Those “free trial” product offers really aren’t so “free”…

Have you ever ordered a trial product because everyone is talking abut it? Many of us do. There is no end to the number of companies that advertise online for you to “try” their product free of charge.

The trial of products for free is a marketing tool that works for many business models, however it is open to abuse and there are many companies out there who do abuse this marketing tool to defraud consumers.

The way most of these deals work is as follows; the company puts up online ads with “testimonials” from alleged customers who think their product is exceptional. This sparks interest. After all a product must work if so many people are singing it’s praises right? Then the company follows up these “testimonials” with a trial offer that can’t be beat. They will send you a months worth of the product free of charge or for a greatly reduced price and all you have to do is pay shipping. Sounds great, right? You get to try out the product without the huge price tag, what could be better? Problem is this “company” now has your banking or credit card info, and they are going to use it. About a month after your “trial” period you will notice a huge charge to your debit account or credit card that you did not authorize. Why? Because the company has just billed you for another months worth of their product, even though you did not authorize it, or order it.

You will question the payment, but the company already has your money, and your bank will tie that money up for weeks while they do an investigation into the unauthorized charges. You see, your bank’s default position on fraud is to start an investigation into the charges to determine whether or not you deserve to have the misappropriated funds returned to you. Telling the bank that you did not authorize the payment is not enough for them to return the money.

When these companies do this they are betting on the hope that you will not notice the charges, they are taking advantage of your trust in ordering from them by keeping your financial information on record and using it to defraud you of funds on a monthly basis even though you have not authorized monthly payments to them.

So now you have paid for a trial product, with no intention of ordering from said company until after you have tried the product, but the second you paid for shipping you set yourself up to be defrauded. Banks assume that if someone has your credit or debit information it is because you authorized it, therefore when a company puts through a second charge the bank honors the payment without authorization because they assume you have given said company authorization to charge your account. These companies are well aware of this and will use it to defraud you of your hard earned cash.

Many people miss these charges because they use a credit card and don’t really look at their bills and check that each transaction listed is authorized.  Those who use a VISA debit card are more likely to catch the fraud soon after it occurs because the money comes directly out of their bank account making the payment glaringly obvious.

This recently happened to me when I ordered a trial of some anti-aging beauty products. I paid the $5.95 shipping fee and received my trial products within a week. I began the trial and the products were working as advertised, but before I could decide if I wanted to continue using these products the company billed me $180.00 on my VISA debit. When I ordered the trial I checked the box marked “trial only” meaning I was not authorizing this company to charge me anything beyond the initial shipping costs for the trial product. I of course noticed this charge because the money was removed from my bank account as soon as the charge was put through and who wouldn’t notice a company basically stealing almost two hundred dollars right out of their bank account? So of course I called my bank. Much to my surprise the bank refused to return my money until they had investigated the fraud which I am told would take 10 – 14 business days. So effectively my money is now being held hostage because a fraud was perpetrated against me. When I asked the bank how I could stop[ this from happening again in the future I was told not to order things online, which to me is not an acceptable answer.

This entire ordeal has taught me one thing however, do not order trial products with a regular credit card or a debit card attached to your bank account, this is not an acceptable solution but it is the only solution made available to me. What I fail to understand however is the fact that companies like this are given the benefit of the doubt, and there is a chance my money will not be returned depending on what the company does and says about the charges they made to me. The biggest question I am left with is why are companies given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to fraudulent charges? Is my bank not supposed to be serving MY best interest? After all it is MY money they are playing with and not the company’s who is stealing from me.

Conclusion? If you are going to order a trial product you might want to load up a prepaid credit card to be used for the purpose of online shopping. That way the company can not come back later and charge you unauthorized payments. I will not stop ordering trial products but in the future I will use a prepaid credit card instead of using the debit card connected to my bank account. I suggest you do the same!

When emergency response doesn’t respond, two children die in fire on First Nations Reserve…

Last night when I watched the evening news I learned that two young children had died in a fire near Loon Lake, Saskatchewan. Now while it is not unusual for people to die in house fires, in this case the deaths might have been prevented had emergency response teams actually responded. They did not respond, because the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation reserve on which the fire took place was behind in their payments and Larry Heon (Fire Chief) said the reserve had “cancelled it’s firefighting contract with the community.”

Heon, also mayor of Loon Lake, says he was asleep when the 911 call about the blaze on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan reserve. was automatically rerouted to him at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, “But we didn’t go,” Heon told reporters, he went on to explain that the First Nation reserve had outstanding bills, and had sent the village a letter last year discontinuing their fire service.

Officials from the First Nation reserve expressed surprise when told to what Heon had said.  They believed that Loon Lake firefighters would respond to a fire on the reserve. The RCMP was the only emergency service to respond and by then it was too late, when officers arrived, Harley and Haley Cheenanow were already dead. Police arrived in time to watch the children’s father carry their bodies from a building fully engulfed in flame.

Chief Richard Ben a friend of the Cheenanow family, visited the man and his wife after hearing about what happened. Ben stated that he was not aware the reserve’s firefighting contract had been cancelled. Although there had been complaints about service provided to the reserve in the past, he believed an agreement was still in place.

“We’ve paid thousands upon thousands to that fire department,” he told reporters. “Other fires they’ve showed up. Other fires we paid them for it. And for them not to show up at this incident is kind of an insult of the First Nation.”

Kurt Schultz, the band’s finance director, also believed the contract was still in effect, but said he had not seen firefighters on the reserve since a fire there last winter. There was an open dispute about how much the reserve actually owed the village for firefighting costs.  Schultz, also added that someone else from the reserve could have cancelled the contract, but he was unaware of whom that person might be.

Is this what we have become as a society? Firefighters won’t save lives without a contract saying they have to do so because it’s been paid for? When did a town’s bottom line finances become more important than human lives?

Whether or not the Makwa Sahgaiehcan reserve was up to date on their service fees is not the issue here. What disturbs me most about this story is that the Fire Chief received an emergency call and went back to bed instead of mobilizing response, because the First Nation reserve was behind in their payments! 

Essentially, two children died because of money, and that is completely unacceptable! This kind of thing is becoming far too prevalent in today’s society. While the town of Loon Lake may have been financially correct in their response, they were morally wrong. It is horrifying to think that calling 911 gets no response if your village, town, or city hasn’t kept up on it’s emergency response fees.

How Larry Heon can live with himself after ignoring a fire call is something I can not imagine. How do you tell yourself “oh well, if someone dies it’s not my fault, they didn’t pay their bill.”? How do you live with yourself after you fail to send help and two children die? What is a child’s life worth these days Mr. Heon?

DO NOT FEED THE TROLL! 10 Important things about internet trolls…

18485898Trolls, you thought they were just for fairy tales, but they are real and they are taking over the internet!

How to tell if you’ve been creeped by a troll:

1) Trolls are narcissistic, sadistic, and psychopathic.

2) Trolls are people who make comments to upset others because they find joy in upsetting people.

3) Usually it is very difficult to tell the difference between a troll and somebody who is simply an asshole. It is important to note that a troll doesn’t always resort to insults.

4) Trolls will make statements unsupported by any evidence, and when asked for evidence supporting their claims will become verbally abusive with the person questioning them.

5) Trolls will seek out family and friends of their victims and begin to harass them online as well.

6) Trolls have far too much time on their hands, they usually end up being people who can not hold a job or have resorted to living off the system, thus giving them all day to surf the internet and spread their nastiness.

7) Trolls are usually poorly educated, and do not have the intelligence to argue their point, and as such are prone to resorting to personal attacks when challenged.

8) Trolls do not have overly active social media accounts. When you check the troll you will find no pictures or information available that identify them in any way. They usually have few people on their friend lists if any, and are famous for the “fake account”

9) Trolls do not understand the term “agree to disagree” if you do not agree with them they will begin to personally attack you, and anyone who comes to your defense.

10) The best way to handle a troll is to ignore them completely. They are looking for a reaction and when you don’t give them what they want they will soon move on in search of someone who will.

The most important thing I can tell you about internet trolls (and believe me I learned this the hard way) is DO NOT FEED THE TROLL!

Everyone should have a home,

I had a conversation the other day with a woman who sees the world with blinders on. I say this because she is one of those people who was born with the proverbial silver spoon clenched firmly between her rosy baby lips. She grew up sheltered and every once in a while she says something to me that makes me say something back that really makes her think. Take for example one day when she and I were discussing the homeless and she said,”I could never talk to one of those homeless people on the street we have nothing in common” My reply was a simple “how do you know that if you have never tried?

That homeless person could be the greatest guitar player you ever heard, he could be a rockin’ accountant or an amazing mechanic, or the best animal shelter worker in the world if people stopped passing him by because they had labeled him “homeless” if he was given a job instead of a social label he would also be given a chance to become a contributing member of society..

We say we want to help the homeless, but I really don’t see much actual useful help going on. Firstly, we only start hearing about the plight of the homeless when the weather starts to turn cold. You all DO know they are homeless year round right? Yet it seems no one cares about the homeless until October when the wind starts chilling and we know winter is just around the corner.

What homeless people need is help to find housing, and jobs, and a place in the community again. They need help in preparing for job interviews or finding schooling that will help them to get better paying jobs. They need their stories told because only by understanding the myriad of reasons why and how people become homeless can we hope to end it.

Normal working class people in this country can understand how someone could become homeless. Most of us live from pay check to pay check these days. Many of us are just a few pay checks away from homelessness happening to us. Yet still society labels homeless people as those who do not want to find jobs and would rather live on the streets and panhandle than get a job, or as drunks that can’t afford housing because they drink up their pay check as soon as they get it.

My Mother always used to say something when she saw homeless people on the streets before tossing them some loose change, she would say “There but for the Grace of God go I” I know I don’t usually quote my Mother but in this case I must because now in this day and age I could just as easily be among the homeless, it is with the grace of God that I have a roof over my head, and so suddenly my Mother’s words make perfect sense.

But I have gone off in a babbling direction haven’t I? When what I am really trying to say is we must start doing more for the homeless than merely bringing them in out of the cold during the winter months. Not that churches and community groups are not trying, they are and God bless them for it, but I think the government needs to step up and help solve the problem of their fellow countrymen’s homelessness. Everyone should have a home.

I Can’t Breathe…

“I can’t breathe” those were the last words spoken by Eric Garner before he died. A breathless scream as he fought to draw breathe while an officer kept him in a chokehold. Later police claimed that they did not use a choke hold on Garner but video does not lie, and in the video of Garner’s arrest we can clearly see him being choked into submission. We can also hear Garner try several times to inform officers that he could not get breath, words those officers chose to ignore.It is a video that has gone viral, as might be expected due to the fact that the incident shocked the world both when it took place and again recently when a Grand Jury decided not to indict the officer responsible for Garner’s death.

It is the second such Grand Jury decision within the past three weeks coming on the heels of the Grand Jury decision not to indict Officer Wilson in the Ferguson MI shooting death of Michael Brown, and the second time an officer has gotten away with taking a life without accountability being placed upon that officer for the choice he made that cost someone their life.

Michael Brown was black, and so was Eric Garner, but even if their skin color was a factor in their death (I can’t say it was or wasn’t I was not there and do not know the victims or their killers)it was not the only significant factor in their deaths. Another significant factor is the fact that we are seeing a rise in instances of police brutality and excessive use of force by police answering routine calls. We are also seeing use of lethal force in situations that do not call for lethal force. There are many stories like those in the following links that make us ask the question “is American law enforcement out of control?”

An LA woman claims she was beaten by police at a traffic stop

A woman is attacked by police during a traffic stop

Unarmed Dillon Taylor shot in the back by police while walking away (shooting ruled “justified”)

There are many more if you look for them shootings, beatings, use of excessive force, even in cases where police have raided the wrong home family members have been terrorized and family pets shot in front of children all in the name of police work.

Where does it end? When do cops become accountable for their actions? How many more people have to die at the hands of power tripping cops before something is done about it?

I say power tripping cops because, there still are some cops out there that truly want to do their job without anyone getting hurt, unfortunately they are few and far between in the police state our world is becoming. I am followed by a few of the good ones on twitter and I know they are good people who still believe it is their job to serve and protect the public. But many of today’s cops seem to think they are both judge and jury as well as arresting officer and feel they can do as they please during the apprehension of a “suspect.

Cops must not be allowed to continue carelessly taking people’s lives. Law enforcement in North America needs an overhaul, and some serious oversight! Cops who kill people should not be cops.

This is NOT a Racial Issue.

I have been in twitter arguments for the past two days over the Grand Jury decision handed down Monday in the Ferguson MI shooting case of Michael Brown. While the case should not be focused on the color of Michael Brown’s skin it is. While everyone should be focused on the fact that an eighteen year old is dead because of an over the top police response, that fact is getting lost in all the talk of racism. The fact that the cop was white and the victim was black is all that people are seeing.

I for one would be just as outraged by the outcome of this case were the victim white, for me color does not come into the equation, and I will tell you why. A cop (who could be purple with blue polka dots for all it matters) shot an unarmed citizen (who just happened to be black) and killed him. That is unacceptable no matter what color the victims skin might have been. For me the Ferguson shooting is just one more example of the police brutality that is becoming commonplace in North America.

There was another shooting in August, the same month Michael Brown was gunned down. It happened in Salt Lake City. A man named Dillon Taylor (who just happens to be white) was shot and killed by a cop (who just happened NOT to be white) the only difference between the two shootings is that the cop in the Salt Lake City case was wearing a body cam. No one screamed “racism” no one took to the streets in protest, in fact most people missed the case entirely because the victim was white.

This is not a racial issue, it never was, but people like Al Sharpton can’t stop themselves from playing the racism card every time there is a police shooting of a black person by a white cop.  Granted, perhaps in this situation Officer Wilson is a racist, I don’t know, I have never met the man and can not speak to his attitude towards black people, but I also don’t think racism is the issue here. All across North America cops are shooting first and asking questions later. Cops shooting unarmed “suspects” is a regular occurrence these days, but people are so wrapped up in the racism quilt that they can’t see the forest for the trees.

That’s a problem, because the real issue here is the rise in incidents of police brutality, and the use of lethal force where lethal force is not required. By reducing Michael Brown’s death to a racial issue we take the public’s attention away from the true problem, cops who abuse the power they are given. The Michael Brown shooting should have raised concerns over how cops are handling the take down of a suspect, instead everyone is focused on skin color. Would Michael Brown still be alive today if he was white? I don’t think so. Michael Brown would have been shot regardless of his skin color because that is the way cops do things these days.

So what am I really saying here? Simply this, we need to handle the problem of cops thinking themselves above the law. We have to push for action to be taken against these officers who draw their guns first without trying to resolve the situation without violence. We also need to stop blaming racism every time a black person is killed by a white cop and realize that racism is not the issue, cops getting away with murder while on duty IS the issue.

Look for opportunities to perform a small kindness…life is short!

I was sitting here today thinking it has been so long since I last wrote anything the world must have forgotten I exist. (that is of course assuming anyone knew or cared I existed in the first place which is doubtful) Well I have been concentrating on things offline for a while, and it has brought me to a few sad truths. The first of those sad truths being that we have lost our sense of community, or so it would seem.

Do you remember the time when you walked down the street and saw children out playing? I do, but just the other day I realized most of the children have gone and the playgrounds are empty. These days when we walk by a park or a playground, there is a noticeable absence of children playing outdoors. Swing sets and monkey bars sit forlornly still, silent testaments to the fact that the children no longer play there.

Where have all the children gone? Sadly most are indoors glued to computer screens, or television screens, because no one plays in the real world anymore. Why bother going outside when you can live life vicariously through the newest game hero without leaving the comforts of home? Why bother meeting your friends at the mall when you can just hangout online together? As a matter of fact, who needs the traditional kind of friendship when you can find all kinds of people online to build virtual friendships with?

Yes folks this is what the world has become! A planet full of people who socialize with everyone virtually and barely ever leave the comfort of their own homes. Do you remember when people used to get together in person and go places together? A time when cell phones did not exist and if you wanted to speak with someone you had to pick up the phone or physically go and see them? A time when friends would get together at a restaurant or bar or someone’s home and socialize? A time when people did favors for each other and there was a sense of community and friendship? Many of you can not remember that era because you were born into the internet information age, but it’s true, people used to actually physically get together with friends to have fun, and their heads weren’t always buried in the smartphone screens either. We used to talk to each other using actual words and (gasp) full sentences, and we didn’t punctuate everything with smiley face emoticons. We didn’t even know what an emoticon was!

Don’t get me wrong I am not anti progress. I don’t hate computers, I just think we have allowed them to take over our lives. I like Facebook as much as the next person because it opens me up to people from all over the world, people I may otherwise never have met, but I don’t live my life solely online. I have friends in the real world, and we do real world things together, but even those activities have been marred by the fact that people can’t seem to put their smartphones down for five seconds and interact with the people they are with.

Every little thing is turned into a Facebook post. “I had chili for lunch!” says the text under a posted picture of a bowl of chili. Thankfully no one seems to feel their bathroom habits are fodder for Facebook posts or you could wind up being far more intimate with your Facebook friends than you would like.

Now while there are arguments that the internet has made communication easier, and instantaneous, one could also argue that the advent of the internet has brought on the decline of personal one on one face to face socialization. People communicate online, but very seldom see each other in person, and when they do get together to socialize they still can’t pull their heads out of their phone screens for long enough to have a meaningful conversation.

This of course has also eroded  that sense of neighborhood community we all used to have. You know what I mean, that sense that your neighbors were your friends and could be counted on to help each other out in a pinch? These days neighbors don’t care if they know each other, and in some cases have never actually spoken to one another despite the fact that they live in close proximity. These days you don’t see neighborhood Mom’s rushing to welcome newcomers with plates of homemade cookies. People move in and out of neighborhoods without anyone ever knowing who they are or where they came from.

Used to be that when a tornado came through or a storm caused damage to Farmer Joe’s barn, Farmer Joe’s neighbors would gather and help him rebuild that barn. The community would work together to see that life was good for all. Now we just read the headline “Farmer loses barn and livestock in freak storm” and tweet or post about how sorry we are for Farmer Joe and how we hope that he manages to rebuild, but do we lift a finger to help Farmer Joe rebuild? No we do not! It isn’t our problem to help Farmer Joe rebuild, instead we will write a five page blog about how his life has been devastated, start a chip-in fund no one cares about and by Thursday we will be on to another topic. Farmer Joe’s barn will not get rebuilt by the community and after a while everyone will have forgotten about him.

Every once in a while we will see some people still trying to do it right and preserve that sense of community we have lost, and we will think just for a second that there is hope for the future. It happened to me this week when I read the post of a friend:

Capturgloriathankful

This friend is a retired person on a fixed income, when the damages happened she could not afford to replace the roof, but some amazing people got together and fixed it for her simply because she was a friend and she needed help! Amazing right? No not so amazing if it were twenty or so years ago because back then that was the way the world worked. People did for each other, and the community around them thrived because of it.

We need to get back to that sense of community people! So the next time you walk down the street look around you, does your elderly neighbor need help carrying those groceries into the house? Help them. Does the single Mother of five kids next door need help shoveling her driveway? Lend a hand. If everyone does at least one small kindness for a neighbor once a week we can bring back our lost sense of community a truly create a better world!

That’s all I have to say for today, and now I am off to the kitchen to bake a few pumpkin loaves, and I think I may just wrap one up and take it next door to our elderly neighbors because I am funny like that!

Have a great week everybody! And remember be on the lookout for opportunities to perform a small kindness for someone, life is short!

The Author