Here's a pitch we've all seen more times than we'd like to remember: "Your former classmates are trying to contact you! Upgrade now to see their messages!"
Yep, it's the familiar refrain of Classmates.com, trying to get us to sign up for a subscription so we can hook up with all those old classmates we've just been dying to see. Never mind that if there was anyone we really wanted to see, we would probably already be in touch with them, this pick-up line seems to work almost as well as its ancient real-world counterpart: "Come here often?"
Most jaded net denizens give about as much time to this plea as to the fellow on the corner trying to cadge $4.75 for a grande cinnamon latte, but those who do fall ... well, let's say they fall hard.
None harder than Anthony Michaels of San Diego. He had been free-loading along, enjoying his free Classmates.com membership when Classmates.com told him others had been looking -- longingly, one presumes -- at his profile and just couldn't wait to get in touch.
Of course, to actually contact those who've viewed one's profile, one must abandon the free tier and move up to a paid -- or "Gold" -- membership.
Anthony fell for it, and who can blame him? Wouldn't you give anything -- well, a few bucks anyway -- to hook up with the old gang from Biology 101? Think of all those fond memories you could share -- the fetal pigs, those frogs.
So Anthony paid his money and he took his chances. And you know who was waiting for him? Nobody, that's who. There wasn't a single message in his inbox and all the creeps who'd been looking at his profile were strangers and who wants to get to know a bunch of strangers?
Now Anthony is not one to be trifled with, so he did what any red-blooded American male would do. He sued. His class action suit accuses Classmates.com of intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, and fraudulent concealment. He also says that the site is in violation of the California Business and Professions Code.
Classmates.com "knew at all times that the individuals, members, and/or users who were making attempts to contact Plaintiff and the Class were not former classmates when they... made false representations regarding the attempted contacts," his complaint allges. "The Defendants... intended to deceive, and did deceive Plaintiff and the Class by concealing and failing to disclose the fact that the individuals, members, and/or users who were making attempts to contact Plaintiff and the Class were not former classmates."
While Anthony's complaint is certainly far from rare, it's not the most common of the more than 600 ConsumerAffairs.com has received. Most consumers writing to us have complained that their initial three-month subscription renews automatically despite their best efforts.
"I had their trial service for $15.00 for three monthhs and at the end of the trial period, they charged my credit card for another $15.00," said Jennie of Columbia, S.C. "I called them and they said that they would remove it. I also contacted my bank and they took a report. I am waiting for a response."
Cindy of Elk Grove Village, Ill., has the same problem: "They continue to charge my credit card even though I have not authorized continued use. I have not used there website in over a year. Unable to make contact & my credit card has started harrassing me and threating collection."