Thursday, January 07, 2010

Bitter Berries

Promoters extol Acai berries as the greatest thing for our health since the Mayo Clinic. So, when we spotted a webpage ad offering a free month’s supply of Acai in pill form, we thought it would be a great way to try the substance. We agreed to pay only shipping and handling costs, which were less than two dollars.

We were flim-flammed.

The day the pills arrived our VISA card, in addition to the shipping charge, had another charge of $88.64 by the Acai Berry Tropic Company. We phoned the firm. They said the charge was for our “membership,” which would ensure continuing shipments of their wonderful products. After a long discussion about the fact that we had not applied for any membership or authorized a fee, Acai Berry Tropic’s agent agreed to cancel our “membership” if we returned the pills, which we did. We then had to dispute the charge with VISA.

By coincidence, the September/October AARP magazine, which arrived while all this was going on, has an article titled “The Scam Stops Here.” It states that a company called Central Coast Nutraceuticals paid $1,375,000 in fines and restitution in an Acai fraud case. The article described the scam as: “You go for the free-trial offer online. You pay for shipping and handling with a credit card. Then, when the bill arrives, you find the trial was anything but free—you’ve signed up for an ongoing supply of the product at a hefty price.”

Sound familiar? The “sign-up” in our case was buried deep in some fine print that only the most dedicated reader would ever find.

If you must sample Acai berries, you might be wise to fly down to the Amazon country where they grow, pick some, and consume them on the spot. That actually could be a cost saver. AARP reported that some victims of Acai scams have been ripped off for several hundred dollars. And, at least you would know you were eating the real thing.

1 comment:

Alan G said...

This kind of 'crap' really gets my dandruff up so I can relate. I got scammed by one of those membership things some years back.

Fortunately the issue was only a $10 a year membership fee. I was able to get the membership cancelled but not refunded.