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My experience with a disputed credit card charge

Hopefully you can all benefit from me sharing my unfortunate experience recently. My credit card was debited for a full year’s membership with no warning. I have been a loyal paid member for many years, but decided this year not to renew my membership. As soon as I saw the charge on my credit card statement, I raised a support ticket with ChinesePod to seek their help. There was no reply, so I raised another. And then another.

After about three weeks and three separate tickets I received a reply stating that I had already been sent an email that this charge was going to be made. I never received such an email. All they told me was to change my subscription settings to not automatically renew (which I never set to do so anyway - it should be an opt-in setting, not an opt-out setting).

I did so, and received a “Sorry to see you go” email addressed from Grace. The email said “If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear from you”, so I replied back to her explaining my situation. That was on the 27th of December 2019, and to date I have not received a response.

It’s clear that there is no assistance provided to members in such cases. So I’m leaving this here in the hopes that I can spare some of you the same experience I’ve been through.

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Hey Tony,

I am sorry for the trouble you are experiencing.
We value you as a longterm user. Sadly we do not offer any refunds due to our policies. We make it clear that our service is based on a subscription model with recurring payments, you can see it twice during your payment and checkout and it is also in our terms and conditions.
We forwarded your case to our senior accountant for review.
I could offer you a 50% discount for your next membership as a reward for your loyalty.
Feel free to contact us anytime at support@chinesepod.com
We will contact you personally after the review.

Have a good day and a happy Chinese new year!

Best regards
Oskar from ChinesePod

Hi Oskar, it doesn’t really work that way I’m afraid. What you’ve done is to automatically sign me up for having my credit card charged each year which I never opted into, and just hope that I forget to go and change the setting so that you can extract a payment out of me. By law, you need to give consent to receive marketing emails (opt in, not opt out). By law, you need to give consent to companies collecting and sharing your personal information (opt in, not opt out). Your business practice is really unethical.

The last thing I want to do is to sign up for another year after this experience, even with a discount. Every year I’ve gotten a 50% discount by taking advantage of the Cyber Monday offer. What you should really do is to refund the money that was never supposed to be charged. Failing that, the next best thing you could do is to refund the difference between the full year amount you charged and the 50% discount I would have gotten if I chose to renew with the Cyber Monday offer.

Thank you Tony for sharing your experience. I’m regularly astonished how companies relying on user satisfaction handling such cases. I experienced same situation last year with Xing (Germany’s LinkedIn pendant). I cancelled the subscription, but somehow the system screwed up and I did not get a confirmation mail. Finally they prolonged my subscription. After intervention they offered me a similar offer, which is more a smash into my face than a benefit.
From then on I explained to all my fellows that I cannot recommend Xing. But such behavior seems to be not taken into account by companies living from subscribers.
Perhaps there are always enough new ones.

Belonging the policy - that’s an excuse. Policies are not god given. They can be changed, overruled or simply ignored. Depends on the will.

My experience was very similar to yours, and incredibly frustrating. In my case Eisha (A Chinesepod representative I spoke to on the phone) acknowledged how great it would be if Chinesepod would change their policy, but then made it clear that the policy would not be changed based on my and many other people’s complaints. In other words, if they can keep charging people for a year’s worth of something they’re not using and don’t want, why not? In past years I’ve had good experiences with Chinesepod’s customer support, but lately it seems like a desire to maximize profits has taken over, at the expense of common decency and user experience. Auto-renewal tricks will only take a company so far though. With the abundance of Chinese learning resources available on the web that do not use deceitful tactics to steal their customer’s money, I hope that Chinesepod eventually realizes that listening to and respecting the opinions of their customers is a healthier way to keep their business flowing long-term.

Hi Tony,

Sorry for the late reply due to the holiday of Chinese New Year. And I am sorry to hear it. We have forwarded your thought to our Student Relation Team and our staff will kindly take care of it. Please remember to check out your e-mail. And if there’s still any thoughts, feel free to contact us at support@chinesepod.com

Best regards,

Betty

Hi @yonadaan,

I am sorry to hear that and appreciate your feedback. Our policy has been under review in light of the feedbacks. Thanks again for your comment. With these, we can make ChinesePod better and make more users like us.

Best regards,

Betty

That’s good to hear! If Chinesepod changes their policy and is able to give me a refund for the $124 yearly subscription I never signed up for, I’d be happy to start recommending them again to friends and family, as I have done many times in the past. Until then though, I’ll be warning people to go elsewhere.

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Hi @yonadaan,

We have forwarded your thought to our Student Relation Team and our staff will kindly take care of it. Please remember to check out your e-mail. And if there’s still any thoughts, feel free to contact us at support@chinesepod.com

Best regards,

Betty

As an update to all, Chinesepod sent me an email apologizing for the inconvenience, and processed a 50% refund to my credit card. The best way I can explain how this makes me feel is through an example. Say there’s a person that left their garage unlocked, and as a result their 2 cars were both stolen. Then after some time, one car is returned to the owner, but not the other one. Should people remember to lock their garages? Yes! But should people who steal 2 cars get to keep one of them?

In other words, I am glad that Chinesepod at least refunded me 50% of the yearly subscription that I never wanted. But a full refund would have been much much better. Or, since I did miss the cancellation deadline by one day, I would have also been happy with a refund of 99.7%. (364 divided by 365.) In conclusion, I still feel that Chinesepod’s policy unfairly takes advantage of auto-renewal to charge people for a service they no longer wish to use.

Also, for those who have had or end up having similar experiences in the future, posting on this forum seems to get a much better response than trying to contact customer service directly.

The exact same thing happened to me, and your analogy is spot on. There is a huge change in how ChinesePod is being managed since the new structure and hosts were set up. All I can say is I miss Fiona and Gwilym.

If it helps, I came to the website after a Valentine’s promotion email. I was about to purchase the 3-month package until I saw this post. I dislike when companies do this and it’s a problem. This little gotcha trick will ruin a business in the long run, unfortunately. I haven’t explored the new website design much, but I can say the old version wasn’t very user-friendly. So, I can see why some people get confused or make a mistake. Any honest company would refund the full amount if requested within a reasonable amount of time. Having something in the TOS doesn’t make it right. Treat your customers well in these circumstances and you won’t have a problem providing refunds (within reason) because you know people want to buy from you.

Hi there,

Thank you for your feedback. If there’s a valid reason for doing so, we provide a refund to our users. Each user has different cases for asking a refund, and we provide refunds for valid cases. We value our customer that’s why we are doing everything to satisfy our users’ needs.

Betty

I’m having the same problem. I cannot figure out how to download lessons even though I have hours googling and clicking links that lead nowhere. Now I cannot cancel my subscription even though I have barely used it due to being busy. I would like my subscription refunded (I only got a 40% discount in January) since I’ve barely used it. Chinese Pod does not answer my emails regarding really basic issues like downloading lessons (instead of having to search them on their site). This is a very unwieldly site to use, very user-unfriendly. I don’t have the time, patience, or energy to jump through so many hoops for one 17-minute lesson. I would never advise anyone to use ChinesePod.

Dear Denny,

We are sorry to hear that you are unhappy with your experience here. We would like to solve this problem swiftly, so we kindly ask you to send us a mail. You can send it directly to me, susie@chinesepod.com.

Thank you very much.

Susie

I had the same experience. I cancelled my subscription two days before it was due to renew this week, but two days later my credit card was charged anyway. Even though I got an immediate confirmation via email, customer support told me that I had failed to cancel. The problem was forwarded to the responsible person on the tech side, but there has not yet been an explanation of what went wrong coming from the tech side, and there has not been a refund. I should say that unlike denny1700 I have gotten very cordial responses from customer support and others at CPod, and that I have not had problems with CPod, at least on the legacy website (not the new website). I just decided to hold off on spending more money for the time being due to life circumstances and not knowing if I would have time to dedicate to study with CPod. Over the years I have had a pleasant and very educational experience with Chinese Pod and would not hesitate to recommend it for its content. I hope they get their payments system problems fixed soon.

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Hi there,

I am sorry to hear that. Yes, there are some of our users who have a problem canceling the subscription. And we are still looking for the bugs in the system. We’ll fix it as soon as possible. Although you might leave ChinesePod, I still have something to tell you…First of all, we are really glad to have you learn with us and that our lessons do help you. Secondly, it’s ok that you don’t have enough time with us. We have a channel named ChinesePod on YouTube. And all the videos there are free. If you still want to learn Chinese in your trivial time, you still can find something helpful there. And of course, we are there, too. I mean, if you have any questions about Chinese, you are welcome to leave them down there, too. As usual, we will reply to you as soon as possible.

Regards,
Betty