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Better Business Bureau ®
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Brazos Valley and Deep East Texas
Door to Door Sales Scams
May 19, 2009

BBB Warns Against a Summer Scam Going Door-to-Door Nationwide

05/19/2009

Trying to help a good cause could get you ripped off by fraudulent magazine salespeople

College Station, Texas– May 19, 2009 – The Better Business Bureau warns that deceptive door-to-door magazine sales crews are hitting the pavement and looking to earn a quick buck this summer. In the last 12 months alone, the BBB has received 1,100 complaints from consumers in 46 states and the District of Columbia against more than 50 companies that are selling magazines door-to-door.

Many of these companies employ crews of high school and college-age people who are trying to earn money over the summer. These crews are sent to communities to knock on doors and sell magazines—sometimes without appropriate licensing. In the sales pitch, the representative might explain they are working to help get their lives back on track, raising money on behalf of a charity or for a school trip or even selling subscriptions to support troops in Iraq.

“Because sales representatives are typically high school or college-age, victims readily believe the potentially fictitious sales pitch and often pay several hundred dollars for the subscriptions by personal check given directly to the sales reps,” said Larry Lightfoot, President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau, “Most complaints against such companies allege that sales reps took their check and the magazines never arrived, however, some complainants also allege being subjected to high-pressure and misleading sales tactics.”

In the last year the BBB has received complaints on more than 50 companies conducting door-to-door magazines sales and the following are a few examples:

The BBB serving has received 286 complaints against two magazine companies owned by the same couple - Trinity Public Relations in N.C. and Seedtime Publications in S.C. Complainants report not receiving the subscriptions they paid for and some allege sales reps used high pressure sales tactics. In one example, a woman called the police after feeling threatened by a sales rep, who became angry when she wouldn’t buy a magazine. Some sales reps have also allegedly told prospective customers that they would not be able to eat that day if they didn’t buy their magazines. Trinity Public Relations was closed down by the Attorney General in N.C. and Seedtime Publications has also closed in S.C.

The BBB has received 33 complaints from 12 states regarding Prestige Sales, LLC. In addition to not receiving magazines they paid for, complainants allege sales reps lied about being neighborhood youth who were trying to earn money for a school trip to Europe, while other customers were led to believe they were purchasing magazines subscriptions for troops deployed to Iraq.

Other door-to-door magazine companies with F ratings from BBB include:

  • Michigan City, IN-based Omni Horizons Inc., which has received 122 complaints from consumers in 17 states according to the BBB Serving Northern Indiana;
  • Chesapeake, VA-based True Visions Inc., which has received 82 complaints from 13 states according to the BBB of Greater Hampton Roads;
  • Memphis-based Greater Image, Inc., which has received 71 complaints from 16 states according to the BBB serving the Mid-South; and,
  • Seattle-based Fresh Start Opportunities, which has received 66 complaints from seven states according to the BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington.

“Experience tells us that customers aren’t the only victims of this scam; the young salespeople are also potentially being taken advantage of by their employers and forced to work long hours, endure substandard living conditions and have their wages withheld from them,” said Lightfoot.

The BBB offers the following advice to avoid getting scammed by a door-to-door magazine sales rep:

  • Always research the company with your Better Business Bureau for free at http://www.bbb.org/ before filling out a check for a magazine subscription.
  • The Federal Trade Commission’s Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule gives the customer three days to cancel purchases over $25 that are made in their home or at a location that is not the seller’s permanent place of business. Along with a receipt, salespeople should also include a completed cancellation form that customers can send to the company to cancel the agreement. By law, the company must give customers a refund within 10 days of receiving the cancellation notice.
  • Victims of fraudulent magazine sales can file a complaint with their Better Business Bureau at http://www.bbb.org/, local law enforcement, and state Attorney General offices.

The Better Business Bureau of the Brazos Valley and Deep East Texas serves Angelina, Brazos, Burleson, Grimes, Houston, Lee, Leon, Madison, Milam, Nacogdoches, Polk, Robertson, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Trinity, Walker, and Washington Counties.