Yesterday I got this postcard in the mail:
Out of curiosity, I scratched off the square on the back to see how much I was “pre-approved” to borrow. $4800. Like I have the ability to pay back $4800!
I checked out the site to see what kind of scam they’re pulling. Apparently Emporium is kind of like Rent-a-Center for people who want gadgets they can’t afford. A few of the “deals” they feature:
An iPad 2 16GB with Wifi. Only 24 weekly payments of $41!
Those payments add up to $984. For a product you can buy directly from Apple for $499.
A Panasonic Lumix 14.1 megapixel camera in Pink! Just 8 weekly payments of $32!
So $256 for a camera that costs $137 on Amazon.
How about this lovely 11-piece Paramount Asbury Park queen comforter set for 12 weekly payments of $28?
That’s $336 for a comforter set you can buy for $182 online.
I noticed a few interesting tidbits while browsing the site.
- The site boasts of a 30% early payoff reward. You don’t get this money taken off the total you owe. That would be too easy. Instead, you get 30% off a future purchase.
- Your payments must be auto-deducted from a checking account or credit card.
- The return policy: You can return within 14 days minus a 15% restocking fee and shipping/handling. Unless it’s furniture, TVs over 26 inches, and multiple other excluded items. Oh, and you won’t get the refund for 6-8 weeks.
The real kicker is the tiny little disclaimer hidden among the FAQs:
The purchaser is granting Emporium a security interest in the merchandise purchased. In the event of noncompliance with the multipay terms or fraudulent use of funds, Emporium reserves the right to appear at the purchaser’s premises without prior consent or notice in order to take possession of said merchandise.
That’s right – if there is no money in your account when your auto payment is scheduled, Emporium will show up at your house and demand their stuff back.
So why in the world would anyone fall for this?
Emporium is the type of website that preys on the financially clueless. By showing the “low weekly payments” people can make, they are hoping no one will take the time to figure out how much they’re actually paying. And to be honest, ten years ago I probably would have ordered all kinds of stuff because I was so flattered to get the offer in the mail. How is that possible, you ask?
Because the card (and the site) are plastered with all the catchphrases that broke people love:
- Low payments!
- No interest or fees!
- Designed for less than perfect credit!
- Get the brands you want today!
- Shop now, pay later!
- An easy way to get the things you want and deserve!
Just picture it: You desperately want a flat screen TV, but you don’t have the money to buy one. Along comes this postcard, telling you that your credit doesn’t matter and you can get a TV now for this low payment and no interest! You deserve it! Hopefully my readers are smarter than that, but a lot of people aren’t. Sometimes wanting prevents us from taking the time to look over the fine print or bust out a calculator to see how much we’re really paying.
Emporium is far from the first website to use tactics like these, and they definitely won’t be the last. It makes me a little sad to wonder how many people got the same card in the mail and are now paying exorbitant prices for junk like cameras and mattresses. It’s also depressing to think I might have been one of them not too long ago.
Moral of this long story? It’s overused but true: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t waste your time trying to figure out how to get things you can’t afford. Instead, find a way to be happy with what you have, or make a plan to save for what you want.