Some people just can’t make an honest living. And, sometimes, businesses fail to outdo this axiom as well. In other cases, there are grand mistakes which result in lots of frustration, money lost by customers, brands or both. Usually these situations are worsened by bureaucracy, poor management, and an unwillingness by many companies to admit fault. With the advent of the internet, it has become easier for ill-treated customers to bring attention to their situation, and customers as a whole are now regularly made aware of the scams that befall others on a daily basis. The following are some of the most memorable experiences of the last several years.
A Paving Stone and a MacBook Pro
In April 2009, Ryan went home from his local Best Buy with (what he thought) was a brand new MacBook Pro. Upon arriving home, he discovered what the box actually contained was a used paving stone. He returned to his local Texas Best Buy to explain that he wanted a computer for his $2164, not a red brick. Unfortunately, the manager at Best Buy, Keith, told him they could do nothing to help him. Ryan disputed the credit card charge and was told there was nothing he could do. He also contacted Apple and was told he needed to contact Best Buy to have his issue resolved.
Resolution: Keith owns a $2164.89 red paving brick, he is continuing to dispute the charges.
Zer01 Offers Unlimited Mobile Service, Sort of
Earlier this year, Mobile start-up Zer01 launched a multi-tiered ad campaign stating that customers would receive unlimited mobile voice and data service for an extremely low flat rate. Unfortunately, two of the executives involved with the offer, have decided to pull it at the last minute. Mark Petschel – who incidentally was convicted of fraud back in 2005 – of Global Verge was behind the marketing campaign for Zer01. Shortly after the seemingly great deal started to generate media attention, Zero1 pulled all information mentioning the offer from its site. Ben Piilani, the CEO of Zer01, credited with having pulled the offer (which most surmise would have led to the company’s failure), claimed that the offer was not meant to be advertised, andwas never fully approved. He has since justified his professional relationship with Petschel, claiming never he knew of the latter’s charges.
Resolution: All website information has been removed of the offer, as well as the debacle.
Debt Collectors Steal Money, Then Forced to Return it
Not by choice of course. Collection agency, American Legal Process was to notify customers of debt collections proceedings, but according to NewsDay instead, “…repeatedly and persistently falsified statements.” Subsequently, when customers failed to appear in court for their proceedings, the company legal team filed suits, resulting in wage garnishment – effectively taking money directly from customers’ bank accounts. This, after failing to notify many of the defendants of their proceedings in the first place. The total number of improperly issued court orders: 101,000. The total cost per client: $5,474.
Resolution: Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general in New York, filed a suit to recover upwards of $500 million in damages, resolution pending.
The Quadrillion Dollar Credit Card Bill
In July 2009, Jon Seale checked his online statement after eating at Wolfgang Puck’s Five Sixty restaurant, and about keeled over. Why: his $23,148,855,308,184,500.00 pizza bill. For reference, that’s more than 2,000 times that national debt, all spent on the (apparently) most expensive and (hopefully) the best meal of Jon’s life. According to the National Ledger, after realizing the mistake, Visa worked to remove the charge for Seale, and finally admitted to their being a glitch in the system’s programming. Jon was not the only customer affected, another man in New Hampshire paid $23,148,855,308,184,500.00 at a gas station for cigarettes.
Resolution: Jon had the $23 quadrillion charge reversed, and the $20 overdraft fee.
I’ll have the French Onion, Hold the Rubber.
In July 2009, Mr. Philip Hodousek went to Claim Jumper to enjoy a nice meal with his family. According to the OC Register, what he received was a mouthful of rubber – and a very, very, unpleasant meal. Hodousek alleged that while enjoying his soup, he bit into something rubbery, which turned out to be a condom. After running to the bathroom, he took pictures of the item and is currently having DNA analysis of the item done to determine its origin. Claim Jumper is fighting the lawsuit, claiming Mr. Hodousek is not being honest about the origin of the condom.
Resolution: None, Claim Jumper is disputing the claim.
A Box of Rocks and a Nintendo DS
In April 2009, Jodi Wykle’s birthday prank went much farther than she intended. After buying her son a Nintendo DS, she wanted to make him sweat a little, and delayed handing over his birthday present; once she did, she was the one sweating. The boy opened the box and, to his alarm, discovered a box of rocks and some newspaper instead of his new gaming system. After consoling her son, Wykle returned to local Lake Wales Wal-Mart with her $138 box of rocks in order to find a resolution. After speaking with management, she was turned away and told to take up her claim with Nintendo. Instead of doing this, Wykle turned to the media, and as it turned out the DS had been previously purchased and returned. According to area news source, WTSP, Wal Mart management resigned to the possibility to the original purchaser pulling the wool over their eyes and decided to exchange the gaming systems.
Resolution: Wykle got to exchange the Nintendo DS for a non-rocks-and-newspaper version, and received a $20 gift card for her troubles.
The $85,000 Cell Phone Bill
In November 2007, Piotr Staniaszek received his cell phone plan bill from his carrier, Bell Mobility and thought there must be some mistake. According to the BBC, instead of seeing his typical $147 per month in charges, he saw a staggering $65,000 for his month’s usage. And to add fuel to the fire, while he was trying to sort out November’s bill, his December arrived for roughly $20,000. In two months, Mr. Staniaszek managed to rack up an incredible $85,000 in mobile phone charges. These charges turned out to be a result of Staniaszek having used his recently upgraded device as a modem – anchored to his computer – from which, he downloaded high definition movies, music and other files. Because his contract did not account for these types of uses on his account, his carrier argued, the maximum usage charges were applied. Staniaszek has argued that he was not informed of the possibility of being charged these outrageous fees and has sought recourse for the charges.
Resolution: After negotiating with Bell Mobility, the carrier agreed to reduce the bill to $3,243 as a sign of “goodwill”. Definitely much more than what Staniaszek was expecting to pay, but a far cry from his nearly six-figure charge, which he arguably was liable to pay.
LA Fitness “Borrows” $5000 From its Members
Via The Consumerist, in 2005, an unnamed woman had her checking account debited in the amount of $5620, a charge she never authorized, for a personal training service she never used. After three years of calls and complains, and after speaking with management, she was consistently told that she had no recourse for the charges and that she had agreed to the service, and thus due to pay. With persistence, only one day after filing a formal complaint to the BBB, she received a call from the gym’s Vice President; paperwork and faxes were exchanged and the woman was sent a check for a full amount of the refund.
Resolution: After 3 years and saint-like patience, the customer received a full refund of $5620.I t later came out this was one in a series of similar illegal charges instigated by LA Fitness, all of which were eventually resolved. Employees found to be involved in the scam were all fired.