More and more product purveyors are offering 14-day free trails. It sounds like a great deal. Try the product for 14 days for free. If these trials are legitimate and from reputable companies, then they are a great way to try before you buy. Free anything is good right? Not always. The word free should evoke an immediate response of “caveat emptor,” let the buyer beware.
Here is an example of a 14 day free trial from a non-reputable company: Consumer takes the 14 day free trial, without understanding all the conditions. Consumer receives product 12 days after he places the order. Inside the box is a folded piece of paper that states-in very small print-that the 14 day free trial started on the day of the order, all returns require a return number and regular monthly shipments will be made unless the consumer cancels. Consumer attempts to call the customer service number provided and gets an automated system telling him to leave a number and someone will call him back within 48 hours. There is no return phone call. Consumer also sends an email to the customer service address on the website, which bounces back as undeliverable. While the consumer is trying to find a way to contact the company, another “monthly” shipment arrives. Consumer now has three charges against his credit card, one for the 14 day trial and 2 for monthly product delivery. Sound like a nightmare? It is still going on. Since the merchant is one of those that the credit card company can’t block, the charges keep showing up and the consumer must dispute every charge or change his account number to stop the charges.
Before you decide to take the free trial and end up like this poor guy, there are some things you should explore. If you are calling, ask the representative the following questions. If you are going through a website, examine the fine print and if you don’t find the answers, send an email asking for clarification, then save and print the information-because the website might disappear.
What is the procedure for canceling or returning product? It is imperative that you know how the cancellation and/or return policy is structured. Look for words like “non-refundable” and “returns require a return number.” These are good indicators that after your 14 day trial, you may have no recourse, even if there is a problem with the product. You should also understand who pays return shipping and how much of your payment will be refunded. Sometimes companies charge a “restocking fee.”
When does the 14 days begin? Some companies start counting the 14 days from the day you order and if it takes 10 days for the order to ship, you may not get any days to try the product before your 14 days are up and you are billed.
Is the seller a new company? Some companies go into business offering products with the intent to make a quick buck, rather than to stay in business. They make a big advertising push, rake in their quick money, then disappear into the night. Established companies are less likely to ignore customer complaints and more likely to stand behind their product. Check with the Better Business Bureau and do a bit of online research about the company. Know the city and state where they are located, so you can contact the appropriate consumer protection agencies, if you have trouble with the company.
If you opt into a 14-day trial, be sure to follow all the instructions. If product is returnable, it may be necessary for it to be in its original package, so don’t throw it away. Stay on top of the calendar and if you intend to cancel, don’t wait until the fourteenth day.