An hour later, DeGeorge, who lives on a modest pension and Social Security, came out with a portable infrared light for home skin care, along with a dozen boxes of free creams and lotions.
And a receipt for $ 9,031.25.
When she got home, DeGeorge, overwhelmed with regret, burst into tears.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’ Said the soft-spoken great-grandmother of six. “I was so angry with myself.”
The next day, DeGeorge said, she attempted to return everything unopened, but was told the store had a strict policy of no refunds.
DeGeorge is one of 23 people who have filed consumer complaints with the state attorney general’s office against Forever Flawless since 2016, including seven last year.
Together, the 55 pages of complaints describe Forever Flawless – a Nevada-based company with locally controlled franchises at two Massachusetts malls – as aggressively inviting customers into its stores with offers of free goods and services, encouraging them to purchase products and services. products for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and refusing refunds even when unopened merchandise is returned within a day or two of purchase.
Benito Malool, managing director of the two local franchises, said the complaints, which he disputes, have come from a tiny fraction of his more than 10,000 customers since 2016.
The vast majority are “super happy,” he said.
Malool offered to provide “100 customers” to speak on behalf of the store, but he didn’t respond after I asked for the names and phone numbers of a few of them. But I have found many positive reviews online, as well as more critical comments, although none of them could be verified.
“While it’s a little awkward to be pulled over in the lobby, I’m glad they did,” one customer wrote in a Google review. “I made a resolution to take better care of myself and Forever Flawless helped me achieve my goals: Great Products, Great Service.”
DeGeorge and many others who have filed complaints focused on the no-refund policy, saying they were unaware at the time of their purchases.
In Massachusetts, a retailer’s no-refund policy must be “clearly disclosed somewhere in the store” to allow customers “to read it before they buy. [their] product, ”according to the state’s Consumer Affairs Bureau.
When I recently made an unannounced visit to the South Shore Plaza store, the policy was posted, albeit somewhat inconspicuously on a cluttered counter. (I had to ask where it was.) The Northshore Mall sign was not displayed. After I inquired about it, an employee removed the logout from a place not visible to customers and placed it on a countertop.
In addition to the signs, the sales slips presented to me by half a dozen disgruntled customers included the words “no refund” and some customers I spoke with said they signed letters acknowledging the sales as “Finals”.
Still, the no-refund policy of the two local franchises is less generous than that offered on the Forever Flawless website, which operates separately from the franchises. It offers refunds, less a 25 percent restocking fee, within 14 days of purchase.
Enforcing the signage rule isn’t exactly the top priority at the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, which receives thousands of complaints every year on many topics and is now focused on the issues. pandemic-related, such as evictions and refunds for cancellations. to travel.
The attorney general’s office, which acknowledges it does not have the resources to handle every case reported to the office, assisted in mediating on behalf of clients for four partial refunds and one full refund. Regarding DeGeorge, the office issued a statement saying, “Our office always does its best to arbitrate complaints. We regret that this company refused to provide a full refund in this case.
In other cases, the operators of the two shopping centers where the stores are located have intervened to obtain at least partial refunds from customers, according to these customers. (Mall operators declined to comment.)
And in some cases, Forever Flawless has relaxed its usual no-refund policy. In DeGeorge’s case, for example, he paid her back $ 2,200 out of $ 9,000, after a family member made persistent demands. But that partial refund was conditioned on DeGeorge agreeing not to seek any more money back, leaving her stuck with a $ 6,800 hole in her budget for something that’s in a closet.
On its website, Forever Flawless specializes in “premium skin care for personal use at home,” including diamond powder infused creams, serums and masks, which it describes as ” natural super-exfoliant.
The two outlets at Forever Flawless Mall also sell expensive light fixtures produced by a company called Elevare Skin, which offers an example of a more liberal refund policy it accepts returns of products purchased on its website within seven. days. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Malool, in written responses to questions, said its return policy is comparable to that of other retailers.
“We want to help every customer in the best possible way,” he said. “But also [we] want to keep our return policy as it is.
He also said his customers are under no pressure to make purchases.
“We don’t force anyone to buy anything,” he said. “We give them incredible [merchandise] and amazing service.
Malool took issue with DeGeorge’s account of her attempt to return the products she purchased, claiming that DeGeorge opened and used them.
DeGeorge “asks[ed] for a refund after using “the products she purchased,” he wrote.
But when I visited DeGeorge at her house, the infrared light certainly looked unopened, well wrapped in plastic. It was the only item she was billed for, while the other items were free, according to the sales slip. DeGeorge told me that she never opened any of the free samples.
I sent photos of the light in its packaging to Malool, asking for clarification, but he did not respond.
I took the complaints to the Attorney General to Joe Dye Culik, a consumer law attorney, who said it seems “ethical and morally wrong to deny a refund to a grandmother who made a mistake. and quickly tried to return it ”.
“But where do you draw the line for the state to step in to protect people from their worst impulses?” ” He asked.
It is obvious to me that Forever Flawless sometimes takes a “hard sell” approach, which is its prerogative. But denying DeGeorge a refund after quickly realizing his costly mistake seems heartless and a lousy way to treat customers.