A very good friend of mine was recently ripped off by a tooth whitening system called WhiteOverNite. When she called me to help ... I had no idea of the magnitude of the ripoff.
She obtained this tooth whitener as part of a "Free Giveaway" promotion ... similar to the FREE iPod promotions that probably flood your email inbox.
Fix Your Thinking follow up articles of FREE iPod Promotion Scams:
Tracking Down A Spammer
Tracking Down A Spammer Pt II
Long story short this "Free Thing" that she was to get involved participating in about half a dozen "offers". Some were truly free with no obligation, but most required joining some sort of introductory program or ordering an introductory offer of a product. In this case, the product was WhiteOverNite tooth whitener. The introductory offer cost $3.95. (Note the product was "free" but cost $3.95 for shipping and handling). Two weeks later she receives the "$3.95 Introductory Order of Tooth Whitener". 15 days after receiving the introductory offer, she receives a 1 month supply. A receipt in the package indicates her card has been charged $106.90. (Without consent, without permission, without any way of contacting the company to discuss the charge.)
This is where I stepped in.
Immediately we called her credit card company to file a "Charge Dispute Claim". Instead of allowing us to file initially, her credit card company had a phone number associated with the charge. This number that calls NovaPointe, the WhiteOverNite distributor can not be found any where within their terms, their website, or on their receipt. I asked if the credit card company would give me the number before connecting. They gave me the number then connected me directly to the number then hung up.
The WhiteOverNite customer service representative was ... let's say ... "rude and obnoxious" at best. Essentially telling me that I had an agreement and it was my ethical responsibility to honor that agreement. Further, that there is no guarantee I would be refunded anything even if I sent the unused portion back.
So, I got off the phone. I called the credit card company back. Together with a much better credit card representative on the phone, we filed a dispute right over the phone.
The next day, I took the package with the unused product to the post office and mailed the package certified & return receipt requested.
That same day, I went to RIPOFFREPORT.COM This website is a much more useful tool than the Better Business Bureau. They are not politically correct, nor do they allow BBB members to control the content of complaint reports.
Below is information I was able to find out about WHITEOVERNITE.COM ... I will use this information to demonstrate what you can do to complain and protest.
The WHOIS record for WHITEOVERNITE.COM is:
WHITEOVERNITE.COM / Novapointe LLC
2060 East Francis St
Ontario California 91761 USA
White Over Night Java Trim
6440 Sky Pointe Dr. Suite #140-355
Las Vegas Nevada USA 89131-4048
phone: (702) 387-7297
fax: (702) 387-0992
* This information may be invalid
The ACTUAL phone numbers for contact that the credit card company gave me are:
Other email addresses to cancel auto shipments:
email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
email to: email@example.com
* Note: deceptively ... this email address has the correct spelling of NIGHT in the domain name.
* Note: this email address cannot be found anywhere on the WWW.WHITEOVERNITE.COM website.
Here is the email sent to the above address. Note that there has been no reponse in 10+ days.
My name is XXXXXX XXXXX.
I am contacting you for (1) xxxxxxx xxxxxxx who unknowingly was deceived into joining your teeth whitening program. She has received two shipments. One costing $3.95 on 4/28/06 and another on 5/08/06 for $106.90.
These charges are outrageous and fraudulent.
Please understand that these charges will be reversed in full on her credit card if an immediate refund is not provided. We are willing to send the whitening shipments back which are completely unopened if we obtain an address. We are aware that you may wish to charge a $15.00 service fee. This is unacceptable. Only a full refund will be accepted.
We are considering litigation and have discussed this with an attorney who advised us to send this letter to you.
There is no valid phone number and no valid address any where to be found; making customer service difficult.
You have 24 hours for a valid response to a full refund of the $3.95 and the $106.90.
We will send the unused product back to you per your instructions.
FOR XXXXXXX XXXXXXX
Shipment ID xxxxxxxx
So let's recap how to complain to an online business:
1) If there is a valid email address that can be found on the website, try to address the issue through email
2)If no valid email address can be found, go to WHOIS to find their email address, phone number, and location
3) Send a brief email such as the one above to the vaild email address you can find
4) If no response in 24 hours, do a Google search for the company and append "fraud" or "problem" to the company name
* It is very important to do step 4) before continuing. You need ammunition beyond, "I got ripped off, I want my money back"
5) Find as much information on the company as you can. Websites like the one you are reading should give you lots of information and should relay similar experiences.
6) Be calm, be collected ... be firm, be agressive ... but most of all be reasonable. If you sound like a kook you will be treated like a kook
7) If you can get a valid phone number ... call the company and calmly explain the problem. Do NOT mention the words, "ripoff", "scam", or "lawsuit" ... yet.
8) If you don't make any headway with a phone call ... immediately call your credit card company and get a "charge dispute" filed over the phone ... your credit card company may make you file a letter dispute. Repeat step # 6.
9) Send the items with as much of the original packaging as you have via CERTIFIED RETURN RECEIPT requested mail. If you send the package back ANY OTHER WAY ... you may not be able to get the chargeback or may get a denial from the company that your credit card company files the dispute against.
10) If after 25 days you do not have a full credit of the funds ... call your credit card company again and confirm the chargeback status
To be continued ...
This series will continue over the next week (or so). In upcoming parts, I will share the steps of reporting bad business, following through with legal action, taking consumer advocacy action against the business, and finally I will demonstrate how to picket an actual business (by actually doing so). So ... stay tuned.