The Consequences of Two “Free” Gifts

It is never a pleasant moment to review your bank account balance and come to the realization that $189.90 was withdrawn from your account with no recollection of that purchase. Unfortunately, this is a situation where I have to own up to my ignorance. I had received an email from American Airlines with the subject line stating: “Your $200 American Airline reward is here.” The body of the email included the following statement: “Companies want your feedback.” Being a naïve twenty-year-old, I clicked on the hyperlink and completed the five-minute survey. Upon completion, an ad popped up on my computer screen announcing that I had won two, free gifts; the items fell under a category of facial products for women. The only stipulation before I could receive those products was to pay for shipping and handling, which cost only $3.95. I contemplated whether I should spend the money on two products that I did not need, but ultimately decided to pay the small fee to receive what I had “rightfully” won.

Leading up to this point, I had not necessarily done anything wrong. I completed a survey sent to me by a company and accepted two free products. However, before entering my card’s information, I failed to read the fine print. Apparently in the fine print it stated the terms for those gifts; the terms illustrated that the products would be free for a limited time frame [fourteen days to be exact] and after that time period, the customer’s account would be charged. If a customer was satisfied during that fourteen-day period, then he or she had the option to ship the products back to the company with no penalty. Regrettably, I did not read the fine print and assumed the products were free with no strings attached.

Not understanding why I had a $189.90 withdrawal on my account, I decided to meet with my bank. I knew that if I had experienced a situation where I did not recognize a specific charge or purchase on my account that I would be eligible to file for Debit Card Fraud and Dispute. Although, just because I was eligible to file a dispute, it did not guarantee that I would win the dispute [or in other terms, receive a refund for the unidentified transaction]. Sadly, my dispute was unsuccessful; I did not receive my money back.

After I met and filed the dispute, I was advised by my bank to contact this company immediately to cancel any subscriptions that may have been included. I was informed that in most cases, “free” products do not just charge a one-time fee, rather they place the recipient’s name under a monthly subscription to their products. After receiving that knowledge, I decided to temporarily close my debit card while I went through the journey of contacting that company to cancel my subscription.

It may not come as a major surprise, but this experience caused me to learn a big lesson; nothing is free in life. Everything has a price tag on it, and someone is always paying for it. I also learned that although I could not change my circumstance [no refund], I could change how I responded to the situation. Was I upset about losing the money, absolutely; however, I knew I needed to make the most out of this unfortunate incident.

In Proverbs 19:20 it states, “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end, you will be counted among the wise.” As illustrated in Proverbs, on that day I made a choice to accept the advice, graciously and a bit harshly, provided to me by my parents and my bank. I took the proper steps to cancel any subscriptions, as well as decided from that day forward never to be lured in by another “free” gift. I also learned to accept the discipline, losing nearly $200.00, as a hard punishment for my ignorance.