The Pitch: "Knowledge at the speed of life"
April 2009. Video Professor is a series of more than 60 computer tutorials that promise to teach skills ranging from using Microsoft Windows to selling on eBay. The as-seen-on-TV infomercials promise that you can have two tutorials for free (you pay $7 shipping).
But the Better Business Bureau and several consumer-complaint websites have collected hundreds of complaints from consumers who tried to take advantage of the free offer and feel they got ripped off instead. Some users say they didn't realize they'd be signing up for a subscription service, in which Video Professor sends and bills them for additional tutorials every month (in the industry, this is called a 'continuity program'). Others say they knew about that catch, but when they tried to return unwanted Video Professor tutorials they couldn't; they were required to call and ask for a return-authorization number first, but they could never get anything but a recording. Some consumers say their credit cards were charged the full $189.95 before the 10-day trial period was over.
In 2007, when consumers posted complaints to InfomercialScams.com about Video Professor, the company sued to try to get confidential lists of posters' names. The nonprofit group Public Citizen stepped in to defend InformercialScams.com, a watchdog website run by Justin Leonard, and Video Professor dropped the lawsuit.
As for the tutorials themselves, reviews say they are easy to use and they really do teach basic computer skills. Although the Video Professor website promises that you can learn advanced skills, too, several reviews say that's not the case. "Although the product could legitimately teach a rookie many of the simple nuances of Windows, even the 'advanced' disc barely touched many of the truly advanced settings and operations of Microsoft's operating system," writes Joseph S. Enoch, a ConsumerAffairs.com reporter who tests Video Professor.
Most reviews of Video Professor concentrate on the company's sales practices, but ConsumerAffairs.com does review the computer tutorials themselves. Public Citizen and The Denver Post report on a lawsuit that was filed by Video Professor after consumers posted complaints on the Internet. We found hundreds of such complaints at InfomercialScams.com and RipoffReport.com, with lower numbers posted at Complaints.com and ComplaintsBoard.com. The Better Business Bureau has collected hundreds of complaints about Video Professor, as well, but it still awards the company BBB-accredited status.
Prompted by consumer complaints about Video Professor, ConsumerAffairs.com decides to conduct its own test. Reporter Joseph S. Enoch tries to order his "one free disc" but discovers that the discs are sold in packs of three. What's more, if consumers don't return the unwanted discs at their own expense within 10 days, they are automatically enrolled in a subscription service for additional discs. In the end, Enoch manages to return the discs and get his money back, minus a shipping fee. The Windows tutorial discs could help beginners, he says.
Review: A Visit to the Video Professor's 'Classroom', Joseph S. Enoch, Dec. 2, 2007
2. Public Citizen
After Video Professor sued to get the names of anonymous dissatisfied customers who were criticizing the company online at InfomercialScams.com, the nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen stepped in and Video Professor immediately dropped the lawsuit, according to this report.
Review: Video Professor Drops Lawsuit Against Anonymous Critics, Greg Beck, Dec. 28, 2007
3. The Denver Post
This Denver Post article describes the anonymous complaints that led up to Video Professor's lawsuit. Most involve a free trial that ends in extra videos and charges if the consumer isn't careful.
Review: Video Professor Wants the Book Thrown at Anonymous Critics, Al Lewis, Sept. 23, 2007
This website (one of the targets of Video Professor's lawsuit) lists more than 500 complaints about Video Professor. Several users who post comments say they didn't understand that they would be billed $189.95 if they didn't send a disc back within 10 days. However, some people post "defenses" for the company, saying they had an excellent experience with customer service.
Review: Video Professor Complaints, Contributors to InfomercialScams.com
5. Better Business Bureau
Video Professor gets a grade of C for reliability from the Better Business Bureau. Although BBB has fielded 669 complaints about Video Professor in the past three years, the company is still BBB-accredited.
Review: BBB Reliability Report for Video Professor, Inc., Editors of Better Business Bureau
RipoffReport.com has collected more than 200 complaints about Video Professor. Again, complainants say they got a runaround when they tried to return the product within the 10-day trial period, and some say they were billed even after they canceled.
Review: Video Professor, Contributors to RipoffReport.com
This is yet another complaint site that has attracted more than 40 Video Professor complaints, saying the company bills repeatedly and unexpectedly and customers have difficulty getting the service to stop.
Review: Video Professor, Contributors to Complaints.com
About 10 consumers have posted complaints about Video Professor here. They echo complaints on other boards: extra charges and trouble getting refunds.
Review: Video Professor Complaints, Contributors to ComplaintsBoard.com