With luck, the customer doesn't fully appreciate that I'm about to bill her for $400. Unfortunately, this one is reluctant:
"That sounds like it works out to be very costly," she says. "And I've already bought this very expensive computer, so I don't see how I-"
"I understand the Necessity Suite is an unexpected charge, and I know you truly understand the importance of protecting your PC and personal info. But this is something your PC needs. I would not be stressing this if it wasn't this important. But it is. So let's go ahead and get protected now so we won't have to deal with future problems or unexpected expenses down the road. It's only going to be $99.99 today. Sound fair enough?"
That should seal the deal. But Gertrude still won't say yes.
"If I could have this installed for free," I say, "I would. Let me check to see if there is another option, or maybe even an alternate route we can take. We bend over backwards for our customers. Especially when it comes to making sure they're protected. I'm going to place you on hold for a few minutes. I appreciate your patience."
I put her on hold and browse Facebook for a bit. Then I switch back to her.
fizkes/iStockIf you're quick, you can sneak a little nap in, too.
"OK, so I have some good news. We're able to approve you for our month-to-month plan! This is designed for our customers who cannot afford large out-of-pocket expenses. It's only $24.99 per month. This will cover your security software and the optimizer."
"Thank you so much!" says Gertrude.
The month-to-month plan will cost her $598.80 over two years. Assuming she lives that long, which isn't exactly guaranteed.
"I will have you off the phone in just a few minutes," I say, "And moving forward, there will be nothing else you're ever going to need in regards to security software! Will you be using a Visa or MasterCard today?"
If Gertrude regrets her choice and calls to cancel, her request will be handled by one of two reps in the entire company delegated to this. She will be told that billing will call her, and they will -- 10 days later, all while the 30-day refund clock ticks away.
This company, Vtec, contracts out to the Home Shopping Network, as well as Evine and QVC UK. Generally speaking, most of these customers are seniors, and not very tech-savvy. One of the main selling points is that they are going to have 24/7 U.S.-based tech support. They trust the people they are calling. If someone tells them their identity could be stolen or their banking info could be compromised, they'll buy the software. Many are on a fixed income and can't afford it. Once, with my supervisor looking over me, I got approval to offer another old lady a "deal" of $799 for all three laptops her family owned. She took it. Afterward, I wasn't sure which I needed to do more -- vomit or take a shower. I suppose you could do both. Got a drain built right in there.
Semevent/PixabayWhich, coincidentally, is right where her money's going down, too.
Exploiting that ancient and most trusted medium, the Home Shopping Network, to shake down the elderly is pretty evil. But we didn't invent the idea of shady upselling in place of customer service. Call up McAfee, that competitor I badmouthed earlier, and they too might shove their security package down your throat instead of actually fixing your problem. Call Linksys, call Dell -- you'll find the same thing just about everywhere. Last year, the FTC fined a series of tech support companies $37 million for using the exact same tactics as my company. The companies got off by surrendering corporate assets and only ended up paying $236,000.
When I get home, my dad gives me a call. "You won't believe it, it's the craziest thing," he says. "Your mother's got Microsoft on the other line. You know the computer we just bought? They phoned us and said it has a virus. But they're going to fix it for us! They're going to control the computer from all the way in Microsoft headquarters, see. And-"
Highwaystarz-Photography/iStock"It's a limited-time offer, son!"
"Unplug the computer."
"Tell her to unplug the computer," I say. "And hang up the phone."
Ryan Menezes is an editor and interviewer here at Cracked. Follow him on Twitter for bits cut from this article and other stuff no one should see.
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