Operators are Standing By – Or Are They?

You’ve seen the TV commercials or heard the radio ads,“Call right now to take advantage of this special offer” or “We’re giving this great deal to the first 100 callers.” BBB says be careful, many times it’s a high pressure sales tactic businesses use to get you to buy more items.

A Loveland, Ohio man says he responded to a “Free Trial Offer” he heard on the radio. He ordered the free trial and only agreed to pay $9.99 for shipping. The recording then asked three times about other promotions which he replied no to all. When he was checking his credit card statement, he noticed he was billed $9.99 but then, 18 days later, he was billed $49.99 for one of the promotions he had declined.

He called the company and was told he had also agreed to two additional charges. But, again, he never spoke with anyone he was responding to a recording– and he never signed anything either. He then contacted his credit card company to dispute the charge. These types of advertising calls, where you never talk with a live person and just deal with a recording, are becoming very common so be aware if you do respond to one of these ads.

Trial offers are promoted through all types of media. In print ad offers, the material terms may appear in fine print as a footnote at the bottom of a page, or on the back of the offer.

BBB recommends to protect yourself:

  • Read the entire offer carefully before you decide whether it is a good deal for you.

  • When offers are made orally – whether by radio, TV or on the phone – listen carefully to the message.

  • If you do not understand the details, ask the caller to repeat the terms and conditions as many times as it takes until you understand.

  • Ask them to send you the terms and conditions in writing. Never give into pressure to agree to a deal.

If you decide to try a trial offer and have trouble with it, try resolving the issue with the company offering it. If you are dissatisfied with the response, contact BBB with a complaint, the Federal Trade Commission or your local Consumer Protection Agency. Remember, you can always check out the company before even calling about it by visiting bbb.org. Start with someone you Trust.

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About Howard Ain

Howard Ain has been reporting consumer news on Cincinnati television for the past 38 years. He also writes a newspaper column alerting readers to consumer scams. He now joins BBB|Cincinnati as a correspondent.