Have you seen the Video Professor on television? Nice infomercial type advertisements where you’re offered all sorts of computer software for free.. just pay shipping and handling.
If you’re like most people, you probably thought the company made its money on the shipping and handling fees. They gave out cheap CDs of software that cost them a couple of bucks to make and ship, and they charge consumers $6.95 or $9.95 for shipping, netting them about $5 to $8 in profit.
Unfortunately, that’s not really how the scam works. Thy are getting a lot more than $9.95 from customers. And they’re trying hard to shut up the people who are exposing Video Professor.
The scam is simple. You pay the “shipping and handling fee” with your credit card, and then a short time later the company charges you a big fee you probably didn’t even know was coming.
According to a fascinating article at TechCrunch, if you do business with Video Professor, be prepared for your credit card to be charged $190 to $290.
They say what you’ll see on the site depends on whether you visit videoprofessor.com directly, or if you get to the site from one of their advertising partners. Directly accessing the site seems to be the “least scammy” way they’re getting consumers. In tiny print on the home page, there is a statement that you’ll be charged $290 if you do business with them. You’re getting three CDs from them, but only 2 are free and the 3rd accounts for the $290 charge:
ANY TWO of the three computer tutorial CD-ROMs are yours free without further obligation, PERIOD. Take 10 days to decide if you want to keep the complete set of CDs. After your 10-day free trial, if you decide to keep the complete set, we’ll conveniently bill your credit card just $289.95. Or simply call our customer care number at
1-800-519-4110 if you decide to return any one of the lessons. You will be charged nothing more and get to keep two computer learning CD-ROMS! You can also return everything within 10 days and receive a full Shipping and Processing refund upon your request.
Get past that page, however, and you might not see the information about the $290 charge. There are some small statements about a “purchase charge” on the rest of the site, but details are conveniently not there.
Once you fill out the purchase information, you get links to pages with long agreements that have the details about the $290 charge buried deep within them. Now some may say that this disclosure is fine, and it’s the consumer’s responsibility to read the agreements.
I agree to some extent, because we should be reading these agreements before we buy anything online. However, the way this is executed is clearly designed to dupe consumers. If Video Professor wants this to be completely on the up-and-up, why not display the $290 charge prominently on each page you visit to complete your transaction?
And even if you are aware of the $290 charge, it seems consumers are having big problems getting their money back when they return the materials per the company’s offer… Return the third CD within 10 days and you won’t be charged. Yet numerous complaints are found online from consumers who have followed the rules, have still been charged, and haven’t been able to get their money back.
It doesn’t help matters that Video Professor has resorted to threats to stop people from writing about their business practices. Here’s one article about the company’s attempts to go after critics of their company.
I’ve seen this with a company called MonaVie. And I’ve been down this road before with a company called Shop To Earn. They were trying to scare bloggers into not writing about their opinions and criticisms of the company, even when they had no legal basis for doing so. (No, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on TV. But I know that I have an absolute right in America to voice my opinions and otherwise discuss business models that I have a concern about.)
Really, if Video Professor thought there was nothing wrong with how they were doing business, why resort to threats and intimidation? Why not just clarify things in the press and then modify the site to address any of the perceived problems? Probably because the current way of doing business is too profitable and they’d rather roll the dice and hope that bloggers and media outlets cave to their improper demands.