This blog is officially "retired," but my other blog,
"The Lair of the Silver Fox," is still open for business!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Buyer Beware!

PAY-ACWM 661-705-4282 GB

WWW.WEBFILEHELP.COM 866-636-1104 GB

BILLNET-ONLINE.COM 408-454-7093 CY


(Remember those three names, willya?)

*sigh*

This is an all-new post. However, this is not the subject about which I'd originally planned to write. It probably won't even be all that entertaining. But you might want to read it anyway.

Years ago, when I started blogging at my old web address, everybody and his mama did not have a blog. (That's changed, as you probably know. Nowadays, I think there are people who have internet access who don't even have electricity.) Being a relatively fair-minded kinda guy, I promised my friends that I would never attack them on my blog. In those days, most of them didn't have recourse to fight back online. Plus, I wasn't really planning on airing much of my personal so-called "dirty laundry" anyway... But the point is, I thought it would be a bit childish to write a column whining about how my buddy George was pissing me off that day, knowing that I'd only have to delete it later, when we'd made up, unless George read it before that making up took place, and he got insulted to the point of writing me off for good! (By the way, I specifically used the name "George" for an example because I don't have any friends named George.)

Just as a rule of thumb, that promise still holds true.

However, that same promise does not extend to celebrities, organizations, or companies that somehow incur my wrath.

For example...

I don't do a lot of buying online. Most of what I do buy online is from eBay dealers, or, to a much lesser degree, from Amazon.com. And as you're probably aware, most of the dealers on eBay can be paid through PayPal. I go through PayPal whenever possible.

(Special note, here: I know that a large number of people have had horrific experiences with PayPal. Hell, there are even entire anti-PayPal websites out there. But I personally have been dealing with them for seven or eight years and have never had a problem with them. So please do not bother filling up my "comments" section with your personal negative PayPal experiences, okay? At this very moment, I may sympathize with you in theory, but other than that... I really don't wanna hear it.)

Some websites make your online payment go through a billing service. And that can be tricky.

Let's say, for example, that David'Z RantZ is not a free weblog on Blogger, which anyone can read without paying a cent, but is instead a full-fledged website of its own, which we'll say is located at www.davidzrantz.com. To become a member, you have to pay a monthly fee of, oh, $29.99. Also, in this example, I run two additional paid websites, one devoted to cute things my cat, Orson, does -- Yeah, like I'd ever!!! -- at www.idiotcat.com, and an inspirational, self-help website -- "Yeah, like I'd ever" and then some!!! -- at www.ohquityerwhining.com. Those two are each $29.99 (per month) to join as well.

So you're about 90-95% sure you want a membership to www.ohquityerwhining.com, and while you're looking through the small print about your probable purchase, you're told somewhere on the page that for that same 29.99 you're (hopefully) about to commit to anyway, you'll receive free memberships to www.davidzrantz.com and www.idiotcat.com. "Oh, boy! I just love cutesy-wootsy widdle kittycats... and I don't know or care what the hell www.davidzrantz.com is, but who gives a crap, it's free, too... so now I'm sure I want to spend that thirty bucks!"

Yeah, I was hoping those two free sites would push you over the edge.

So, you have to enter all your credit or debit card info, and there's a notice somewhere saying your card will be billed by a name such as "We Got You Now", or whatever. Quite often, We Got You Now would be my "parent company," but in this example, let's pretend instead that "David'Z WebsiteZ" is my parent company, and We Got You Now is a billing service that takes care of all of my websites, and scores of other websites belonging to dozens of other companies and/or individuals.

Anyway, you make the purchase and receive a confirmation email. Chances are, the email in question won't specifically mention any of the individual sites you joined, meaning www.davidzrantz.com, www.idiotcat.com, or www.ohquityerwhining.com, but will instead congratulate you for becoming a member of David'Z WebsiteZ. You may scratch your head wondering what David'Z WebsiteZ is, exactly, since you may not have even seen that term while going through the sign-up process and filling out your credit card info, but you'll probably figure it out before very long.

That confirmation email, by the way, may or may not mention We Got You Now. That, you may not see again until you receive your bank statement or check your account online, and see the 29.99 charge.

Okay, here's where I stop what-iffing and discuss my personal trials and tribulations.

I hate committing to anything that automatically (and without notice) charges my debit card -- I don't "do" credit cards, y'see -- on a monthly basis. There's a good chance I'll forget a payment is going to be made until after the fact. And as far as websites go, although I have been known to "tip" sites which I frequent, I'm not one who'll readily sign up for any site costing $19.99, $29.99, $39.99, ad infinitum. Hell, if David'Z RantZ was a paid website, I wouldn't even sign up for that, and I love that guy's stuff!

However, one thing I will do is sign up for trial memberships. Those are deals which give you (to list a few examples) three days for $2.99, or $1.00, or even for free, with the stipulation that if you go beyond those three trial days, then and only then are they entitled to charge you for a full month's rate immediately thereafter. I've been known to buy a trial membership just to read an archived article or two or three from, say, TIME Magazine, or the New York Times, or whatever... And as soon as I've done that, I'll cancel my membership so I don't forget and go over my three-day trial period.

A couple of weekends ago, while looking for a few items of interest (which may or may not be discussed in a future post), I signed up for four or five trial memberships. And all of these memberships were canceled before my three days were up.

Nevertheless, a week after I canceled all of these memberships, not one, not two, but three of these billing services charged my debit card for a full month, regardless of the fact that those charges were, in effect, unauthorized. Contacting them was reasonably easy in two cases, and a pain in the ass for the third.

On Monday, I spoke with customer service representatives from the first two (listed on my online bank statement as PAY-ACWM 661-705-4282 GB and WWW.WEBFILEHELP.COM 866-636-1104 GB). Both CSRs immediately agreed with me that the charges should never have been applied. The former said I'd be reimbursed in 7-10 days; the money was actually credited as of Thursday morning, three days later. The latter claimed the money had already been returned "yesterday" (meaning Sunday!), which was not the case, but my refund from them showed up in my online bank statement on Thursday, as well.

(By the way, that does not let these two companies off the proverbial hook where this blog post is concerned. The fact remains that neither company should have charged me the full monthly rate in the first place.)

The third company (BILLNET-ONLINE.COM 408-454-7093 CY) said they'd return my money, too, if I really insisted -- Don'tcha love it? -- but that doing so would force them to put me on a list of fraudulent credit card users, and all my personal information would be forevermore on an internet database, and I could, in effect, never buy anything online again.

You may wonder how a guy who writes a column called "David'Z RantZ" would react to something like that.

And the answer is, "not too freakin' well."

The third paragraph of my lengthy email to BILLNET-ONLINE.COM (an email which, by that point, had also mentioned my misfortunes at the hands of the other two internet billing services) went as follows:

"[Y]ou are telling me that if I want money that is rightfully mine returned, I will pay the penalty of being added to a 'fraudulent transaction' list which will prevent my doing any buying online for pretty much the rest of my life? Amazing. That sounds one step short of blackmail to me. There was nothing "fraudulent" about any of my transactions, as opposed to three billing companies' actions after the fact. Also, I don't believe that issuing a refund must automatically enter my data onto this list, and that your people are powerless to prevent it, as is implied. Be that as it may, I want my refund as soon as possible, and I would greatly appreciate an answer to this email confirming that said refund is forthcoming. If these are the kinds of experiences I will get by buying things online, I'm probably better off taking my business elsewhere. However, I should apprise you that I am one of those people to whom the principle is more important than any monetary amount involved. I once spent several dollars in toll calls and postage to secure a $2.00 refund from an eBay dealer who had tried to cheat me. Therefore, in that light, I will fight this attempt at credit card 'blacklisting' with the aid of a lawyer, if necessary."

Damn. I forgot to add, "So there."

I wasn't fooling, y'all. I really am one of those nuts "
to whom the principle is more important than any monetary amount."

Plus, in the meantime, my bank was investigating all three of my newly-instituted complaints. (In the interests of fairness, I gave them a call on Thursday and told them that two out of the three situations had been resolved.)

So, sometime Wednesday afternoon, I sat there thinking, "Hm. How else can I strike back?"

Obviously, I thought of one more way. You're reading it.

(I should add that when I first thought of writing this post, I hesitated, wondering if I should bother making it public. I mean, it's not like I'm going to send these companies into bankruptcy by bad-mouthing them here. A few hours later, I told a friend of mine the whole ugly story of this financial mess, and she suggested that I blog about it, without my having mentioned that I'd considered doing just that. I felt vindicated. So, here it is.)

Anyway, gang, to sum up, as they say: If you ever want to become a member of any website, whether it's a full membership or (especially) a trial membership that you require, watch for the notice saying the name of the company which will actually bill you. And if it's any of the following three...

PAY-ACWM 661-705-4282 GB

WWW.WEBFILEHELP.COM 866-636-1104 GB

BILLNET-ONLINE.COM 408-454-7093 CY

Think twice before joining! (Particularly where that last one's concerned!) Hell, think thrice! Or think...

(Hm. What the hell's the word you use when you mean, think four times? "Frice?" Nahhh, that can't be right. Oh, never mind.)*

Also, the phone numbers accompanying each name probably won't be included, nor (I assume) the "GB" or "CY" (whatever those mean).

*sigh* (he said again)

Okay, boys'n'girls, that's all (finally). Just a friendly warning.

And I am so proud of myself, by the way! I made it all the way through that entire RantZ post without once using the term "scumbag motherfuckers!"

Oops.

Anyway, thanks for your time.

*I looked it up. After "once," "twice," and "thrice," there are no other terms in the progression. You're stuck saying "four times," "five times," etc. Now aren't you glad you're learning so much today, you lucky ducks?

7 comments:

cake said...

My middle name is George and I'm quite offended by this whole e-mail.

::gets ready to...stomp!::

cake said...

Okay fine, my last comment was a lie.

Good post...though it reminds me of how much I hate having a credit card just in general. I can't cut it up because you basically need one in order to do any business in the modern world...but I hate it. Credit card companies are the scourge of the modern world. No, really, scourge.

p.s.
Paypal has treated me very well so far and it's been a couple of years. Aside from the odd Amazon purchase, it's really the only way I do business online. (I do pay a couple of bills automatically via my credit card but that's a whole other story and the companies are long term, trustworthy ones.)

p.p.s.
I'm rambly today.

David'Z RantZ said...

Cake:

I'm glad your middle name isn't really George, because then your first and middle names put together would be Cake George, and while I've heard of Lake George, Cake George would just be silly.

I have a debit-not-a-credit card, so I won't be tempted to spend money I don't actually have yet.

"Aside from the odd Amazon purchase... " I'm sure you make a lot of "odd" purchases from Amazon.

It's raining where I am. How's the weather where you are today?

cake said...

You know my real name isn't "Cake," right? Okay, just checking...that'd have to be some cruel parents to name me that. I'd get the nickname "Shortcake" in no time at all and it'd be all downhill from there.

Mind you, my real name doesn't work so well with George either...so never mind.

I buy the odd video from Amazon...I mean, no, hang on...not an odd video. Arrgh. I buy the occasional odd video...no, wait...uhh...

I sometimes pick up DVDs from Amazon. There.

Nice try on that last point. I'm afraid I can't answer you. ::zips lips::

David'Z RantZ said...

"You know my real name isn't 'Cake,' right?"

No!

You know there are no "Zs" in my real name, right?

By the way, "Cake" is kind of an odd (There's that word again!) choice for a pseudonym. How'd you manage to pick that?

cake said...

I don't remember why I picked "Cake"...I'm sure it was slightly clever at the time, or maybe some little inside joke. My brain's a funny place sometimes.

I hadn't actually expected to keep the blog going longer than a few months, anyways. Shows what I know!

Choosy Mothers Choose Jeff said...

Nice entry...I have also added you to my area of blogging delights.
And just to let anyone out there know who could give a dog's leavings; my name is not actually Choosy. That's a mistake that happens all too often.

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