Shut the door on magazine sales pitches
By Attorney General Roy Cooper
A young person shows up at your front door and asks you to buy magazine subscriptions so they can win college scholarships or make donations to needy children. The seller’s pitch for magazines is compelling, and you’d like to help. The reality is that these young people usually aren’t students competing for scholarships. They’re trying to take your money, and you may never get a single issue of those magazines you paid for.
These sellers are part of traveling groups that sell magazines door-to-door. They’re known to play on consumers’ sympathies by claiming they are ill, disabled or in financial need. Some even claim that their proceeds go to a local charity or a school fundraiser.
Young people are often lured into these jobs by promises of large paychecks and the opportunity to travel around the country. Unfortunately, they are usually forced to work long hours, paid less than minimum wage and subjected to violence and drugs. It’s important to remember that these individuals work for companies out to make big profits, not charities. Most of the money collected goes to company, not to the young person standing at your door.
These magazine sellers will often pick up on clues from your home to include in their slick pitch. They might see a picture of your daughter’s ballet recital and try to sell you a dance magazine. They might even tell you that they used to dance, or that buying magazines from them could help them win a scholarship to study dance.
Problems arise when consumers pay for these magazine subscriptions upfront but the magazines never arrive. Consumers who try to contact the company about their missing magazines may get the run around or find that the phone number is disconnected.
After hearing from more than 50 dissatisfied consumers, I recently took one of these outfits, Trinity Public Relations of Charlotte
, to court and won a court order to stop the company’s deceptive sales pitches and make them pay refunds to consumers. Trinity is now barred from using sympathy appeals to sell magazines door-to-door, must provide a written receipt including its refund policy and a timeline of when magazines will arrive, and must notify consumers of their three-day right to cancel the sale.
If you purchase or renew your favorite magazine from a door-to-door salesperson, consider the following tips:
- Only buy magazines door-to-door from someone you know and trust. Beware of sellers who use false sob stories to sell magazines.
- Ask questions before you pay any money. If the seller claims that money will go to a school, hospital, or other worthy group, ask the seller to show you a letter of endorsement from that organization. Make sure you know the total cost of each subscription and when you will receive the magazine.
- Get a receipt that includes refund and contact information. Be sure to get any promises or guarantees in writing.
- Remember your three-day right to cancel. In North Carolina, you have three days to cancel certain purchases such as door-to-door sales even after you sign a contract and pay. To cancel your order, you’ll need to notify the company in writing by midnight on the third business day following the purchase.
- Before you order a subscription, check out the company with my office by calling 1-877-5-NO SCAM
Attorney General Roy Cooper and his staff are on the look out for scams that seek to rob unsuspecting North Carolinians. We are here to be of service when you need us, but through consumer education efforts like these columns we hope to help consumers avoid problems from the start.
Note to editors: This is one in a series of columns that the Attorney General is distributing to educate consumers. If you have questions or would like to receive future columns via email instead of U.S. mail, please contact Catherine Nickalson at (919) 716-6409 or firstname.lastname@example.org.