(Jan. 31) -- Rarely do consumers take on big credit card or catalog companies and win. But that's what happened when Channel 8 On Your Side went to the aid of a local couple. It just so happens we provided the last push for Lewis and Becky Kincaid of Indian Springs. But they really helped themselves. They did it by documenting every transaction they made: a lesson for all consumers.
About a year ago, the Kincaids flipped through a Fingerhut catalog. They purchased four items totaling $104.97. Shipping and handling cost $21.21, for a grand total of $126.21. After receiving a night light set, checkbook calculator and a desk reference organizer, they sent it back for a full refund. Fingerhut requires that the customer send returns back within 30 days. So the Kincaids did.
"In fact, we sent it back within 21 days, and then it was almost two months before they even acknowledged that even returned them, and they charged for the two items for the two months they were in the mail," Lewis Kincaid said.
The Kincaids had proof they sent the merchandise back within 30 days with an insured postage receipt. But instead of a refund, the Kincaids received several bills -- one of which telling them they were delinquent. The only money they sent was $22 for shipping. But here's what Fingerhut did: They began billing the Kincaids in April. When the couple sent $22, Fingerhut never considered it shipping money. They considered it payment for the Kincaid's products. Because it wasn't enough, finance charges and late fees were added on.
So within five months, after first looking in a Fingerhut catalog, the Kincaids now owed $126.21.
"Right now, we owe them more in interest and late charges than what the original products cost us if we kept them," Kincaid adds. So Channel 8 On Your Side contacted Fingerhut to ask why the Kincaids were never refunded their money when they can easily prove they sent the products back within 30 days.
In a letter from Fingerhut dated Dec. 27, 2001 -- almost a year after the couple tried to get a refund -- a Fingerhut executive wrote: "... As a goodwill gesture, the remaining balance on your Fingerhut credit advantage account is being cancelled at this time."
But the whole ordeal has left a bad taste in Lewis' mouth. Fingerhut is a reputable catalog company. They have a satisfactory record with the Better Business Bureau. But the lesson here is document all your transactions. It was an open-and-shut case because the Kincaids did that.
To contact Michael Geeser, click here.