When Stash Kamykowski ran across an internet ad for a one-pound bag of coffee and two travel mugs for $19.99, he thought it was a good deal. But he says he quickly discovered he ended up with more than he bargained for.
Kamykowski, of Bethany, placed his order with the company Metro Coffee Roasters. He received the shipment within two days, and was thrilled. But then, days later, he realized there was a problem. He says he received another shipment containing two one-pound bags of coffee, and a credit card charge of $40. And then, he says it happened again.
"As I looked into it, nine pages into their website did they describe that it was a membership thing and it wasn't a one-time thing," said Kamykowski.
He estimates the total charges were around $160. He says he called repeatedly to cancel, with no luck. "Each time it was the same story. 'We're sorry. We'll refund the money. We're sending a confirmation email,' and it just kept happening," said Kamykowski.
He even called his bank to block the charges, but the company kept changing its name and charging him more money, said Kamykowski. "They were scandalous," he said.
Metro Coffee Roasters is one of 43 businesses associated with the Illinois-based internet distribution company Peel, Inc., according to the Better Business Bureau. Peel, and its subsidiaries, racked up about 3000 complaints with the BBB nationwide over the last three years for billing problems, refund hassles, sales practices, and other issues. The BBB gives Peel, Inc. an F, which is its lowest rating.
"Many of the complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau by consumers allege unauthorized charges, lack of clarity with regards to fees for memberships or delivery fees, as well as deceptive advertising," said Howard Schwartz, the spokesman for the Connecticut Better Business Bureau.
The Better Business Bureau encourages consumers to read the fine print associated with every offer, understand the terms and conditions, and do an internet search of the company. Complaints will likely pop up, if there are any, and such a search could save you a big mess, said Schwartz. "Even if it's something that you really are not worried about, it's worth it to check the track record of the company because you don't want to end up with all kinds of problems," he said.
Peel, Inc. did not respond to NBC Connecticut's requests for comment. The company has resolved most of the complaints, according to the Better Business Bureau. Internet searches show Peel companies are no longer taking orders online.
Stash Kamykowski was eventually able to get a refund, with help from the Better Business Bureau. He also learned a valuable lesson. "Type that name in and investigate it beforehand. It's just a click away," he said.