Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ripping Off the Elderly or Infirm Should Be Illegal

I don't have much sympathy for the generally dumb among us but I do feel badly when companies rip off elderly people who may either be confused by marketing ploys.  I feel badly for a person of any age who has suffered from a medical event that has impaired their mental function and ability to think logically and spot scams (i.e. stroke victims).

Here is a perfect example: TV Guide subscriptions.

The elderly, infirm, and/or shut-ins who enjoy watching TV may subscribe to the TV Guide.

This example is regarding my mother-in-law's subscription to the TV Guide which she purchased directly from them (without cost comparison shopping as she didn't know there was an option to get it anywhere else).

Her subscription for twelve months ends in eight months, yet the subscription renewals are already coming in. The one I hold in my hand pressures her to renew now for "PRICE PROTECTION" at $22.72 in four installments and gives a deadline more than eight months down the road. Now right off the bat some people would be confused as they may think it is a one time $22.72 payment. In any event let's round that up to $90 for a one year subscription.

But wait, I'm not being clear with my storytelling. The first two times I read the letter and bill I was confused about when her subscription ended. I couldn't find it and assumed it was a close date. It only seems logical that we'd be asked to renew close to the end-date. Then I finally spotted teeny tiny font that is 1 millimeter tall (yes, I just measured it) that says the date to tell me she has eight more months to go.

I checked today and a one year subscription for a new or renewal customer is just under $40. There is no push to renew now or renew fast.

What a rip-off TV Guide is.

More than eight months in advance of a twelve month subscription they send scare tactic renewal notices offering what seems like great savings deals that are more than double what a consumer pays when buying the subscription through (Today's price on Amazon for TV Guide is $39.96 for a full year subscription.)

This is just one story of the many examples of companies trying to rip off my mother-in-law. We have at least two stories a month, sometimes a handful a month, and that's not counting the more than dozen charity begging letters she gets Every. Single. Week. which are somehow geared toward medical conditions her spouse died from (an appeal to pity) or tied to her religion (a fear of going to Hell if she doesn't donate more to anything related to the Catholic church).

There are no easy ways for a Power of Attorney to intercede to prevent junk mail, nonprofit organization mail and other sales pitches from reaching a person unless all the mail delivery is stopped. This however, doesn't allow the shut-in to receive magazines or certain newspapers. Thus the TV viewer can't get easily get their TV Guide subscription.

I'm not for Big Government but really it is a shame that some profits made by corporations are due to tricking the elderly, those suffering with medically related mental impairment or gullible elderly people. I almost wish it was somehow illegal to do things like this.


Crimson Wife said...

I think magazines are trying to rip off ALL consumers with those kinds of scare tactics. I get them all the time from Atlantic Monthly. My subscription isn't up until next May and I've already received several official-looking "bills" that are actually renewal offers. And I know from past experience that if I actually let my subscription lapse and read one or two issues at the library, I'll get a much better "please come back" deal (last time it was 1/3 the normal renewal rate).

Ina's 5 and our Native Homeschool Blog said...

I agree it is a shame how so many companies prey on people I feel for them, including those you refer to as generally dumb cuz the reality is that some people have a lower IQ and therefore are potential victims too, that's just genetics and not within a persons control.