Free Sample – Think Again
This post is somewhat outside of the normal Style4Men activities, but since allot of what we do is review and refers on-line vendors, it would also makes sense to warn you of the nasty scams surrounding something as benign as requesting a free sample.
There used to be a time when product makers handed out samples in the malls, grocery and street corners because it was an efficient way of getting their products out to people to try. This was a time when such a transaction was as simple as that – no strings attached. With the internet, things have change for the worse.
So there you are perusing the web for pomade and a free sample offers comes up. Hey, great! DON’T DO IT! It’s a trap! Nothing is free! You will end up paying a hefty price for requesting that “free” sample. Here is my story. I am sharing it in hopes that it will inform and protect you.
Today I had a terrible surprise on my credit card; some $264 of charge from a company I had asked samples from. The samples were supposedly “free’. The agreement was that I pay for the shipping costs for the two requested samples, some $12. Seemed expensive for shipping, but shipping costs have dramatically increased in the last years. I was actually thinking that I was paying for the products but I ordered the face cream samples for my lady anyway. The samples arrived within 2-3 days. I figured that was it. Nope! A month later charges of $99 US and $89 US were added. In Canadian dollars that works out to some $264. This is for products/services I did not ask for nor did I knowingly agree to buy, request or even receive! Note that these extra charges are on top of the $12 already paid a month ago
My first call was to my credit card company to ask for help. From the credit card company’s point-of-view, since I did give this vendor my credit card number, the transaction was agreed to by both parties and is therefore legit. I asked if they could protect me from any further charges. As per above that was a no. They suggested to cancel my card as a preventative measure. That means doing without a credit card for about a week and then re-setting up my existing legit monthly payments – but it protects me from any other undesired charges from these fraudulent vendors.
The front company is:
Your order is then processed and charged by two US based companies:
The credit card folks also informed me of the current trend of this “free sample trap”. These fraudulent companies have managed to set up a sample request as a future purchase and an automatic renewal. This future purchase and renewal aspects are carefully hidden. Good luck finding it! As per the credit card folks, this is common practice at the moment – so beware! Apparently, a case is in the works with the consumer protection bureau, but who knows if, when and what will come of that…?
There are a number of elements to the scam that are red flags, but that you will not be able to know until that first charge as gone through. You were thinking that you paying the shipping for that free sample from a Canadian Company, but the charges will appear from US vendors. Ding! Ding! Ding! Red alert! This is the tip of the hiding process. International borders and laws make it impossible for a Canadian consumer to do anything against an American vendor. I was totally discouraged thinking there would be no way of getting to the bottom of this. The credit card folks gave me the number of the vendor who had trapped me in this nasty trick. Surprise-surprise, it was different from what I could find on-line. I called them and of course, this is my own fault for not finding and reading the following statement: to cancel the automatic renewal subscription, the samples must be returned within 14 days. Of course, this arrangement is nowhere to be found in the purchase email or in the package that was sent. It only exists in that initial free sample request and is carefully well hidden out of sight. The statement also makes little sense, who returns a sample…? Doesn’t that defeat the concept of the “sample”…?
My request for a refund for these further products that I did not receive, and did not ask for was obviously refused. They claimed that I in fact payed for the samples I did receive – of their own accord – “not free samples then”. That’s some pretty expensive face cream samples at $264. They did offer to give me their employee discount and refund me $80 US – not even half of the bill. So I am still in the hole for some $110 US with no way of recovering this money because this Canadian company is really an American company. An incredibly expensive lesson!!!
I wanted to share this story with everyone, in hopes of informing and protecting you. The automatic renewal thing is becoming more common and is generally obvious so getting out of that is straight forward. For example Amazon offer automatic renewal, but it is well presented and you clearly can see what you are buying into – there is no deception at work. What is different here is the hidden and automatic renewal agreement as a result of requesting a “free sample”. There is nothing free about it and you will not find anything clearly indicating that you are entering such an agreement.
From a “scam” perspective, this is a brilliant scheme because bottom line they made $264 US + $12 for shipping those 2 “free” sample bottles.
Let’s be clear, I have no real hope of seeing that $80 US refund. I have no idea how many other suckers (I am counting myself as sucker here) got trapped by this, but again as per the credit card company it seems to be one of the regular calls and they were very well prepared to answer my concerns. It is incredibly discouraging that some people spend their time, energy to setup fraudulent and criminal businesses based on loopholes, disinformation and manipulation.
A Disillusioned Free Sample Sucker!