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Thursday, April 1, 2010

There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Or better titled: My FREE book that so far has cost me $152.95.

You know the sayings: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Or nothing in life is free, or the ever so popular free lunch one. There are so many, and we would be wise to heed the warnings. But, I never have claimed to be wise, and this last blunder just proves how foolish I can be!

About a two or so weeks ago, I got an offer in my inbox for a FREE book. Well, who wouldn't want a free book? It was on the economy and all they wanted was $4.95 for shipping and handling. Oh, and I was promised samples of three financial type newsletters, with the promise I could write cancel on the invoices if I decided I didn't like or want them. Sounded good.

The book arrived, as well as a few 8-16 page newsletters about "protecting your wealth." Well, I don't have any wealth to protect, I can't even pay my electric bill on time. I figured I would write "cancel" on the invoice when it came and be done with it. The book wasn't as interesting as I hoped and after briefly looking at it, it is now collecting dust on my book shelf.

No invoice ever came for that first newsletter, but my bank account was showing a withdrawal for $49.00 from this company! Boy was I mad!! I immediately emailed them and told them I expected charges to be reversed. I mean who would pay $49.00 for a newsletter? We're not even talking a full color glossy magazine, we're talking an eight page stapled together newsletter! All I got was an automated reply that they received my email and it would be addressed in the order received. A week later, nothing, I figured I would just have to let this one slide and chalk it up to an expensive lesson learned about giving bank info online.

A few more days later I get another invoice for the second newsletter sample for $99.99. $99.00???? For a newsletter? I thought the $49.00 amount was ridiculous enough. Well, I figured I was lucky I at least got an invoice this time, and quickly before I even took the invoice home wrote "cancel" and sent it back. Phew...I escaped that one. Or so I thought....

A few days later yet another invoice for another newsletter arrived, again for $99.00. Again I wrote "cancel" and sent the invoice back. End of story. So I thought.

Last night I was going over my bank account online and noticed a $99.00 charge from this company! I was livid this time. I wrote a very nasty threatening email with a promise to call first thing in the morning. Which I did this morning.

The person I reached was actually borderline rude to me. They are the ones repeatedly charging my card for items I did not want and did what I was told to do in order to avoid these charges, and they are being rude to me? On the phone, I was quiet pleasant, when given the chance to speak. Whatever..

In the end they agreed to reverse the charges for both the $49.00(which I was still willing to let slide) and the $99.00 and promised not to charge the second $99.00(how kind of them) BUT, it would take 5-7 BUSINESS days. This I don't understand, as I am going through a similar experience with my insurance company over ninety some odd dollars they overcharged me for. They are all so quick to take our money, money that doesn't even belong to them, yet so very slow in returning it.

For now, I wont name the company that ripped me off. If they return my money in the amount of time specified I will just let this be a warning about giving anybody your bank or card info. But, if the money is not returned in a timely matter, you bet you will see a follow up post releasing their name.

But do think very seriously long and hard before ever giving your bank information to anybody, even reputable companies like your insurance company. Once they have this information they have complete access to your money when ever they want it. Not every company will return your money, and while the banks will often work with you, they don't always and when they do it's a long, hard process. Even reputable companies like my insurance can make an honest mistake, and first it's your job to prove the error, then you are at their mercy while you wait for those funds to be returned.

In the case of this company and their newsletter and "free" book, I firmly believe they meant to rip me off. They either thought I wouldn't notice, or if I did I wouldn't bother to pursue it, just like I almost didn't with the first $49.00 charge.

If you are like me and working with a very tight budget and little to no savings, amounts like these can make the difference between not being able to pay a bill, or even bouncing a check.

I know it's convenient to just give your card number or bank info to creditors or companies that you make regular payments to like your car, insurance, etc...but after my recent experiences I am convinced it is not a good idea to give that information to anybody, period.

It may be old fashioned, out of date, or a just a pain to write out and mail a check, but that is exactly what I plan on doing from now on. This isn't the first time this has happened to me, and unless I stop it, it may not be the last.

So, in the end, this "free" book so far has cost me $152.95 and that is only if they don't charge that second $99.00 that I am fearful they may. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, or even a free book!

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