When it comes to dietary supplements, people seem to be divided as either strongly for or strongly against them. Nevertheless, such products are presently being advertised as capable of showing ‘amazing results’, ‘revolutionary changes’, and ‘never before seen transformations’, hence making even the most distrustful of us at least a little bit curious. Furthermore, many become quickly drawn towards these captivating commercials, especially since the majority of them highly promote the advantage of ‘free trials’ before purchasing the actual item. But are they really as costless as they seem?
What is actually the truth about ‘free trial’ supplements?
From weight loss and intestinal health to hair renewal and even memory boosting, supplements seem to cover pretty much all of the areas a person might be lacking in nowadays (meaning those in which he or she might feel insecure or embarrassed about). Indeed, the modern era has come to promise ‘revolutionary’ changes within the human body through the action of one single pill, a cup of powder or drop of serum. Added to this is the apparent benefit of charge-free trial periods which let you test the supplement beforehand, then decide whether that product is right or not for you – in theory. In reality, the former customers of such supplements are continuously displaying their disappointment and anger with these programs, which they blame to be solely scams designed to rob them of their hard-earned money.
Why are supplements so popular in the first place?
There are multiple reasons behind why supplements and their ‘free trials’ appeal to so many people in the first place. The most obvious would be the ‘free’ mentioning in the initial phrasing, which catches the potential buyer’s eye and stirs his curiosity further on. Hence, by presenting the option of a ‘no strings attached’ testing time span, the manufacturer in question ensures that the person checking out their website will not click away from the page and instead linger some more and sign up for their trial period.
Secondly, they appeal to our modern need for fast results and immediate gratification by displaying images of ‘before and after’ examples that ‘guarantee’ the respective product’s ultimate success. For instance, many companies utilize the average buyer’s inclination for visual stimulants to their advantage by promoting their items through flashy commercials, vivid colour schemes, and big lettering for their slogans. Another favourite tactic is that of resorting to complicated medical terms – making everything sound more complicated to understand, therefore ‘smarter’ – as well as the obligatory mention of ‘100% natural ingredients’. This latter mention is rarely true for the majority of supplements (regardless of their intended effects), but it nevertheless constitutes a very effective marketing strategy that has been proven to show consistent results in the past.
Moreover, these supplements are often endorsed by either big celebrities or renowned medical figures, so as to increase their credibility amongst potential purchasers. And what better way to promote your supplement than to rely on those people who currently control the most media power? In most cases, having a very popular or publicity-covered individual next to your product will only take the buyer one step closer towards going at least for the ‘free trial’, particularly if you add a profound quote from that person in bold letters on top of your advertisement. Which is all that manufacturers really need in order to gain access to your monetary savings both legally and, most ironically of all, with your full on consent.
The psychology behind ‘free trial’ supplements
Before we address the real mechanism of ‘free trials’, it is important to know how these companies can basically manipulate you (their potential buyer) into entering complicated membership deals that are impossible to cancel and which will only continue to drain cash from your bank account each and every single month.
So, as simple as it might seem, the psychology accompanying these ‘free trials’ is, in fact, very well designed and calculated. With commercial success and, most importantly, monetary gaining being amongst the top goals, the manufacturers have to exploit every means necessary in this sense – regardless of how morally unjust or legally ambiguous, it might be. Regardless of what the supplement might be addressing, the key is to first make the buyer feel insecure about that particular aspect of themselves, then exploit it.
Take, for instance, the ever so popular weight loss supplements. Aside from using keywords and questions inside their marketing campaigns, they also have the recurring habit of using very beautiful pictures of slim-figured and physically attractive persons (with a predominant tendency towards women who are dressed simply in a small bikini). After staring at such images for long enough, one begins to wonder – but what if this product could really make me look like that?.
This is to speak nothing about the urgency with which the buying or ‘free trial’ opportunity is presented. Flashy signs that promise a ‘one-time’ or ‘limited’ offer, big countdowns which never fail to show that you might just miss this ‘unique’ chance if you don’t hurry, you name it – if it is going to catch your attention, then you will find it employed as a selling strategy by such companies.
The catch of ‘free trials’ in the supplement world
To make matters clear from the very beginning: nothing is ever free, no matter what you are told by the opposite party. As harsh as it may sound, this is the reality of our contemporary world and you should always be very cautious of things that sound ‘too good to be true’.
The same case could be given for ‘free trial’ supplements alike. At first, you are promised a charge-free testing of the item in question. A mere few clicks later, you are informed that, although your trial remains without any payment involved, you have to nevertheless cash out something between $4.95-$5.95 for ‘S&H’ costs (‘shipping and handling’, that is).
Which brings us exactly to yet another issue with these supplement ‘free trials’. While the advantages and ‘Buy now!’ incentives are written in bold colours and gigantic texts, the actual transactional clauses are only inserted in a small lettering, faded grey font, and so far along inserted that most customers don’t even bother reading them before it is too late.
This is where the real trick comes into play: let’s say you agreed to the S&H fee and decided to move along with your supplement order. If you take a look at any such manufacturer’s billing language, you will discover how they manage to make all that money despite their ever increasing number of dissatisfied customers. Hence, while your ‘free trial’ period is advertised as lasting 30 days, this actually refers to the supplement dosage you will be receiving (for instance, a bottle of 30 capsules of supplement). In fact, the real duration of this trial does not exceed 14 days from the moment you place your order online. Now pair this with the fact that shipping takes 6-15 business days in normal conditions, with international orders expanding towards the 14-21 days mark.
Did you get it by now? In short, there is no way for you to simultaneously receive the product, test it out, and eventually cancel your membership in less than 14 days – which entails an initial taxation of generally $70-$90 for the ‘free trial’ dosage itself, then a systematic draining of your credit card cash each month.
To make matters even worse, you are basically giving the supplement manufacturer free access to your cash funds by simply entering your credit card number for the initial S&H billing. As a rule, this sort of information has to be displayed for the buyers by the companies selling the supplements, but, as mentioned above, far too few bother to read the small text at the bottom of the page. Thus, you cannot act legally in this sense, only proceed to tedious and nerve-wracking phone calls that may or may not cancel your membership. Until then, prepare to have money taken out of your account on a regular basis and (possibly ineffective) supplements delivered at your doorstep.
Disadvantages of ‘free trials’
Auto-shipping programs – are also known as ‘continuity programs’ and start at the moment when the customer agrees to the introductory part of an item (the ‘free trial’ period). If that person doesn’t cancel their service membership in a certain amount of time, then they become automatically enrolled in a regular shipping plan which entails having big sums of money taken out of their account without express permission.
Poor customer service – if that person wishes to cancel their membership after an experience as the one mentioned above, then he or she will have to face the gruelling task of dealing with supplement Customer Services. The ‘peaks’ of this procedure include missed calls or operators hanging up (after long waiting periods, nonetheless), push up sales of products you don’t want, and additional shipping fees (for the product’s return, for instance). In more extreme cases, customers have found that they did not even have a number to phone from the beginning since the website failed to deliver one.
Delayed cancelling options – if you do manage to get a hold of someone willing to help you with your cancellation demands, that doesn’t necessarily mean your ordeal is over. It might take a few more calls before your auto-shipping annulment is put into practice, whereas your money will never be refunded. In addition, your address and phone number will remain in the company’s database, with telemarketing calls and home offers arriving even years after your product cancellation.
No legal consequences for the manufacturer – in general, many manufacturers know their products are not up to standard, which is why they resort to ‘free trials’ and their subsequent implications in order to ‘squeeze’ as much money from their buyers as possible. Even so, few are actually held accountable at least for their disrespectful customer servicing, since there cannot be the talk of money recuperation or moral damage compensations – after all, the (small font and barely visible) clauses were there, weren’t they?
How to be a smart supplement customer be cautious of offers which promise ‘too many’ advantages so as to remain credible read every single paragraph of text put on display by the manufacturer’s web site never place online orders on products or websites which do not inspire trust or have very poor customer reviews in the commentary section whenever possible, purchase supplements directly from a specialized shop or drugstore, since this will allow you to pay a fixed amount of money one single time, as well as the possibility to return your item if you are not satisfied with it in a number of days if you find yourself in a similar supplement purchasing situation and cannot solve your registration cancellation via the company itself, then contact your credit card company, explain the situation, and have them block the third party accessing your funds…
Conclusions – when ‘free’ becomes too expensive
If there is one thing you should take from this entire ‘free trial’ supplements debate, then that is to never stop doubting all the offers which sound too good for their own sake. As a result, learn from the unfortunate experience of others and order only products that have received the previous praising from customers, are made by reliable companies, and which do not advertise anything in print which is too small to be read with your bare eyes.
On the other hand, if you do happen to be the victim of a similar ‘free trial’ scam, then don’t panic just yet: insist with your calls, file a legal complaint against the company (on the grounds of their poor customer service, at least), and even cancel your credit card if the circumstances require it. In addition, don’t be ashamed to share your experience with others, so that they don’t fall into the same commercial trap as yourself. Although you might not be able to get your money, time, and patience back, you could at least help spread the word about these manipulative supplement companies and bring their unfair marketing techniques down a notch.