A couple of years ago, the New York Times did a piece on the poor treatment of teens hired to travel the country and sell magazine subscriptions door-to-door, but they’re not the only ones getting the raw end of the deal.
In the last 12 months alone, BBB has received complaints from consumers in nearly every state who bought magazine subscriptions from crews of young adults selling door-to-door. According to complaints, the young sales reps might claim to be neighborhood youth trying to raise money for charity, a school trip, or even for troops in Iraq. The victim pays with a check on the spot, but the magazines never arrive.
Here’s basically how it works:
- The companies employ “crews of high school and college-age people who are trying to earn money over the summer.”
[See a list of offending companies here.]
- The youths will claim they’re selling magazines for all sorts of heart-melting reasons:
- to get their lives back on track
- to raise money for a charity
- to pay for a school trip
- to raise money to support troops in Iraq
- In some cases, they’ll use hard-sell tactics, including becoming angry if you don’t buy something.
- You’ll be asked to pay for the subscriptions immediately by check.
- That will be the end of it. By which we mean, you won’t receive your magazines.
We think there are better ways of buying magazine subscriptions and of supporting teens, charities, and troops, and there’s no reason the two worlds need to be mashed together on your front porch without warning. The BBB takes a slightly more nuanced view of the subject, however, and they provide some tips for those of you who want to buy door-to-door magazines but don’t want to get ripped off. The most important one is the person selling should always provide the following two things:
- a receipt
- “a completed cancellation form that customers can send to the company to cancel the agreement”
The BBB notes that “by law [the FTC's Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule], the company must give customers a refund within 10 days of receiving the cancellation notice.”