The Cost of Free

Written by BG Howard

June 23, 2023

While sitting at my trusty computer researching the proper method to start a blog, one of those intrusive (appropriately named) “pop-ups” attacked the laptop screen. The purveyors of these increasingly bothersome ads have become craftier as when we find ways to block the pesky invaders, they just develop more skillful methods of getting around the obstacles.

Needless-to-say, the advertisement did catch my attention and momentarily distracted me from my intended purpose. Before I’d realized having taken the bait, nearly twenty minutes had passed and two or three “free” items had been selected for a thirty day trial period. I should have noticed the “fly in the milk” when the third page of the “application” requested my credit card information but it was a “molasses on a Maine winter” day for me. For those readers who might be wearing an overcoat, that means I was having a little trouble connecting the dots.

At any rate, by conclusion of the automated call, I’d elected for the “free” trial of three dietary supplements designed to do everything short of making me more attractive. Admittedly, the body ain’t exactly what it used to be and the daily morning workout has been reduced to whatever day I can. Taking that into consideration, I figured, “What the heck? With a pill for darned near everything imaginable, something has to work.”

Everything was so convenient and it wasn’t even necessary to speak with a real person in the process of placing the order. Assurance of a thirty day money back guarantee made the feat even more appealing as the “system” specified I could use the product for twenty-five of the thirty days, return the unused portion, and still qualify for a full refund. My best impression of a wide mouth bass had me take the bait; hook, line and sinker as the only responsibility I had was to cover shipping costs. Now that I think of it, $12.95 did seem a bit much for shipping three vitamin bottles but I reasoned the cost justifiable as the product was to be received within two to three business days.

Anticipation guided me to the post office the second day but there was nothing of significance occupying the box. My return the third, forth, and fifth days amounted to little more than daily outings as the result remained the same. Finally, with no supplements to speak of, I phoned the company last week. Of course, it required a full seven minutes for me to maneuver the previously user friendly automated system before I could reach a real person. (I think she might have been the only warm-blooded individual on staff.)

By the time I’d finished being manipulated by the emotionless automated voice response “attendant,” there wasn’t anything I wanted to hear from anybody short of, “Yes sir, your cancellation will be processed promptly.” Of course, that would have been too much like right as the patronizing agent proved a more difficult conversationalist than the voice response robot.

She first informed my order couldn’t be cancelled due to the fact it had already shipped; totally disregarding the fact I stated having never received shipment. The next option, she advised, would be to return the products which would then qualify me for the refund “minus any processing and appropriated administration fees” which totaled twenty-two dollars. This, again, wouldn’t be feasible due to the previously stated condition of not having received my order. And thirdly, Ms. Anita offered, I could simply elect to keep the product and pay the “drastically reduced amount of $38” while canceling any future orders.

I, at that point, was pretty much done trying to explain to the agent that nothing she’d suggested provided a viable option as any solution offered hinged on my receipt of the order. Her conclusion to the matter was a faulty assessment that the credit card provided would be automatically billed each month until the account was cancelled which couldn’t be done until the product was returned. (Did I not point out the product was never received?)

Consequently, I spent more than half an hour on the phone with a representative at my banking institution to undertake the process of completing a complaint form and have to wait for the matter to be reviewed. In the mean time, to avoid charges to my credit card, it had to be cancelled and another issued which requires seven to ten business days. Not to mention all the creditors who have that specific card on file as my form of payment that will now have to be contacted and the payment information updated. In short, the concept of “free” signifies a ploy formulated to relieve unsuspecting individuals of their finances. I could be wrong but it’s just something to consider.

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