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Andale: Let's go rip off our customers!

Here's a scenario for you.

Say you run a business and some of the services you offer are free. Say, for example, you are a company that helps people list online auctions and you give away counters for free as a way of marketing your products and getting your name out there. And say you have some products that you sell for a premium, such as a research reports for sellers.

Now, say you want your company to be a really, really big success. You want people to try your paid services. So, do you:

a) Send emails asking customers who use the free products to consider upgrading to the paid products with, say, a money-back guarantee if they are not satisfied?

b) Send emails offering customers a free trial of a product and give them a certain amount of time to cancel or be billed for the service.

c) Send your customers an email saying that, because they have tried your free products, you assume that they would like to try your paid ones, too ... AND TAKE THE MONEY OUT OF THEIR FREAKING CHECKING ACCOUNTS WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION!

Yesterday I noticed that Andale auction services (pronounced Ahn-DUH-lay) took about $8 out of my checking account, even though I didn't order anything from them. I have, however, used their free services in the past. I assumed the charge was a mistake, called the company, and asked them to credit my account. They told me it would take four to six weeks to do so. Assuming it was an honest mistake--a glitch or something--and thinking I problably didn't have much of a choice, anyway, I reluctantly agreed.

Today (the day after they they debited my account, by the way) they sent me this email:

New Andale Research

Dear (user name),

On September 1, 2005, Andale launched a new Research product by taking the best of our two research services, How To Sell and Price Finder, and merging them into one powerful offering. Since you were previously signed up for the free version of How To Sell, your account was converted over to the new, more powerful Research product which costs $7.95 per month.

If you do not wish to keep Andale Research, please reply to this email on or before September 25, 2005, and we will cancel the product and refund your Research fees for September (if we have already collected from you). This is a monthly subscription service and you will be billed $7.95 per month should you choose to keep the product.

As well, we have received great feedback on Andale Research so if you have any questions related to using the product, feel free to email us at supportplatinum@andale.com.

Regards,

The Andale Team

Well! So long as they have received great feedback, they should feel free to just take the money right out of my checking account without my permission, right? After all, they know what I like! They should just assume that since I signed up for the free product, naturally I would want to go ahead and spend eight bucks a month for a premium version. I mean, it's just so perfectly fucking reasonable!*

I sent them back a really angry email with lots of upper case letters. I demanded that they credit my account immediately and not in four to six weeks and that they cancel my account. Do you know how they responded? Can you guess? Of course you can. They sent me an automated FAQ email that was supposed to answer any question I might possibly have.

Meanwhile, they're hijacking their customers' checking accounts ... and you KNOW there are people who won't notice a $7.95 debit, especially if it's from a company they have done business with in the past. So, what, Andale gets to just keep the money they get from those people? Or from people who have changed their email since signing up for Andale's free products? Or who are on vacation or, I don't know, flooded out of their freaking homes and away from their computers? And, further, the rat bastards get to collect another round next month and the month after that?

Seriously, does this shit even seem legal?

Hey, maybe they figured turnaround is fair play.

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4 comments:

Alice said...

This is INSANE and TOTALLY illegal!! At least it sounds that way to me. I would contact the BBB and see what they have to say, or at least find a human being to yell at at Andale. That's totally outrageous.

Katie said...

I also think that is insane. While they are holding your $7.95, they are getting interest on all the people they have charged....
Not only do I think you should call the BBB, I think you should call Help me Hank!!! Too bad Fox doesn't have a HmH.
How did they get your checking account?

karenology said...

Ugh, that's terrible. This might not work for the money they've already taken out, but I'm pretty sure you can go to your bank and block any future withdrawals from them.

Adrienne said...

It is an illegal, sinister, subversive conspiracy similar to mind-control and is pervasive throughout every aspect of our consumer oriented lives.