Trying to help a good cause could get you ripped off by fraudulent magazine salespeople
Arlington, VA – May 5, 2009 - 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, 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 Steve Cox, BBB spokesperson. “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 BBB has received complaints on more than 50 companies conducting door-to-door magazines sales and following are a few examples:
The BBB serving Charlotte 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 serving Central, Northern and Western Arizona 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 Cox.
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 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 www.bbb.org, local law enforcement, and state Attorney General offices.
For more information about door-to-door magazines sales, reporters can contact Alison Southwick at 703-247-9376.
BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. 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 BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 125 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than four million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about BBB.