I’ve written about DirectBuy before and concluded that unlike discount stores such as Costco, it was far too shady and restrictive to be a good choice. A recent conversation with someone who found my article while searching for information on DirectBuy has confirmed my assessment.
The woman wrote:
I want to cancel my DirectBuy membership, but they won’t let me. I paid more than $500 [she may have meant $5000, which Consumer Reports says is around the usual membership fee to start the membership, but I was never able to order or buy anything. Now they won’t let me cancel and expect me to keep paying. What can I do??
DirectBuy not only doesn’t refund the money (we can dispute refund policies, though I think that since she’s never used the service she should get at least most of her money refunded) but won’t allow her to cancel until her contract runs out. According to the Consumer Reports article (on the Consumerist) cited above that’s at least $190/year for 9 years (they’re a little unclear on one point, it may be more). And there’s more:
The fine print in the DirectBuy contract says you cannot return items, cancel orders, or terminate your membership.
Huge warning sign there. Read contracts. Don’t join things that will continue to bill you even if you decide not to use their services and want out. Not being able to return items and cancel orders is also bad, but not being able to end your membership (without any refund, just ending) is almost criminal.
I told her that I couldn’t give any professional advice, but encouraged her to talk to the DirectBuy people in person, keep it up, and keep looking for others who’ve gotten out of their contracts. After a couple weeks, she wrote back:
Well, I have tried to cancel and get this off my credit but they are difficult. Now they have sent my account to a collections agency and they call me three to five times a day, although I have told them that I would not be paying them they continue to harrass me…what else should I do?
I sent her links with info about collections agencies and getting them to stop calling.
It’s true that the woman shouldn’t have entered into a DirectBuy membership in the first place. But frankly, from everything I’ve read and heard, I think DirectBuy shoulders almost all of the blame. Their contracts seem impossible to get out of and their business practices are (in my opinion) ridiculous and criminal.
DirectBuy sucks. It sucks hard. It sucks because they hardsell you into buying a membership (you get one chance to join) and don’t give you a chance to compare prices before joining. It sucks because (according to many testimonials) they often don’t deliver the savings advertised. And most of all, it sucks because once you’ve joined you’re in a 10-year contract and they’ll turn you over to a collections agency if you don’t continue to pay them–damaging your credit and subjecting you to harassment.
As others have said, DirectBuy is like the lottery–if no one ever won, it’d be out of business. Some people (say they) make out just fine.
However, before you join, ask yourself whether you’re sure you’ll save over $6000 with the membership. You won’t be able to compare prices beforehand. Ask yourself if you’ll be willing to pay for the next 10 years without being able to cancel even if you never use them. Ask yourself whether you’re willing to be turned over to a collections agency if you lose your job and are unable to pay. Ask yourself whether you want to be in a relationship with a company that practices secrecy and hardsells memberships–why can’t they have things in the open like other club stores?
(Note, the entire article is my opinion on DirectBuy’s business practices and contracts. Just my opinion based on conversations and the many complaints I’ve run into about them.)