Q: A few months ago, looking for a way to promote my woodworking business, my wife and I attended a workshop run by StoresOnline.
For $2,700 they promised us all the help we needed to set up a sales website. But once they had our money, they ignored us. Our site doesn’t work right, yet we can’t get help from customer service, and salespeople constantly call asking us to spend thousands more on upgrades. We asked for a refund but were denied. Can you help? — Larry Smith, Vancouver, Wash.
A: StoresOnline says it provides “the tools and training Internet merchants need to compete and win.” Yet sites created with its guidance are nothing special. GoDaddy.com offers a comparable e-commerce site for $50 a month.
StoresOnline was hard to reach. It took 30 minutes to get through to customer service, and those I spoke with were no help. When I e-mailed the parent company, iMergent, the return call came from its general counsel, Jeffrey Korn, who denied any use of high-pressure sales tactics and added that the company has twice sued telemarketers for misrepresenting themselves as being from StoresOnline.
Businesses don’t like to create broad precedents for refunds. Sometimes you need to give someone an excuse to make a decision in your favor. Your understandable confusion over who was calling you gave me the opening I needed to plead your case. Korn phoned a few days later to say that StoresOnline would grant a full refund.
Recovered by On Your Side: $2,700
Ron Burley is the author of Unscrewed: The Consumer’s Guide to Getting What You Paid For (Ten Speed Press, 2006). You can read his journal on AARP.org, where there's also a new On Your Side column every two weeks.
Small Business Administration (800-827-5722) The SBA website can aid you in choosing a vocation that fits your needs and lifestyle, in writing a business plan, and in hiring your first employee.
SCORE (800-634-0245) Formerly known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives, this nonprofit group has helped nearly 8 million small-business owners get on their feet.
Inc.com Inc. magazine’s website covers everything from how to attract investors to how to judge a franchise opportunity. The site also includes an extensive list of free start-up guides.
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