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Archive for July, 2008

Welcome to a new topic on cutabitch.  Whenever I come across something while patroling the interwebs or navigating the streets of life that causes me to experience emotions that lie on the continuum of vomiting in my mouth a little <—-to—-> dying a little on the inside, I’d like to share them with you so you may weigh in as to where you lie on the scale.

Topic #1:  Free Credit Report Dot Com Commercials on TV

IT IS NOT FREE.  I fell for this scam twice, unfortunately, as I had forgotten the outrage I experienced the first time when my credit card was charged for my “free” report.  Back in 2003, the freecreditreport.com (FCR.com) commercials didn’t say anything about the fine print–you get a free credit report when you enroll in “Triple Advantage” which is some credit monitoring program they offer.  And you only get the credit report from Experian, the bureau that runs FCR.com.  When I first fell for the scam, I was able to call their special number and cancel the “Triple Advantage” membership if I called within 30 days and NEVER USED THE SERVICE. Using the service involves visiting their website, logging in, and viewing your “free” credit report.  They refused to return my money.  At the time, I was irate and refused to ever fall for it again.  But, these …charming… commercials began to resurface and when I was in desperate need of viewing my credit report as we were considering purchasing our home, I remembered the catchy jingle about serving seafood to tourists in T-shirts and how it was FREE! to access your credit report!  So I fell for it.  Again.  Because of advertising that was targeted directly at me–a young person learning about credit and concerned with trying not to ruin it.  Dorky guys in a commercial, strumming guitars, singing a catchy tune, who could resist?  When I called and they refused to refund my money, even after I had not accessed the website, I disputed it with my credit card company who took it off my charges.

I don’t know why I fell for the commercials (again), especially because of their snotty tone. 

The first commercial speaks to those who have their identities stolen:

  •  FCR.com will not be able to prevent you from having your identity stolen, but their credit monitoring would have alerted you to suspicious activity
  • Viewing your credit report(s) from all three bureaus would have alerted you to a problem with your credit due to identity theft. One bureau might have items on it that the other two do not.
  • There’s nothing wrong with working in a restaurant in a town that has a tourism trade. Congratulations, Experian.  You just alienated most of the East Coast who works in restaurants, especially those who serve chowder AND iced tea, and any tourists who visit the East Coast, especially those who visit restaurants that serve chowder and iced tea and happen to love it.
  • I don’t appreciate the fact that you are also targeting young guitar players.  I found a video that teaches how to play the “free credit pirate song”.  BOGUS.
  • They are fully aware of the “pirate” sensation among today’s youth and play that up in the commercial with the pirate costumes.  This video has had over 800,000 hits.

The second commercial targets white-boy rappers (you think I’m kidding, but who knows), or more specifically, people who are looking into buying a car that is not a used sub-compact.

  •  This commercial is playing up to the 18-25 age group, most likely the college student who had time to kill on the weekends.  I say this because I don’t know many working adults who hang out with their friends cruising around town playing guitar in the backseat, concerned about the hoes in the convertible at the stolight next to them.  Maybe I have strange working adult friends.
  • If you don’t have a cool car, you’ll get laughed at.  Most adults I know are more concerned with the reliability and fuel efficiency of a car as they use their cars to TRAVEL TO WORK and not “roll with their posses”   I don’t believe a used sub-compact would be that bad of a car to have nowadays.  Again, playing up to material desires over practical needs, common in the 18-25 age group.   
  • Hey, it’s free, and I’m lazy, and my dad is always telling me to take care of my credit, maybe I’ll call them up and get raped out of $25 when they charge me for my free report!

Last and CERTAINLY my least favorite, the commercial that MAKES ME DIE INSIDE, the FCR.com “Misogyny Minuet”

  • May the oceans part, a positive to this commercial!  Marriage is not a party, it’s a legally binding contract between two people–my debt is your debt!
  • The not so positive?  My wife can’t manage her money! She’s the reason I’m not happy! I would have never married the supposed love of my life if I had known that she had some money problems!  Perhaps if I would have talked to my dream girl about things that required a comment beyond “cool” and “wanna do it?” I would have known that she defaulted on a credit card. Money trumps everything!
  • This commericial reminds me of getting tested for STDs. Just because you get your credit report and know the results doesn’t mean that you have to share the real results with your dream girl.

This concludes the first edition of “Things That Make Me Die Inside”  Every time these commercials come onto the TV, I find myself singing along and being sucked into the hellishness that is FCR.com.  I’m just happy that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) got involved in 2005 and made Experian point consumers to the REAL free credit report website that is congressionally mandated.  They also have to include verbally and in writing in the commercials that the free credit REPORT (not reports) are only free if you enroll in Triple Advantage.  It still isn’t good enough because their website and phone representatives are so elusive about the actual terms that they suck you in hook, line, and sinker.  TransUnion also has similar websites and marketing campaings, just not on TV.   Equifax does not have a marketing campain that lures consumers to their website with the promise of free credit reports to boost their bottom line after the government allows all to view their report once a year for free, from all three bureaus.

Moral of the story:  What is free is rarely, truly free.

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