Online homework helper may be reaching into your pocket

Orange Coast College students in line at the Associated Students Bookstore. Some students have complained that they've been charged for subscription services without their knowledge.

Some Orange Coast College students have reported unauthorized charges to their bank accounts for Bartleby services after using a credit or debit card at the Associated Students Bookstore.

Bartleby.com is a subscription-based, online service that offers homework help and was developed by Barnes & Noble Education, Inc., according to the Bartleby website. Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. also operates more than 700 campus bookstores across the country, including the OCC bookstore.

OCC student Karla Torres, in a private message through the OCC app, said that she was charged earlier this month for Bartleby, but doesn’t recall agreeing or signing up for it.

“I don’t know how to get my money back. It’s so annoying and I was really pissed,” she said.

Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, said they were asked if they would be interested in signing up for a free month of Bartleby by a bookstore employee while purchasing textbooks.

The student said they expressed verbal interest to the employee, but didn’t directly purchase a subscription plan or sign any terms of service for Bartleby. They said that earlier this month while reviewing bank statements, they noticed a charge of $9.99 for Bartleby without having created an account with the service.

In trying to create an account in order to cancel the subscription plan, the student said they were charged an additional $4.99 for premium access. The student said they have successfully cancelled the subscription, but hasn’t received a refund for the charges.

“I was kind of disappointed because they just took $15 without asking me,” the student said.

OCC students aren’t the only ones claiming to have been charged without their consent.

A majority of students who have written reviews on the website Trustpilot have left one-star reviews for Bartleby.

Most of the complaints reference being signed up by their campus bookstore without their consent, being charged for the service before the end of the free trial period, or difficulties in cancelling their subscription.

Jennifer Sanders, head of Marketing, Operations and Administration for Barnes & Noble Education, Inc., disputes claims that students are not informed or consenting of their Bartleby subscriptions or the additional charges.

“We do not sign anybody up who has not seen and accepted our terms and conditions,” she said. “Most come with a promotional month, so you can imagine people are very excited to try the product, and perhaps might not have recollection that, even though we explicitly say they’ll be billed once the trial period ends, that that will happen.”

Sanders also said that she finds Trustpilot to be a valuable source of feedback, but that the reviews on the site tend to be predominantly negative.

“Unfortunately, I think we find in the consumer space in, not just in this company, but other companies I’ve worked with, that people are more apt to complain about things they’re unhappy with than things they’re happy with,” Sanders said.

According to Sanders, companies like Nordstrom experience similar ratios in ratings despite their superior service and said it is important to understand that balance.

Todd Murphy, the bookstore manager at OCC, declined a request for interview with the Coast Report.

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