We've all experienced the moral dilemma that accompanies a finished Coke not making its way onto your bill. Do you consider it a drink on the house? Or say something to the waiter?
Well one California woman would likely do the latter, and then some.
Trish Jarvis received more than $2,500-worth of appliances she ordered from Home Depot, without ever paying the bill, CBS Sacramento reports (h/t Consumerist). Jarvis called the home improvement giant repeatedly asking to pay, but the company wouldn't let her because, thanks to a computer glitch, officials thought she already paid.
Not that Home Depot exactly needed the extra cash. The home-goods seller saw profits jump last quarter, thanks in part to warmer winter weather. Overall, the company earned $774 million over that most recently reported three month period.
Jarvis ultimately did get a bill, but only after CBS Sacramento contacted the company while reporting their story on the mixup. Home Depot gave Jarvis a discount for her honesty.
The story surprises, given that customers more often experience the opposite: Companies demanding payment for services or goods not provided. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has a whole page of tips dedicated to helping consumers who are billed for goods they never receive dispute the charges. It also has some tips for shopping by phone, mail or online:
-- Consider your experience with the company or its general reputation before you order. If you've never heard of the seller, check on its physical location and reputation with the local Better Business Bureau or the state Attorney General's office.
-- Ask about the company's refund and return policies, the product's availability and the total cost of your order before you place your order.
-- Get a shipment date.
-- Keep records of your order, such as the ad or catalog from which you ordered; the company's name, address and phone number; any shipment representation the company made to you and when it made it; the date of your order; a copy of the order form you sent to the company or, if you're ordering by phone, a list of the items and their stock codes and the order confirmation code; your canceled check or the charge or debit statement showing the charge for your order; and any communications to or from the company.
-- Track your purchases. When you order online, keep printouts of the web pages with the details of the transaction, including the merchant's return policies, in case you're not satisfied.
In a high-profile example of double-billing, an Apple customer is launching a class-action suit against the computer giant claiming he was charged twice for an iTunes song he only bought once, according to Digital Spy.
In Ridgefield, New Jersey, one man is facing charges that he took deposits from businesses and never delivered the goods he promised, according to the Jersey Journal. And in Pheonix, one couple paid $7,000 last year for flooring they never received, azfamily.com reports.
One common way customers get charged for products they never get: An online retailer signs up a customer for a service they never asked for after the customer has purchased another product.
That's what happened to one Pollock Pines, California couple in February, according to a separate CBS Sacramento report. After Edward Aldrich bought his wife some bras online, the company where he purchased the bras began charging the couple's credit card $30 per month for a service the two claim they never signed up for.