I’ve written often about Casting Hub and its cousins, and I’ve now heard from several hundred families who have had positive and negative experiences with them. At least once a week for the past year, I’ve heard from someone who tried (but failed) to get a refund after signing a contract and writing a check or using a credit card.
Nearly every time someone approached one of these companies for a refund, even in states with mandatory 3-day cancellation periods, the word I heard was “They won’t budge.”
Is it possible that this is changing? I certainly hope so. In the last 30 days, I’ve gotten three emails from people who told stories like this one:
“Hi Deb, I just wanted to let you know that I just received a notice of refund from Casting Hub/hub cast. Thank you for letting me know I was not alone.
“I took your advice and tried not to be threatening when they told me they would not give me a refund. I think they knew I was going to be a pain that they did not want to deal with when I told them that not giving me a refund was unacceptable and would result in numerous actions by me as I am retired (and have plenty of time to take any and all actions) and I’m not going to let this go.
Anyway I hope others are not taken advantage of like I feel we were.”
The advice referred to in the email above wasn’t actually from me — it was from another blog reader who saw a comment on the blog and offered their experience in successfully getting a refund from the company.
“I’m sorry to hear you ended up where I did. It does seem dishonest and unfair. I ended up emailing back and for with their COO, Abigail Baker. She had misunderstood what I had written in the first few emails and said that they take threats very seriously even internet ones. I had to calm down and be very objective. This is the final message that I wrote:
“Abigail, I apologize if you believe that I am making threats or am committed to defame Cast Hub / Casting Hub. As a company with such a high reputation, you must already know that it takes consistent positive experiences to continue to maintain an earned reputation. You must certainly also know that you cannot censor the negative experiences when they do occur. I am not threatening to defame or destroy Cast Hub; I am merely reminding you that I truly understand the potential of sharing the experience that I am currently having with you. People who are on the fence and said ‘no’ once on the phone only to immediately be offered a ‘sponsorship’ should have the possibility to fully understand the consequences before they return for the callback audition Sunday morning.
“Similarly, the testimonial is going to be perceived differently if those who hear my experience are able to perceive that there is an honest and respectful company behind the sales pitch. So far, in my experience, I promise there is nothing in this conversation or in the sales pitch, up to this point, that will allow anyone to conclude that they can trust doing business with you. This is not a threat; it is merely a valid analysis. I’m sure you’d prefer for people to discover that you’re honest and that you really care about your customers.
“I am not making a threat when I say that I’m going to try, by any legal matter, to enforce the cancellation portion of this contract. As I’ve stated before, I was forced to sign an additional waiver after the original cancellation rights of the contract were explained to me, after I signed the contract and after the payment was completed. I believe this to be an unfair practice. Plus, who does it really hurt to free this sponsorship and award it to a family, who is in a position to be more readily committed? (However, it hurts both of us to not respect my request to cancel.)
“It appears that according to the sponsorship agreement, that I also signed, that we may revoke the sponsorship at any point in time. So, why can’t we revoke the sponsorship and re-enable the cancellation portion of the contract? It seems like an easy way to help both of us out.
“Thanks for working this out with me, Abigail.
“She did not write back personally to that email. Two days later I got an electronic refund receipt to which she responded: ‘DESPITE YOUR CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATIONS your refund has been issued (your receipt is below) and your account has now been closed. Please note that it can take up to 7 to 14 business days to process depending on your financial institution. Please have your financial institution contact me directly if there’s any discrepancy. Best of luck.’
“So, be consistent, be clear, and be objective. You may be able to work something out with them.
“In my research I also found this guide, which I think will be very useful to protect me from future scam-like-scenarious. http://www.wikihow.com/Persuade-People-with-Subconscious-Techniques”
Don’t Cross the Invisible Line
When you are communicating with a company that you believe has treated you unfairly (or even committed a fraud), it’s easy to let anger take over. When it happens to me, I have to carefully watch what I say or write, because I am all too aware of the invisible line I can’t afford to cross. That’s the line between stating my case and outlining the situation in a forceful manner and making a statement that could wind up costing me even more than I’ve already lost.
What line? It’s the line where free speech — that is, my right to tell someone just how I feel and how badly I believe I have been treated — turns into defamation, extortion, or tortious interference. (Tortious interference is the legal term that means interfering with a company’s ability to sell products or services to others, or persuading others to seek to break their contract with a company.)
I’ve covered this topic generally in blog posts like Are You Careful (Enough) In Your Online Reviews? , but the rules don’t just apply in published content — they apply to email and letters, too. Here are some examples of what NOT to say when writing to someone about a refund:
- “If you don’t give me my money back, I will start telling everyone I can about what a crook you are.” (Could be extortion: they pay, or you will damage their reputation. Probably defamation: It’s defamatory to call someone a crook when they haven’t been convicted by a court.)
- “I publish a blog read by thousands of people (have hundreds of Twitter followers, know a lot of parents with kids in the business, etc.), and I am going to warn everybody not to do business with you.” (Tortious or contract interference: encouraging people not to hire someone or do business with someone.)
- “Your representatives lied to me and promised my child would get an audition with Disney if I paid you.” (Stating it this way takes away your free speech right to your opinion, and creates a he said/she said situation where it’s impossible to prove what you say is a fact. Trust me: there is nothing in writing where an employee of any of these companies makes such a promise. A better way to say it might be, “I understood that your company helped to arrange auditions. I did not understand that I was paying for an online networking service. I am very disappointed that there is no Disney audition included with the package.”)
- “I’m going to sue you” or “I’m going to report you to the attorney general”. (Not illegal, just makes it harder to get someone to work out a solution with you. Threatening a lawsuit before you’ve spoken to a lawyer, or threatening legal sanctions simply puts the company on notice that they need to get their lawyers involved. Once that happens, no one else in the company can talk to you, and your efforts to get a refund are stalled until you go to court — which can wind up costing you far more money in the long run.)
On the subject of suing to get a refund, unless you are an attorney yourself or the amount you paid falls within your state’s guidelines for small claims court, suing may not be worthwhile. Suing can cost far more than you’d think possible — I’ve heard of lawyers estimating the cost for this kind of lawsuit at between $15 and $30,000. I have not heard of an attorney willing on to take one of these online networking sites on a “contingent fee” basis (that is, at no cost to the family suing, unless the family wins, and the lawyer takes a percentage of the amount they win).
“But it’s the principle!” I agree that it would be nice if there were no companies preying on children’s dreams, and I wish I could stop them. But I can’t afford to be the person who puts a lawyer’s kid through college by filing a lawsuit based on a principle. I’ve got three grandchildren who still need to get to college.
Here are some links that every parent should see before deciding whether to pay money to Casting Hub, Cast Hub, CastHub.tv, Actors, Models and Talent for Christ and similar services that provide talent with a program or website designed to help them get an agent and/or auditions. If you’ve already paid one of the services, these links show that you’re hardly alone — and may offer tips on getting your money’s worth from the service you have purchased.
If you have not paid money to a service, make sure to scroll to the bottom of the company’s home page and read the fine print — or click on the “about us” tab if there is one and read the company’s description of itself. There is usually gap between what people think they’re paying for and the legal description the company puts online.
The first article in this list is from the wonderful BizParentz Foundation — if you have a child who wants to be an actor, their website is the “first port of call” in your search for how to help them. The second is from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the actor’s union. The rest are from parents and bloggers (including this blog) that have written on the subject.
- How does a parent spot an acting scam?
- SAG Talks About Acting Scam (Dateline video)
- Child Acting Scams
- Casting Hub: A good way to make money (for them)
- Crimes of Persuasion: Model & Acting Scams
- Are Casting Hub and Its Cousins Fooling Parents of Would-Be Stars? (includes links to similar companies targeting the parents of child models and actors)
- Parents of Would-Be Child Actors: Beware of Scammers
- What a Real Audition Opportunity Looks Like
- Advice From a Reluctant Stage Grandma
- 5 Things Parents of Would-Be Child Stars Need to Know
- Resources for Parents of Would-Be Child Actors
- Casting Hub: Another Look at the Dollars and Sense