I think Jillian Michaels is hot. I don’t watch “The Biggest Loser” because I have problems with a lot of the things they do. You don’t have to be an expert to understand that it’s dangerous for someone who is completely sedentary and 400+ pounds to start running on a treadmill for an hour. There’s a reason “Couch to 5K” programs have you work your way up to things. It’s common knowledge that the trainers on the show tell the contestants to do things that the doctors say are dangerous. I had the opportunity to hear Patrick House, the winner of season 10, speak and he mentioned things like “standing up from the table and passing out.” That might get you thin, but it sure as hell ain’t healthy. I watched a couple episodes of TBL but I stopped after one of the “cupcake challenges.”
That being said, I’ve always liked Jillian Michaels. I watched her short-lived show “Losing it with Jillian Michaels” where she helped families lose weight, usually one person had already lost weight and had hit a plateau and wanted to lose those “last 10 pounds.” I liked she seemed tough but gentle, and how she really seemed to care about the families. That show aired in 2010 and that was about the time I signed up for her free newsletter. For 3 years I have gotten emails that I sometimes read and sometimes delete, until about two weeks ago when I received this one:
I love books, and I’ve been just getting into working out again so I thought “Hey, for $5 that’s a pretty good deal.” Nowhere in the email does it say anything about signing up for a “free trial” of JillianMichaels.com! I followed the link and I saw that in addition to the $5 book, I had to sign up for a “free trial” of JilliamMichaels.com I wasn’t really interested in that, I’ve been using SparkPeople.com on and off for years and I like it. I have the app on my phone, when I’m doing what I should I use it to log my food, and it’s linked to my FitBit account so all and all I’m really happy with SparkPeople. I put a reminder in my phone’s calendar to cancel prior to the “free trial” ending, and went to take the first little quiz on the JillianMichaels site. It said I have a pretty normal metabolism and I should eat 30/40/30 carb/fat/protein. I wasn’t impressed. I breezed through the rest of the site, saw that the meal plans didn’t offer a 100% vegetarian plan (for some reason none of these places ever do) and promptly left the site and didn’t go back. Until the day before my “free trial” was supposed to end. My phone’s calendar popped up and reminded me to cancel. I also had a free trial of Hulu Plus that I needed to cancel, so I went to their website, clicked on “My Account” and then where it said “Cancel my Hulu Plus account.” I was never charged.
When I went back to JillianMichaels.com I did the same thing, but oddly – there was no place on the website to cancel the account! I looked throughout the whole “My Account” section and while there was a place to update a credit card there was nothing about canceling. Annoyed, I clicked on “Contact Us” and was redirected to a 404 error page asking me what I was looking for. Now, I was even more annoyed. I found an email address and sent them an email stating that my free trial was about to end and that I wanted to cancel and could not find a place to do it on their website. I almost immediately received an email saying they’d get back to me within 24 hours.
The next day, my paypal account was charged for $52 and then I received an email saying they had “canceled my reoccurring billing as requested” and I would have access to the website until October. Now I was angry.
I emailed them again and said that I wanted my $52 refunded because I did not subscribe, I signed up for a free trial because it was required if I wanted the book and I had attempted to cancel before the free trial was over but they made that impossible.
I was really starting to feel like this was a big scam. I gave my paypal account to pay for shipping on a book. I attempted to cancel during a supposedly free trial, but obviously you can’t cancel on the website because they want to make it difficult for you. Hulu Plus let me click a button. Apparently JillianMichaels.com excepted me to call them. I don’t feel like I should have to take my time to pick up the phone and call a place when I responded to an email and it’s an online subscription to a website; everything about it was web-based except canceling.
After I received the identical email in response to my asking for a refund. “As you requested, I have turned off the automatic renewal for your Jillian Michaels Online account. You will have access to the website until 10/31/2013, but you will not be billed to continue. As explained in the terms of service, when you cancel, billing stops and no new charges will be billed to you. This plan is non-refundable. (If you have been receiving daily emails from us, emails will continue free of charge.)” I picked up the phone and called them this morning. I was not happy, but given that I worked in customer service for almost a decade, I tried very hard not to be rude to the woman on the other end of the phone who was just doing her job. Obviously, this is all set up to make it as difficult as possible to cancel because they want to keep taking your money.
In the end, I am getting a $48 refund. I figure that’s a success. This whole thing has left me pretty disgruntled with “Everyday Health” the service that runs JillianMichaels.com. It has also really affected my opinion of Jillian Michaels. Even though she pays this company to run her website, her name and photo is all over it. When I called the 800#, a recording of her plays; this is her brand and it reflects really poorly on her. This isn’t an isolated incident, sadly. When I first complained on facebook, a friend posted a link to a MyFitnessPal message board where someone had a similar experience a year ago. The main difference is, the people complaining there didn’t do a free trial, they expected to pay something and then cancel if they didn’t like it. I never even wanted the damn website, I just wanted to book!
I guess the silver lining is that I really like the book. I’ve never read a Jillian Michaels book before, although I do have one of her DVDs that I bought in January and haven’t opened yet. If I had known what an ordeal this would be, I would’ve just bought the book on amazon. It ended up costing me $9 and I could’ve bought it new from an amazon seller for $5 + shipping so it would’ve been just about the same price. I don’t know that I will buy another Jillian Michaels product after this. I know she’s not directly involved in things like how you cancel your subscription, but it’s her name, her photo and her brand, and frankly her responsibility who she chooses to run such a huge portion of her brand. I will keep on using SparkPeople, like I have for years. I like that it’s free, although I would pay for it. I like that it’s linked to my fitbit account, and it’s silly but I like that it’s brighter colors and prettier/perkier than the grays and blacks of the Jillian Michaels site. I don’t use SparkPeople’s meal plans, for the same reason I wasn’t interested in Jillian Michaels – I’m a pescatarian, I only eat fish and seafood, no chicken or pork or beef. I know what I need to do anyway. Logging calories helps me stay on track, but I can keep myself in my calorie range without using meal plans. My problem has always been motivation, not that I don’t know what to do. I already eat clean, I know what I need to do.
In case you’re interested, here’s the disclaimer I accepted when purchasing the book:
*Jillian’s book, Master Your Metabolism, is yours FREE! All you pay is $4.95 shipping and handling. You will also gain free access to Jillian Michaels’ customized Web site and online advice for 14 days. Your online access will continue uninterrupted, and you will be enrolled under our standard membership agreement. Online membership is just $4 a week, billed quarterly (every 13 weeks). The charge will be applied to the same account you provide at sign-up. You may cancel before your free trial ends at no charge. If you choose to continue, your quarterly membership will be automatically renewed after each term. You may cancel your membership at any time. When you cancel, billing stops immediately and no new charges will be billed to you. You will continue to have access to your account for the remainder of your term.