Kelly In Catty

This blog is Kell's attempt to keep in touch with friends far away who complain that I don't e-mail nearly enough.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

UnPeeling my Stupidity

My husband is a sweet soul... and amongst all his great qualities are kindness, humor, and the ability to overlook faults in those he loves. These are great things... However, the same set of qualities can lead to overlooking faults in many things - say TV infomercials. Dave will see something - like a cordless vac - or clothes steamer - or dog wee wee pad - and say "LET'S ORDER THAT!!!!" I've told him in no uncertain terms that the products you order on TV are rarely as good as the informercial suggests... I"ll then look up a review of the product online - and show it to Dave... His eyes will widen - then sadden - and we'll move on with our lives.

This really isn't a story about him. It's a story about how careful I am when ordering any products - and how stupid I was when, in a moment of weakness, I ordered tea from a company called TEA FRANCAIS. (I'll post the link later, but for the moment, I need you to pay attention to me... Not to the link.

The promise was that I would get 4 packages of the most delectable tea, and would be billed on a subscription basis. Once/month, I would receive another package, and be billed something like forty bucks. My plan was to get the tea and then cancel the subscription because it would take me a long time to go through four packages of tea. I've done this successfully with companies like Gevalia. I was able to change my order to a package every three months... I could cancel at any time - which eventually I did - but always liked their product.

So here's what happened... Here's how I was duped, and here's what I did (that I should have done in the first place...)

I got the four packages of tea. Then, a week later, I got another four packages of tea. I was happy to pay the 40 bucks for it - but called to cancel the subscription immediately. It worked... However, in a few months, I started getting abbreviated packages of tea - all of which I refused. After each one, I customer support line to cancel. If I could GET customer support, they said they would refund my money immediately upon receiving the shipment back. If you're curious about what was in the package, here goes: I received one bag of tea and a cheap tin car cup... What was withdrawn from my subscription bank account was $80.00. EIGHTY DOLLARS!

Let me repeat that: EIGHTY DOLLARS! FOR ONE STUPID CUP AND ONE BAG OF TEA (that wasn't delicious at all) THAT I'D CANCELLED MONTHS AGO! And, oddly enough, the charges on my bank statement were coming from some poster company - not a tea company... This freaked me out.

Well, when the second package arrived, I was assured of an inter-company computer glitch, and that it was cancelled, and I would get my money back.

A few days later, a third package arrived.

That was it. I finally did what I should have done months ago. I decided customer service wasn't cutting it - and that I needed to call the main company. I looked up their website. Nothing there regarding any main company - just a customer service phone number. I called it thinking I could ask for the main company office number... No answer.

Then, I looked them up on the Better Business Bureau. I typed "Tea Francais" into the query line -and kept coming up with a company named "Peel, Inc." The website didn't even mention "TEA FRANCAIS," - but it did mention it's generic product line of gourmet coffee, gourmet tea, POSTERS and jewelry. Maybe I found the right thing after all. Then I read the report. To summarize, "Chicago, IL-December 16, 2009 – Peel Inc., an internet distribution company selling a variety of products ranging from coffee to posters, under multiple names and Web site addresses, has received more than 1,360 Better Business Bureau complaints in the past year from 49 states; currently, the company has 897 pending complaints with the Better Business Bureau. These complaints have earned the company an F rating from the BBB.

Consumer complaints to the Better Business Bureau allege undisclosed or unauthorized charges, lack of clearly disclosed shipping and/or membership fees, and deceptive advertising. Consumers further allege receiving multiple orders of merchandise that have not been ordered and/or authorized, and subsequent difficulties obtaining refunds. "

In addition, it detailed all the ways Peel, Inc. steals money - including a list of these "DBA" websites:

I"m listing these so you don't do the same thing I did... All of this info is found verbatim at the Better Business Bureau Chicago website.

A wave of "I'm an idiot who doesn't practice what she preaches" washed over me. I called my husband, I changed my bank account number, and then I did a quick search for Peel, Inc. in Evanston Illinois. I knew the president of the company's name (again thanks to the BBB) was Brian Dale. Incidentally, his phone number is (847) 424-0954.

So I called him - and of course, got his voice mail. I gave a two-sentence summary of what happened, how I reported my experience to the Better Business Bureau, and this was not the last time he'd be hearing from me, so it would behoove him to return my phone call... and wished him a Merry Christmas.

Within the hour, a representative of the company called, and did her best to get off the phone as quickly as possible. She did cancel my account. To Peel's credit, she did refund the three payments of EIGHTY DOLLARS to me. To Peel's discredit, she was quite rude and unwilling to listen to anything I had to say.

There was no real satisfaction - because outside of their "F" rating (that probably already existed before I called the BBB to complain), I assume that Peel, Inc. will still be allowed to do business... They'll still be allowed to steal from people - and behave in a cowardly, dishonest manner. I'll never be able to get back the time it took to get to the bottom of this, and will have a few hours of updating my account info... In short, this has been nothing but a pain...

... And it's my fault. I didn't do what I told Dave to do from the start. If I had looked up a review before I ordered TEA FRANCAIS (AKA Seattle Coffee, Especially Posters, Vermont Roasting Co, Haute Jewelry, etc...), I would have prevented all this. I would have seen the numbers of complaints - the resolution rate, etc...

I need to publicly apologize to Dave - for not doing what I've asked him to do... I've apologized profusely to him on the phone - and in true form, he was more than understanding - and very forgiving about the whole thing. In fact, he was pretty proud of me for getting our money back...

What a nice guy... to help me unPEEL my stupidity.


  • At 6:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm going to have you talk to our insurance company next time. Way to go, good persistance! I'm glad you got your money back too. That is quite impressive! Sorry for all the hassle. Scam me once, shame on you. Scam me twice, shame on me... you won't get fleeced again. --chris f

  • At 12:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You better close any checking account or block any card number they have, or you might find they "reactivate" charging your account or card again.

  • At 3:02 PM, Blogger Kell said…

    already done. They suck.


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