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BBB Warning: Door-to-Door Magazine Sales Crews Invade South Charlotte Neighborhoods

May 24, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Better Business Bureau today issued a warning to homeowners to watch out for door-to-door magazine sales representatives. In the past few days, sales representatives from The Harvest Group (BBB grade F) have knocked on doors at hundreds of homes in south Charlotte – including two BBB employees – generating complaints to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department and calls to the BBB.

During spring and summer months, companies send groups of young people throughout the country selling magazines door-to-door. Complaints about magazine sales groups focus on non-delivery of the magazines purchased.

“Some of these companies are legitimate,” said BBB President Tom Bartholomy, “but other companies have generated so many complaints that the BBB has labeled door-to-door magazine sales as a “highly-suspect” industry.”

These crews are sent to communities to sell magazines, often without appropriate licensing. The BBB has confirmed that each door-to-door sales representative needs to have a “privilege license” required for “peddlers” to solicit business in the City of Charlotte or Mecklenburg County.

These young people are taught how to use high pressure tactics and emotional sales pitches. They may explain that they are working to get their lives back on track, raising money on behalf of a charity or for a school trip, or even selling subscriptions to support troops in Iraq.

“These emotion-based sales pitches are effective,” added Bartholomy, “but not usually true.”

On Thursday, April 14, two young men from Oklahoma, who were working for The Harvest Group, came to Maryanne Dailey’s south Charlotte home asking her to buy magazines or give them money. They stated that The Harvest Group was a BBB Accredited Charity. What they didn’t know is that Dailey works as the BBB’s Charity Analyst. “I knew they were lying,” said Dailey, “because national charities have to be accredited with the local BBB in order to solicit money locally.” Dailey called the police.

On Saturday, April 16, a young woman from The Harvest Group came to Janet Hart’s southeast Charlotte home. “She said she was from Charlotte, and that The Harvest Group was helping her turn her life around,” Hart said.

“Then, she asked me to buy magazines,” Hart added, “when I refused, she begged for money and claimed that my “neighbors” were helping out.” Hart reviewed the list of individuals who had allegedly made purchases or contributions. “None of the streets were in my subdivision.”

Hart, who also works for the BBB, challenged her story as being false. “I said I know that everything you have told me is a lie. You are not from Charlotte. You were recruited in another state and dropped off here with a van load of other people to go door-to-door selling magazines, right?” The young woman said yes, and admitted that she was from Cleveland, Ohio. Hart then called the police.

On Monday, April 18, an officer with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department called the BBB to inquire about The Harvest Group. He was responding to a call about a young man from Texas who was going door-to-door in another southeast Charlotte subdivision, and who claimed that The Harvest Group was accredited by the BBB. Ironically, Janet Hart was the BBB employee who took the call, and she confirmed that The Harvest Group is not accredited by the BBB.

“The police officer told me that they are getting dozens of calls about door-to-door magazine sales representatives from The Harvest Group,” Hart said. “He said that many of these sales representatives have outstanding warrants in other states.”

Problems with door-to-door magazine sales representatives are not new to the Charlotte area. On September 9, 2009, NBC’s Today Show featured the story of a Concord woman, Elysia Schabel – a young, stay-at-home mom who had a frightening encounter with a door-to-door magazine sales representative from Trinity Public Relations. The sales rep was verbally abusive to Schabel, and physically threatened to hit her when she wouldnt buy a magazine. Click below to view the video of NBC’s Today Show Story on Trinity Public Relations: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/32722495#32722495

The BBB offers the following advice to avoid getting scammed by door-to-door magazine sales.
– Do not open your door to strangers. Instead, you should say through the door that you are not interested, and ask them to leave.
– Do not purchase magazines from door-to-door sales people because you will probably not receive the magazines.
– Do not give money to door-to-door solicitors, unless you know you are giving to local kids for local causes.
– If you feel threatened by any door-to-door sales representative, call 911.
– Check businesses out at www.bbb.org before making a purchase.
– If you are a victim of fraudulent magazine sales or any other scam, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org or local law enforcement.
For more information, please visit www.bbb.org or call 1-877-317-7236           1-877-317-7236         1-877-317-7236      toll-free in N.C. and S.C.

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