Proactiv Horror Stories: Tales From Skincare's Big ScamS

Why is it so hard to quit Proactiv? Because, according to scores of frustrated customers, the company lures people in with enticing "free trials" that aren't as free as they seem and are next to impossible to cancel. We asked our readers for their own experiences with Proactiv's red tape, and they delivered: We got dozens of emails from people who had eerily similar experiences and are still battling the company months and years after attempting to leave Proactiv behind. Here are a few accounts we received — including an illuminating report from someone who claims to have been a Proactiv customer service rep.

"Constantly receiving technical difficulties":

For over a month I have tried to contact the company via telephone (using several posted telephone numbers) but each time I am met with a recorded out going message stating they are "experiencing technical difficulties". I wish to cancel/close my account and am unable to do so. I have also sent the company a letter via US Mail to notify them of my desire to "quit them" and still have received no response.

Relying on victimization:

My 19 year old daughter lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

In the summer of 2012, with her new acquired credit card, my daughter responded to a television ad and registered for a sample pack of Proactiv using the internet web site to register (19.99).

When she mentioned it to me (as she put our home address on the shipment) I told her that she should make sure there is no "auto ordering" in the contract as I had heard that they auto ship products.

She assured me that she didn't sign or agree with any auto shipment and was only getting a sample package as a trial.

In September 4, 2012 a charge of $63.47 was applied to her credit card and a package of proactiv products was received at our household. She called and immediately cancelled the "membership" that she did not ask for or agree to. She asked for a refund and was told to follow the procedures on her statement to do so.

The product was returned via Canada Post (I have copy of a the package delivery receipt signed by "D. McLean") with a copy of the statement and directions to cancel any future shipments and refund the credit card.

Customer service was called the same day and they said that the refund process would take 2 - 6 weeks.

On subsequent calls in October, November and December - I was hung up on, placed on permanent hold several times and finally was told that there was no record of the shipment being received and that I would have to send copies of the reciept order (thank goodness I shipped with a signature required) by fax to their # 1-515-284-6745.

I have been attempting to send faxed copies since December 4th. The fax line rings and rings and rings but does not connect.

I have called again to be caught up in their telephone shenanigans - accidently cut me off, put me on hold, etc etc.

As it stands, my daughter has had $63.47 stolen from her and I'm sure that they rely on the fact that it is so difficult to deal with them that most people walk away and feel victimized.

I just can't quit you, Proactiv:

I ordered proactiv when I was 21. It was back when they would bill you, rather than take your credit card number. 15 years, 5 states, and multiple cancellations later, I'm still receiving their stupid quarterly shipments. Fortunately they still don't have my credit card number. Every three months I refuse the package & shred the bill.

Some credit advice:

I've had a bad experience with Proactiv too - same sort of thing other people have been saying, basically I tried to cancel and they kept charging my card without sending me products. I contacted them and nothing was done, so I disputed the charges through my bank and got a refund and told my bank not to accept any future charges from them. I still get letters in the mail about every month from collections (for about $70), but I just ignore them. I figure once the postage fees exceed the amount that I "owe", they'll stop.

It is my understanding that if they do not have your social, they can't report you to credit bureaus - if this is correct I think more people should be aware of this, as I've read of people attempting to deal (unsuccessfully) with the collections agency out of fear of damaging their credit score. This ends up exacerbating the problem, as oftentimes collections won't record your payment and hence your "debt" never goes away.

If you're wondering, you're probably right:

So, after reading your article, I began to wonder if my account with Proactiv that I cancelled on December 6th was actually cancelled (that day they sent me an email confirming it had been and I can't log on to their website any longer). According to my credit card statement, they charged me $50 on the 10th. So, although they did cancel my account, they still charged that "closed" account 4 days later. Before that $50 charge I was never charged more than $29.00 in a month. Now I'm trying to call them and not a single number is working. Their recording says they are experiencing "technical difficulties". Bastards.

And here's a fascinating story from someone who says she used to work for Proactiv:

I used to work for Proactiv and was a Skin Care Adviser and Customer Service rep. Worst job ever. Basically when you order through the phone or online it automatically sets you up for a membership (or automatic shipments). If you don't call to cancel (usually between 2-3 weeks from when that order was placed) a second -larger- kit will be sent out (a 90-day supply size). Now after your first "trial kit" the shipments can take anywhere from 2-3 weeks to actually ship to you. Every kit that is a 90-day supply size is broken down into 3 payment (they are automatically charged every 28 days). It gets pretty complicated, and was a real pain the ass to explain to people. The other thing is we were not allowed to say "did you want to take your credit card off the account?" EVER. So if someone called into say "I don't want to get charged for this again" it basically turned into a super frustrating conversation, where we couldn't directly say anything that would help (as far as the account goes). You have to call, speak with a representative and say "I want to cancel my account and I want you to take my credit card off of the account", they will try to make you change your mind (we had to have a certain amount of "save attempts" per week or we would get in trouble). Just get straight to "No, thank you. Just cancel my account, don't ask me anymore questions about it." If they're giving you a hassle about refunding money, ask to talk to a supervisor. We were introduced to some really difficult guidelines right before I quit that basically boiled down to you don't refund anyone unless they threaten to call better business bureau or threaten to sue.

So really you could call in and say " I want to cancel my account and I don't want to be charged again, if I see another charge I'm going to call the better business bureau" If they try to "save" you from canceling, simply ask to speak to a supervisor. Tell the supervisor the same thing. If you threaten them enough they usually just give what you want.

As far as the skin care side of it goes. DON'T USE IT! It does work for some people but benzyol peroxide is BAD for using all over your skin. It makes you more sensitive to the sun, dries out your skin (causes premature aging) and it makes you dependent on the product. Your break outs come back worse usually, if you stop using it. It's really overkill for the skin. I recommend working on your diet, drinking lots of water and finding a more natural method of cleansing the skin. Give other methods about 6 weeks before you decide they "don't work". Be consistent with whatever treatment you use. Oh, and for the love of god, make sure whatever you're using on your face is "non-comedogenic."

Somehow, we're not surprised.