Chicago, IL – June 12, 2009 – The Better Business Bureau warns that deceptive door-to-door magazine sales crews are often hitting the pavement and looking to earn a quick buck this summer.
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 our military.
“Because sales representatives are typically high school or college-age, victims readily believe the potentially fictitious sales pitch and have been known to often pay several hundred dollars for the subscriptions by personal check given directly to the sales reps,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Most complaints against such companies allege that sales reps took their check but the magazines never arrived. In addition, some complainants also allege being subjected to high-pressure and misleading sales tactics.”
Examples of complaints from the Chicago area include:
- Anita Tarlach of Crystal Lake, Ill. complaining about a business named Fresh Start Opportunities of Seattle, Washington, stated: “The young man, who looked around 18, that came to my door with a girl was very nice and well dressed. He said that he came from a single parent home with four or five kids and needed to do this to better himself. I gave him cash. I am not against helping people out. I did not get the magazine. I have not been able to get through on their phone lines.”
- Jerry Rooney of Crystal Lake, Ill. also complained about Fresh Start Opportunities, stating: “The guy looked around 20. He said that he was from the inner city and was working to get points for a trip. He also said that he was trying to earn points and become a manager. I never got the magazine. None of my calls to the company have been returned.”
Other examples of some of the BBB-received complaints from around the country about companies conducting door-to-door magazines sales include:
- 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. Other customers were led to believe they were purchasing magazines subscriptions for troops deployed to Iraq.
- Michigan City, Indiana-based Omni Horizons Inc., which has received 122 complaints from consumers in 17 states according to the BBB Serving Northern Indiana.
- Memphis-based Greater Image, Inc., which has received 71 complaints from 16 states according to the BBB serving the Mid-South.
“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. They are forced to work long hours, endure substandard living conditions and have their wages withheld from them,” said Bernas.
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.