If you’ve ever ordered anything online, you usually expect there to be a little bit of shipping delay between when you click Buy and the time you get it. But many As Seen On TV companies use shipping delays in a variety of ways, usually to benefit THEMSELVES and not the consumer! Let’s take a look at some of the more unscrupulous ones we’ve seen, shall we?
1. Sometimes the product doesn’t even exist yet
Many companies often run infomercials just to see if there’s a demand. The motto is: Sell First Build Second. According to an article in Inc., companies often test new products in a 2-week run on local cable television stations, spending about $20,000-$30,000 in commercial time. They may set up a telephone number and website, changing the name or adjusting the price until it hits the “sweet spot” where people start buying (or it simply flops). By law, merchants are required to ship a product within the time stated in the ads or on the phone; saying products take 4-6 weeks shipping, they are buying themselves time. If these products don’t end up shipping they’re supposed to give you your money back or not charge you until it has actually shipped. (For what to do when this happens, skip to the bottom of the article.)
What you can do: Never buy anything you see on TV on impulse.
2. Shipping fees are a way to make more money off of you
As outlined in our article about Sneaky Pricing, shipping fees for these As Seen On TV products are almost always non-refundable. The total amount is usually in fine print or only revealed on your next credit card bill. Other companies may use a slow method of shipping in order to get you to pay more money for “Expedited Delivery,” with only a few days difference when it actually arrives.
What you can do: Make sure to calculate all shipping fees before you click the “Buy” button. If the charges add up to more than the retail price DON’T do it!
3. Long shipping times can also shorten the trial and/or money-back guarantee period
For example, TLS Hair offers what it says is a 14-day trial of their hair-enhancing supplement. But when you look at the Terms and Conditions, this time starts on the date of order, not when it arrives in the mail. You must also contact them and return the bottle within that time, making for an even shorter window. After that, they charge your bank account automatically.
“Stay away from this product. Not only does it not show up for several weeks, they continue to charge you for more. I spoke to one of their salespersons online and told them that I didn't want the product and that I was considering canceling the order. They billed my credit card for over $110.00 and would not refund it. The person was rude and tried to accuse me of committing fraud,” says a consumer named Jenn on our website about her experience with TLS Hair.
What you can do: Read the fine print carefully, make sure any money back guarantee starts from the day you receive the package, not when you ordered it!
4. They’ll use shipping to make you pay for more products
Some of these companies (particularly smart drugs, cosmeceuticals, and supplements) sign you up for a subscription without you knowing it. By the time it’s arrived in the mail, you’ve already been billed. Or they may throw in other so-called “free” products with your order, but bill you for them disguised as shipping fees.
“I ordered a pillow that came with another one free. One more pillow that I did not want was automatically added, causing the total to come out to just about $89. I was not able to confirm or change the order,” Kylee Y from Hawaii reported about her experience with Miracle Bamboo Pillow.
It was a good thing Kylee looked: according to a CBS News story, 90 percent of consumers fail to check their credit card or bank statements carefully.
What you can do: Read your credit card and bank statements every month. Set up an alert in your online account to notify you of any purchases above a certain amount: set it to $1.
The Best Way To Avoid Long Shipping
We’ll let you in on a little secret about most of these As Seen On TV products: in spite of saying they’re not available in stores – they ARE!
As mentioned above, once these test commercials are deemed successful (meaning human guinea pigs are ordering them), they quickly make a deal with retailers to put them on the “As Seen On TV” aisle. Telebrands, the largest/original ASOTV company makes 90% of their sales from physical stores (CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, etc.) not via phone or internet.
So if you’re really interested in something you see in an infomercial, go to a retailer in your local area and see if it’s in stock. That way, you can hold it and if it doesn’t look like a piece of crap take it home without any shipping delays or charges.
Never Got What You Ordered?
If you bought something online and never received it, you do have some recourse through the Fair Credit Billing Act and the Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule.
But it’s up to you to send a letter to your credit card company within 60 days by certified mail. A sample dispute letter and more information can be found on the FTC website. You should also contact your State and Local Consumer Agency.
And please help alert others by posting a comment or review on BrightReviews.com!
You may also like: The Science of Infomercials: Why You Buy