St. Louis, Mo., Mar. 20, 2017 – As bi-state residents greet the first week of spring, Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning homeowners to be alert for the inevitable return of questionable door-to-door magazine sales schemes to area neighborhoods.
BBB is especially concerned this year about KLMN Readers Services Inc., a Miami-based company which was the focus of more than a dozen complaints from St. Louis area consumers last year. The company also uses the name KLMN Readers.
Complainants reported paying KLMN sales representatives between $25 and $160 each for magazine subscriptions that were never delivered.
“I’ve definitely learned my lesson,” said a woman from St. Charles who lost $132 to a door-to-door salesman from KLMN who came to her home last May. “I absolutely would never do this again.”
KLMN Readers, which also has offices in Chesapeake, Va., has an “F” rating with BBB, the lowest possible. Of the 255 customer complaints against the business, 250 have gone unanswered.
Michelle Corey, president and CEO of BBB St. Louis, said KLMN is only the latest in a long line of magazine solicitation firms that failed to make good on subscription promises.
“Door-to-door sales schemes have been around for decades,” Corey said. “Consumers should understand that if they write out a check without first researching the company thoroughly, they risk becoming a victim.”
Corey noted that in the case of KLMN, it appears that the business is “continuing to thumb its nose at consumers and law enforcement” just a year after running afoul of the attorneys general in Iowa and Virginia.
In a January 2016 settlement with the Iowa attorney general, KLMN owner Michael G. Whitely Sr. agreed to stop the company’s door-to-door sales in that state, refund payments to Iowans who did not receive their subscriptions and pay $7,000 to the state’s consumer education and litigation fund.
Iowa officials alleged the company violated the state’s Door-to-Door Sales Act, misrepresented its product and, in some cases, failed to deliver purchased subscriptions.
In February 2016, the Virginia attorney general announced it mailed restitution checks totaling more than $20,000 to 265 consumers as part of a judgment in its lawsuit against KLMN. That lawsuit alleged the company sold magazine subscriptions with no intention of providing the magazines, failed to honor certain terms of the agreements, lied about donating proceeds to charities and soldiers overseas and failed to issue refunds as required by law.
Missouri consumers filing BBB complaints against KLMN said young salespeople who came to their homes between April and June last year often played on their sympathies by claiming they were raising money for school, trying to help their families or trying to better their lives. None of the consumers were able to reach anyone with the company, despite numerous attempts.
A consumer from Fenton said her husband wrote a check for $168 for three magazine subscriptions last spring after a young woman claiming to be a single mother came to their home.
“He felt for her,” she said. She said the woman told them she was not from the St. Louis area, had been dropped off by the company and had a quota to meet before she could finish her day.
“We won’t be doing that again,” the consumer said.
A woman from Imperial whose husband paid $70 for a subscription they never received said: “I definitely will not buy from anybody coming to the door again, unless it’s somebody I know.”
“We wanted to help,” said a Chesterfield woman who lost $58. “What they’re doing is completely wrong.”
In an online posting, a man identifying himself as KLMN owner Whitely said the company’s name is comprised of the first initials of his four children. In a separate post, KLMN identifies Whitely as “a self-motivated business entrepreneur who continually works with inner city youth.” The posting says the company “has the primary goal to raise up productive business entrepreneurs.”
Attempts to reach officials with the company have been unsuccessful.
Consumers with complaints against the company are advised to contact the Virginia and Missouri attorney general’s office and BBB.
BBB offers the following tips for consumers approached by door-to-door salespeople:
St. Louis Area Media Contacts: Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, (314) 584-6743 or (314) 681-4719 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org
Shellie Kreter, PR & Communications Manager, (314) 584-6723 or (314) 348-5451 (cell), email@example.com
Bill Smith, Investigator, (314) 584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org
Columbia media contact: Sean Spence, Columbia Regional Director, (573) 886-8965, email@example.com
Cape Girardeau media contact: Joey Keys, Cape Girardeau Regional Director, (573) 803-3191, firstname.lastname@example.org
Quincy media contact: Mara Clingingsmith, BBB Quincy Regional Director, (217) 209-3972 or (217) 242-6272 (cell), email@example.com
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information.