Dr. Jan Meyer: 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice ...'

By : 
Dr. Jan Meyer
The Biker's Diary

This isn’t the first time I have been scammed because I ordered something online.

Last time was when I ordered a facial product supposedly developed by a well-known HGTV personality, Joanna Gaines. I ordered the trial offer, which was a free sample.

Well, it was supposedly free, but the shipping alone was obviously the profit-maker for the company, since it was higher than could have been possible for the actual shipping.

The sample arrived, but two weeks later, so did a surprise: a bill for $79, the monthly charge for my supposed “subscription.”

That was a long saga of battles to resolve the issue, but it never was to my satisfaction. I did find Gaines had nothing to do with this product. These companies only exist online and seem to be above any ethical behavior, so I vowed I would not “bite” again for any of these online offers.

That resolve didn’t last long enough. Recently a particularly enticing pair of boots kept popping up in a sidebar ad on my email. The first time I started to order them, I got as far as entering my credit card number before I thought better of it. However, that ad kept singing its siren song to me, and I gave in and ordered them.

Of course the boots turned out to be not leather as had been advertised, and also too long and too narrow, even though I had ordered my correct shoe size. I started the process of attempting to return them.

I found the company’s instructions for doing so, which required that I had to request an “authorization code” which would be sent to me within 48 hours of requesting it.

I did that, and a day later, I received a generic email detailing how to order from this company, and at the end there was a repetition of the return instructions that I had already followed, including all the required information.

In response, I sent a message reminding someone at their “service desk” email address that they had already used up 24 hours of their promised 48 with this unhelpful email, and that I was still awaiting return instructions.

I did not receive them within the 48 hours, and about ten days later, after I had sent more emails, I finally got a note stating that the return address was in China, that I had to pay for shipping them there, and they had to arrive within seven days of my receiving the merchandise, already gone by.

The only other option was to take a 15% “cash” refund on the purchase price, but my window to do that was also already passed. I wondered how they would get cash to me anyway.

We are culturally ingrained to expect that people are going to be treated in a fair manner. This certainly didn’t seem fair to me, and possibly also illegal.

Since there was a return address on the package in which the boots were shipped to me, I started trying to find out more about it. I was really curious if that U.S. company was aware of what kind of company for whom they were acting as a shipper.

When I tried “googling” it, I could find no company anywhere under that name. I contacted the Chamber of Commerce in the California town, which responded they knew of no business in their city by that name.

I tried other logistics companies in that area, and one actually responded. The agent there did a little research and made a suggestion of a similarly-named company. I have tried but have received no response from that company. And the “service center” at the original company from which I ordered, AnnieCloth, is no longer responding to my email requests.

These two online experiences have convinced me that at least some companies who do business entirely online are free from any legal restraints.

They seem to operate by the motto “Let the buyer beware.” I am sure I will not be tempted again, even by seductive pictures and prices. Instead, my motto will be “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” And now I have started thinking about an experience that supports the theory that “The exception proves the norm.”

Here’s a P.S. from my previous diary page about the view of the world from a wheelchair. I ran out of time and space before I could add another strategy used by disabled people who must “ride” instead of walk.

Years ago, at the big airline at which I worked, one of our senior officers had been in a wheelchair most of his life due to muscular dystrophy. Yet, possibly surprising and curious to many people, he had risen through the corporate ranks at work, and was a strong figure in big city politics.

His office was about 30 feet from my desk, so I had lots of daily opportunities to observe him and to get to know him (With a background in behavioral psychology, it is habit!).

Every year he was part of Jerry Lewis’ MD Telethon, broadcast from Las Vegas, and every year he selected a few employees to go with him. One year I received that honor. Again, that was an opportunity to observe his behavior.

Eventually I decided I’d like to write a book about him. It would be titled “The Electric Throne,” because that was his strategy. He gently ruled, and people listened.

It wasn’t until my grad school colleague did her research about communication strategies of permanently disabled people that I realized he had developed a winning strategy for dealing with life as he knew it. In itself that’s a lesson for all of us.