If you live in New York and you recently purchased more Snuggies, Perfect Brownie Pans and Perfect Bacon Bowls than you had intended, you may be receiving a partial refund soon thanks to your Attorney General. It appears that the distributor/maker of these products, Allstar, has been conveniently confusing consumers into paying ‘hidden’ charges, thus making the purchases less than the bargain their customers thought they were getting. Now, Allstar will be paying the state of New York $8 million in damages for their marketing perfidy, with the lucre distributed to the wronged consumers.
So, just what was Allstar doing to confuse their customers? Like many products hawked in infomercials, you usually have to purchase the items via a website or call an 800 number. This is where it gets tricky. You’d think that ordering online would be easy and transparent, right? Well, not so with infomercial products; they ain’t Amazon after all. Often a customer will be led through a series of screens touting another ‘similar’ product at a ‘bonus’ price. Instead of having a “no thanks” button, you’ll click a “Continue” button which sometimes, rather sneakily, records a purchase. Your only chance of removing the product from your cart is to go through the nearly endless screens until you reach Checkout, and then carefully audit your purchases, otherwise you’ll be paying for items you thought you’d rejected.
Besides this shady marketing tactic, Allstar also played fast and loose with a “Buy One Get One Free” promotion, according to this article:
The company, Allstar, allegedly lured customers with TV commercials that promoted a “Buy one, get one” offer, but did not disclose that they would be charged two separate processing and handling fees, according to an investigation by the Attorney General. In some cases, the fees would nearly double the cost of the offer.
Allstar also allegedly set up an intentionally confusing ordering process that would include numerous up-sell offers. It didn’t always give customers a chance to amend or review their order before it was processed.
The Attorney General began investigating the company after receiving hundreds of consumer complaints.
One customer who tried to buy two Perfect Brownie Pans unknowingly purchased six and was charged $105. Although he complained that he was subjected to an intentionally misleading automated telephone script and only meant to buy two pans, the customer was not able to get a full refund.
Let’s face it, these infomercials can be entertaining and the products enticing — but before you grab your laptop or phone to order, remember that the $9.99 price tag is meant to draw you in for a bigger payoff for the manufacturer/seller. Better to wait until these products end up at Target, Walmart, or Bed Bath & Beyond like they usually do.