I will be the first to admit that I apparently didn't read the fine print. And by fine print, I mean the print that wasn't on the frickin' order form AT ALL.
I was on our local news channel's website and there was a link to a site that said "Why shampoos don't work." Being curious, I clicked on it and was directed to a web page that went into great detail (with diagrams, illustrations and lots of technical terminology) about why standard shampoos don't work. The next page of the article suggested a hair care line by Kronos that does work because of X, Y and Z (insert more diagrams, illustrations and techie terms). There was a link on this page to try this line of product for free. All you had to pay was the $4.95 for shipping and handling.
Sweet! I can be pretty hard on my hair, at times, so I clicked on the glow.com link and took them up on their offer.
About a week later I got a box with shampoo, conditioner, a leave-in conditioner and an overnight repairing masque. I was surprised to find four bottles in the box as I thought I was only getting the shampoo and conditioner. I looked at my order form. I apparently didn't order just shampoo and conditioner. I ordered something called the Kronos Hair Transformation Kit with a member price of $98.50.
*blink blink blink*
I read more closely:
"Start your free 30 day trial of the [blah blah blah]. If for any reason during the 30-day trial period you are dissatisfied with [blah blah blah] return the products (even if the bottles are empty). You'll NEVER be billed and you will receive NO future shipments. The shampoo and conditioner are yours to keep. If you [like our crap], you'll be billed the discounted price of $98.50 [yada yada yada] and enrolled in Beauty Lounge.
As a Beauty Lounge member, you'll receive a fresh supply every 60 days at the same 55% discount, plus S&H [which I'm learning stands for shit and hassle, not shipping and handling like you might think], and additional discounts on [the other shit we sell]. You can cancel at any time. Limit 1 [covering their ass lingo]."
Then it goes into specific details about how to go about returning your product and getting something called a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) number within the thirty days. It's gotta be put on the return label on the package.
At the very top of my order form, it says exactly when my thirty-day trial ends and that I will be billed $98.50 on that day. I wasn't too worried at this point. I was surprised by this membership thing, of course, because I hadn't remembered anything about that part, but I figured, "What the hell?" I'd give their products a shot and see if I liked it.
So before my thirty days was up, I went to the website and followed the steps verbatim on how to go about returning the products. I was asked, of course, why I was canceling and I clicked the box next to "I didn't have enough time to use all the product" or some such shit. And they offered me a two week extension on my trial. Truth be told, I had only used the shampoo and conditioner and I figured if they're gonna offer me another two weeks, I might as well give the deep conditioners a try. Honestly, I should've kicked my own ass then, but I digress. Anyway, I extended my trial and vowed to try the other stuff.
Again...not impressed. The spray-on conditioner wouldn't even come out of the bottle. Frustrated, I went in about a week later and tried to get the trial canceled. Every time I clicked on a link to cancel, I would be directed back to the log-in page.
I still didn't panic. I figured it was just a website glitch and I gave it another couple days. I tried it again. Same issue. Couple more days went by and the site is still having problems. So I clicked on the customer service link. There's a phone number, super!
I called the number and it rang twice before going to an automated message that said "We're experiencing technical difficulties, please try your call again later." It wasn't a typical telephone company message, I could tell it was the company's message. At this point, I'm starting to get a little concerned. There's $100 that's just days away from being charged on my card.
Next day, I try the website again. Same deal.
I call the number, again. Same message.
Repeat. (No pun intended.)
At this point, I'm past my trial period end date and I realize I'm going to be charged $100 for shit I didn't want in the first place.
So I decided to do a quick Google search: "Kronos complaints." Google blew up. Page after page of complaint boards popped up in my search, all of them spouting the same general messages: "Kronos isn't 'free,'" the words "scam" and "unethical business practices" jumping off the page. Realizing that I'd been had, I immediately called my CC company. Fortunately, Kronos tried to charge my card when there wasn't enough on it to approve the sale. At that point, they'd attempted it twice and it was declined. I explained the situation to my credit card company, reiterating that I'm unable to cancel this membership and this $100 transaction is going to be repeated every two months. The customer service rep immediately suggested canceling my card and reissuing a new one. I hated having to do it, but that's what I ended up doing to prevent this company from getting another dime from me. And if I thought it would do any good, I'd return their shitty products with explicit instructions on what Mike Shay, the CEO, can do with his RMA number. (I don't think it's coincidence that the initials also stand for Ram it up Mike's Ass. Jus' sayin'.)
I was fortunate, I caught it in time (sometimes poverty isn't all bad) and wasn't charged $98.50. But the problem is, for every one of me, there are hundreds not like me who were charged and are continuing to be charged. Just in Los Angeles county alone, there are 42 complaints (as of 7/17/10), yet the Better Business Bureau gives them an "high rating." Are you KIDDING me?! How screwed up does something have to be in order to receive a BAD rating?
Needless to say, I'm on my way to file a complaint with the BBB about unethical business practices anyway, as well as write a letter to the California Attorney General's office and the advertising director for the news website I found the ad on. I think it's ridiculous that Mike Shay has been able to run a business like this for thirteen years and not get shut down.
Apparently there are two sites for the same product: glow.com and kronoshair.com. Kronos even has their own Twitter. Mike Shay runs several companies under the company name "Intelligent Beauty, LLC." (You can read more about this company's specific violations here.) I'd personally be wary of any company like this one, but obviously I'm once-bitten, twice-shy at this point in time.
As for you, I hope that whenever you order something online, you double-check the fine print and second guess yourself. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Caveat emptor, bitches.