This company (www.kleargear.com) may have ruined online commerce for me. I have been a proponent of online commerce. My company is delivers its product online. We don’t happen to sell stuff, but we provide our services online. So I support the concept.
Kleargear looks like a cool place. They sell neat novelties. It looks like their stuff is great for gifts. If I stumbled upon their site, I’d want to buy things.
Then I found out that when you buy something from their site, you have to consent to a number of clauses before you can purchase. Ok, what’s wrong with that?
Well, one of those clauses, according to a Mark Frauenfelder on BoingBoing, is this:
In an effort to ensure fair and honest public feedback, and to prevent the publishing of libelous content in any form, your acceptance of this sales contract prohibits you from taking any action that negatively impacts KlearGear.com, its reputation, products, services, management or employees.
Should you violate this clause, as determined by KlearGear.com in its sole discretion, you will be provided a seventy-two (72) hour opportunity to retract the content in question. If the content remains, in whole or in part, you will immediately be billed $3,500.00 USD for legal fees and court costs until such complete costs are determined in litigation. Should these charges remain unpaid for 30 calendar days from the billing date, your unpaid invoice will be forwarded to our third party collection firm and will be reported to consumer credit reporting agencies until paid.
Would you really continue to purchase from a company that had this clause in front of you? Hell, I would RUN fast and far. It would simply not be worth it to me. But I am not sure I would even see this in the buying process. Knowing me, I’d blindly blow right past it and hit “Buy Now.”
Here is what they apparently do: When you post a negative comment in a review site of any type, or on a blog, or on Facebook, they send you an email giving you a 72-hour warning. If you don’t heed the warning, they send you an invoice for a $3,500 fine. If you don’t pay the fine, they report the amount due to collections and report you to the major credit bureaus, which of course ruins your credit, and your ability to buy a car or a house at reasonable rates, if at all.
Check out the horrifying story of Jen Palmer here. This actually happened to her, after buying something three years ago at Kleargear. Apparently, the company sometimes does not ship the goods or ships bad goods. Reviewers claim that there is no way to ever get through to a human being when contacting support. Apparently they don’t answer the phone or respond to emails.
If you google “kleargear sucks” or “kleargear scam” you will quickly see that many people consider the entire business one big scam. Here is just one of the review sites that will give you the willies.
The bottom line is, the moment you hit the “buy” button on Kleargear, you are at their mercy. If you happen to receive your order and you are happy, congratulations. But if anything goes wrong, you’re stuck. They apparently keep your money and don’t answer the phone or email. If you complain online, anywhere, anyway, and they find out about it, they send you a bill for $3,500 to punish you. If you don’t pay the bill, they come after you and they ruin your credit.
Way to do business!
Why do I think this could ruin online commerce? Because I have bought many things at many sites, and I don’t always read all the terms and conditions before I buy. I tried to find the non-disparagement clause above in their site’s terms and conditions just now, and I could not find it. It looks like a legitimate site. The only way I apparently would come across this clause is if I actually went in and bought something. But I must admit, once I make a buying decision for a novelty gift, I don’t go and read a bunch of terms and conditions. I put in my credit card number, or my PayPal account, and I click “Buy Now” and be done with it.
I had my own bad experience with MobilityPass about four years ago, where I spent about $200 on a product and service that never worked. Search for MobilityPass in this site and see all my related posts. I never got my money back, after everything I tried. I was screwed by a scammer. And the scary thing is, four years later, they are still out there at http://www2.mobilitypass.com.
Companies like this ruin it for all the legitimate small businesses that want to sell online. I want to trust my suppliers. Weary consumers will simply retrench and go to Amazon, where they are assured of good prices, flawless fulfillment, great return policies and overall good quality of service. That’s why Amazon, and trusted sites like it, are taking over the retail world.
Is Kleargear a scammer like MobilityPass? I don’t know. But I am not going to find out.