Pin Me

Beware of Magazine Sales and Subscription Scams

written by: •edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 2/5/2012

If that young person at your door gives you some long emotional story before they even tell you what they are selling, then chances are they are involved in a scam. The sad thing is that they might not even know it.

  • slide 1 of 2

    A knock on the door...

    This past weekend, I had some friends over when someone rang my doorbell. I looked through my peephole and thought the guy on my porch as another friend of mine who was supposed to be out of town. When I opened the door, I realized that my friend was still out of town, and the guy on my porch was there to sell me something. For the record, I have never and will never buy anything from anyone who knocks on my door.

    The first thing the guy said to me was, “Your neighbors said you were friendly. Are you friendly?" I am pretty friendly, but I hope my neighbors didn’t get this guy’s hopes up by telling him that. He then hands me this beat up old card that has a bunch of handwritten notes like ‘I Win!’ and other junk on it. This guy, who was probably about 20 years old, then mentions the name of some program he is in that is supposed to help him better his public relation skills and something else. I wasn’t really paying that much attention.

    He went through this long spiel about how he needed 20,000 points to earn a trip to somewhere and how he was in first place with 19,000 and needed just a few more to get the trip. What it eventually got around to was the guy was trying to sell me some overpriced magazines. I politely declined and the fake smile on his face quickly went away. He made some comment that I think was hopefully polite, but I was already closing the door when he said it.

    Back in August 2005, the Washington Post did a story on Magazine Sales Scams where people claimed to be from a school or some group, but were not. Even the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) website warns about magazine subscription scams. A Google search for ‘magazine sales scams’ returns hundreds of articles from newspaper and television websites all over the United States that report related scams in their area.

  • slide 2 of 2

    Scam details...

    While not all door-to-door magazine sales are a scam, many of them are. Often times, it is the people doing the selling who are as much a victim of the scam as those people who actually buy the magazines. The sad part of it is that the guy at my door might be an unsuspecting participant in the scam. He might really think he’s going to get a prize trip somewhere. I am pretty sure he was lying about the 19,000 points and how he was in first place, because it made for a juicy sales pitch. It was like he was trying to make me feel sorry enough for him to want to buy a magazine. Homey don’t play that.

    I did some research on the subject, and uncovered another problem related to the magazine sales. The unscrupulous companies who put these kids out on the street to go door-to-door often work the sellers like indentured servants. Many of them are loaded up on a bus and taken to distant areas where they are pretty much forced to work all day and most wind up making very little money. It is promises of prizes like trips that entice these young people into signing up for the work, but the majority of them end up with very little to show for their effort.

    In February 2001, the New York Times ran a horrifying four-page story about young people caught up in magazine sales crews and the kind of things they went through. Check it out and you may think twice about even opening the door to these people. In fact, I wish now that I had warned that young man at my door of what he was involved in, and to get out as soon as he could. If these people show up at your home or business, don’t fall for any of their sob stories. A legitimate salesperson wouldn’t need to get into such a long story before they even told you what they were selling.