Editors note: This is an ongoing article series about Smile Direct Club who has acknowledged that they in essence “buy” the silence of their customers but of course they can’t outright say that because their prevented by their legal department. On Friday, I spoke to an account manager following my first report on the company amid my own experience that validated some of the claims made about the company by others. Beginning a year ago, I decided to put their service to the test under the guise of being a customer (some of which I was but I was also a reporter after answers.)
I want to make it clear that while Smile Direct Club may have customers who certainly have had what appear to be successful experiences — others most certainly have not had pleasant experiences. Smile Direct Club is really a hit or a miss in allot of the instances and the reviews that have already been readily made available by thousands of people.
- Contrary to popular belief you are not actually paying for the aligners.
Instead as the Smile Direct Club account manager noted one is instead paying for the treatment itself. This is unclear to some and is easily confusing considering the finance contract makes it sound like you’re paying for the aligners/retainers. I quizzed the account manager on this because not only was it a bit confusing to me I have had other customers ask me to pose these questions after my investigation went public.
This is important to note because Smile Direct Club sends out a “General Release Form” described by Smile Direct Club as a form that is only sent out in minority circumstances. I quizzed the account manager because I wanted to understand what happens when someone doesn’t get their aligners/retainers — how can they still be billed for the treatment when they can’t take part in the treatment?
The account manager continually repeated the following. “Smile Direct Club bills for the treatment and not the aligners themselves through our partner Healthcare Finance Direct. They’re the ones billing customers.” Having posed a genuine question following up on that I couldn’t help but wonder the following.
Me: So when Smile Direct Club has a history of acknowledging faults; not-received products, multiple replacement attempts (that never arrive in some cases) — why doesn’t Smile Direct Club notify their finance partner to hit pause until this can be figured out?
Account Manager: Well the initial agreement is for the treatment and customers agreed to pay for the treatment as per the agreement.
But again apart from the serious cases of tooth problems due to SDC, some, have reported not receiving their items at all. So how can they be billed for treatment via devices that they don’t have?
2. It’s safe for many to question Smile Direct Club ‘s morality and accountability
Before anything that includes being a member of the press — I am a human being. A human being that believes in morality; accountability, and honesty. When I discovered that the claims of an NDA like document on behalf of Smile Direct Club were very much real I immediately decided it was time to question them. That questioning partially happened during the phone call that took place on 8 January 2021.
I posed the question on a morality basis if you will to the account manager that if a customer doesn’t have the products they were promised; and Smile Direct Club isn’t even keeping to their own “Smile Promise” which is essentially their whole agreement in itself —- at what point does their agreement become void?
In essence, I was told it doesn’t. A customer signs the finance agreement Smile Direct Club will assume the agreement to hold regardless of what may happen and a customer will be on the hook for their payments unless a refund is granted. A refund that after what I’ve learned is often very hard too get and if it is granted often comes with very bizarre conditions.
3. I asked the account manager about the NDA and the fact that by Smile Direct Club sending those to people even though in some cases it was Smile Direct Club that failed — does Smile Direct Club not realize that such is a further admission of guilt?
Of course the account representative was a bit taken back by that question and therefore reverted back to the fact about the agreement being signed. But common sense says, if somebody signs an agreement for something especially that results in them paying for it — 10×10 they expect to receive the product or service that they paid or are paying for. There are dozens of cases of this happening. Smile Direct Club appears unforgiving at their relentless pursuit to ensure they keep customers’ money at all costs.
4. Dental check ups.
Truth be told Smile Direct Club might be running afoul of dental rules and that has been reported numerous times now. Numerous dentists have come forward with complaints that because SDC is sliding by without having patients physically seen by a licensed dentist — full stop there’s a problem.
The most customers are asked to do is to sign into their Smile Direct Club portal; upload a check in picture, and that’s about it. If for any reason you get a random call talking about you may need a readjustment; re-do, or treatment re-do, chances are you will be charged for that they just don’t tell you that up front.
5. I was very curious as to why their “refund and cancellation policy” on their website is both vague as it is deceitful.
Smile Direct Club ‘s website states a bunch of stuff about 30 or so days; return, refund, the typical schpeel one sees when buying from a merchant.
What one will not find on Smile Direct Club ‘s website or in the documents you get from there:
- Their supposed cancellation policy some of which often doesn’t include a refund at all and when it does it often appears to only be a pro-rated refund no matter the case.
- Their refund 2.0 policy. If by chance you get to the point that “service not as advertised” “products didn’t arrive” “tooth damage” or anything in between those categories that would result in you asking for a refund — buckle up. The part of the refund policy they don’t tell you about is as follows:
“In minority circumstances” they say customers will be given the NDA like form that (as we published here) pretty much says once you’ve translated the legal mumbo-jumbo that if one wants their money back sign it and move on. The form makes it pretty clear that a customer agrees to keep their mouth shut; delete all related posts about them online, and agree to waive their right to ever come clean about their experience again whether in the court of law or on the internet.
The problem with this is even if that service was bad and it was their fault they don’t want you to tell people that. They don’t want that to happen because if large numbers of people started to figure out just how many problems Smile Direct Club actually has.. people would likely stop signing up for their service.
6. Their customer service is legendary for being horrible.
You can count out the idea of ever getting legitimate customer service whether on Twitter; Zendesk, or over the phone. You will be bounced from agent to agent; told they will call you back, or reach out to you at their convenience and that’s about it. Actually getting to someone who has the authority to solve your problem would mean you’re lucky enough to problem win the lottery.
7. Smile Direct Club appears to be fairly dismissing over a very serious allegation some have made.
A common complaint against Smile Direct Club is obviously the fact that they do not doo physical dental check ins. Those types of check-ins usually are a surefire way for your dental team to catch any problems. The problem is that some people because of the lack of those turn up with: jaw problems, teeth falling out, misalignment, teeth moving in reverse, and some have even needed root canals after the fact.
Smle Direct Club does not appear to have addressed these claims at any time in the past 4 years at least publicly. They grow significantly as time goes on which can be found by simply searching their BBB reviews; their name on Twitter, and oh heavens their comment board on Facebook.
What I continue to learn about Smile Direct Club is the fact that they have very little oversight from what I am able to see from looking at this situation with a real lens. A lens not guarded behind the authority of a corporate counsel paid to protect them at all costs. As I continue to investigate other claims made by people and some I will reach out to in hopes to interview them for pieces here — I want people to understand that they likely should proceed with very real caution when dealing with Smile Direct Club. The sole fact that they have a number of good clients does not take away from the fact that there is a host of problems with this company.