M = Margarita
L = Lysette
Got a bill three months ago from Seventeen magazine. No, I don’t read Seventeen, but L does. The renewal for another year was $7.97. Seemed reasonable to me, so I wrote a check and mailed it out. 30 days pass and I get a bill from Seventeen’s renewal department. The bill was for $7.97. This time, M was paying the bills. Since we had discussed it, and M was on board with renewing this magazine for L, she assumed that I was just getting billed for the renewal. She did not even think twice about the possibility that I already paid the bill. Honest mistake.
30 more days pass. I get another bill from Seventeen…for a one-year renewal. In my usual hurry, I looked at it, and assumed that I had forgotten to pay the original renewal fee. I was blissfully unaware that I had paid it…and that M had paid it. And at such a small amount due, I didn’t expend energy checking into it. So I put a check in the mail.
Two weeks ago…got a bill. Seventeen. $7.97. Renewal fee. This time, I was paying the bills and I looked back at the history. What did I find? Three separate payments to Seventeen…each for $7.97. I was pissed. First, I was pissed at myself for not catching it sooner. Second, I was pissed at Seventeen because they were obviously aware that they had been paid, yet they continued billing me.
I checked with my bank…and sure enough…all three checks cleared days after I mailed them. Then I wrote a nice, verbose cease and desist letter to the subscription renewal department. I informed them that their actions were tantamount to a scam…and warned them that I would involve the state’s Attorney General’s office if any more invoices were received. I popped that bad boy in the mail and sent it off, along with a copy of the cancelled checks and their latest bogus invoice.
Three days later, I had a letter in my mailbox from Seventeen. It seems they were “sorry for the inconvieience”…and blabbered on about how it was my fault that I paid them three times. As a result, they agreed to extend my subscription to 2013, and to cease invoicing me! Most people would throw up their arms at this point and say…”OK.” Not me. I wanted a one year renewal, not a 3 year…so I fully intend to request a refund of $15.94.
A similar scam was attempted by Rodale Books. It seems I was signed up to receive the “Taste of Home” Cookbook series without my knowledge or permission. As such, I returned the last book I received – via marking it refused at the post office. Of course, I still got a bill for it…three times.
It would be easy to overlook a bill like this and pay it, much like swatting an annoying fly that buzzes about your face. But…..you have to be extraordinarily careful these days. These vampire billing scams can drain valuable dollars from your account on a monthly basis. $7.97 here and $11.99 there add up to Real Money.
Be on the alert…especially for Hearst and Rodale titles…which have scammed me in the past. Be aware of what you subscribe to, or what bills are due and when. A good move would be to create an Excel spreadsheet of each magazine you subscribe to and its expiration. Then track renewal requests, and discard them as you see fit. Also, don’t go through the magazine directly to renew…always renew through a third party, and it will be $5 or more cheaper. Refuse anything you did not order by marking the package “refused” and stuff it back in the mailbox. Refuse to pay for things you did not purchase, even if a collections department threatens to put a dark mark on your credit. Knowledge is power. Know your rights.