At the beginning of January I ordered a seat cushion from a company called Amerimark. I got the cushion. It was fine. I'm sitting on it now. But a little over a month later I was looking at my credit card statement, and I noticed that in addition to the charge for the cushion, Amerimark had posted a second charge three weeks later for $3.99. I had no idea what the additional charge could be for. I asked my wife about it. She didn't know either. But I figured it must be postage, or something like that, so I didn't think any more about it. After all, it was only $3.99.
But today I was looking at my credit card statement online, and I noticed that Amerimark had recently posted a third charge to my account, this time for $29.99. Now I decided to call Amerimark to find out what these charges were for. I reached a customer service rep who told me I had subscribed to their "Passport to Health" program.
Suddenly I remember. I had received a sales call from Amerimark back in mid-January trying to get me to sign up for their "Passport to Health" program. I told them I wasn't interested and thought that was the end of it. But they had my credit card information since I bought the cushion from them, so apparently they signed me up for it anyway.
The customer rep told me that the charges were in error and that he would cancel them immediately.
But after I hung up with him, I decided to google Amerimark, and I discovered I'm not the only person who has been "mistakenly" signed up for the "Passport to Health" program. They're pulling this scam on a regular basis.
"Passport to Health" appears to be a program that offers no (or very few) benefits, except the benefit of getting charged $29.99 every month (the first month is only $3.99). The really slimy part is that many of their customers are elderly people who may be less likely to look carefully at their credit card statements, so they never notice they're being charged $29.99 every month.
For instance, 800notes.com has an entire message board full of people complaining that they were ripped off by Amerimark. One person describes how they've been "charging my 87-year old mother $29.99 a month for 'Passport To Health' that she supposedly signed up for in April '07 when they called to 'make sure her Amerimark mail order arrived safely.'"
In addition, Tom from California has posted a report on ripoffreport.com describing how he was subscribed to the "Passport to Health" program after his wife bought a pair of shoes from Amerimark.
I didn't trust Amerimark to actually credit back what they had billed me, so I called my credit card company (Bank of America) to contest the charges. While I was on the phone with the billing dispute department, I described how Amerimark was scamming elderly people, and I urged Bank of America to do something, like stop accepting charges from Amerimark. But the service rep just gave me the run-around and didn't promise to do anything.
So I'm posting about it here to help spread the word. Hopefully if someone is considering making a purchase from Amerimark, they might come across this post and decide to shop elsewhere.
In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out who else I can report Amerimark to. The FTC? Better Business Bureau? I want to bring this company down.
Update: I checked out AmeriMark's listing on the Better Business Bureau's site. It turns out that the BBB has already received a lot complaints about them (I filed one more), and particularly about their Passport to Health program. The BBB page about AmeriMark notes:
Many complaints processed by the BBB concern confusion over the company's membership renewal policy in the Passport to Savings program and the Passport to Health program (formerly known as Family Health Network program). Many consumers claim they are not aware that the company automatically bills their accounts for the renewal fee unless they notify them to cancel. Many of these consumers complain that they were not aware that they had been enrolled in the program. The company has responded to these complaints by canceling the membership and issuing refunds. In January 2005, the Cleveland BBB met with company representatives. The company has indicated its willingness to work to correct the cause of consumer misunderstanding concerning enrollment and cancellation of these programs.
Apparently AmeriMark's meeting with the BBB didn't have much impact on the company, because they're still working the same old scam.