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Calling Video Professor a Scam 385

palmerj3 writes in to give some wider attention to a piece on Techcrunch today in which Michael Arrington reacts to Video Professor's desperate attempts to shut him up after he called Video Professor a scam in a piece syndicated by the Washington Post. As described by Arrington, the ways the company's site operates (differently depending on where a visitor comes from) are strongly reminiscent of the practices a Senate committee recently condemned. (Here is a detailed example of another, similar scam, from a not-naive victim. Video Professor's tactics sound even more deceptive.) Video Professor seems to react with belligerence, not to mention legal threats, towards any hint of criticism. Please share any direct experiences you have with this outfit.
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Calling Video Professor a Scam

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  • first impressions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by martas ( 1439879 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @08:01PM (#30257604)
    if you ask me, a tacky name like "video professor" is more than enough evidence of a scam.
    • by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @08:13PM (#30257682)

      Who cares about the name, they sued their own customers to shut them up about being scammed. That's more than enough evidence of a scam.

    • His appeal (Score:2, Interesting)

      by NoYob ( 1630681 )
      Back when I had TV, watching his commericals had this "too good to be true" air about them. I ignored them.

      His appeal is that he makes a complicated machine, a computer, seem easy to use and he'll make it easy for you. I actually have talked a couple of people who have done business with these folks (I'd elaborate but Slashdot has a problem with anonymous proxies - yeah, like posting as an AC cuts it). They are high school graduates at best, very intimidated by computers, and many times, they have to use a

      • Wow, you know their business is iffy when the BBB makes them put a huge disclaimer right near the top of the front page!
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by muridae ( 966931 )

          That isn't a BBB statement. It is the BBB accredited icon, and their disclaimer. It does look fishy putting the two so close together, and the BBB may require them to have it.

          What I find disturbing is that they have an A rating with the BBB, but there are three other businesses incorporated with the Video Professor name that do not. Only the one based in Denver, and the one that the website claims to be, have been rated at all. Any business folks want to chime in with how hard it would be for a business to

          • by garyrich ( 30652 ) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @01:46PM (#30262556) Homepage Journal

            you don't even have to reincorporate somewhere else to pull that scam off. The BBB makes money from businesses paying them for "accreditation" and they don't make money from consumers. Their bias is obvious.

            Here in SoCal there is a construction fraud gang that seems to mostly be run by a Moroccan/Israeli family named Ben Shulsh. I tried to report their most recent front company (Erco Construction) to the BBB and they would even bother to even look at it. They publicly list the same front people, and they are at the same business address as their last front company (Highrise construction) and 2 miles from the front companies before that (BC Specialty Construction, Bashan and Allied). The BBB only changed the the rating on BC from A+ to F *after* they had robbed everybody, folded up shop and when into hiding for a few weeks. This despite complaints going back months.

            I wouldn't put any stock in the BBB or its rating of anything. They are just there to collect the accreditation fees.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by cvtan ( 752695 )
      Customer: Well, could I have her scam instead of the baked beans then? Waitress: You mean scam, scam, scam, scam, scam, scam, scam, scam, scam, scam, scam, scam and scam? Choir (intervening): Scam! Scam! Scam! Scam! Lovely scam! Wonderful scam! Scam sca-a-a-a-a-am scam sca-a-a-a-a-am scam. Lovely scam! Lovely scam! Lovely scam! Lovely scam! Scam scam scam scam!
  • not only is there a *Pay up to $9.95 USD for shipping & processing and they act like the old CD music clubs.

  • by Chickan ( 1070300 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @08:05PM (#30257630)
    Ordered a disk from them in 2005 as part of another promotion I think (one of those complete X deals). I never got the disk as it was improperly addressed, they dropped off my apartment number, so it was returned to sender, but I got a lovely $70 charge on my CC a month later. I called to complain and they offered to resend out the disk at first, but I finally got them to refund the charge. Ended up working out OK, but again, that was a few years ago.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by johncadengo ( 940343 )

      Congratulations! You're here. :).

      At least you've learned how to use the internet, one way or another.

  • by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @08:05PM (#30257634)

    Seriously, I know I could just google it but damnit slashdot, this sounds like a typical example of an editor knowing about a subject that a submission happens to be about yet most likely the average slashdot users doesn't have a clue as to what/who the fuck "Video professor" is.


    • by Trebawa ( 1461025 ) <trbawa@a o l . com> on Saturday November 28, 2009 @08:25PM (#30257736)
      Video Professor is a company in the U.S. with ads that are very common on TV. They consist of an older man advertising his videos in which he shows how to use various software. He then assures the viewer that he is so sure you will like his product, he will send you one free. What actually happens is that you get the free video (plus shipping and handling), then a charge on your credit card for another video each month.
      • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @09:37PM (#30258140) Homepage

        I got scammed too. Not only did I not get my "free" MS Excel video in the mail, but I got billed for it and other CDs too. I ended up contacting my bank for a stop-payment. It got so bad that I had to change my CC number. Fuckers! I hope the CEOs ass lands in prison for this shit!

        Ya, I'm pissed...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by rrohbeck ( 944847 )

        TV? Isn't that this thing like the Internet, but one-way only and you have to watch in real time? And without Adblock?

    • by iamapizza ( 1312801 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @08:52PM (#30257894)

      Please share any direct experiences you have with this outfit.

      Also implying that some of us here don't know how to use a computer; there's no other way we'd have any "experience" with that "outfit."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 28, 2009 @08:16PM (#30257688)

    When I complained, they gave me a free credit report from their partners at I don't know what this guy is complaining about.

  • by b4upoo ( 166390 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @08:34PM (#30257784)

    Yes, the idiot is known to do bad business. Sadly if we start shutting down corrupt businesses we will shut down the American economy. We might have to shut down most state governments as well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MrShaggy ( 683273 )

      just Jersey

      • Damnit, I live in Jersey, and I absolutely object to ...

        Shit, I haven't received this month's shill check from the governor's office yet, never mind.
  • I'm the lucky one. (Score:5, Informative)

    by bigdonthedj ( 1437541 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @08:46PM (#30257858) Homepage
    I tried out the Photoshop package. It actually has a lot of info and tutorials in there. However, from watching and reading ads, it seemed that it would be a reasonable price. I wasn't notified of the nearly $200 charge for it. I called theem and told them it was a rip-off and false advertising. They gave me my money back AND let me keep the course. That really surprised me.
    • by ( 1195047 ) <philip.paradis@p ... net minus author> on Saturday November 28, 2009 @09:00PM (#30257952) Homepage Journal

      They gave me my money back AND let me keep the course. That really surprised me.

      Given their high profile, displaying a desire to avoid criminal prosecution really shouldn't come as a surprise.

    • They can happily refund the money of the x% who call in and make a fuss and it's no big loss to them. There's still a healthy percentage of people who won't notice the charge or who simply will take it as a life lesson and move on. They may well be acting within the limits of the law so as to avoid being shutdown (or they may not be -- I make no judgment on the matter as IANAL), but that doesn't make what they're doing right.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 28, 2009 @11:51PM (#30258886)

        They can happily refund the money of the x% who call in and make a fuss and it's no big loss to them.

        You really missed the point on that. They are like Dell, in that they just keep the money for 30-60 days, since from what I can recall Dell convinced the hardware suppliers to paid monthly, or on even longer cycles (Not accusing Dell of wrongdoing here). You make your real money in a quasi-Ponzi scheme in which you make money in 3 ways:

        1) You keep the money that people don't complain about (what you mention)
        2) Interest on the money you are keeping. It's not unusual in telemarketing scams to have millions, to tens of millions of dollars at any one time in a bank account.
        3) Flat out just playing risky by taking more and more money out though other service companies (more scams) till eventually:

              a) FTC comes in and shuts you down.
              b) You run out of money, burn your bridges, or can't keep coming up with new products and services that people have not caught on to yet.

        By this time you have been smart enough to let other take the fall and liability and you move on to a new company, different name, different products, sometimes a different foreign call center group, and start the same fucking shit.

        There is a saying, "The poor will always be with us". Well there should be another one, "The stupid/naive/foolish will continue to be take advantage of by the wolves".

        They may well be acting within the limits of the law so as to avoid being shutdown

        Heh. Just barely. Laws vary from state to state. What they do is push it as far as they can till the Attorney General's office of a particular state threatens them enough and they will have the call centers stop calling the area codes for that state. Of course they won't take any more orders for that state either.

        Once enough states have blocked that product, they move on to another product in the works and repeat. If the Attorney General does try to actually ban the company, they form new companies. It never affects the products since their entire infrastructure is divided among holding companies, operating companies, service companies, foreign call center companies, and the companies that own the products being sold or are responsible for the marketing. You will usually find Mr. Big owning part of them, directly or indirectly, safely from foreign companies located in nice warm places where the bars sell you drinks with funny names and hats.

        Trust Me. They are all of full of shit and know fully what they are doing.

        Posting Anonymously for safety.


  • I'm actually in the middle of trying to figure out if an offer I recently received is genuine. I've not been asked to send out money, just use my brain and solve a problem involving lighting. Couple of guys from the UK and AUS found some postings of mine on a horticultural website, sent me an e-mail about a week ago, and now I've got all sorts of documents and photographs of the stuff they're wanting to do but need an acting lighting engineer for.

    I've had e-mail, I've had phone conversations. I'm asking for

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      2 words - Grow Op?
    • You better read that contract before you sign. Don't just lightly skim it either, read it and check the fine print.
      • You better read that contract before you sign. Don't just lightly skim it either, read it and check the fine print.

        Seriously. And if you're friendly with any lawyers, maybe run it by them quickly. It could very easily be a situation where you're responsible for paying for their travel expenses or something. Or it could be totally legit. Seek professional contract advice.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto ( 415985 )

      This should be fairly easy to figure down... Are they Google-able? They have a company?

      The NDA part shouldn't be bothersome... it's par for the course; I make vendors sign 'em for certain server infrastructure additions or analysis (cf. anything that may possibly handle trade secrets, etc - even Microsoft signs one before doing their true-up audits). Besides, no NDA can prevent you from reporting illegal activity, so don't sweat it.

      Otherwise, just get everything in writing (and notarized!) before agreeing t

  • type business. Now Video Professor sells a series of Tutorial Movies on CDs that show how to use a Windows software product or Windows itself or some Web Site like eBay. Like the "X of the Month Club"s the first one is free for X days and if not sent back and order is canceled new Video CDs are sent and the person's credit card is charged.

    Calling it a "scam" is very strong words, and they have sued people who say that. It is a business and the terms on the TV commercials are in small print, and the EULA the user clicks on explains it is a membership in a club to purchase Video CDs for various software products.

    The Average Slashdot member doesn't need Video Professor because we usually just use search engines like Google to figure out how software or web sites work. These Video Professor CDs are marketed towards the luddites and people with little to no computer skills and open up a video in Microsoft Media Player. The type of people who don't bother to read the EULA or know that it is a membership or trial offer. So you could say that Video Professor preys on the unskilled and the weak, but legally they have a legal contract with them via the EULA they click agree on via their web site or via the Phone Orders. If it is a legal agreement and legitimate business it is not necessarily a scam, it might be unethical or immoral or appear to be wrong in some way but it is still legal. It is as legal as those "Book of the Month" or "CD of the Month" businesses.

    You'll actually find the Internet full of such offers and such companies. But Video Professor airs TV commercials targeted at people who don't seem to understand how a computer works much less how a trial membership works.

    I hereby challenge the free and open source community to make a serials of software tutorials for various Windows operating systems, Windows software, web sites, etc and provide those videos free via downloads or web site streaming to engage and or challenge the Video Professor company, and provide free alternatives that people on Slashdot and other technical web sites can refer to our friends and relatives who might get taken in via Video Professor, and instead we can redirect them to the FOSS web site of software tutorial videos or download them and burn our own FOSS Software Professor CD-R disks and give them to them for free.

    • by NoYob ( 1630681 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @09:00PM (#30257956)

      I hereby challenge the free and open source community to make a serials of software tutorials for various Windows operating systems, Windows software, web sites, etc and provide those videos free via downloads or web site streaming to engage and or challenge the Video Professor company, and provide free alternatives that people on Slashdot and other technical web sites can refer to our friends and relatives who might get taken in via Video Professor, and instead we can redirect them to the FOSS web site of software tutorial videos or download them and burn our own FOSS Software Professor CD-R disks and give them to them for free.

      The F/OSS community doing a Windows training video? Ahahah ....OK, wavy lines...wavy line....wavy line,,,,,

      Start of video....
      Enter guy with black hair, black goatee, horns, pitchfork, and dressed in red.
      "Hi, I'm Satan and I'm here to teach you about my Operating System : Windows. Using this OS will automatically give your everlasting soul to me. Now to begin....."
      Every other frame will be a quick frame that says:
      F/OSS is the GOOD in the World. Linux is your salvation!

      Please excuse the typos. For some reason my spell check on Firefox isn't working on this Fedora 12 box. ????

    • by Cyberllama ( 113628 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @09:03PM (#30257972)

      It is, but it doesn't have the balls to tell you up front that it is. That's hidden away on an easy to miss corner of only one part of their webpage (and on none of the subsequent pages you have to click through to complete the transaction). They're not even doing a boiler plate type EULA thing "click here if you agree that its ok if we charge you every blah blah". They just "assume" you read the entirety of their front page and if not, then tough. Well actually, they're probably assuming you didn't -- because if you did, there's no way you continued on with the transaction.

      Where Video Professor really crosses the line is in the amount charged. Most of the "x of the month" club type businesses thrive on *apathy*. People know full well that they're going to be charged 10 dollars every month unless they cancel, and they fully intend to cancel, but they just never get around to it.

      This, on the other hand, is set up to thrive on *ignorance*. More than likely, you aren't going to know a thing about that 290 dollar charge on your credit card until it hits you. And then, what can you do? Cancel? You've already bought them *all* in one charge.

      A business model based on consumer apathy is slimy, but tolerable. People are getting screwed, but they know it and they accepted it. Ignorance, on the other hand, is just not "ok". Grandma isn't reading the fine print on this web page and there's just no way she knows she's going to get billed for 290 dollars until it happens and then its too late.

      If your business model is based around the idea that "People can't know your business model, or they won't buy your product" -- then it's a scam. It might comply with the letter of the law, IANAL -- but by the strict dictionary definition it is deception and therefore it is a scam.

    • Good summary and points (I have no mod points to help). I was wondering who on /. was being fooled by Video Professor? It is pretty obvious in the US if they advertise on TV a great deal, and they are selling video CD's, they must be charging more than the $4.56 which showed up in the article. I am not defending their strategy at all, it is slimy to hide the costs. I like your proposal for open source alternative.
      • I honestly think that there should exist FOSS alternatives to almost anything or everything in the computer world.

        Video Professor deserves to have some FOSS competition and FOSS alternatives. It really isn't that hard to do just take a video camera and record someone using the software and then edit the video for highlights and using graphics to circle the controls, etc to make it easier to find. It isn't even limited to just Windows or Windows software, but Linux, Mac OSX, *BSD Unix, etc. It could start a

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Why in the hell would the FOSS community make helpful guides for using Windows?

      You really did not think this through did you? Perhaps a set of videos familiarizing folks with gnome or kde, open office and gimp, but videos for non FOSS software I think not.

      • The FOSS community could do Linux, Mac OSX, KDE, GNOME, OpenOffice.Org, etc as well. No limits.

        I did think it through, it offers FOSS alternatives to Video Professor(TM) the same way OpenOffice.Org offers a FOSS alternative to MS-Office and Wordperfect Office, etc.

        Many in the FOSS community use Windows anyway as FOSS developers who target Windows have to use Windows to test things out. Those who write content also cover Windows like Wikibooks and WikiHow and eHow seem to have Windows Software articles writt

  • by Jetrel ( 514839 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @08:59PM (#30257942)

    Honest, I used video professor to learn to sell on Ebay and not I am making $10,000 a month and living the life I have always dreamed of. Thanks video professor!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 28, 2009 @09:19PM (#30258070)
    This reminds me of all those High School car washes you see. They have sings that say "Free Car Wash", but then they usually have another sign sitting there saying "All Proceeds go to Couger High Cheerleaders!" and it like, uh what proceeds, it's free!

    But I go anyway and "PAY" for my "Free" car wash. If only because I'll never got that close to actual boobs in my real life.

    Hold on a second.... "Mom! Poop bucket!!"

    Ok, I have to go. But, yeah total scam.
  • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @09:21PM (#30258082)
    My ex tried this a while back without asking me.
    She started trying to cancel it within two weeks.
    It took over 3 months before they would actually cancel it, and that was like pulling teeth with tweezers.
    She must have sent 20 emails and spent 40 hours on the phone trying to get them to cancel.

    That is either Massive incompetence, or total scam.
    I really don't care which, but I'd advise you to not use Video Professor.
    Besides, their stuff is really basic. You'd be better off taking an introductory course at your local college, or just checking out stuff at your local library.
    (Either of those options will be cheaper as well.)
  • It's almost a shame (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Vyse of Arcadia ( 1220278 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @09:23PM (#30258090)
    Video Professor sounds like a perfectly viable product without resorting to tactics like these. Loads of people are scared of computers. Why make a bad name for yourself with scammy practices when you actually have something to sell?
    • This has something to do with it []. I'm all for capitalism and competition, but sometimes people get a little out of hand.
    • by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Saturday November 28, 2009 @09:55PM (#30258208) Homepage
      Because you make much MUCH more money that way, at least until some A.G. shuts you down. Even if they were legit at some point (I don't remember), they are currently riding that edge between scummy and illegal. The money convinced someone it was worth it. It usually does.
    • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @11:36PM (#30258800)

      Because such "learn at home" videos are in fact very difficult to make: they have no feedback with the student, they're easily at far too sophisticated or far too untrained an audience, and because "teaching Photoshop" reequires a great deal of hands-on experience to learn how the workflow really works, and to recover from errors or inappropriate shortcuts. It's far easier to make a very lame and poorly produced document that does not actually teach, but relies on fraud to make its profit.

      Such behavior is very common: do not rely on something sounding "perfictly viable" to assure that it has, in fact, any useful quality.

  • Don't worry (Score:3, Funny)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @09:39PM (#30258150)
    There's an alternative: Professor Wikipedia [] is not a scam.
  • It IS a scam. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Inominate ( 412637 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @10:51PM (#30258528)

    It's a TERRIBLE fucking scam.

    It does detail in explicit detail everything they're doing. You have unlimited time to review the conditions. So scam? No not really. Deceptive marketing? Absolutely.

    "Deals" like these have been the status quo for decades. Should they be illegal? Yes, but given current contract law, try and figure out a way to band them, win a nobel prize.

    Consumers who ignore the find print deserve what they get, and get what they deserve.

  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @10:52PM (#30258546) Journal
    And I am not a scam. The scam is the real estate branch of the business dept. Those fuckers should be in jail.
  • by lstarnes1024 ( 1688942 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @11:11PM (#30258662)
    Apparently, this guy's lawyers can't take a joke (then again, no laywer can), Last year, Video Professor's legal department sent an email to Wikia, a wiki hosting company, concerning this article [] about John Scherer on Uncyclopedia, a satirical parody of WIkipedia. They requested removal of the article. However, the article in question and the pictures on it were used for the purposes of parody and humor and thus are likely protected under fair use. Instead of deleting the article, the community decided to take the opportunity to make fun of the lawsuit as well. The email sent to Wiki (and the associated drama) can be found here [].
  • by binaryspiral ( 784263 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @11:32PM (#30258782)

    Slashdot posted this story in 2007 about Video Professor sueing to get critical reviews off the internet. []

    Yeah, that worked out well for them, didn't it?

  • by Rastl ( 955935 ) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @11:46PM (#30258848) Journal

    This is just another reason why I use temporary credit card numbers for online purchases. They're only good for a set period of time and you set the maximum chargeable amount.

    The end result is that they never actually have your credit card number.

    Of course a better solution is to read the fine print, both online and on your packing slip, so you know the deal. I too had one of those 'free offers' that was really a 'free trial'. Luckily I read my packing slip which had all the details on how to cancel it. Followed the instructions, no problem. But they were also pretty up-front about it.

    Any company that buries a subscription or a situation where you have to pay for things you never thought you ordered is a scam. Period. End of story. They're counting on the fact that most people won't understand or read the agreement. Trying to squash negative commentary is just more proof that they know what they're doing is wrong.

  • Video Professor (Score:5, Informative)

    by hedge49 ( 147092 ) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @12:08AM (#30258954)

    I ordered a 'free' Video Professor Access learning set about 10 years ago. The set came with 3 discs in a single package. 2 of the discs were free, but in order to keep the 3rd, the last lessons, I would have had to pay the $29.95 for the set. In other words, if you want the free part, it's only the introductory and intermediate lessons. Additionally, each disc installed several programs I would have to characterize as spyware. Not just the first, but each disc. Before they would run any lessons. So, I sent the 'free' software back. And then I got to struggle with their hands in my pocket through 3 more 'free' (unordered) sets, each of which showed up on my credit card statement before the (unordered) sets arrived. Each subsequent time I called to protest I was told to keep the discs. Of course, they were worth more as infections than as product. I finally canceled the credit card to stem the pilfering. 'Scam' is kind.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 29, 2009 @05:08AM (#30259920)

    I knew about the 10 day deadline to stop the extra charges and made it in time. I also called the customer service line to inform them that I had sent in the refusal notice. But they charged me anyway. So I called them to ask what was up and they said it would be taken care of in five days. So in seven days I called them again to ask where was my refund. Once again, they said it was a mix up or a clerical error and it would be processed in five days. This process repeated over and over. Each time they apologized and said it was a clerical error and would be taken care of within five days. But it never was. It was just one lie after another. It went on for months before I finally wrote to the Denver Better Business Bureau. Only then did they actually refund the money that they had no right to take from me in the first place. John Scherer (the video professor) is as dishonest as they come. They might not be breaking the law but if you have an ounce of sense in your head, you will never do business with this crook. (I called him much worse when I was fighting to get my money back.)

"Plastic gun. Ingenious. More coffee, please." -- The Phantom comics