Interest in dietary supplements is at an all time high, thanks to highly-publicized scientific research on nutrients and phytochemicals; and how they influence health and disease. When searching for supps, the internet is an obvious source to turn to, since the variety is greater and it’s much easier to shop from the comfort of your home or office. Problem is, it’s also much easier to make snap judgements, that you may later come to regret.
While there are many reputable online supplement retailers, the market is a fertile one for less-than-ethical vendors looking to make a fast buck off naive consumers. When surfing the internet for weight loss, muscle-building and/or anti-aging supplements, it will pay you to be wary of claims that sound too good to be true, particularly when they’re presented along with seemingly innocent “free trial” offers. A free trial might look like a good deal, and sometimes it is… but more often than not, it’s a cleverly-disguised trap.
My colleague at ultimatefatburner.com, Paul Crane, has looked into quite a few of these so-called free trial offers – so I’m gonna let the man speak for himself:
While the US Federal Trade Commission has been cracking down on some of the more outrageous “free trial” scams, there’s no real penalty for marketers who know exactly where the lines are drawn and come right up to the edge. Paul gets complaints all the time from sadder-but-wiser customers who failed to read the fine print… which can be very fine indeed.
For example, the order form for this “ParaSlim Force” free trial is waaaay up at the top, right next to a photo of a seriously ripped, muscular dude (who isn’t even a ParaSlim user - he can be found over at iStockphoto.com). And that’s just the start! The whole page is filled with breathless descriptions and transformation pics documenting the sheer fat-burning and muscle-building awesomeness of this supp.
So where are the terms and conditions I’m agreeing to if I fill out the form and click the “Rush My Trial Order Today” button? The link is at the bottom of the page - past all the testimonials, photos and ad copy. Clicking on it brings up a second, totally booooring page filled with a whole lotta text… which simply can’t be taken in at a glance.
Nor should it be, since this page contains some VERY valuable information. Here are (literally!) the money quotes:
1. Your 14 day Trial Period will start when you click the “Submit & Confirm” button on our website.
Whoa Nellie!!! Just like Paul sez in the vid, the “free trial” doesn’t begin when I get the bottle… it begins the moment I click the button, days before the product even arrives. How many days?
2. Your order will be processed within 2 business days. Shipping time is estimated to be three to five (3-5) calendar days and is included in your 14 Day Trial Period, so you will have approximately eleven (11) calendar days to evaluate the Product.
A minimum of 3… so at best, it’s an 11 – not 14 – day trial. But that’s just an approximation – not a guarantee.
When we ship the Product to you, our Standard ground mail service is shipped via the combined services of the United States Postal Service and United Parcel Service. With our Expedited Priority Processing Option (if available), we will make your shipment our priority and ship your package out the same day for all orders placed before 1PM EST and the next day for all orders placed after 1PM EST (packages should arrive within three to five (3-5) business days). Please note that shipments are not sent out on Saturdays, Sundays, or any Holidays. We do not guarantee arrival dates or times.
Beyond the “we do not guarantee arrival times or dates” clause, there’s something else here you should notice. A subtle switcheroo has occurred… in the earlier quote, it was “three to five (3-5) calendar days.” But here, it’s “three to five (3-5) business days.” Calendar days and business days are NOT the same thing: calendar days include Saturdays, Sundays and/or holidays; business days do not.
Hmmm, so lemme see here… if I order a trial on - say – Saturday; according to the terms, it won’t be processed before Monday at the earliest – despite the fact that Saturday and Sunday are part of my free trial period. And if my order isn’t shipped until Tuesday, and takes 5 business days to arrive, I won’t receive it before the following Monday… 9 full “calendar days” from the day I placed my order.
This scenario would leave me with only 5 – not 11 – days to do my evaluation, yet is still within the stated terms of the trial.
Now, if I call them and say “pretty please,” they might extend it…
If you experience delays in the delivery of your ParaSlim Force, you may contact our Customer Care department…or please visit us online at www.paraslimcs.com and request an extension of your Trial Period. Reasonable requests are normally granted, but this decision remains at the Company’s sole discretion.
But riddle me this, Batman: if I requested an extension, would my request be considered “reasonable” – seeing as there’s no actual “delay” involved? Ok, perhaps it would be… but do I really want to test that assumption in the absence of a firm commitment?
If that isn’t enough, if I decide to return any unwanted/unused product, there are also some hoops I’ll have to jump through:
3. To return a Product for an exchange due to shipping damage or when cancelling your order during your 14 Day Trial Period, you will need to obtain a Return Merchandize Authorization (“RMA”) number by contacting the Customer Care Department…
An RMA number can ONLY be obtained by contacting the Customer Care Department by phone or on the web.
1.We cannot process or exchange Product marked “Return to Sender.”
2.To ensure that your account is correctly noted, you must send back Product returns to the address provided below along with your RMA number. The RMA number must be clearly written on the package that you are sending back. Our shipping department is NOT allowed to accept any packages without an RMA number.
LOL – so if I get a shipment I don’t want, I can’t just send it back unopened and marked, “Return to Sender” – like some frustrated consumers do. If I do, the charges (and new product shipments) will just keep on a’ comin. Even worse, I’ll be out of $$$ AND product!
For the record, I don’t have any dirt to dish on ParaSlim Force, per se – whether it’s effective or ineffective is a post for another time. Likewise, I have no comments – pro or con – to make on the company’s customer service – hopefully the reps are cheerful, helpful and efficient; and respond promptly to customers who wish to cancel.
The point is simply this: when you jump on “trial” offers like this, without reading the terms and conditions first, you may find out – the hard way – that the financial “deck” is stacked against you. And jump people do – such offers are nearly always presented in such a way as to discourage critical thinking. So consider yourself warned: when you opt for such deals, always, always, always read the fine print first, so you know what you’re committing yourself to before you give up your credit card number.