Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Truth about "Independent Advice" on the Web

Another in a series of first-hand horror stories...

There are myriad advertising links on Google and other search engines that purport to provide objective advice on skin care products. They are named with site titles that make you think they are independent advisers. "The Truth about..." and "Does Your [insert product name - they are all available] Product Work?" Many of them are a sham! There is nothing objective about them. Think about it...they are paid advertisements (on the right side in Google) intended to promote the sponsor's products. You read the lead, something like, "Does Sisley Work?" or "Does Creme de la Mer Work?" and think hmmm...I need to check this out before I buy.

These sites often give you their take on the pros and cons of particular products or product lines, with a link to their own "recommendations." I have to admit, I once fell for one of these when I first purchased Dermapril-SP, and now I feel like a sucker.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the Dermapril product - in fact it contains an excellent ingredient, and it works OK. What's wrong is the way the company markets it. That free trial isn't free. They get your credit card number to charge for shipping, and they charge your credit card if you don't return the free trial product fairly quickly. Then they continue to charge you each time they send another automated shipment, even if you aren't finished with the last. I will admit the fine print explains it all, vaguely, but if you are a harried woman in a hurry - and who isn't? - you won't read the fine print. Not only that, there are very few ways to navigate their site or get to what you really want. If you think I've gone over the deep end, read the Web reviews of Dermapril and their marketing practices. Some of the rants are way worse than this one. Just Google "Dermapril-SP complaints."

If you still want to try Dermapril-SP or any other product recommended at one of these sites, here are some tips. After your get your not-so-free sample, or even before, go on the site to cancel. The site will instantly offer you a discount, so take it. Here's another drill: You click to leave the Web page, and a window pops up asking if you are sure you want to navigate away from the page. They offer you a discount. That's all it takes. Then, make sure to select a frequency of shipment that meets your needs. You can make it work for you.

When I saw the charge for the free trial on my credit card, I called the company and spoke with one of the rudest customer service reps of all time. He basically told me I can't read. Sorry, I may be rushed, but I feel that my Ph.D. is written proof that I can read. The whole experience was dreadful, and I had to tell him firmly three times, while he continued to insist that I was stupid, to cancel my "subscription." It was frustrating, which is really too bad because the product isn't half-bad. I have since learned that there are better products containing the active ingredient of Dermapril-SP, so I don't miss it.

As I research various products, I find more and more of these sites popping up. Who can you trust? Always read the company's own site; they will be positive, of course, but you can get good information about ingredients and any research they conducted. Often, they include reviews from their customers. Then, head for beauty blogs - real women, real opinions (and the best bloggers are never paid to write their reviews). Check Makeupalley, a site devoted to reviews from real testers: us. I've been reading Makeupalley for years, and while I find its audience to be a bit "young," there are some great reviews.

To quote Sergeant Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues, "Let's be careful out there!"

Photo courtesy of Michael Dawson, author of a very interesting book on psychology and shopping.

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