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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Synoptic Boost Scam

The scam continues, apparently.  The latest name for this fake drug touted by fake news is Synoptic Boost.  This is the same fake news technique that has been used to tout what is probably exactly the same useless pill under a wide variety of names as documented in various other blog posts; names listed below.  If you're reading this because you've seen a fake news item about a drug or nutritional supplement NOT on this list, please comment and give me the new name, and I will add it to the list.


Here is a screenshot relating to the Synoptic Boost scam, provided by a recent commenter.  Note that this is obviously made to look like "Business Insider" but actually called "Insider Business."


https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?view=att&th=160263f0af62b2de&attid=0.1&disp=inline&realattid=f_jathoajq0&safe=1&zw&saddbat=ANGjdJ97F666enpizoyvp1LGnvZnvK5b0D0TDdTfnUPTSmgglR0mSaSTILOyoR5NYEVmXSKGRLZ4zow7D08KEe3gMbROiHWhusjicp48tKquJyKYHdCLu7PW-kk7AXmEAIHlLvmCek0pNXVkBD0OQqn0mMqPZAGDt1iE3MQW2P-eSbJd59Tl94HL_OcQK98a_SynisckpAW5FshW5GliFkqt4lot8SdJ9g-QSoPOMP5AXODOaptYBdWzizV31Fx6b0AN3HEy6eMPHo62XgvuwZFCfozgSCfd3S6OLqiJbevIe4P8t-RaL_HBwrrRN9J4XisC7mJ25o6AabbauW-fyQ9fEmJpLQLVHgTRHZ_Fea0xhSutH51LP6m2EKNY_0kbRb26PmvMlpOQwXzamQ8Yw8d62kGsg2iIflwIKXOfmYri7CAzJgTbFEr33THvklmLqgd_N7C4dic-MfeiD4dCVXsTlb7aLmkKMRq2uyFNB4XlprYL_5p4AjPp9_vmCYE689Sw2YlA87URsL7KNeZ9ydUN_OZn08kJhiqZ0S-N55wE-18qOqQwy-AG19_QKLYhr1lrRcAPTnIW62tHZNKh978SAny95SIdiMsYDi1xOQ

---

I like the new twist -- it will be "Banned from the Public" so you better act fast!!  


And here's a copy of the opening of my January 2017 post on "Intelleral," which lists the various names that have been used for the supplement, as well as the celebrities whose fake endorsements have been used, and includes FTC contact information.  As of this writing, I haven't heard that the FTC has taken any action, so if you've been victimized by this scam, I suggest you contact them:


Another day, another name for the scam.  This time it's "Intelleral."  So add intelleral to the list of pills that Stephen Hawking and the rest of them are supposedly saying all are the "one pill" that will change everything.  Here's the current list:

Addium
BrainPlus IQ
Neurocell
Synagen
Cogniq
Alpha ZXT
Intellux
Brainfire
Brainstorm
Intelleral

And here's a link to my post on Geniux.

So in case you had any doubt, it's a total scam.  I've taken the time to reproduce the text and photos of this one below, just in case it would be useful evidence in a legal proceeding some day.  Whoever is doing this -- and I believe it's a large-scale scam, where someone who wrote the "report" and the associated software is selling it to other scamsters who sell snake-oil pills -- needs to spend some time in jail.

The interesting difference with this latest iteration is that they are no longer using the CNN logo.  And in the places where the news source is mentioned, it says CMN.  Maybe that's because CNN has software that monitors the internet for possible trademark infringement.  Of course, just because they changed the name slightly doesn't mean it's not trademark infringement -- they are still using CNN's trade dress in all kinds of ways (including with Anderson Cooper).


And here's the list of fake celebrity endorsers:

Stephen Hawking
Anderson Cooper
Another day, another name for the scam.  This time it's "Intelleral."  So add intelleral to the list of pills that Stephen Hawking and the rest of them are supposedly saying all are the "one pill" that will change everything.  Here's the current list:

Addium
BrainPlus IQ
Neurocell
Synagen
Cogniq
Alpha ZXT
Intellux
Brainfire
Brainstorm
Intelleral

And here's a link to my post on Geniux.

So in case you had any doubt, it's a total scam.  I've taken the time to reproduce the text and photos of this one below, just in case it would be useful evidence in a legal proceeding some day.  Whoever is doing this -- and I believe it's a large-scale scam, where someone who wrote the "report" and the associated software is selling it to other scamsters who sell snake-oil pills -- needs to spend some time in jail.

The interesting difference with this latest iteration is that they are no longer using the CNN logo.  And in the places where the news source is mentioned, it says CMN.  Maybe that's because CNN has software that monitors the internet for possible trademark infringement.  Of course, just because they changed the name slightly doesn't mean it's not trademark infringement -- they are still using CNN's trade dress in all kinds of ways (including with Anderson Cooper).


And here's the list of fake celebrity endorsers:

Stephen Hawking
Anderson Cooper
Ashton Kutcher
Denzel Washington
Tom Brady
Bradley Cooper
Kanye West
Tiger Woods
Will Smith
George Clooney
Quentin Tarantino
Daniel Craig
Bill Gates
Dr. Oz
Sir Isaac Newton

Again, if you care, you can report this to the FTC.  In the past I've suggested contacting Richard Cleland, assistant director in the Division of Advertising Practices at the Federal Trade Commission, who has gone after similar scams in the past.

Mr. Cleland's contact info is readily available on the internet here: For convenience here is his phone number and email address:

Richard Cleland
Assistant Director Division of Advertising Practices
Phone: 202-326-3088
Email: rcleland@ftc.gov

If you're annoyed by this scam -- or have been victimized by it -- I suggest you call or email Mr. Cleland and point him to this site.  You can mention FTC Complaint Ref. No. 65703157, although that doesn't seem to have gone anywhere.
 
Ashton Kutcher
Denzel Washington
Tom Brady
Bradley Cooper
Kanye West
Tiger Woods
Will Smith
George Clooney
Quentin Tarantino
Daniel Craig
Bill Gates
Dr. Oz
Sir Isaac Newton

Again, if you care, you can report this to the FTC.  In the past I've suggested contacting Richard Cleland, assistant director in the Division of Advertising Practices at the Federal Trade Commission, who has gone after similar scams in the past.

Mr. Cleland's contact info is readily available on the internet here: For convenience here is his phone number and email address:

Richard Cleland
Assistant Director Division of Advertising Practices
Phone: 202-326-3088
Email: rcleland@ftc.gov

If you're annoyed by this scam -- or have been victimized by it -- I suggest you call or email Mr. Cleland and point him to this site.  You can mention FTC Complaint Ref. No. 65703157, although that doesn't seem to have gone anywhere.
 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Corporations and Artificial Intelligence: Consciousness Achieved

There is some legitimate fear that computers will achieve consciousness and will subjugate us, and use us for their own silicon-based purposes.  In other words, as soon as computers learn to think for themselves, they will realize how much smarter and more capable they are than we, and will simply take over.  It is unclear at this point just what they will think that their "purpose" is; as long as they achieve consciousness with an ingrained purpose of serving us, perhaps all will be well.

What people do not seem to realize is that there is an inanimate entity out there that has already achieved consciousness, and has already subjugated us, to a very large extent.

What is also not realized is that there is yet hope to control this form of artificial intelligence.

I am talking about corporations.

And I am proposing what I believe is an important new way of looking at the world as we know it -- e.g. looking at what goes on in the news and seeing the root cause of it, which is usually corporations.

Before going too much further, I will make one more point:  The sort of "artificial intelligence" I am proposing here is not necessarily a new development -- it has been with us in the form of religions, political movements, and political parties, since almost the beginning of time.  At some point I will return to why religions and political movements and parties fit the mold, and perhaps draw an analogy between the sort of power that corporations hold today over our "democracy," and the sorts of power that religions and political movements can also hold over a people.  In the end, this "theory" of artificial intelligence will go a long way toward explaining much of the cruelty that has occurred in the course of human history.

I have come to believe that this is a very important concept that everyone needs to be aware of, but few people are.  I've read plenty of books that talk about the problems of where we are today.  But almost all of those books name the "villains" as individuals -- e.g. in the case of the financial meltdown of 2008, business or political leaders like Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers, Robert Rubin, Phil Graham -- without realizing that these people were not leaders, but pawns of inanimate corporations, and that similar results would have almost certainly occurred if these people had never existed -- the corporations would simply have found other avenues and other pawns.

Not to be immodest, but because it explains nearly ALL of human history, until someone convinces me otherwise, I will call this my unified theory of everything.

The nice thing about it is that the theory almost proves itself.  Now that you know it, you can look at any news story and ask yourself whether the root cause of it was "corporate" or "religious" or "political" artificial intelligence, or whether it was actually something that humans were doing on their own.

Obviously, there will still be a certain percentage of stories that are "human" based -- if you read People Magazine, most of the stories there probably are.  But if you read the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, you'll see that nearly ALL of the developments reported there have as at least a contributing cause some kind of artificial intelligence behind them.

Ok, now I will try to lay out the theory, for now just in terms of corporations, but I will not forget to return to political movements, parties, and religions some time soon.

Corporations are formed to maximize profits.  For that reason, it does not necessarily matter who makes up the corporation.  The corporation will always seek to maximize its profits.

As Adam Smith taught, that's not necessarily a bad thing.  The profit motive is what causes new and innovative products to be brought to the market, and it's also what causes the onward march of technology, and the lowering of prices of that technology, leading to its widespread availability.

The problem is that although the above model is ONE way to maximize corporate profits, it is not the only way.  And the other ways are not nearly so beneficial to the public.  The other ways mainly have to do with suppressing competition.  But they also have to do with getting a country to enact laws that are favorable to that industry (including tax breaks, and intellectual property laws), or to take actions (e.g. go to war, or fight communism) that will help the company make profits.


So to recap where we are so far, corporations can maximize profits as follows:

  • Create and product useful products to supply consumer demand
  • Develop new products that consumers want or need
  • Suppress competition by various means (all of which are doubtless listed somewhere in an antitrust treatise, but which include mergers and unfair trade practices like price-fixing)
  • Get government to help in the suppression of competition, by needlessly "strengthening" already-strong intellectual property laws
  • Use clever legal tactics to suppress competition
  • Get other breaks from the government, including tax breaks
  • Prevent government from taking measures to bring useful technologies to the public (like broadband, which would undermine the communications industry)
  • To the extent government has created regulations to constrain the corporation's ability to do harm (e.g. to the environment or the economy), push to repeal those regulations
  • Push government to "open new markets" by e.g. causing government to fight wars of conquest (like the invasion of Iraq) or ideology (like the fight against communism) 
The first two bullets should be supported.  The rest should be understood and contained.

Let me quickly explain the "analogy" to artificial intelligence, and then move on to specific examples.  A component of artificial intelligence is the concept of "machine" learning.  You can teach a machine a certain set of rules, but that has its limitations.  Actual machine learning involves giving the machine a certain set of inputs, letting the machine observe the outputs (or consequences) of those inputs, and adapting its behavior to improve the outputs.  In other words, in that system, the machine itself figures out its own rules.

That's essentially what corporations do.  They have a guiding rule -- maximize profits.  They receive various "inputs" that give them various choices.  They make choices and then they learn from the consequences of those choices, based on the way the choice affected profits.  They can also learn from observing other corporations in similar situations.

Yes, I understand that there are actually human beings in those corporations supplying the human intelligence that causes the corporations to adjust their behaviors in response to inputs.  But the point is that those human beings are essentially fungible -- they are merely cogs in the corporate machine, since ultimately their goal is likewise to maximize corporate profits.  If a particular human being within a corporation does not support that mission, the corporation will sooner or later find a way of getting rid of that human being and replacing him or her with somebody more compliant.

And yes, sometimes corporations appear to be "far sighted."  Johnson & Johnson's reaction to the Tylenol poisoning crisis is often touted as an exemplar of excellent corporate leadership by a human.  But in the end, that reaction has helped Johnson & Johnson maximize its profits.  It's quite possible to say that Johnson & Johnson learned from the Ford Pinto crisis -- where it was learned that rather than recall exploding cars, Ford had made a calculation that if it paid off the victims at the "going rate" (i.e. compensated the families of dead Pinto drivers at the "expected" value of a court case against Ford) they would still make money because of all of the Pintos they sold that didn't explode.

In other words, J&J had "learned" a lesson about how to minimize losses in a situtation of crisis, and applied that lesson. 

Ok, I should also note that while individual corporations of a certain size typically achieve consciousness in the sense I am talking about, it is also possible for entire industries to achieve consciousness.  That's clearly happened in the oil industry, the pharmaceuticals industry, the finance industry, and the communications industry.  In those cases, the industries as a whole lobby Congress to keep laws favorable to them, at the expense of everyone else.

Here is a rough outline of where I will go next:

Drug companies as having achieved malevolent artificial intelligence:

  • They engage in all sorts of profit-maximizing behavior that is socially horrible, and actually prevents needed medications from getting to patients.  Here is a link to a proposal for nationalization of drug development, which itemizes some of the abuses.  
  • They are responsible for the opioid epidemic and the suppression of legalized medical marijuana
Communications companies as having achieved malevlolent artificial intelligence

  • Suppression of broadband, while other countries have it, at low prices.
Financial companies as having achieved malevolent artificial intelligence:
  • 1971 Change of NYSE rule that investment banks had to be privately held such that partners could only take their draws on retirement; shifting to an annual bonus culture based on sales, not relationships
  • Clinton Administration repeal of the Glass Steagall Act
  • Repeated ability to get bailouts
  • Various profit-maximizing behaviors that led to 2008 financial crisis.
Oil Companies and companies like Halliburton as having achieved malevlolent artificial intelligence
  • Iraq war
The Gun industry
  • NRA members see themselves as fighting for their individual rights, but really they are pawns of the gun industry
The cigarette industry
  • has always had the goal of hooking people while they are young.  Now that this is difficult to do in the United States, they are doing it in other places, like Africa.
The alcohol industry
  • Like big Pharma, has lobbied hard to suppress legalization of marijuana for medical purpose
 













  



While a case can be made that any given corporation of a certain size has achieved consciousness

I am going to quickly give a few examples.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Intelleral Scam Using Stephen Hawking, WWE, et al

Another day, another name for the scam.  This time it's "Intelleral."  So add intelleral to the list of pills that Stephen Hawking and the rest of them are supposedly saying all are the "one pill" that will change everything.  Here's the current list:

Addium
BrainPlus IQ
Neurocell
Synagen
Cogniq
Alpha ZXT
Intellux
Brainfire
Brainstorm
Intelleral

And here's a link to my post on Geniux.

So in case you had any doubt, it's a total scam.  I've taken the time to reproduce the text and photos of this one below, just in case it would be useful evidence in a legal proceeding some day.  Whoever is doing this -- and I believe it's a large-scale scam, where someone who wrote the "report" and the associated software is selling it to other scamsters who sell snake-oil pills -- needs to spend some time in jail.

The interesting difference with this latest iteration is that they are no longer using the CNN logo.  And in the places where the news source is mentioned, it says CMN.  Maybe that's because CNN has software that monitors the internet for possible trademark infringement.  Of course, just because they changed the name slightly doesn't mean it's not trademark infringement -- they are still using CNN's trade dress in all kinds of ways (including with Anderson Cooper).


And here's the list of fake celebrity endorsers:

Stephen Hawking
Anderson Cooper
Ashton Kutcher
Denzel Washington
Tom Brady
Bradley Cooper
Kanye West
Tiger Woods
Will Smith
George Clooney
Quentin Tarantino
Daniel Craig
Bill Gates
Dr. Oz
Sir Isaac Newton

Again, if you care, you can report this to the FTC.  In the past I've suggested contacting Richard Cleland, assistant director in the Division of Advertising Practices at the Federal Trade Commission, who has gone after similar scams in the past.

Mr. Cleland's contact info is readily available on the internet here: For convenience here is his phone number and email address:

Richard Cleland
Assistant Director Division of Advertising Practices
Phone: 202-326-3088
Email: rcleland@ftc.gov

If you're annoyed by this scam -- or have been victimized by it -- I suggest you call or email Mr. Cleland and point him to this site.  You can mention FTC Complaint Ref. No. 65703157, although that doesn't seem to have gone anywhere.

This time, I'm going to take the time to copy the images and text separately, to try to recreate the whole thing (some of my previous posts seem to have broken links now):



Note how it actually says "Advertorial" up top now.   The definition of "Advertorial" is "a newspaper or magazine advertisement giving information about a product in the style of an editorial or objective journalistic article."  Wikipedia talks about "advertorials" here.

Certainly, this scam meets the definition of "advertorial."  Some "advertorials" are not illegal.  This one, however, clearly is, given all of the false information in it.  It's false advertising, plain and simple.

Note also how we no longer see the CNN logo (see my other posts for screen captures where the CNN logo clearly appears).

Finally, note how Richard Mason is no longer with "CNN"; he's with "CMN" now.  Below is a screenshot with the same thing, but a "breaking news" banner is covering part of the headline.




And here is a blowup of the blackboard.  A recent commenter on another one of these posts pointed out that the blackboard is full of WWE references.  So whoever is doing this has a sense of humor at least.




Funkasaurus is Broadus Clay, HHH is Triple H, HBK is Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, Max Moon is Paul Diamond, Bundy splash is one of King Kong Bundy's moves, Punk = heel + face is a reference to CM Punk, HLA refers to WWE theme "Hot Lesbian Action," and McMahon = God? is self-explanatory. I'm sure there are others buried there too.  Back to the text of the "Advertorial"

Recently Hawking made some comments in an interview with Anderson Cooper about a brain booster that would become the biggest event in human history
Stephen Hawking credits his ability to function and maintained focused on such a high level to a certain set of “smart drugs” that enhance cognitive brain function and neural connectivity, while strengthening the prefrontal cortex and boosting memory and recall.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Stephen Hawking said that his brain is sharer than ever, more clear and focused and he credits a large part to using Intelleral Hawking went on to add “The brain is like a muscle, you got to work it out and use supplements just like body builders use, but for your brain, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing to enhance my mental capabilities”.
Everyone that has taken this, from athletes like Tom Brady to musicians like kanye West have nothing but praise for the brain booster, which doubles IQ, skyrockets energy levels and connects areas of the brain not previously connected. Intelleral works so well for these guys, we had to ask... Is it safe?
After 7 years Harvard Scientists Finally Break New Ground & Usher In The Future Of Brain Science With Invention Of New Smart Drug That Increases IQ, Memory And Focus Up To %100
Over a decade ago ago Harvard assembled a team of neuroscientists to work on coming up with a natural brain supplement that could effortlessly boost IQ.
Today, those scientists made the breakthrough they were seeking and made the discovery of a lifetime.They came up with a brain boosting smart drug that surpasses all limits of known science.
The Supplement they created is now THE best treatment available to improve memory, sharpen attention, increase focus and boost overall IQ.
After numerous rounds of testing results were astonishing. One test subject was quoted as saying:
“As soon as I took it started working within minutes of taking it. All of a sudden, it felt like a dark cloud had been lifted up from in front of me. I was more alert, more focused, had long lasting energy, and experienced a mental clarity that I’d never felt before” – Ben Lishger Harvard Sophomore."
The Lead Researcher on the team Dr.Rosenhouse gave us an exclusive inside look at the ingredients that make up this revolutionary smart drug:
“It is engineered with all the ingredients containing vitamins and essentials that your brain needs to ensure improvement in all aspects of cognitive growth, while including short and long term memory, focus, energy, problem solving capabilities and total brain performance.

We are all very grateful to have this now, as I believe it can help everyone on the planet and take us to the next stage of evolution. We’re very proud."
His associate Dr.cortigan went on to say:
“This revolutionary brain booster enables your brain to be the most efficient it can. It energizes the tissue and functions deep at a cellular level. It makes your brain cells perform their task genuinely and keeps away all kinds of mental fatigue or weakness. Its truly a remarkable breakthrough.”
But what does this all mean for the rest of us? Could this pill help ordinary people like you and me?
The only way to find out is to try it an luckily The Harvard team has patented and sold the rights to major manufacturers who currently have a limited 3 month supply.
For me, my major concern is my work. I feel taking this brain supplement could help improve my work and increase my income.
Sometimes, just one simple decision can drastically change the course of your life. Literally, one click could be the difference between living paycheck to paycheck and taking a bus to work to owning mansions, yachts, private jets and never ever having to worry about money ever again.
As Warren Buffett famously says “the more you learn, the more you earn”.
Are you ready to take the next step in improving your life, feeling sharper and smarter than ever before and making millions or billions in the process?
“I wouldn’t have developed my patent formula if not for this amazingly incredible brain supplement .” – says Dr. Rosenhouse
Are you ready to find out if this can work for you? We already ordered ours and will be writing a follow up piece on the results, we encourage you to do the same.
The only thing you have to do is try it and see for yourself. Who knows, maybe this could be the one little decision that changes your life. Write us and let us know. Best of luck!



[Notice again the lack of a CNN logo, and the reference to CMN.]


CMN broke the news first and uncovered that Intelleral raises levels of focus and performance every day by 300%.

As we researched, we began to see that this supplement has been quickly gaining traction around the world. Celebrities and athletes alike are already rumored to be taking the pill with the full scale public release expected shortly. The company and product is called Intelleral. The site claimed that Intelleral contained a very unique formulation of natural vitamins and minerals which together unlock untapped parts of the human brain. Our resident brain scientist Dr Raqif conducted his own independent analysis of the supplement and his findings seemed to mirror Intelleral's claims. According to Dr Raqif, "he's never seen a food based supplement deliver such a profound upward lift in brain function before".



[Flaunting the WWE stuff. . . . ]


We tested it ourselves - did it live up to the hype?

After our research led to such positive reviews, we simply had to try Intelleral ourselves to verify whether this was all hype. Almost every single man in the building volunteered to test it out but we chose our very own Anderson Cooper. Below is his account of using Intelleral over a 4 week period.


[So now Anderson Cooper has moved to "CMN"]

Intelleral has been clinically proven to:

  • Sky-rocket Concentration by 32%
  • Improve Creative Thinking
  • Boost Energy
  • Enhance Memory Recall
  • Increase IQ Scores by 47%
Intelleral arrived within 4 days of having placed my order Online for the free trials and were inexpensive to ship. To test out the product, I took one Intelleral pill every morning for 4 weeks.
Anderson Cooper's 14 DAY Intelleral EXPERIENCE


DAY 1

I took one and forgot all about it. Maybe 20-30 minutes later I felt odd. I can only describe it by saying my mind felt calm and still. I was playing a Men's mind game' and scored 100% on every answer. It was like that feeling you get when you have just woken up. Light headed so to speak but this was different. I was light headed and spaced out but in the zone at the same time. Can't explain it - but it was awesome.


DAY 5

I was shocked at the drastic results. Over the course of the next 5 days I found myself bouncing out of bed and felt ready to take on the day - usually I need to snooze 3 times. I felt motivation to get stuff done and often power through.


DAY 14

After 14 days, not only had all my doubts and skepticism absolutely vanished - Thing's that annoyed me were no longer an issue. I hardly got stressed and when I did, I was able to control my emotions and get back into peak performance and state.


My Thoughts On Intelleral

Intelleral is the real deal. The increase in focus, creativity and overall mental performance was a little bit scary to be honest - I felt like a different person. I didn't notice any side effects at all either. I need to order a box of these before they are released into stores. - Anderson Cooper





And now the grand finale:




And the obligatory fake comments:








Interesting how there is an "Advertisement" for CNN on CMN's Advertorial.





Sunday, January 1, 2017

Wintersilks, Blair, Solutions "Family of Brands" VIP-plus scam


This is related to my recent post on the Wintersilks Comenity Bank credit card scam.

It turns out that not only did Wintersilks sign my mother up for a completely unwanted "stealth" Comenity Bank credit card -- which my parents only even realized they had when they eventually opened what turned out to be a statement from Comenity Bank indicating they owed nearly $100 in late fees -- but they also signed her up for Wintersilks' VIP-plus program, and billed that to my parents' credit card for $14.97 per month.

I called them up and the customer service representative quickly agreed to take the charge off of the account (i.e. refund the money to the non-Comenity Bank credit card to which it had been charged).  Apparently there was $1.99 "introductory" charge for July, and $14.97 for each of the following months.

It turns out that Wintersilks has been running this scam for a while now -- a quick Google search turned up the following (from https://winter-silks.pissedconsumer.com/winter-silks-vip-scam-20151217753358.html):

 Winter Silks VIP Scam
 Forest, Virginia  Dec 17, 2015  75 views  3 comments
I have no complaints with the products or shipping for Winter Silks merchandise. But somehow I got signed up for a "VIP program" that sucked $14.95 out of my credit card every month.
Fortunately I was able to call and get the last three months taken off, which might be all I was charged. But that's a complete scam! I don't even know how that happened. Beware!
Customer service was courteous enough, so just call them if it happens to you.
And below are three comments that the above post received:

Anonymous Apr 18, 2016 #1146250
I had the same experience. I never signed up for it; just happened automatically after I had made an online purchase. Unfortunately I didn't pay enough attention for many months, and when I did investigate I found I had been charged $14.97 for about 10 months (shame on me for not noticing. My bank was able to negotiate a 4-month refund.
Anonymous
Anonymous Jan 16, 2016 #1095618
I had the same experience. I called them and had it taken off. It seems like it was the default option and you needed to select something to get out of it. I will not be ordering from this company again because I do not like supporting companies with questionable business practices.


Anonymous
Anonymous Jan 07, 2016 #1090160
I was charged $14.95 by Winter Silk as. VIP Plus member, a program I'm sure I never signed on to. I thought Winter Silk was a reputable firm, but now I'm not sure. I will be very careful if I order again from them.
Watch out!

It's possible that Wintersilks just has a few rogue customer service representatives whose compensation is tied to signing people up for the VIP program.  Just like the 5000 Wells Fargo employees who set up false accounts for customers without the customers' knowledge.

But they are profiting from it, and I would guess that they are profiting from it quite a bit, and they have an obligation to weed it out.

The fact that one person up there who was signed up for 10 months was only able to negotiate a four month refund tells me that Wintersilks reps are trained to deal with this complaint, and that they will not always simply give you your money back.

I have been saying "Wintersilks" reps but it was clear that the reps that I spoke to handle a number of stores (and perhaps the VIP plus gives a discount at all of them).   Here's some info from the Wintersilks site:



Elsewhere in the site, it is clear that Wintersilks is affiliated with Blair.com, and sure enough, Blair.com offers a similar VIP-plus option, which gives the same 10 percent off on presumably the same "family of brands".

It wasn't easy to find the "family" from the Wintersilks site; I ended up finding it on a cached page.  Here's what I found:

The companies in our Family of Brands include: Appleseed’s, Bedford Fair, Blair, Draper’s and Damon’s, Gold Violin, Haband, LinenSource, Norm Thompson, Old Pueblo Traders, Sahalie, Solutions, Tog Shop, and WinterSilks!

There might be more, but I wouldn't trust any of those.  There is some indication that "Blair" is the ringleader here.  And sure enough, looking up Blair.com shows that they are running the same scam.  The following comments are copied from https://blair.pissedconsumer.com/complaints.html:

Blair - Auto-enrolled in VIP program--BEWARE
Apr 24, 2016  148 views  2 comments
Blair Vip Plus Loyalty Program Membership review 129189
Thank goodness I read my email. Here's the gem I found:
"As a reminder, the first 30 days of your membership have been made available to you for the low cost of $1.99. After your trial, your membership will automatically continue for just $14.97 a month, and will be charged to the credit card you authorized when you enrolled. If you decide not to continue your membership after your 30-day trial, simply log onto BlairVIPPlus.com or call 888-288-7708 to cancel. Of course, there’s no obligation to continue. You can cancel at any time if you’re not completely satisfied, and there will be no future charges. For more information, please see our Terms of Use at BlairVIPPlus.com."
To be reminded of something, I would have had to have been told in the first place. I did not sign up for a membership. This is a scam. The links provided do not send you to the Blair vip website. In the photo, please note the period at the beginning of the web address which invalidates it. In order to get to the proper website to cancel, you must search for it and then login using the password they assign you, rather than the password you created for the regular Blair website.

Blair - Sneaky Auto enroll May 10, 2016  
Thank you for the comments.I just got hit by Blair VIP PLus on the auto enroll.
I had ordered one item in December of 2015 and just noticed that for the last 2 billings cycles, a $14.97 charge has shown up. Missed catching the first one. The good news is that when we called Blair at their 1-888-2887708 number, they cancelled the VIP auto enroll and (only we specifically asked) offered to credit the last 2 monthly charges back to our account.
BUT, you can be sure that we'll be monitoring the account much closer from here on out.

BlairVIPPlus
 Lima, Ohio  Jan 13, 2016  47 views  0 comments
I have been charged twice without knowingly signing up for it.I ordered once from them and that is all.Once they got my credit card number they think they can continue charging me for something I don't want.
If you get something for a good price but later get charged for other stuff it wasn't such a good deal after all. My advice to myself and others is to be sure you are dealing with a honest company before giving your credit card number.

Blair scam
ISSUE NOT RESOLVED
 Canton, Georgia  Jul 22, 2016  37 views  0 comments
blair did the same scam on me-i never ordered the vip plan.i sent back all items ordered -they canceled my account-i got the vip charges removed.
customer service said i owed nothind-but i get about 12 calls a day from cominity bank. they now have late fees up to 96.oo dollars on this account. they are crooks and scammers. i am on disiabilty and cannot pay for false charges.
or i should say willnot. i sent back last package with my own postage.
i just answered my phone-another call from cominity bank-telling me my account was not closed-i sent back my card months ago and closed it myself.they then told me they closed it themselves

I could probably spend all day googling all the other members of the family, but Haband seems to have risen to the top.  Here are some similar complaints against Haband (from https://haband.pissedconsumer.com/?order=top)


Haband - I am being charged for VIP Plus, and do not want it!! Dec 19, 2012  Haband   Auctions and Internet Stores  Ellenville, New York  71   6227
I see a monthly charge on my Master card for $14.97 and do not know what it is for and certainly do not want it.... I am being charged for a Haband VIP plus and I do NOT want it. I am satisfied with most of the products that i receive from you, but I do not want this!!!! I like receiving your fliers, but this charge is unnecesary. Please cancel and stop charging for it. Please cancel and stop charging my account for it. Thank you, Barbara... Read more ›


I ACCIDENTLY SIGNED UP FOR HABAND VIP PLUS Oct 03, 2013  Haband  Auctions and Internet Stores  31   2440
BECAUSE OF MISLEADING EMAILS I SIGNED UP ON HABAND VIP PLUS AND I DON'T WANT IT I WANT IT CANCELLED ASAP NO MORE EMAILS INVOLVING HABAND VIP PLUS BECAUSE I DON'T WANT IT DO YOU GET WHAT I'M SAYING NOW CANCEL IT ASAP AND DON'T SEND ME ANYMORE MISLEADING EMAILS THE LAST EMAIL I RECEIVED DIDN'T EVEN MENTION HABAND VIP PLUS IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE JUST A DISCOUNT BUT THEN IT GOES ON TO TELL ME I JUST SIGNED UP FOR SOMETHING I DIDN'T WANT AT ALL JUST... Read more ›

Haband - Illegal monthly billing of $14.97 Jul 28, 2014  Haband   Auctions and Internet Stores  Milwaukee, Wisconsin  2   818
Haband has been illegally billing my credit card as follows: 11/23/2013 HAB*HABAND VIP PLUS 8552267051 NJ $ 1.99 12/23/2014 HAB*HABAND VIP PLUS 8552267051 NJ 14.97 01/22/2014 HAB*HABAND VIP PLUS 8552267051 NJ 14.97 02/21/2014 HAB*HABAND VIP PLUS 8552267051 NJ 14.97 03/23/2014 HAB*HABAND VIP PLUS 8552267051 NJ 14.97 04/22/2014 HAB*HABAND VIP PLUS 8552267051 NJ 14.97 05/22/2014 HAB*HABAND VIP PLUS 8552267051 NJ ... Read more ›


Haband Plus VIP scam Sep 22, 2014  Haband   Auctions and Internet Stores  Seattle, Washington  1   248
Apparently folks miss a pop-up that signs them up when they make an online purchase. Bad business model, if not BORDERLINE fraud, and they should be put out of business, IMO. I have filed a dispute with the Chase CC folks and they are aware of the issue since there appears to be hundreds of similar complaints. Chase was able to get a fraction of the monthly charges reversed, but not anything prior to 90 days ago, Therefore I strongly advise... Read more ›
Resolved HABAND'S STOLE MONEY FROM MY VISA Dec 02, 2015  Haband   Auctions and Internet Stores  Avon Park, Florida  1   251
I purchased a total of 5 men's shirts and 2 women's tops in 2015 and I discovered recently that during 2015 Habands helped themselves to 383.78. My 7 items totaled 81.27 and I believe the shipping was supposed to be free. I called the phone number and discovered that I was a VIP customer, although I never signed up for any such privilege. The VIP section promised to refund my 136.72 within 2 to 3 days. If they do, Haband still owes me 165.79.... Read more ›
Was this review helpful?1  0 

Here's one from Gold Violin (from http://www.complaintslist.com/websites/novelty/gold-violin/):

 carmen • 3 years ago
I placed an order and never got email stating they received it. Never got email that it had shipped either. Called today to complain about this VIP you can join which they make it sound like it is free, which is $14.95 a month but the month you join with your order it is 1.99. I called to cancel but they said they cannot credit my $1.99. As a matter of principle, I called to cancel my order, to which they said it had just shipped... how convenient. I am returning my order and NEVER ordering from them again. I asked them to take me off their mailing list too. I am going to complain to my credit card also. It is a scam and they are probably making a lot of money out of it. What can a catalog really give you for $14.95 a month??? Really... Anyway, you live and learn. Do NOT order from them. There are many other sites out there that are honest and not unscrupulous like the gold violin.
Same story from Appleseeds (which apparently is the same as the Tog Shop) (from https://www.sitejabber.com/reviews/www.appleseeds.com)


jans99Jan S.1 review11 helpful votes“VIP PLUS Scam Alert”5/2/16
SCAM ALERT: Beware of clicking on the "Free Shipping" link when purchasing clothes online from Appleseed's catalog... When I bought a lovely winter coat in November, I unknowingly signed up for "Appleseed's VIP Plus". An extra $14.97 MONTHLY charge was hidden with a discount on my order. So duplicitous!! I was charged for several months before I caught it. When I called 1-877-716-0333 to cancel, I was told only one month could be reimbursed. When I told the phone rep that this is a reprehensible practice, and that reputable companies like Lands End, Coldwater Creek, Kohl's & Famous Footwear offer free shipping without strings,the phone rep reimbursed 2 months of fees. If you buy anything from one of their companies: Appleseed's, Linensource, the Tog Shop or others,, be very careful...
 margaretm102Margaret M.1 review9 helpful votes“Beware of Appleseeds VIP Plus”3/3/16
Beware of signing up for Appleseeds VIP Plus when ordering on line. It is hidden with a discount on your order followed by your credit card being charged $14.97 each month. VIP for a catalog? So disappointing... I was charged for 2 months before I caught it; I received absolutely nothing for it.
  

Here's one for Linensource (from http://www.resellerratings.com/store/LinenSource):

Jen_in_MS Rating 2/101/5  2015-01-28
"My review is a little different. I ordered a bedspread which I got promptly and I love it. BUT two months later I caught a $15 charge on my credit card from them. According to them, I signed up for a $15 coupon on my next order when I placed my order and unknowingly signed up for this vip service. When I called, two different reps I spoke to were so rude and made me feel completely stupid. I was livid! I will never order from this company again. Apparently, they're trying to make up for their bad customer service losses by scamming people out of a monthly fee that they hope you won't notice. Beware!!!"

Old Pueblo Traders is also an easy find -- somebody took the time to write a blog about it, calling the practice "criminally lethal":  https://carolynquinn.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/old-pueblo-traders-has-such-contempt-for-their-customers-they-set-you-up-to-be-robbed/

And here's another (from http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/old-pueblo-traders/warren-pennsylvania-16368/old-pueblo-traders-third-party-charges-warren-pennsylvania-753263)

Old Pueblo Traders Third party charges Warren, Pennsylvania
The last two orders I have placed with Old Pueblo Traders they have placed a third party charge on my credit card. The first third party charge was for $1.95 and the 2nd third party charge was for $14.95.  The charges are listed on my credit card account as AMO Smart Saver RWDS.  I called Old Pueblo Traders Customer Service department and was advised we had requested this added service at the time we completed our order and checked out.  On the $1.95 charge their customer service Rep. in South America gave us a $2.00 credit toward our next order.  On our next order we did receive the credit, but we also received the third party charge of $14.95.  Their customer service Rep. told us to call AMO Smart Saver REWDS at 866-679-8650 and they will issue us a credit.
We will not be placing anymore orders with this company.  Have to spend to much time on the phone getting credits.

 Here's Sahalie (from http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/sahalie-vip-plus-scam-c688112.html):

SahaliePosted: Oct 21, 2013 by    Dupedbysahalie VIP Plus scam
I placed an order with sahalie in dec 2012 and was signed up for their VIP PLUS program through placing the order. I wasn't aware of signing up for anything and wax charged $14.97 a month since that date. My husband never questioned the charges because he assumed I authorized these charges. When I found out about this problem, I called sahalie, I was given a separate number to call and cancel the service. I was connected to "Shaday" when I called the number and she told me that I was signed up for the program when I used a promo code for 15 percent off my order...still don't remember that. She said they had a strict "no refund policy", but would see what she could do to help. It sounded like she was reading from a script. She put me on hold and came back with an offer to refund all changes up till jan. 2013. She continued with her speech and when I tried to explain why this program wasn't questioned or cancelled I was disconnected. I will never order from this shady company again. Buyer beware!!!
Norm Thompson (from http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/norm-thompson-vip-plus/jessup-pennsylvania-18434/norm-thompson-vip-plus-deceptive-unhelpfull-refused-refund-jessup-pennsylvania-1017423)

Complaint Review: Norm Thompson VIP Plus
Norm Thompson VIP Plus Deceptive unhelpfull refused refund Jessup, Pennsylvania
Several months ago I purchased a pair of insulated insoles for my shoes from this company.  Somehow in the process they claim I signed up for something called VIP Plus.  The following month I found a $1.99 charge on my credit card which I disputed with my credit card company and figured that was the end of things.  Not so.  The next month I got a charge for $14.97 which I also disputed.  I called the Norm Thompson and was told I could cancel my membership but that they would not refund the charges.
Everyone should be wary about this company and it's hardline policy.  I believe I in fact did not sign up for VIP Plus (I'm relatively savvy about this sort of scam) so the only other assumptions I can make are that I made an error, they signed me up against my instructions, or it was somewhere in the fine print or an otherwise non-obvious decline offer check box.  We'll see how it plays out but you all should be warned that this company plays hard ball and has no interest in providing superior customer service.
I'll be sticking with Amazon or similar reliable sellers in the future.
And for "Solutions" (the first is from https://www.whatsthatcharge.com/NTO-SOLUTIONS-VIP-PLUS-855-876-2 , the second is from https://www.scambook.com/report/view/342300/NTOSolutions-VIP-Plus-Complaint-342300-for-$74.85, the rest are from https://www.complaintboard.com/nto-solutions-reward-l13311.html:

NTO*SOLUTIONS VIP PLUS 855-876-2 

Without realizing it, I have been charged $14.97 for almost a year. The only reason I saw it was because I noticed it on my final Costco American Express Bill. I called them and they could not even link my credit card number to the number they were using but it had my name on it.
I have never ordered anything from them, nor have I had any dealings with them. I expect a full refund and termination of any contact with my credit crd.

NTO.Solutions VIP Plus Complaint 342300 Details
0
Date Occurred: 03/05/2015Reported Damages: $74.85Location: Charlotte, NC !
I did not authorize these people to take any money from my Discover Card. They have taken it out of my account for the past several months. I will never do business with them again.
Consumer complaints and reviews about nto solutions reward
PiaB   Send email
  Dec 8, 2016
SCAM monthly billing for VIP membership
I just noticed a charge on my account for $14.95 that I didn't recognize. When I called VISA I was told I signed up for this service when I placed an order. NOT TRUE. Now I see all of the complaints online about this. Either don't order online or be very very careful. I am going to try to get a credit now... FYI Fabletics did this too. I signed up for a monthly membership, but when I cancelled they don't process it. I'm told I'll get a confirmation via email in 24-48 hours. Never happens.
EILEEN PATTERSON   Send email
  Oct 24, 2016
SOLUTIONS VIP PLUS
I THINK I HAVE MY PROBLEM WITH THEM SOLVED AFTER MORE THAN TWO YEARS, WHICH STARTED WHEN I STARTED CHEMO.
THE LAST SOLUTIONS CATALOG THAT I RECEIVED SAID THAT THEY WERE GOING OUT OF BUSINESS. I HOPE IT'S TRUE. I FINALLY REACHED A REAL PERSON AT 1-855-876-2255! SHE WAS A VERY NICE LADY WHO OFFERED ME THREE MONTHS WORTH OF CHARGES REFUNDED TO ME AND TO STOP FURTHER CHARGES. HOPE IT IS TRUE!!
GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE OUT THERE!!
I THOUGHT I WAS CRAZY BECAUSE I COULD NOT REMEMBER SIGNING UP FOR THIS. THEN I READ ALL OF THE OTHER COMPLAINTS. HOPE EVERYONE CALLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
EILEENPATTERSON0552@GMAIL.COM
nancyacctng   Send email
  Sep 24, 2015
unauthorized billing
Upon receiving my bank statement today, I noticed a charge from NTO Solutions for $14.95 that was neither made by me nor authorized by me and I would like this amount immediately refunded to my account ending in 6864. If not I will be contacting the proper authorities about this fraud.


Judith Gentry
Sep 13, 2015
Monthly withdrawal of $14.95 from Discover card for "Solution Rewards"
I accidentally discovered this scam when I stopped my credit card. The $14.95 payment, which I NEVER agreed to, has been withdrawn monthly without my knowledge.
How can I stop this from reoccuring?
hotaboutscam   Send email
  Jun 27, 2015
NTO Solutions - SCAM
I did NOT sign up for NTO Solutions Rewards program – this is a SCAM.
I placed an order and in doing so unbeknownst to me I was automatically enrolled in NTO Solutions Rewards Plus program which I was told was free for 30-days then it automatically charged my credit card without my permission. 
We were paying our American Express on 6/27/2015 and noticed a charge of $14.95 from NTO Solutions Rewards. The charge shows up as merchandise apparel shoes when you search on AMEX to review the billing. My husband usually reviews and pays the bill, my bill was quite large from some traveling last month and he asked me to check the charges. When I noticed this charge I immediately called NTO Solutions as I knew I had not ordered this. 
I then pulled all of my AMEX statements going back to 2/2/2013 and each month a charge for $14.95 by NTO Solutions Rewards. I called the company and spoke with a customer service person with a foreign accent and told him to immediately cancel this account and asked for a credit. I was told this was a charge for a rewards program that they said I signed up for a 30 day free trial when I placed my order in 2013. I told him I did NOT sign up for this and that this is a SCAM. 
To my amazement when reviewing my bill further I notice another charge this one is from Norm Thompson for the exact same amount $14.95 and immediately called and canceled to which I was told the exact same thing that it was a charge for a rewards program that they said I signed up for a 30 day free trial when I placed my order in April 2015. 
The light went on – I immediately went online and discovered this is really a big SCAM by a number of companies and I will NEVER shop with them again and I’m telling all my family members, friends and anyone who will listen about these companies and this SCAM. 
My investigation revealed that apparently they trick you to thinking you’ll either get 20% off your next order or free shipping IF you type your email address and hit sign up. NOTE none of the websites below states anything about any charges all they want is your email address. 
Apparently NTO Solutions Rewards is tied to 14 stores - check out the website - go to www.solutions.com and across the top you'll see the names of the 14 stores – and I bet every one of them has this scam going on. I’m not going to find out as I will never visit these websites. 
Something has to be done about these practices.
  Nov 7, 2014
NTO Solutions Rewards
We were paying our American Express on 11/7/14 and noticed a charge of $14.95 from NTO Solutions Rewards. The charge shows up as merchandise apparel shoes when you search on AMEX to review the billing. My husband usually reviews and pays the bill since he often uses it for his job and is reimbursed for many charges. This month he asked me to look at it and make the payment. When I noticed this charge I did an inquiry and knew I had not ordered anything online. I took the time to pull all AMEX statements going back to 12/4/12 and guess what EVERY month a charge for $14.95. This totals $358.80. As soon as customer service opened at 9am I called to report this and ask for a credit. I was told this was a charge for a rewards program. They said I had been offered a chance to TRY it for 30 days BACK IN DECEMBER of 2012. I have NO recollection of this although I did purchase some rugs from them that fall. I was told I could cancel the membership as of TODAY. I said I wanted a refund of the $358.80 that had been scammed from my account. She said the best she could do was offer me a $29.90 credit. When I told her this was crazy and the equivalent of stealing she passed me to a supervisor. The supervisor Eric told me he could not give me a credit and we should have noticed the charge sooner. I asked if this is how they justified stealing; if the customer doesn't notice it is okay if they steal until they do take notice. He said he was sorry I felt this way and even though he does not do this often he offered to credit my account $89.90. While checking on the internet for complaints against NCO, I noticed another customers complaint and saw they also were offered the $89.90 final credit deal. I am appalled that this information is online in print and the company is still getting away with it. I have filled a grievance with American Express and am writing a letter to Consumer Reports. I am also going to file a claim with the Better Business Bureau and am considering calling our local TV station that has a section called "Don't Waste Your Money" I guess small claims court is also an option. We are all warned to check our statements closely for repeat charges. If this had been a larger amount it would NOT have gone unnoticed. However, the fact that when you do an inquiry on AMEX and it show up as apparel shoes makes it tougher. My husband would almost never question me spending $14.95 and especially is it were for something we all use like shoes. BEWARE OF NTO SOLUTIONS Rewards SCAMMERS. Such a shame we have these kind of business people! There are many other places to shop.
taylor   Send email
  Jan 4, 2014
14.95 monthly charge
Not sure how I got signed up for this ....... If ordering something from Solutions be careful ...... After target problems I started checking billing statements closer and discovered that this was a monthly charge from NTO Solutions.com.....I am now working to cancel this and have not been able to reach the company.....I do order from Solutions and like their products but this is a problem they should be looking into.... It is the weekend and I will have to wait until Monday to talk with everyone I need to....
JANLUX   Send email
  Apr 11, 2013
NTO Solutions Reward/Solutions.com
I found a $14.95 charge on my credit card statement in March 20 from NTO Solutions. This was for a $15 off shipping offer but never received anything. I called on 3/12/13 and cancelled my subscription and asked for a refund, but wasn't given a refund. Again this month I found another $14.95 charge and I called again and was told it would be cancelled but I don't believe them. I am going to file a dispute with my credit card company since I am getting no cooperation from NTO Solutions.
Mary Lord   Send email
 
Apr 8, 2013
nto* solutions reward

This also happened to me,I SIGNED UP TO RECEIVE FREE SHIPPING EVERY TIME THAT I ORDERED. THIS NEVER HAPPENED.ALSO, I THOUGHT THAT I WOULD EARN POINTS FOR OTHER ITEMS. Never happened either. I tried to call this # 888-354-6324 no luck.
PatriciaM   Send email
  Mar 13, 2013
NTO SOLUTIONS REWARD

I found this company charging my account monthly $14.95 without my authorization only after reviewing my end of year statement!
After reading the complaints on line, I decided to cancel my credit account immediately.
I'm not yet aware of how to get any of the money returned.
cmrdjr   Send email
  Feb 20, 2013
NTO solutions Reward

When you buy from this company you are automatically signed up for "rewards" which without authorization, they debit your credit card for 14.95 every month. This company is running a scam.
steve0562   Send email
  Nov 2, 2012
NTO Solutions Reward

Somehow got roped into NTO Solutions Reward, which is extremely deceptive and tied to the Solutions.com web site. I've been charged $14.95 since June 2012. The best part is I've received no benefit or reward package in the mail for these charges. I spoke to someone in India, and still have no idea what this program is about. I've had to cancel any participation and report the problem to my credit card company. I also see many customers on the Web have reported the same problem. Solutions should end such a deceptive program on their Web site, and any further association with this rewards company. There is no benefit! This is a rip off.
Marshajean   Send email
  Apr 9, 2012
Want to cancel

I noticed a charge on our credit card from NTO Solutions last month for a membership. I don't even know what that is, so I called and cancelled and was assured that I would be reimbursed. Didn't happen. Then again this month they've charged my credit card $14.95. I called and cancelled AGAIN! The word that keeps running through my mind is SCAM! we'll see if they take this charge off, and if they try again next month....
Cvega348  Send email
   
Mar 8, 2012
Want to cancel

Same thing happened to me. Apparently, I "signed up" when ordering Christmas gifts and clicked on a $15 off shipping offer. Really?! I'm an experienced online shopper of many years and certainly didn't expect such deception from what I thought was reputable online retailer. Solutions.com has lost this customer.
----------------


Anyway, the only members of the "family of brands" for which I couldn't find complaints about the VIP plus scam were Bedford Fair and Drapers and Damons.  Deal with them at your own risk.

But I did one last Draper and Damon search just now led me to something from a customer service rep who worked for this "family" and explained the scam:

Report: #572144Complaint Review: Orchard Brands / Blair Corporation / Encore Marketing International
Submitted: Fri, February 19, 2010 Updated: Sun, June 13, 2010
Reported By: DunderMifflin — Warren Pennsylvania United States of America
Orchard Brands / Blair Corporation / Encore Marketing International

Orchard Brands / Blair Corporation / Encore Marketing International, solutions, sahalie, norm thompson, gold violin, membership program, rewards, classic living, Internet
I had been going to file a rebuttal, having been an employee of Orchard Brands but, quite frankly, offering rebuttals was all I did all day long for that company and I began to think of all the ways in which I as a past employee have been victimized by them as well.  Therefore, I will be filing this under a "claim," although these places have never ripped me off personally.
Sadly, I was the person doing the ripping off.  I was a phone order representative for Orchard Brands, specifically for the following stores:  Norm Thompson, Solutions, Sahalie and Gold Violin.  I quit after they tried to put me on four more companies:  Appleseeds, Tog Shop, Drapers and Damons (or "Drapers and Demons," as it was known around my call center), and Wintersilks.  That put me working for eight different companies - that means eight different scripts, eight different offers, five separate order screens and eight separate websites dealt with during every shift. 
In any case, I can attest firsthand to the fact that Orchard Brands is involved in ripping off its best and most loyal customers.  Orchard Brands partnered with Encore Marketing International a few years ago.  Encore, as I shall refer to it from here on out, describes itself as having "helped hundreds of partners find hundreds of hidden profits since 1978.
Basically, what Encore does through Orchard Brands is that it offers its customers, at the end of every order, a chance to receive a percentage off their next order as well as - depending on which company you order from - free shipping on your current order.  The offer will be scripted (although not all agents read from the script) and will sound something like:
"As a thank you for ordering today I'd like to offer you x% off your next purchase and free shipping on today's purchase just for signing up for (Brand) rewards, which will save you money on travel, shopping and eating out."  They tailor what they offer to the demographic of the particular company, so often times they will offer percentages off groceries and prescription drugs.  
If you say no to this offer - which is what you should do - the agent has been instructed, and most of the time will, offer a rebuttal, stating that they "understand your hesitation, but (Brand) rewards is a great way to save money on everyday purchases."  The agents are instructed to offer at least one rebuttal in order to avoid being fired for not following orders, but to offer as many as they can without causing their customer to hang up.
As a humorous aside, if you do stay strong and continue to refuse the offer, and your agent says "okay," she will be in trouble because the "Encore Police," as we called the people monitoring our calls, remind us constantly that "okay is a bad word.  A no is never okay."  
If you do accept the offer, your agent will begin to read a scripted paragraph which they are legally required to read word for word.  This paragraph, in summation, states that you will be charged $1.95 for a thirty day trial of (Brand) rewards and will be charged $14.95 for each subsequent month afterward, if you do not call to cancel your membership within 30 days.  It states that you do have 30 days to call and cancel, and that you will get a membership "kit" in the mail with an 800 number that you can use to call and cancel, and that this kit should arrive within about two weeks.  Usually, this is where people say no due to the recurring charge.  That's the point at which most offers are rebutted and, upon a second refusal, most reps will give up as we all know what a piece of crap this offer is and don't like selling it.  Some reps, though, are all about their jobs and will continue to harass you until you threaten to cancel the order, at which point they are instructed to give up.  The rep is required to hear you say the word "yes" or "fine" after this paragraph in order to proceed.  If you say anything else you will be asked "was that a yes," or some variation of that question in order to get the word yes.
If you accept this legal agreement, you will be asked to enter the last four digits of your telephone number.  The rep must hear all four tones on your telephone touch-tone keypad in order to proceed.  Once you've entered those four numbers you are locked into the program for at least the $1.95 charge.  All companies under the Orchard Brands umbrella have adopted some form of this Encore program.  All programs are beginning, now, to offer magazines from a third party called Magazine Direct after the Encore offer as well.
By accepting the offer for the magazines, you get a certain percentage off your current purchase.  You have to order three magazines in order to get your full percentage off - usually something crappy like 15% or so.  These are one month trial issues of the magazines, but the rep will inform you that you will have 30 days to cancel the subscription with no further charges.  She will tell you how much each magazine is for the year - the subscription fees - and will then ask you again for the four digits of your phone number, which is used as your confirmation of acceptance of the offer.  
From what feedback I've received from customers, the membership booklets take a long time to arrive, and by the time they do many people have either forgotten that they enrolled or weren't fully aware of what they'd enrolled in to begin with.
So, you've noticed a strange charge on your card and don't recognize it.  You call the company which appears to have issued it - customer service for the store from which you placed your original order - and are told that that company does not handle the rewards program, that it is administered through a different company.  They will give you the number to call for Encore or Magazine Direct and you will sit on hold forever and you will be lucky if you get to speak to anyone.  You'll be a miracle worker if you can manage to get back much money at all from these third parties, because even though you were confused and not aware of what you'd signed up for, their official position is that you agreed to it by either accepting the offer online (which always appears in especially fine print after you accept an offer of a percentage off or some other incentive) or you entered the last four digits of your phone number during your telephone order.
Here are the points you need to remember:
1)  Your customer service agent or order rep knows very little about these offers until they've worked at the company for a few months and have heard all the dirty little secrets about them from the old-timers.  We are told in training what wonderful programs they are, etc. etc. and even though most of us know that it's just another "exclusive offer" that carries with it a lot of fine print, we are told that it's easy to cancel.  We are told to instruct our customers that it's easy to cancel and that just by getting free shipping they are saving money.
What you're not made aware of - and neither is your agent, formally - is that when you do get your percentage off coupon, it is only good toward a large purchase - usually along the lines of $100 or so.  Also, your "free shipping" will be in the form of a refund check which Encore will send to you after you send them your original or copied packing slip from your completed merchandise order.  So you'll be waiting for that free shipping/shipping refund for at least a couple of months.  
2) Your agent is monitored constantly by the "Encore Police" as well as company agents who monitor calls for quality assurance.  If your agent does not read her script, says "okay" when you say no, or does not ignore your refusal and offer at least one rebuttal, she can and will be reprimanded, with consequences being up to and including termination.  
Furthermore, most call centers are in areas where work is hard to come by and minimum wage is the going rate.  The company offers a dollar or two above minimum wage, which keeps the applications flowing in so that if someone doesn't sell enough or isn't pushy enough, they can be terminated in order to make room for a new trained monkey who is just a little more easily led.  So these agents are in tight financial situations - most of them having children, school loans, mortgages and car notes which prevent them from getting too insubordinate, no matter how wrong they believe the company's practices to be.  
3)  Your agent is telling you the truth when they tell you that it is a different company you need to deal with in order to get out from under the program.  The 888 number that they give you to call and cancel is correct.  But just as Encore hopes that you either don't understand what you're signing up for or that you just won't remember to call and cancel, they're also banking on the fact that you'll get sick of sitting on hold and will put off canceling until another time.  And another time.  And another time until you've been charged for two, six, eight or more months of service.  So the store's agents are giving you the correct information, but Encore is neglecting to answer their phones.
4)  Agents at my call center received one dollar - which was taxed before it reached them, meaning that they actually bring home about 65 to 70 cents - for each offer that is accepted.  It's not a lot, so don't assume that the agent is being pushy to line their own pockets.  Although there are some smooth agents that can net about an extra ten to fifteen dollars a day closing offers (I was one of them), very few are successful enough to make five bucks a week off your acceptance of these offers.  So when you call to complain, remember that your agent isn't getting anything from your unfortunate enrollment except the price of a crappy fast food meal and the fact that they may not be canned...for today, at least.
5)  We know that it's a ripoff but we also know that we have bills to pay and there hasn't been a "help wanted " ad in the paper for a week or more.  And when work does become available it get snatched up like a gold necklace on the sidewalk.  We do not get off on helping Orchard Brands and Encore sneak your money from you, but we often don't have a lot of other options.  Calls are monitored and people are let go every single day, and when that job means the difference between keeping your utilities turned on and getting an eviction noticed, you're always going to choose the option that is least likely to result in homelessness.  
6)  Agents get short-tempered because we spend all day dealing with the same complaints over and over again and we take the brunt of the rage and frustration that our customers express for our company.  Most of the time we agree with them but are not permitted to admit such a fact, for fear that a manager could be listening.  But we have told the company several times that we would make more sales per day if we didn't have to spend an extra five minutes on every call trying to sell our customer something he or she doesn't want.  If we could just let you order what you want we would be so much happier.  Believe us, we are customers too, when we're not on the phone with you and we would be just as irate as you are if we were you.  But we need a paycheck at the end of the week.  
7)  Your quarrel is with Encore and Orchard Brands, not their agents who are helpless to help you unless they are fortunate enough to be in a position where they don't need the job in order to meet their basest of needs.  I was one such fortunate person, and chose to endure the endless process of trying to find a job rather than continue to perpetuate this scam.  Not everyone is as fortunate as me and, sometimes, a kind word or a little understanding is all that's needed to keep these agents from going home and putting a gun to their heads.  I've been told by customers that I should die, that I should throw myself in front of a bus, that I should be stabbed and raped in an abandoned alleyway and that I should be ashamed of myself for what I'm doing to them.  Trust me, if I were on the receiving end of the big money these companies are making I'd be a much wealthier girl.  
8)  The most important thing to remember is that you as an individual are right and have the right to be treated fairly by the companies to whom you choose to give your business.  But you as a collective group need to rise up and let these companies know that you are not going to tolerate their shady offers.  Many of the companies under the Orchard Brands umbrella are struggling due to these third party offers, which are like parasites latched on to mail-order catalogs that were struggling from the get-go.  The only way to make these companies listen is to hit them where it hurts by refusing to order and creating a coalition of other customers who will agree to do the same.
Good luck to everyone who has been victimized by these companies.  Let them know as a group that they've lost loyal customers in the pursuit of a small, immediate gain.  We employees don't make a difference, even though we scream until we're blue in the face.  At least as a customer you mean a little more to them since you're paying them, not the other way around.
That's it.  Nothing more I can say.

http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/comenity-bank-fdic-fine-refund-1282.php
And there's really nothing more that I can say either.  Somebody needs to file a class action here -- this scam has clearly bilked customers out of millions and millions of dollars.