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North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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Discount Buying Clubs

Memberships Sold on the Sly
 
Many discount buying club offers are slipped in by a telemarketer when you order another product or service. Although the trial membership is free, you are later charged on your credit card when you fail to cancel. The companies that sell these memberships make most of their money on memberships that consumers don’t even know they have.

According to North Carolina law, a discount buying club is a business that in exchange for valuable consideration, e.g. a membership fee, offers to sell or arrange for sale goods or services to its customers at prices represented to be lower than are generally available.  
 
Tips
  • Be alert when you order anything by phone. If someone makes you an offer you aren’t interested in, make sure the operator understands that you’ve said “no.”
 
  • Review all paperwork that arrives with any products you order by phone. Look for information about unauthorized charges for a discount buying club membership. If you discover that you’ve been signed up for one of these clubs, immediately tell the company in writing that you did not authorize the membership and that you are cancelling it. Keep copies of the written materials and your letter.
 
  • Watch your junk mail. What looks like junk mail may contain your option to cancel a membership. Discount buying clubs often operate by using a “negative option,” which means that you will be billed for the membership if you don’t take action to cancel it within a certain period of time.
 
  • Always review your credit card statements for unauthorized charges or new fees. Call your credit card company if you notice any unusual charges.
 
  • Dispute any unauthorized charge. Write both your credit card company and the company that charged you to dispute the charge.
 
Memberships Sold by Pressure Tactics
 
You get a call telling you you’ve won a prize but have to come to a presentation to claim it. At the presentation, you’re pressured to buy a membership for a travel, cookware or photography buying club. The memberships are nearly always overpriced and often fail to deliver the discounts you were promised.
 
Tips
 
  • Beware of any company that tells you the offer is only good for that day. Don’t let the sales person pressure you into making a quick decision that you’ll regret later.
 
  • Find out how easy the travel membership is to use. Many people complain that they cannot get reservations when and where they want to travel. Some clubs require that you book months in advance. Many clubs don’t let you request a specific location but instead require you to give a list of places you’d be willing to visit.       
 
  • Investigate the cost of comparable products and services at places you usually shop. Don’t take the salesperson’s word for the typical price. Many times the “discount” prices are actually higher.
 
  • Look at what you’ll pay carefully to be sure that the club will really save you money. Be sure that you will use the membership frequently enough to save money. Take into account all fees, dues, and costs that you’ll pay. 
 
  • Beautiful brochures of luxurious resorts, tasty foods prepared effortlessly, and a fancy new camera can be very enticing. But before you pay a lot of money up front for a membership, be sure that you’ll actually use it.
 
We Can Help
 
If you have a complaint about discount buying clubs, contact us for help or call toll free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.