COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — When shopping at retailers like Kohl’s, Target, or T.J. Maxx, chances are you’ve been asked at the register if you want to apply for a store credit card, which frequently comes with tempting offers.
In Paul Dobson’s case last year, Barnes & Noble offered 20 percent off his purchase.
“You’re getting a credit card, and at the same time, they’re signing you up for membership, which is understandable,” said Dobson.
But he didn’t know that membership came with a price.
“They didn’t tell me that it was going to cost me $25,” he said.
It wasn’t until Dobson’s wife saw the charge on their bank statement, which she checks regularly, that he became aware of the annual fee.
Though Dobson said it wasn’t disclosed at the point of purchase, Barnes & Noble’s membership fees are listed on the company’s website, which “will be automatically charged annually,” unless members contact the retailer to opt out or cancel their accounts, which is what Dobson did.
“I was told it was canceled,” he said.
But, when his wife checked their bank statement earlier this year, she noticed another charge from Barnes & Noble for $25.
“My wife flagged it and said, ‘What is this? Did you enroll in the membership again?’ And I said, ‘No. I thought it was canceled,'” he said.
Dobson reached out to Barnes & Noble several times. His last contact, an automated message, said his membership was canceled as of 2020.
Dobson said he would like his money back, but also wants to make sure others don’t fall victim to the appeal of the deal.
“It’s very difficult to get out of point-of-purchase agreements,” said Jack Gillis, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America.
Gillis adds that Dobson’s story isn’t uncommon and reminds shoppers to read the fine print first.
“Consumers really need to check very carefully what they’re signing up for,” he said. “That 15 percent could end up costing you a lot more in the long run.”
The Barnes & Noble location where Dobson made his purchase is temporarily closed because of the pandemic. In a statement, the company said in part:
“When customers sign up for membership, we let them know it will auto renew after one year unless they decide to cancel. We are very sorry for any issues this customer may have had in this case. We will reach out to him.”