HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - It’s an elite club for members only. With more than 100 stores nationwide and in Canada, you may have heard of them. DirectBuy claims by becoming a member, you can get your hands on favorite household brands, without the retail markup.
Huntsville is home to a DirectBuy storefront located at 6515 University Drive NW. But over the years, WHNT News 19 has received several consumer complaints, alleging the company is not what it seems, and its advertising techniques are deceptive.
One of those consumers happens to be a DirectBuy member. Tommy Odell contacted WHNT News 19 after shelling out nearly $4,000 dollars on a membership. He says his initial interest in the company stemmed from a phone call in April of 2013.
“They called me," said Odell, "and solicited me by offering us an opportunity for round trip fare to Honolulu.”
Odell says he was flying high with the promise of two roundtrip tickets. He claims all he had to do was attend a DirectBuy presentation and sign up for membership.
That 90-minute presentation seems solid to Odell. He said the entire pitch centered on beating out the middle man and taking home unbeatable savings. But there was a catch. You have to sign up and pay membership fees the very day of the presentation. This leaves little time for consumers to do their homework.
As Odell was walking out the door, contract signed, he was handed his airline vouchers.
He got home, looked at the brochure, and almost fell over. The paperwork said “a value of up to $800.00.”
“When I saw that, said Odell, I thought my gosh, there is nothing we can do about it now.”
The DirectBuy contract is rigid. Tommy also noticed this statement on the backside of the contract:
“No oral promises, representations or statements are part of this contract.”
This means all the verbal promises made during Odell's presentation are worthless when it comes to complaints.
Odell tried to cancel immediately and sent the Huntsville office a letter demanding a refund. He was told that wasn’t possible.
WHNT News 19 also decided to attend one of the DirectBuy tours. Our undercover producer also got the invite, only he was armed with hidden cameras.
During the sales pitch, our producer asked the presenter what DirectBuy’s rating was with the Better Business Bureau. He was told a B.
Michele Mason, President of the BBB of North Alabama said that’s far from the truth. Right now, the company shows a D+ rating with 55 reported complaints ranging from advertising and sales issues to problems with products.
Odell says since he gained his membership, he can’t find any savings in the catalogs sent to his home, or with the online membership website.
WHNT News 19 also did a price comparison for a General Electric Refrigerator offered online. We compared prices on the very same French door model with DirectBuy and Home Depot and we found a savings in favor of DirectBuy for $56.20. However, Home Depot’s delivery is within a week, whereas DirectBuy delivery ranges from four to seven weeks.
Odell says the savings are supposed to outweigh the membership fees, and that’s not cutting it.
We reached out to DirectBuy of Huntsville for comments on consumer complaints and Odell’s situation. We were referred to the company's corporate headquarters in Indiana.
The company contacted us with a statement, including these notes:
“Our internal theme is, “New Day, New DirectBuy.”
“Among the first areas where guests will experience these changes to our business model, is the transparency in marketing and advertising.”
“We’re implementing a 3-day right to cancel policy across our entire network.”
To read the full statement from DirectBuy, click here.
Meantime, with our help, Odell is awaiting a full refund from DirectBuy.
It’s unclear when any of the corporate promises will reach our neck of the woods. But until then, Odell offers this advice to prospective consumers:
"Ask questions and read every line on the contract, and you can think about it... but don’t do it.”