I subscribe to The Homeschool Buyers Co-op, and noticed they were featuring Evan-Moor’s Teacher File Box last month. I was currently researching workbooks and products to use for Discover Africa, and wondered if they’d have something useful. I could not afford the subscription fee, but signed up for a short trial period. You had to enter payment details, so I made sure to note on my calendar when to cancel.
The back end is a little clunky, but I liked that I could save units or worksheets that looked like they might work for me. I organized my file box, and printed out a few samples of their material on Africa and the Solar System. I was disappointed to find outdated worksheets. Africa’s did not include recent changes like Sudan’s split, and the Solar System worksheets did not include any dwarf planets or even the correct rings around planets other than Saturn.
I clicked on the “My Account” link and followed the steps to unsubscribe. I could not afford to be charged. A pop up window asked me if I was sure I wanted to unsubscribe, warned that the changes would be immediate, and that I’d lose any file box data I’d saved. I was fine with that, and clicked the ‘unsubscribe’ button again to confirm. The pop up box disappeared, and I assumed I’d canceled my account.
A few days later, they charged my bank account. We were in the throes of financial upheaval, and I did not notice. We were making arrangements to terminate the server, get me working again, and preparing E. to homeschool. We were fielding calls from the bank, creditors, and medical accounting offices. Mid-August I double checked anything I’d signed up for that may have a recurring charge. I cancelled accounts, subscriptions, and services. I decided to check Teacher File Box, and found my account active. Confused, I wondered if I’d misread the 3-day trial, figuring it must have been a month-long trial. I went through the unsubscribe steps once more.
A couple of days later, I checked again. Still active. I went through the unsubscribe steps again, and sent an email through the system. It lets you click “Support” and then “Report a Problem.” I described my difficulty in unsubscribing, and left my contact information. The site recommended adding their emails to my email accounts so their reply did not get lost in spam. I added their emails, and proceeded to check spam, trash, and junk folders for the next few days.
No reply ever came.
I even tried editing my bank card details in my Teacher File Box account. I changed the bank card # to a dummy, and changed the expiration dates. No dice.
September arrived. I got charged for a subscription I’d been trying to cancel. I found August’s charge. Frustrated, I sent another email through their system, and called for help. It routed me to an answering machine, of course. I left a message with clear contact details. Then I called my bank, Wells Fargo.
The first guy I spoke with was very nice and understanding. He took down the details of my case, gave me a case number, and transfered me to the claims department. The second guy I spoke with wasn’t so nice. I get it, they probably get tons of people trying to worm their way out of bills, but wow. Super stern.
I related all my details after jumping through the hoops to verify my account. He wanted to know if I had any confirmation of my unsubscribe attempts. No, I did not. I explained how the interface worked, and how you had to log in to complete the unsubscribe request. I told him how I’d tried several times, how I’d emailed, and left messages.
He put me on hold to contact the company. Magically he was able to get a human being to speak with. The human being was named Susan or Suzi, I can’t recall – who told him that a) they had no record of my unsubscribe attempts, b) I appeared to be an active member of the site, and c) that I’d logged in that very day.
Mr. Stern returned to relate these details and tell me my claim had been denied. I protested! But I HAD tried to unsubscribe multiple times, it wasn’t my fault their system wasn’t working properly. I’d tried to cancel! And OF COURSE I’D LOGGED IN. You had to log in in order to unsubscribe! I’d emailed, I’d called. What else was I supposed to do?
He canceled my claim and told me he’d put me through to the Susan / Suzi person at Teacher File Box. He hung up, and the line went dead.
I won’t lie. I burst into tears.
I called Teacher File Box again, and got… surprise, an answering machine. I tried to remain calm. I explained the whole situation, but I was weeping, and I’m sure I sounded like an idiot.
It’s not like it’s a huge amount of money. It’s not like the service sucked. Some of the worksheets looked fun. I just didn’t have a use for them, and $13/month happens to be more than we can justify right now.
I can’t speak to a human. The system won’t work for me, and my bank has left me high and dry. I know whining and crying online isn’t pretty, but I feel like I have no other choice. My reach is not huge enough to make a difference, but I don’t know what else to do.
On top of it all, my iTunes Apple ID got hacked many weeks ago, and I’m still locked out. I have a $100 Mac Apps gift card I’m trying to use to buy software for work, but can’t get into my own account. I’ve received nothing but polite, placating replies from Apple Support and am just about ready to scream.
I’m taking Rescue Remedy like it’s made out of chocolate, trying to relax with a lot of Yoga, and praying my heart out. I remind myself that we’re healthy. That we have a roof over our heads. That school is going well, that I’ve got some monies trickling in through work. That I want to smooch everyone who has purchased a notebooking packet. That my family is beautiful and amazing and wonderful. That I am blessed. I just wish I could stop crying about this stupid Teacher File Box issue. It’s fine. I’ll sell something… I’ll close my bank account and go elsewhere (that’d stop the charges, right?) It’ll be okay. Everything will be okay.
UPDATE: My account at TeacherFileBox.com has been quietly closed. No response, however. No email, no phone call, and no refund.
UPDATE: I came home to an email from Evan-Moor after taking the kids out to redeem some of their library reading program rewards. So far they’ve offered to refund me for September. I’ve written back asking for August’s refund too. But at least I’m communicating with a human. That’s always nice.
This has been such an enormous headache, I’m letting this review stand. They tell me I’m the only one who has had this issue — and maybe that’s true, but I don’t feel comfortable recommending the service based on my experience.
UPDATE: This post has had over 3500 pageviews. I have a slew of supportive email in my inbox, some suggesting an internet-wide boycott of Evan-Moor products. They have not responded via Twitter.
I have had another email insisting that they have done nothing wrong, that they can’t replicate my issues, and insinuating that it must have been user error. They will refund September, but not August’s subscription. This is my reply:
When I signed up, I was signing up for a free 3 day trial. The materials I found and printed were out of date. Africa’s worksheets did not include changes to Sudan (split into South Sudan) and the Solar System materials I viewed did not include any of the dwarf planets. I was unable to find anything that was of use to me, and immediately tried to cancel my account.
I realize that without being able to replicate the unsubscribe issue I was having, it is only my word against what you are seeing and what other customers are saying. But I have no ulterior motive. I tried to unsubscribe a variety of times and could not. I left messages and submitted emails that were never answered until I contacted my bank and left a negative review on my website.
The items that were printed throughout the month of August were simply tests after I tried to unsubscribe each time. I couldn’t understand why I still had access to the account. I’d try to print something I’d added to the firebox, thinking it would give me a message that I needed to subscribe. I did not use any of the materials that were printed during those test periods. In fact one of my email messages through the support ‘report a problem’ form detailed this exact issue.
I am not technically challenged. I design blogs and websites for a living. I am fluent in HTML, CSS, and PHP. I am not some poor sap who simply misunderstood the directions. Despite many attempts, the function within my account refused to unsubscribe me. I had great difficulty contacting anyone to help me. I either got funneled into voice messaging systems, and never received any confirmation that emails submitted through the system were received. Someone called me this morning to apologize and stated that sometimes her email does not function.
I ended up designing an Africa AND a Solar systems curriculum from scratch because none of your materials would work for me and I had two classes to teach.
I do not believe you have been attentive to my complaint that has been ongoing since early in August. I do not believe you have been fair. I understand that it is your word against mine, but you have lost a customer for life. I will not be purchasing any further Evan-Moor materials and I will be letting the negative review on my website stand. My negative review has currently had over 3500 page views. It was published yesterday.
Also, I have filed a complaint with the state of California.
UPDATE: The DCA got back to me and recommended I contact the following agencies: Office of the Attorney General, BBB (Evan-Moor does not appear to be listed, but I filed a complaint with their information entered), California Department of Corporations, the Internet Crime Center, and the Monterey County District Attorney. I have filed a complaint at all locations except for the Internet Crime Center. I’m upset but I still feel like this was a huge misunderstanding / site malfunction, not a crime. Though ‘luring’ consumers with the promise of a free trial, only to make unsubscribing extremely difficult isn’t exactly my idea of a good time.