Winsett: Know your rights on magazine sales

Winsett: Know your rights on magazine sales

June 10th, 2011 by By Jim Winsett in Business Diary

Q: I have experienced a high-pressure sales presentation for magazines. This person is going door to door in the neighborhood. Are there rules regarding this type of sale?

A: It is that time of year, and BBB warns that deceptive door-to-door magazine sales crews are hitting the pavement and looking to earn a quick buck this summer.

Better Business Bureau receives thousands of complaints each year from consumers who have unknowingly purchased multiyear magazine subscriptions. Unscrupulous telemarketers sometimes trick consumers into paying hundreds of dollars for multiyear subscriptions to magazines they do not want or cannot afford.

Oftentimes, the door-knocking presentations are so slick that consumers are not even aware that they have bought several magazine subscriptions until they receive the bill.

In 2011, BBB already has received 662 complaints about door-to-

door magazine sellers and dealers, a number that's well on its way to toping last year's nearly 1,200 complaints. These high-pressure sellers use tactics that can have anyone falling victim.

Most complaints against door knockers selling magazine subscriptions allege that sales representatives took their check and the magazines never arrived, while some complainants also allege being subjected to high-pressure and misleading sales tactics.

This summer, BBB recommends the following on how to handle door-to-door magazine sellers:

• Listen carefully and be aware of high-pressure sales tactics. Some unscrupulous door-to-door sellers will put pressure on you to close the deal at that moment, and even make special offers to entice you.

Listen to their tone. Are they increasing in volume as they speak to you? Are they ignoring you despite saying you are not interested? Find a way to end the conversation quickly to avoid long, drawn-out pressure sales pitches.

• Stand strong. Do not invite unsolicited salespeople into your home. If you do allow a salesperson inside and decide during the presentation that you are not interested in making a purchase, simply ask him or her to leave. If the salesperson refuses to leave, threaten to call the police, and follow through if they do not leave immediately.

• Verify the individual and the company. If you are interested in buying from a door-to-door seller, get everything in writing including price, warranty and all conditions. Tell the salesperson you will check it out and get back to him or her.

Ask for a business card and contact information. Look the company up yourself and check to verify this person is an employee. Also, take the time to check out the company's BBB Business Review at

• Know your rights. 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 also should 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, local law enforcement, and state Attorney General offices.

Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at