'Today' Rejects Personal Responsibility, Attacks Online Dealmakers

Have you ever felt so embarrassed about a financially damaging mistake that you tried to blame everyone except yourself to cover your tracks? If so, you can always count on a network morning show to back you up.

That's what NBC's "Today" show did August 26 in a segment attacking online dealmakers. Co-host Meredith Vieira warned shoppers could find "mysterious and unwanted charges on their credit cards."

"Kathy Danzer wanted to reconnect with old classmates, so she bought a subscription on a popular high school reunion Web site," correspondent Natalie Morales reported. "But when she got her credit card bill there was another unexpected charge: an additional $12.99 for something called ‘GREATFN.'"

With all the complaining - not to mention the foreboding soundtrack the segment featured - a viewer might think Danzer and others like her had trouble getting refunds for the money they mistakenly spent. But that wasn't the case, as the company refunds money to unsatisfied customers, Morales admitted at the end of the segment.

"Kathy Danzer, the person you saw in that piece, was able to get her money completely back," Morales said. "It took a couple of weeks and a lot of persistence on her part." Perhaps a couple weeks of persistence taught Danzer a lesson in reading the "fine print."

As it turned out, "Great Fun" was a membership rewards club that offered online shopping discounts for a monthly fee, according to Morales. Danzer had signed up for the program via www.Classmates.com to get $10 off her subscription fee.

"This offer may look great, but it's actually a marketing tool," Moraled said. "And here's the catch: by just filling out this survey, you're actually signing yourself up for a rewards program that you may neither want nor need, but you'll be paying for it every month on your credit card."

But the "catch" was clearly outlined as a seven-day free trial of the subscription-based program. And a disclaimer - partly cropped out by the "Today" video - warned customers that, "By typing your email address below, it will constitute your electronic ..."