7 million a few weeks ago when the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a judgment from July of 2006. Prochnow ran Direct Sales International (DSI), a bad magazine company that lied to customers and trapped them in a “buying club” that charged monthly fees and was very difficult to cancel.
Taking a page from Netflix, Time is developing a service that will let customers pay a single monthly price for up to seven rotating magazine subscriptions. Dubbed Maghound, the service is Time’s attempt to augment the yearly subscription model by embracing the internet.
Say you’re a satellite radio company with a loyal, even evangelical customer—someone who listens daily, who keeps buying your products for the people around him, and who steadily expands his own collection of your hardware and subscriptions. Wouldn’t that be a great guy to screw over? Sirius seems to think so.