BBB Logo

Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Northern Indiana
Consumers Tell BBB: Midwest Circulation's Magazine Salespeople Duped Them
March 28, 2013

magazinesSt. Louis, Mo., March 28, 2013 – Customers of a Missouri magazine subscription company say they are angry and frustrated after door-to-door salespeople claiming to represent the firm pressured them and repeatedly lied to them in order to make sales.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns consumers across Missouri, Illinois and the nation to be extremely careful when doing business with anyone soliciting on behalf of Midwest Circulation of Cameron, Mo.  Bridgett Robbins is president of the four-year-old company.

Salespeople have been reported recently in the Columbia, Mo., area, but complaints have come to the BBB from communities across the state. 

“I would never buy anything from anybody coming to my door, ever again,” said a woman from Maryland Heights. She said two men claiming to represent Midwest Circulation pressured her into buying a subscription to a children’s magazine in November even after she told them she did not have money in her bank account to cover the check.

The men told her the company would phone her to confirm the order before cashing her check, but she never received a call.  When the check bounced, she was forced to pay a bank penalty.

Midwest Circulation, which uses an address on West Third Street in Cameron, has an “F” rating with the BBB, the lowest possible. The BBB has registered more than 160 complaints against the company.

Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said that based on past experience, warmer spring weather soon will bring out more door-to-door solicitors.

“Magazine solicitors have become particularly notorious, often going to extreme lengths to make sales,” Corey said. “Many of these salespeople use fabricated stories to play on the emotions of potential customers.  Too often, these people make promises they have no intention of keeping, or they make wild claims that are not backed up by the sales contract.”

Several consumers said that salespeople told them that money raised through the subscription sales would benefit hospitalized children, but the company’s manager told the BBB that was not the case. 

Complainants also said the salespeople promised them that their checks would not be cashed until the company called to confirm the order.  That was not done.

Many of those who contacted the BBB said they never received their magazines after waiting for months.

A law student at the University of Missouri said she was approached at her Columbia apartment earlier this month by two young women saying they were selling magazines. They asked her to subscribe to two magazines to be sent to a children’s hospital. They also told her that she could cancel her $116 payment when the company phoned her later to double check the order. That never happened, and her check to Midwest Circulation was cashed. “I was so mad,” she said.

A woman from Cape Girardeau said two young men who came to her door last October had an almost identical story. Both said proceeds would benefit hospitalized children and both promised that her $105 check to Midwest would be held for four weeks to allow her time to reconsider. She said the money was taken from her account the day after she wrote the check. She said she followed the company’s rules for a refund, but did not receive her money back. “They had my money; they didn’t care.”

A woman who answered the phone at Midwest Circulation said Robbins was not available, but referred a BBB investigator to the company’s manager who identified herself only by the first name “Shalyn.”

The manager said the door-to-door salespeople are independent contractors working for other companies and are not trained by Midwest.  She said Midwest is currently working with nine companies that recruit and train their own salespeople. Those salespeople sell subscriptions on behalf of Midwest.

She said that many of the consumer complaints could be avoided if consumers simply would wait the estimated 120 days before the subscriptions are due to begin. She also said that many consumers do not understand the company’s three-day cancellation policy.  “I don’t know if they can’t read it,” she said.

She also said that salespeople are not instructed to raise money for hospitals or other charitable causes. A subscription can be sent to a hospital or third-party recipient only if the customer lists that name and address when he or she pays for the subscription. She called such a sale unusual.

The manager said her company sends out mailings to its partner companies on a weekly basis, outlining any concerns regarding potentially unethical sales tactics. Asked whether Midwest had ever stopped doing business with a firm that had ongoing issues with unscrupulous salespeople, she replied, “I am sure we have.”

Salesmen claiming they worked for Midwest have run into a variety of legal problems in recent months. In January 2012, a magazine salesman who said he worked for Midwest was arrested on a charge of grand theft after he allegedly stole wedding rings from a customer’s home in Florida. Several other salespeople who said they represented Midwest have been charged in various communities with driving without a license, criminal mischief and soliciting without a permit.

The BBB offers the following advice for persons approached by door-to-door salespeople:

  • Check a company’s BBB Business Review by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
  • Remember that you are under no obligation to interact with a salesperson who comes to your home. If you feel at all threatened, contact police immediately.
  • Do not invite a stranger into your home unless you have made prior arrangements to meet with him or her.
  • Many communities require a special soliciting permit for companies selling door-to-door. Before buying anything, ask to see a copy of a permit, as well as any personal identification.  Write down permit information in the event there is a problem later.
  • Be skeptical of sad stories, pleas to help a student or organization or by solicitors claiming they are raising money for charities.
  • If you do decide to buy, pay with a credit card in case you need to challenge the purchase later.

Contacts (News Media Only): Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-0606, mcorey@stlouisbbb.org, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743, communications@stlouisbbb.org, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-584-6727, tpc1@stlouisbbb.org