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Tuesday, September 25, 2012



But, first, a question:  What is business?  What does it mean to be in business?  Is it only about making money?

I think there're at least 2 views on this.

One, it's a way to make money.  Plain and simple.  That's the focus.  Bottom line.

Another view, you have a product or service that you think will be of value to people, you can make money selling it.  Focus on the product or service, marketing, comparing your product to others,

So, I've been scammed, it isn't the first time, it undoubtedly won't be the last.  Part of it is my fault for not paying better attention to certain things and for not following up on things that don't look right.

I won't divulge all the details because it's embarrassing.

In March, 2012, I made an online clothing purchase from a retailer who also has a catalog.  Generally, I dislike their clothes; they're not well made and their styling is tasteless.  But, I needed an additional pair of summer pants and, after looking around at several local stores and online sites, I found something that looked promising and might fit properly.  I ordered online.  I've ordered online a great deal.  I've not had many problems.

A couple of months ago, I noticed an odd charge on my checking account from the catalog company.  I found the  invoice for the pants and put it aside to call them about the charge.  I forgot about it.  Today, I noticed the same charge on my account and remembered the previous charge.  I called the bank who reviewed the charges with me.  I tried calling the phone number attached to the debit and got a busy signal, several times.  I called the catalog company who told me the company who placed the debit was not them but they processed the orders.  It's a "rewards" program.

I called the "rewards" company again and got through.  They told me that when I ordered the pants, there was a page on which were several offers and a place for my email, etc. and a Continue button.  When I hit the Continue button, I had ordered the rewards program which entitled me to a $15 dollar discount on my next order with the catalog company that I never order from.  They also informed me that email confirmation had been sent.  I demanded a full refund of charges and told the person on the phone I would be contacting a lawyer.  There's a monthly charge for the program of $14.95.  Quite a deal, huh?

I'm well aware that I won't receive a refund.

I later visited the "rewards" program - which BTW is named for the catalog company - interesting, huh?  You can't see anything about the details of that company unless you log in with your membership number, which I don't have since I was never sent one, never received an email from them.  So much for the program they're charging me for. I, possibly, inadvertently ordered a membership in a rewards program for discounts on orders to a clothing catalog company that I never order from and for the cost of $14.95 a month, I got one discount of $15 on my next order which may never happen.

I left a message on their web site informing them that, if I don't receive a refund of the current month's charge by the end of the month, I will call a lawyer.  I will also call the bank at that point for a stop payment of $30 and it will probably be too late.

I'm sure this is not illegal.

I am very frustrated and disgusted - with myself as well.  But, above that, I have serious questions about what business means.

If I'm a farmer and have dairy cows, I let people know I have milk for sale and set or negotiate for a price or trade.  It's unlikely that I could get away with watering down white paint and sell it as milk.  If I'm good at cleaning house, I can let people know that I'm available to clean houses and what my rates are.  It's unlikely that I could get away with contracting to clean house, sit and watch TV there all day and clean nothing.  It's also unlikely that I could get away with actually cleaning the house but tacking on charges for house sitting while I was there, if it wasn't previously agreed to, or charge for walking the dog while I was there but wasn't asked to do.

I'm afraid that some people think that making money is more important than being a human being, in having an honest, straight forward manor of relating with other human beings, in having personal ethics that they themselves would expect from others.

Fortunately, there are individuals in business who are human beings, who are honest and straight forward in relating with other human beings and who have personal ethics that are at least as important to them as making money.

Distinguishing between the 2 types is not always easy but here are a couple of clues:

  • Does the business you're dealing with have easily distinguishable contact information:  address, phone number, email address.  If not they really don't want to be bothered with people, they just want their money?
  • Does the business give clear, easily accessible information about their returns policies and easy methods of accomplishing a return?

There are other clues that, at the moment are less clear to me.  I have much to think about in preventing this kind of thing from happening to me again.  I'll post more about business ethics as thoughts occur to me.

Regardless of these questions of ethics, if anyone treats you in a manner that you feel is unacceptable, you have every right to simply refuse any further contact with them, to seek some kind of resolution, to seek alternatives to interacting with them.  More on that later.

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