anne mikolay 2012 120I may not be the brightest bulb in the box, but I can usually spot a marketing scam a mile away. At least I thought I could, but today, I shamefully count myself among those who've “been had”.

Yes, the Armchair Critic has been had, and I freely criticize myself for my gullibility. Allow me to explain.

One recent afternoon (I had a migraine; can I blame my stupidity on that?), I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and came across a demonstration for Youth Renu face cream (first red flag I missed: youth is not permanently outwardly renewed...ever). Youth Renu claimed its effectiveness had absolutely blown the judges away on Shark Tank (yours truly tossed tenets of journalism out the window and neglected to confirm this). A product featured on Shark Tank, the ABC program featuring hopeful entrepreneurs offering “the next best thing”, has to be good. It has to work. It has to be worth the money asked for it. Right? Wrong.

The Facebook advertisement featured a video of the face cream working its magic on a middle-aged woman with facial wrinkles and dark circles beneath her eyes (next red flag I missed: “before and after” photographs/videos are always doctored). For a nominal shipping cost, I could have a free sample. On a whim, I ordered the cream. Impulsiveness is foreign to my character; thus, I missed the biggest red flag: the very temptation to act against my better judgment should have alerted me that something was not right.

A week or two later, I received my free samples. Did they work? Absolutely not. I tossed the creams aside and didn't think too much of it - until I received my credit card bill. In addition to the shipping charge, I was billed for a monthly subscription I had NOT agreed to. In my defense, before I ordered my sample, I carefully examined the advertisement for the fine print that would tie me into a subscription I did not want. I saw no such notice. If it was there, it must have been minuscule, and I missed it. Needless to say, I was livid when I saw the monthly subscription charges: $86 for one cream and $89 for the other!

I immediately called the number on the back of my credit card and informed them I had NOT authorized these charges. They were helpful, initiated an investigation, and recommended I close my account and open a new one to prevent the company from charging my account in the future. Next, I telephoned the company to chew them out and cancel this false subscription. The company representative was accommodating, canceled my bogus order without argument, and confirmed cancellation via email. Order canceled. Lesson learned.

It would be easy to blame my lack of forethought on my migraine, or Facebook for allowing misleading advertisements, or Shark Tank for not carefully monitoring who is capitalizing on their name, but I can't. Marketers successfully appealed to my ego; vanity usurped common sense. The blame rests with me.

Bottom line: Facebook buyers, beware! Don't be fooled as I was. Be mindful. Be vigilant. The old adage is absolutely true: there's no such thing as a free lunch – or in this case, free face cream.