When you hear that something costs 99 cents, it sounds like a bargain. Sometimes it is, but often it isn't.
You might pay 99 cents to download a song from iTunes or Amazon. That can be a pretty good deal.
But when Terry, of Twin Falls, Id., spent 99 cents for a "free" trial of CleanWhites, it didn't turn out so well.
"After I received the order I found out that I needed to return the free trial in 14 days or be charged $79.95, I called CleanWhites to cancel the order and was told I would not be charged if I returned the free trial," Terry wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. "I mailed it back and assumed all was well until I received a charge of $79.95. I called the company and they claim they never received the free sample back."
Not really free
First, it wasn't really a free sample if it had to be returned. And second, to avoid having the company claim they didn't receive the shipment, Terry would have had to go to the extra expense of sending it registered mail.
David, of Marion, Ohio, says he paid 99 cents to do a reverse telephone lookup to track down a company.
"On May 3 I viewed my bank statement to not only discover the 99-cent charge but also two additional charges of $19.99 each for two other companies 1) US Search and 2) Indentity Protect," David posted to ConsumerAffairs. "I called my bank and found out these were to be monthly recurring charges."
The 99 cent purchase obviously signed David up for these services, but he insists he saw nothing to indicate that.
"I called the company and got nothing but arrogance until I indicated I would contact the Ohio Attorney General with an Internet fraud complaint," David wrote.
Acai Berry Pure
David, of Ballston Spa, N.Y., says he thought he was getting a free sample of Acai Berry Pure and only had to pay 99 cents for shipping. Turns out it was more expensive than that. Learning that accepting the sample obligated him to a full order unless he cancelled within a window of time, David said he called the company and cancelled.
"An amount of $149.95 was taken out of our account," David writes. "I called again only to be told to email the cancellation to customer service and to allow 7-10 days for the refund."
But David said the refund never arrived.
All three consumers thought they were getting a very good deal, but ended up having to pay more than they expected, or fighting with the companies to get their money back. For them, 99 cents turned out not to be much of a bargain.
There's a simple way to avoid this aggravation. Never agree to pay a small shipping fee in order to receive a supposedly free sample or trial offer. A "free" product should not require you to supply a credit or debit card.
If you do, you can be billed for all sorts of products and have to argue with the company about whether you ordered it or not.