The story seems to be the same: a knock on the door, an offer to purchase books or magazines, a plea to support a good cause, a signed check, no book or magazine delivery and the inability to obtain a refund. While several warnings have been issued by Better Business Bureau of Northern, Central and Western Arizona (BBB) about door-to-door magazine sales, consumers continue to report issues that increase year after year.
Over the last 12 months, seven of the top 100 most complained about businesses are companies that sell magazines door-to-door. For the past three years, BBB has seen an increase in the number of complaints filed against the door-to-door magazines sales industry, showing a 64 percent increase from 2011 to 2013.
Based on common complaints, trends in door-to-door sales approaches for magazine solicitations include:
- High school or college-age salespeople knocking on consumers’ doors claiming they are selling magazines or children’s books to earn money for a trip.
- Emotional ploys from young adults stating their parents live in the neighborhood, or that children’s books purchased will be donated to a local children’s charity or hospital.
- Personable salespeople who appear to be very friendly, but use high-pressure sales tactics.
Consumers nationwide have filed complaints against several Arizona-based door-to-door magazine companies, totaling 414 so far this year. Most complaints involve delivery and refund issues, claiming the magazines or books are never received, even though delivery is promised within a couple of weeks and the checks are cashed five to seven days after the order is placed.
Based on complaints, issues following an order include:
- Magazines and books not arriving by the promised date, or never arriving.
- Difficulty contacting the salesperson and/or the company. In some cases, the company does not respond or claims it has no record of the sale.
- Companies also claim no affiliation with the salesperson.
- Companies not honoring cancellation policies.
- Refund requests ignored.
To help consumers avoid issues when dealing with door to door magazine solicitations, BBB recommends the following tips:
- If you decide to open the door, be prepared to verify all information provided by a door-to-door salesperson.
- Get everything in writing! Get all terms, prices and conditions in writing. Tell the salesperson you will check it out and get back to him or her. Ask for a business card and contact information. Verify with the company that the salesperson is an employee. Check for the company’s BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org.
- Before buying anything, ask to see a copy of their permit, often called a peddler’s license. Many municipalities require a special soliciting permit for companies selling door-to-door. While having the appropriate permit does not necessarily infer that the company can be trusted, it does let you know the company/individual has taken the steps for a required permit in your city or township.
- Do not be taken in by emotional stories, such as pleas to help students earn or win a trip, claims that parents or grandparents are residents of the neighborhood for many years, or claims to raise funds for a local charity or children’s organization—unless you know with certainty the claims are true or you personally know the individual.
- Don’t fall for high pressure sales tactics. Unscrupulous door-to-door sellers will pressure you into buying a subscription. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable position, end the conversation quickly.
- Know your rights. The Federal Trade Commission’s Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule generally gives the customer three days to cancel purchases over $25 that are made in the home. In addition to a receipt, salespeople should also include a cancellation form that customers can send to the company to cancel the agreement. Visit FTC.gov for more information on the Cooling-Off Rule.
About BBB of Central, Northern & Western Arizona
BBB is an unbiased organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. In 2014, people turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB Business Reviews® on more than 4.7 million businesses and 11,000 charities, all available free at bbb.org. Incorporated locally in 1938, BBB Serving Central, Northern and Western Arizona is supported by over 11,400 BBB Accredited Businesses. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business reviews and charity reports, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust.