Web Loyalty Services Aren't Very Loyal to the Consumer, Just Another Scam
My last blog post contained links to a few products that you can buy online since I'm a huge fan of online commerce. Unfortunately, I was recently scammed by a "Web Loyalty "program and the merchant I purchased from.
Back in July I bought airline tickets on an online travel agency, and at the end of the process a pop-up window offered me some free coupons for my next purchase by joining what appeared to be their "Web Loyalty" program. By supplying them my email to opt-in I had authorized the "Loyalty Company," not the travel company, to retrieve the credit card info I provided the travel agency and charge me a $9.99 monthly membership fee.
I'm usually pretty good at reading fine print, but I have to admit I didn't give it a second thought since I assumed it was just a another freebie account and I was only providing them my email. Besides, the travel site claimed to be secure, so I didn't stop to think they'd be selling me out so cheaply.
Since I was traveling and keeping an eye on my credit card charges, I spotted the charges (two already) and called the loyalty company. The person on the phone was polite, but all they would do was cancel the account and mail me paperwork to file a claim for the 2 previous payments. The paperwork came in the mail and was very specific about whether I had supplied them the email address for authorization or had someone else forged it. After calling them again to request how this letter would get my money back, I realized it wouldn't unless I lied about someone forging my email.
A couple of days ago someone told me that the Senate had actually investigated this scam, there are 3 companies providing this "service," Webloyalty, Affinion and Verture; the story of which is on CNET.
Now usually finding out that others were in the same boat as me somehow makes me feel a little better, misery loving company I guess, but this story makes me feel sick. What these scammers do is bad enough and they took in over 1.4 billion dollars. I think it is even worst that their merchant "Partners" are actively involved with the scam and took over $792 million from them to sell us out.
These merchants have taught me web loyalty, I plan to avoid giving them any money in the future. In fact I just used my previous travel site to find a hotel for the holidays and then called the hotel directly to book the dates, I guess the hotel doesn't have web loyalty either since they match the online "special" rates.
Here's a list from the consumerist.com site that includes how much these merchants were paid to sell/scam their customers.
PARTNERS PAID OVER $10 MILLION
PARTNERS PAID BETWEEN $1-10 MILLION
Barnes & Noble
Boston Apparel Group
Cendant Intercompany Agreements
Currents USA (123 Prints)
From You Flowers
FTD Florists Online
True Credit (True Link)