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Saturday, April 16, 2016

There's A Sucker Born Every Minute

I consider myself to be a fairly astute person, especially when it comes to the web. When Facebook posts look suspicious, I usually check them out to see for myself. And a lot of them are scams or, at the very least, misinformation. I try not to embarrass the Facebook friend posting them, though occasionally I've been unable to resist temptation. But I've always thought of myself as smarter than that.

And then, one day...

I'd been looking at my tired, 58-year-old face in the mirror and wondering if there wouldn't be something I could do to perk my skin up a little. The facial I had at the spa this year was wonderful, but it only lasts about a day. So when the ad for this amazing Retinolla cream showed up in my Facebook feed, I got curious and clicked.

It was only $7.95 for each little jar, one was a moisturiser, the other an eye cream. For $16, how could I go wrong? I thought it was worth checking out.

I filled in my info on the website, and a few days later, I received my little package. What the heck? If I liked it, I would get some more.

A couple of weeks later I was checking my bank account online and to my horror, noticed an almost $400 charge on my credit card. Whaaat?? When I saw it was the company that sold me the Retinolla, I was furious! I looked everywhere for some way to contact them and finally found a phone number, buried in an email they sent. I called right away. "You are the 3rd person in line to talk to one of our representatives," the automated answer said. I waited, my furore rising even more.

When a live person finally came on the line, it was all I could do to keep myself from screaming at her. What the hell is this $400 charge on my Visa? I paid for your product! Why are you charging me again, and why $400?? I was beside myself by this time.

She spoke English well, but had an accent. I wasn't sure what country the number was from, but I knew it wasn't North America. She calmly explained that I had passed the 14 day limit on the product and was being charged the full amount. The full amount? No where did it say there was another charge coming. Oh well, yes it does on our website. Right. The conversation continued until she finally told me that they could give me a small refund on the product. By this time, I knew I was beat and I accepted. I felt like such a complete and total sucker. We will cancel your account, she said.

Account?

Yes, that's right. So let me tell you how this works:

When you do a Google search for Retinolla, the ad comes up at the top of your results. Today's price was even better than what I "paid"!






Only $4.95 for the kit! What a bargain!

When you go to the website, it's full of the usual "before and after" pictures. But of course there's a VERY LIMITED supply of the product and a countdown clock, so you know you'd better hurry and buy it NOW! I filled in my info and credit card, etc. They wanted to sell me more...on $7.95 for this too! It was hard to see how to bypass and go straight to the checkout, but I finally figured it out before they suckered me into buying more.

That attempt to trick me into buying more should have been my first warning sign, but I must have been brain dead that day. The other thing I didn't do was read the fine print. Another huge mistake.

Because if I had read it, I would have seen this:

"Risk-free trial offer: By ordering our special trial Retinolla Beauty Kit, you agree to enroll in our AutoRefill Program. You will be charged applicable shipping and handling fees upon placing the order and will then have 14 days to try our products and return them if you are not completely satisfied. If you choose to keep the kit, you will be charged the full cost of C$179.95. We will then automatically send you a replenishment of the products you have ordered according to our common replenishment guidelines (normally, every 30 calendar days). Your card will be charged C$129.87 accordingly upon dispatch of the replenishment package. AutoRefill can be cancelled at any time by simply logging into your account."

Only the font was this small. And buried in between all kinds of other "info" that you probably wouldn't bother reading at the bottom of the page. Well, at least I didn't. That's also where you find out that the company is in Prague.

I did some research and found lots of complaints from others out there too. You think you're spending a few bucks, and then you're charged more. At least I wasn't alone in my stupidity. In the UK, for instance, they actually advertised it as a "free sample". So people were shocked to be charged anything at all. The clue would have been when you had to enter your credit card info for something that was "free". But because they were advertising the $7.95, I was not suspicious entering my credit card.

The auto-refill really got to me though. I had no idea I was creating an "account", I thought I was simply putting in my address for delivery purposes. They know what they're doing, these scammers.

When they sent me the email cancelling my account and offering the small refund, I had to promise I wouldn't take any legal action. Yeah. There you go.

In the end, two little jars of this stuff (and they are little), cost me $256.

I was utterly embarrassed at myself because I thought I was smarter than that. In fact, I really had to think about posting this at the risk of embarrassing myself even more. But I think it's important to give fair warning to any of you out there who are the least bit tempted to purchase something on line.

Read the small print, they always tell you.

Yep.

Oh, and I still look 58.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Heart of the Matter - Part Two

A prospective guitar student had left a phone message that he was interested in some lessons, so I called him back. Much to my surprise, when I called, a woman answered instead, and for some dumb reason, I didn't say anything and just hung up thinking I had dialed the wrong number.

Minutes later, the guy called me back and when I said hello I could hear a woman crying in the background. He started to yell at me, telling me never to call him again. I was completely confused until I heard the woman crying out "Who is she? Why do you always do this to me?" Suddenly it occurred to me that she thought I was his mistress or something. I tried to explain why I had hung up, but he just kept yelling at me. My heart started pounding, I didn't know what to do, I was freaking out.

And then I woke up.

Who knows where the dream came from, but the pounding of my heart part, that was real. Oh no, not this again.

The palpitations occur every couple of days, sometimes just for a second or two, sometimes for an hour or so. But the "big" one hits me every couple of months. And this was a big one. The palpitations become more severe, and then it turns into the flutter. Atrial Flutter. My heart races sometimes up to twice its normal speed, sometimes for hours.  The other night, I calculated it was about six hours...from 1:30am when I woke up with it, until about 7:30am.

Some of you might remember a blog post I wrote a couple of years back called The Heart of the Matter, about my experience in the emergency ward. That was a particularly bad episode of atrial flutter, but at the time I didn't know what it was. Since then, I've become quite educated about it.

The more common form of this malady is Atrial Fibrillation, or a-fib as sufferers like to call it. A-fib is an abnormal beating of the heart, very much like palpitations, that also goes on for long periods. There are a lot of causes, some people live with it for many years, others go on medications, and yet others get a procedure called a catheter ablation, which I will describe later.

I get a-fib too, and most of the time it's relatively mild. But when I get the flutters, I'm down and out for as long as its around. If I stand up, I get dizzy because my heart isn't pumping properly, so I have to lie in bed and wait it out. I'm lucky, because eventually it stops on its own. The longest I've had it for is 11 hours, usually it's somewhere between 5 and 7 hours. But some with this condition have to go into emergency every time it happens to have their heart slowed down intravenously because it won't stop. That's what happened to me on my first emergency visit.

Palpitations never used to bother me because I read somewhere that they were normal, and certainly a normal part of menopause. But I remember an incident about four years ago when I went to visit my Dad in the care facility. He was in pretty bad shape that day, and I was more than a little stressed. That's when the palpitations started, and this time they didn't stop for several hours. That's the first time I was alarmed enough to realize something else was wrong. But when they went away, I didn't experience them again for awhile and just forgot about it.

Then it happened again a few more times, enough for me to ask my doctor about it. Not long after is when I had my emergency visit and was referred to a cardiologist.

It took about four months to get in to see the cardiologist the first time. I was told it could take up to a year, so I was prepared to wait, and I assumed that there were probably a lot of people out there with conditions worse than mine who would naturally be first in line. When I finally got in to see him, the cardiologist described what I had. "First of all, it won't kill you!" he said, adding that it was probably caused by my high blood pressure, which had been unchecked for years, and told me that I had to go on blood thinners right away because of the possibility of a stroke. He said that I could also go on beta blockers to slow my heart down, or have a catheter ablation performed. At the time, I guess I was a bit overwhelmed, so I took his prescription for the blood thinner and told him I needed to think about it.

I've been lucky because I've always been a healthy person, so the whole notion of a heart condition threw me a little! The cardiologist sent some literature home with me, so I read all about it. My high blood pressure did some damage over the years, and as a result, a few little cells begin to beat out of time with the rest of the heart every now and then, causing the feeling of palpitations. It's like a short circuit that upsets the normal rhythm of the heart.

At first I thought I could live with it or maybe just take the beta blockers. Once I found out that beta blockers would make me FATTER THAN I ALREADY AM because they slow down your heart and also your metabolism, I gave up that idea. And after a few more episodes, I decided maybe the catheter ablation would be the way to go.

My doctor sent in a requisition for another visit to the cardiologist, and a couple of days later, the cardiologist office called just to check on some tests I'd had. And then I hunkered down and waited. And waited. It was almost a year after that, when I had two really bad episodes only two weeks apart, that I decided to check up on my appointment. And wouldn't you know? I was not on the waiting list. They had my doctor's request, but somehow I got lost in the shuffle. $*@#!

Two months after that, I finally got my second appointment and I cut right to the chase. Was I a candidate for this ablation procedure? Yes I was, he said. Thank goodness.

A catheter ablation is day surgery and involves inserting a catheter through a vein in your groin, all the way up into your heart. They search for the cells that are misfiring and basically just freeze or burn them. It takes 3 to 4 hours, has a 95% success rate for atrial flutter and will also reduce my incidences of a-fib by about 50%. My surgery is schedule for May 18th.

I ended my first blog about this with a list of things I've learned. Well, I've learned so much more since then! Here's my new list:

1. Don't go anywhere near beta blockers.
2. Don't assume they're going to call you when they say they are. Holy crap, I've had to follow up on EVERYTHING so far!
3. Beta blockers are bad.
4. Wine did not cause my condition. Thank GOD.
5. I'm lucky that my heart can be fixed, thank goodness for my otherwise good health!
6. Beta bad.
7. Not every surgery has an 18 month waiting period. Yay!
8. I will be able to drive a car AND use my driver on the links 48 hours after surgery, but no heavy lifting. Who wants to be my caddy?? :-)
9. I'm forever grateful for a medical system that doesn't charge me a small fortune to be repaired.

Stay tuned for Part Three, my post-surgery analysis.

IJ