The Messenger 06.11.13
MEMPHIS — Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South is warning consumers to be wary of door-to-door magazine sales companies making emotional pitches but failing to deliver any magazines.
The sales pitches vary, but often include that the salesman is working to further his education or earn points toward winning a college scholarship or a trip. In other cases, the pitch plays upon consumers’ patriotism, with the salesman showing a military ID or stating that he or she was formerly in the military.
“Because sales representatives are typically young adults, victims readily believe the potentially fictitious sales pitches. They often pay up to several hundred dollars by personal check given directly to the sales reps,” said Randy Hutchinson, BBB of the Mid-South president. “Experience tells us that warmer weather brings an increase in this type of scam.”
BBB of the Mid-South has received five complaints about one such Memphis-based company — UC Entrepreneurs (http://www.bbb.org/memphis/business-reviews/magazines-sold-door-to-door/uc-entrepreneurs-in-memphis-tn-44051376?isbureau=Y&language=1). The company failed to respond to any of the complaints and has an F rating. All of the complainants told BBB that they paid for magazine subscriptions that never arrived. Some sales reps claimed to be working to further their education or win scholarships while others claimed to be active-duty or retired military.
A Germantown woman became alarmed when her check cleared her bank within an hour. The two young men who approached her said they were selling magazines in exchange for a scholarship to college. Two emails to the company elicited no response, nor did a certified cancellation letter which was returned marked “No such address.”
Consumers from 15 states have complained about the company Opportunity Sales (http://www.bbb.org/memphis/business-reviews/magazines-sold-door-to-door/opportunity-sales-in-memphis-tn-44055391?isbureau=Y&language=1), a business with addresses in both Memphis and Michigan City, Ind. Consumers told BBB the sales representatives used high-pressure and misleading sales tactics to sell magazine subscriptions and books that were never delivered. Complaints also allege the company does not return phone calls and the phone and fax numbers provided on the receipts do not belong to the company. Opportunity Sales has responded to some, but not all, of the 43 complaints brought to their attention by BBB and has an F rating.
BBB of the Mid-South issued a separate consumer alert about Opportunity Sales in September 2012. That alert can be read in its entirety on the website http://memphis.bbb.org/article/bbb-consumer-alert-opportunity-sales-earns-f-rating-with-the-bbb-37148.
Memphis area consumers also complained about MidWest Circulation LLC (http://www.bbb.org/kansas-city/business-reviews/magazines-subscription-agents/midwest-circulation-llc-in-cameron-mo-99150659), based in Cameron, Mo., whose tactics include using door-to-door sales reps to sell magazine subscriptions that never arrive.
Two Mid-South victims were bilked by door-to-door sales reps claiming to work for MidWest Circulation LLC. The company has an F rating with the Kansas City, Mo., BBB (http://kansascity.bbb.org/), which has processed 164 complaints against the business. Sixty-two of those complaints remain unanswered and another 15 remain unresolved.
According to a Cordova woman, the two young men who knocked on her door said each sale earned them points towards college scholarships and subscriptions that were donated to a children’s hospital earned triple points.
“They asked me my favorite color because they said I’d receive a thank-you card from the children,” she told BBB. She agreed to donate the subscriptions. “I will never know if the ones I ordered were received, but I’m guessing not, based on previous experiences by others,” she said.
BBB offers the following advice to avoid getting scammed by a door-to-door magazine sales rep:
• Be wary of high pressure sales pitches that use emotion to sell their products.
• Practice a refusal script prior to opening the door to a salesman. Saying, “I never make those decisions without consulting my husband/son/sister” may be enough to send the salesman on to the next house.
• Always research the company with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org (or m.bbb.org on a smart phone) before writing a check for a magazine subscription. It’s quick and easy and it’s free.
• The Federal Trade Commission’s (http://ftc.gov/) Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule (http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0176-protections-home-purchases-cooling-rule) gives the customer three days to cancel purchases over $25 that are made in their home.
• Victims of fraudulent magazine sales can file complaints with BBB at bbb.org.