Kiss my grits! (noelleleithe) wrote in bad_service,
Kiss my grits!

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LifeAlert ripoff

This is my grandmother’s story, but considering her level of internet knowledge equates to “all e-mail is Hotmail,” I’ll have to tell the tale here on her behalf.

My grandmother left her (second) husband in January (that story’s wayyyy too long to get into) and moved in with my parents temporarily. She needs to have both knees replaced, which she’ll be doing next week; after rehab, she'll be moving into a retirement villa for at least a few months. Since she’ll be living alone and has always had a predilection for falls, she decided to sign up for LifeAlert. Yes, the “I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up” people.

So, she gets the information, agrees to a three-year contract, pays the initial fee of about $300, and signs up for monthly bank drafts of the $60 monitoring cost. Service ain’t cheap at all. They send out a local contractor to install the unit and get everything up and running. Except that nothing ever works. The “trouble” light stays on constantly, the fire alarm goes off and no one ever calls to check on her, and at one point she tests the system by pushing the pendant button, and it takes a good half-hour before someone responds with “this has been a successful test.” Except that she never SAID it was a test, so for all they knew, she actually had a problem. When called on that, they claimed she’d just tested the smoke alarm a few minutes earlier (she hadn’t gone near the thing).

After a good dozen phone calls, a replacement smoke alarm, and innumerable attempts to get the system to work right, she gave up. She went through many, many people -- none of whom ever volunteered a name; she had to ask to get one -- before she finally got someone to say they’d take the unit back and refund everything except the first month’s monitoring fee. She’s not happy about that, considering she’s never actually had service, but she says fine, and starts drafting a letter to the president of the company.

The next day, she gets a call with instructions on how to return the smoke alarm. No, she says; I’m returning the entire system for a refund. Oh, no, the caller says. You can’t do that. You’re under contract.

Well. She pretty much lost it. She went through another half-dozen people before someone finally said they’d cut the contract to 6 months, but that if they don’t get paid, they’ll send her to collections. Yes, they’re now threatening an 84-year-old woman that they’ll ruin her credit if she doesn’t pay them for a service she has yet to receive.

That letter to the president of the company is going out today. She would have been willing to accept the original refund offer (minus one months’ service fees), but not any more. She’s demanding a full refund, and an apology for jerking her around. She already stopped the bank draft.

So, anyone who’s considering LifeAlert, be sure any contract has an out clause in the first couple of months!!

ETA: Totally forgot to add that they've already called the state consumer affairs office for their state and the state where the company is based, and they've got information to file complaints with the BBB both places as well. The state council on aging will also be getting a notice. :)
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