back to article Subprime PC retailer coughs up $5m fine

BlueHippo bills itself as a company that has "helped thousands of Americans with limited financing options purchase computers, flat screen televisions, and other electronic equipment". This may be true. But it's also worth noting that BlueHippo will soon fork over as much as $5m to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that an …


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  1. Dan Beshear
    Jobs Halo

    Why they are called "blue hippo".

    Their prices are as bloated as a hippopotamus.

    They are "hippo"-critical about the "top-of-the-line" computer you get.

    You'll feel "blue" for dealing with these scammers after they "blue" thru your checking account.

  2. b shubin

    No "free lunch" in "free market"

    it's called BlueHippo because BonziBuddy was already taken. speaking of "taken", i think the two would share a very similar pool of customers (the ones P. T. Barnum was on about).

    th Blue Boffin icon because, er, well, duh.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    It's called Blue Hippo because...

    ... if it was called "Thieving Bastards" the logo would be more difficult to draw... :-)

  4. Anonymous Coward

    "... customers that predate this policy ..."

    Surely it was the policy that was predatory on the customers, rather than the other way round?

  5. Eduard Coli

    Blue what?

    They call themselves Blue Hippo because they take their "blue hippo" and stick it into anyone foolish enough to do business with them.

    Snake oil would not have sounded as good and would not have appealed to there obviously overblown libido.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Argh, those bastards...

    ...I've been wondering when they'd get strung up for *something*. I ran a calculation on one of their 'top of the line' PCs a while back, and you ended up paying upwards of $2500 for a machine worth $400 at most. Absolutely ludicrous stuff.

    I'm really not sure why major cable network (history channel, speedtv... and those are the only ones I watch anyway) can get away with running ads for blatantly fraudulent companies like these guys.

    My other favorite was Ameridebt, which ran *gobs* of commercials on SpeedTV a few years ago (SpeedTV apparently thinks average watchers are bald, fat, and broke, except during F1 races when they run ads for Mercedes). I had this sneaking suspicion that Ameridebt wasn't exactly above board, and lo, after SpeedTV helped them to some oodles of millions of dollars, they got smacked down. I have another sneaking suspicion, though - that the company's assets were not accurately represented in the court filings...

  7. Mark Hartman

    Not as bad as credit card companies

    Most people lured into situations desperate enough to contact Blue Hippo were put there by unscrupulous credit card conglomerates charging predatory interest rates, late fees and penalties well beyond what should be allowed by law. These guys are Tony Sopranos walking Wall Street in blue suits. DO NOT EVER GET IN HOCK FROM THESE BASTARDS!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    My wife worked for a time in the call center of a large bank. She lost count of the number of disputes she had to deal with against this company, and she was just one call center operative out of thousands, at one bank.

    Clearly it's called Blue Hippo because, like a real hippo it might look kind of cute and cuddly from a distance, but get too close and it'll kill you at a moment's notice.

  9. Mike Moyle

    Why they're called that

    ...Because "Blue Meany" was already taken?

  10. b166er


    a WhiteElephant in disguise?

  11. Jesse

    Hearing this on the radio

    For the past year or so it was being spammed and the only thought I could muster was "damn; Americans are ****ing stupid."

    In all fairness, however, many Americans would have expected to be protected by the FCC. I guess the CEO of this company knows this and was able to pull a quick one off to his benefit before litigation.

    The company being named "Blue Hippo" to me is a reference to the mindset of the company basically saying "We can name some god aweful scam 'blue hippo' and get away with it! Damn; Americans are stupid!" hahahahha ----> bank

  12. Andy Bright
    Thumb Down

    Erm that's exactly how they operate, they don't give credit.

    Yes they do misrepresent themselves in TV commercials as offering credit to those with, erm, a blemished credit history.

    However the way it works is you send them money until you've paid for the item, then they send you the item. After you receive whatever it was you paid for, you then pay for it again several times over. This gives the illusion of pre-payment and credit.

    The problem is that most people with shit credit don't finish paying for the item they want, in much the same way they miss payments on real credit such as loans.

    So if they fail to pre-purchase whatever it is they're buying, they end up with nothing. Now you have a problem, because the money they've already sent is not returned, at least not immediately and not without penalty.

    The basic concept behind this isn't that bad, an acceptable version is called Layaway in the US. The way that works is you pick the item you want in the store, and they hold it for you for an agreed period of time. You make your payments, and if you manage to reach the purchase price prior to the time limit (usually about 3 months) you get to keep it. If you fail to make the payments in time, you get your money back. You can cancel the layaway at any time, and most businesses that still offer this service don't penalize you in any way.

    Unfortunately that isn't particularly profitable. Often expensive and highly desirable items that would have sold earlier are left in storage and are never paid for. Sure they get returned to the shop floor eventually, but prices change and often businesses end up losing money if they offer this service. Which is why most no longer do.

    However what Blue Hippo does is take this one step further. They worked out that by making the customer pay several times the normal value of the item, this can be profitable. Especially if most of the people they deal with have a bad history of making credit payments.

  13. kain preacher

    Real name

    If look closely on thier web site you will see thier real company name.

    Blue anal beads

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Alien Cultures...

    In some cultures that rarely see ice, the expression "tip of the iceberg" lacks relevance. At least one such warm-climate culture uses the expression "ears of the hippo". (Hippos like to relax in large bodies of cool water, with only ears and eyes above the surface.) The two expressions do not correlate exactly, as a concealed/watching hippo may suddenly decide to pursue and attack a bystander. The "blue hippo" name/logo would make perfect sense if this company were only a small subdivision of a much larger credit-farming operation. Dark humor at the expense of the client/victim, y'know.

    Paris, because she is equally at ease with both domestic and foreign...err...cultures.

    - The Garret

  15. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    Yeah I can't belive people go for this...

    David Wiernicki has already said this but...

    I've seen Blue Hippo ads here. The ad shows a setup with a cheap-looking inkjet, very cheap looking digital camera, LCD, and antiquated-looking PC. Specs off the site, Athlon 64 3200+, 512MB RAM, 80GB HD, CDRW.

    A mere $40 per week, or $2080. OUCH!!! In fact the first bunch of times I'd heard the ad I thought they had said $40 a month... Well, now that I see you don't even get it for 6-12 weeks, how the hell would anyone go for this? I can't believe anyone would do this, settings aside $40/week for 6-12 weeks would be enough to pay cash for this stuff and be done with it.

    I'm glad they got fined -- slapping a markup on a system is one thing, but marking charging roughly 4x the system cost is downright predatory.

  16. Nick Cassimatis
    Paris Hilton

    What's really scary... that they're selling some pretty high end kit (well, for 2005 at least). For Joe Average home user to do email/internet, have the kids do some homework, maybe play a few games, a HP xw9300 Workstation is, frankly, overkill. $94.99 for 52 weeks = $4939.38 - I bet HP would love to sell a few for that!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Let me get this straight

    You pay for an item before you get it and again once you have it?

    And I thought Brighthouse were bad!

    Why do people fall for this? Don't they have savings accounts (or piggy banks) in the USA?

  18. Greg
    Paris Hilton

    Why do people fall for this?

    Because here in the US we have a lot of low income people who buy into everything the media and ad agencies tell them: "You ain't nothing unless you drivin' an Escalade", "Get the kind of car you DESERVE" (despite the fact you work at McDonalds) "Get the kind of house you DESERVE!"(despite the fact you're on food stamps), "You NEED a computer!"

    In short? Because people are stupid enough to fall for these scams. Look at how our housing market is taking a shit, thanks to unscrupulous lenders giving out interest-only mortgages and people who have no concept of "consequences". In one of my sociology classes, the professor lectured on a study that showed that 76% of people who receive welfare checks will spend all the money within 4 days. She somehow managed to turn this into being my fault, for being a white middle (lower) class male, that poor people have no idea how to save money, and will often spend what's left in the grocery lines on the impulse items by the register.

    Those are the kinds of people too stupid to stop for one second and do the simple on math on how much a Blue Hippo computer will cost them. Paris, because she did the same thing on the Simple Life (though she has the $$$ to back it up)

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