If you’re a fitness enthusiast or like to shop online, you’ve probably seen Fabletics’ colorful ads. Fabletics, a fitness wear company owned by actress Kate Hudson, offers customers 50% off their first fitness outfit with free shipping. The site promises easy returns, exchanges and no obligation. Except those promises don’t ring true.According to thousands of complaints filed by consumers with the Better Business Bureau, the New Member VIP Exclusive is actually a subscription service, says CBS News.Apparently, when the customers called Fabletics to cancel their supposed subscription, they had a hard time getting a customer service rep on the phone, their messages weren’t returned, and emails couldn’t get through. PopSugar reports that the company made unauthorized credit charges to customers, and it has an unclear cancellation policy.Many of those unhappy customers took to social media to complain. Here are a few complaints we found on Twitter:
While Fabletics’ customers thought they were getting a smoking deal on fabulous workout wear, they were actually getting a VIP member exclusive price and giving the company authorization to bill them $49.95 a month.Fabletics responded to the complaints: “We make it very clear during the Fabletics shopping experience, and in multiple places on the website, that if a customer takes advantage of these membership prices, she/he is joining our VIP service.”
We visited the site, and attempted to sign up for the service to see at what point we’d be told we were signing up for a subscription. We went through multiple screens asking us to choose a sport, style preference, color, sizes, our birth month and year, and annual income before being asked for our name, email password and zip code to set up an account. On none of those 10 or so screens was anything mentioned about a subscription program.According to the CBS News story, customers have the option of purchasing an item in the cart or a VIP membership option where membership and fees are explained. Too little too late? We think so.While we don’t have enough information to characterize this as a scam, we do know Fabletics is not the only company using this VIP model. Adore Me, an online lingerie and sleepwear company, has a similar model and similar hoops to jump through to learn about the VIP program and even more to cancel membership.Insider Take:In theory, we like the idea of an exclusive VIP membership program, which could include discounted pricing and access to exclusive products or services. What we don’t like, however, is that Fabletics did not state this information clearly or openly, and cancellation is apparently quite difficult. Whether or not Fabletics’ business practices were intentionally vague, customers felt duped, and the situation has become a PR nightmare for Fabletics and its parent company Just Fabulous, Inc.Unfortunately, situations like this cast a shadow over the entire subscription industry. While we cannot undo the damage, we encourage subscription companies to follow these best practices:
- Be open and transparent about your subscription and membership programs. Make it clear that customers are signing up for a subscription or membership and that monthly payments are recurring until cancelled.
- Make Terms of Service and Privacy Policies clear and easy to find.
- Spell out cancellation and refund policies and conditions.
- When attempting to convert a shopper into a buyer, use fewer screens and ask only for pertinent details necessary to do business. For example, before a customer creates an account on Fabletics, she has to indicate her sizes, birth month and year, and income. Size isn’t pertinent until she makes a purchase, birth information is only relevant if a birthday discount or gift will be offered, and income is not important unless credit is an issue, yet this information is required to proceed to the next screen – before an account is even created. Yes, data gathering is important, but irrelevant data should be optional.
- When a customer contacts your company to complain, complains to the Better Business Bureau, or complains on social media, respond as quickly as possible. Apologize for any misunderstandings, and do what is necessary to rectify the situation. Do not ignore the complaint, or fail to follow-through on resolving the issue.
- If the problem is on a large scale like this one, own up to the mistake and correct it immediately. Update your website to clarify policies and to give customers options for resolving the complaints.
- To try to retain dissatisfied customers, offer them something tangible as an apology, and ask for a second chance to earn their business.
- Make adjustments to your business model and/or your marketing materials to ensure that this mistake is not repeated.
~ Dana E. Neuts, Subscription Insider