Caught in the World Wide Web

After all my warnings to readers of my financial advice columns about on-line scams, overblown ads and that “free” usually isn’t, I got caught in the web of online sales!

How could I have fallen for a pretty face—the one I hoped to have from an all new wonder cream touted by the already pretty face on my computer screen eager to send me a sample…free! Smart, enlightened me—a wary, skeptical senior—fell into a typical internet trap on The World Wide Web…which swiftly tangled me in its sticky strings.

I believed the charismatic T.V. cook, designer, decorator, now into facial care, whose miracle potion would immediately wipe away years, erase wrinkles, tweak time…at no cost…just a modest charge for postage and handling. Her celebrity had earned her the right to invade my skin and my credit card.

I’d decide to buy more “later” if I wanted. The copy assured me that this brand alone offered the secret to ageless beauty easily proven after a short trial of daily slatherings on my freshly cleansed face. All for free, no purchase necessary.

Did I miss any “fine print?” Did I search for any hidden box about on-going purchases? Did I seek a clue to future fees, or a way to delete sure-to-follow sales? Nope! I eagerly capitulated to this second string Martha Stewart who warned of “no time to delay!” I must quickly click…for the almost gone…only one to a customer…still free sample!

My “gift” arrived faster than any second thoughts. For a few nights, I gamely scrubbed, smeared and searched for signs of a freshened façade. Almost through the gunky stuff, however, the only thing firmed up was the fact that my wrinkles, age spots and eye sags remained intact.

Not ‘til the credit card’s outrageous charge arrived did I face (you should pardon the expression) the egregious cost for a skinny jar of Crisco colored lather that clearly reminded me of my mother’s long ago Pond’s face cream, an earlier promise-her-everything product from those dark ages before the internet.

And listed beneath the promised low rate for postage and handling was another huge sum that rivaled the down payment for an entire face lift. Obviously, I’d missed some on-line opt-out!

“My bad,” as the kids say; I had no one to blame but myself. The only lasting change would be on-going charges popping up on my credit card bill. All I could do was share my chagrin with the understanding, if not optimistic, Billing Department of Discover.

“Yes,” I said, “I’d tried to call the line of numbers listed on the bill. No answer.” On–line searches revealed…no product name, no email, nothing at all, until I chased Ms. Semi-Star to another web page with another number. A smiling voice answered, heard my story, plight and money-back request. Still quite friendly, she said, “Oh, we only do pots and pans here.” She had no knowledge of creams or corporate offices or company websites. She was cookware only, and Teflon or not, she was sticking to it!

My journey with Discover covered numerous explanations, apologies, shameful begging! They’d do what they could—and did—a one and a half year block of any future payments ($.01 to $1,000), in case I’d unwittingly signed on for a life-long supply. I carved the date on my calendar and prepared to pay the costly initial penance…until…the subsequent statement listed a full refund and complete cancellation of my original order. I gratefully accepted this early, unexpected Christmas gift and didn’t wait ‘til New Year’s for a real face-saving resolution: severely limit on-line purchases and always read the extra fine print!

About Evie Preston

Evie enjoys the double life of a freelance writer and a financial columnist as the Money Lady for Active Over 50 magazine. Her humor pieces appear in the Palo Alto Weekly and other local publications. In a warm and witty style, Evie slants many of her articles on the facts and foibles of senior living. She also explores her past adventures in the food business and often returns to her first love, teaching.
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