Each month, BBB sends its secret shopper, “Sarah,” out into the marketplace to get the inside scoop on threats facing consumers. This month Sarah investigates some seemingly amazing offers for free groceries.
Type of Business: Consumer Research
Location: Bloomington, MN
Upfront Fee: $3.90 – $20.00
Claim: “GROCERY Stimulus Package helping people just like you! Get $1000 Groceries! Pay less than $20 – it’s true! Limited Time offer – Call now!”
You may have seen this advertisement running in local newspapers or shopping guides. Consumers who call the toll free number are asked to answer a series of four questions covering their favorite shopping destinations, favorite restaurants to eat at, the amount of money they spend on groceries each month, and whether shopping habits have changed due to recent price increases. Consumers are asked to pay $3.90 via credit card to cover shipping of a coupon packet.
When Sarah asked how the program works, the business stated they send $10,000 in coupons and she could choose $1,000 worth to use. In actuality, the packet Sarah received from the business does not contain coupons, but instructions that directed her to a website. At the site, she entered the login information supplied in the packet and was provided with a list of products that are marked as either free, half off, or price reduced. Sarah was then instructed to check the box next to an item she wanted and type in the quantity she’d like to receive. There is no number limit on any item; as explained by the business – “If someone eats a lot of hot dogs he/she could get $1,000 worth of hotdogs.”
So what’s the catch? Consumers who have participated in the “Grocery Stimulus Program” tell BBB that after they supplied their credit card information for shipping; their cards were charged several times without their knowledge, in amounts up to $89. BBB suggests exercising extreme caution when dealing with any unknown company requesting an upfront fee for information.