Elderly St. Louis widow racks up $14,000 in magazine subscriptions

Elderly St. Louis widow racks up $14,000 in magazine subscriptions

Credit: HDValentin / Wikimedia Commons

Elderly St. Louis widow racks up $14,000 in magazine subscriptions


by KMOV.com staff


Posted on September 27, 2012 at 11:43 AM

Updated Sunday, Nov 10 at 3:33 AM

WARRENTON, Mo. (KMOV.com) – The Better Business Bureau is warning customers to be cautious when dealing with magazine sales telemarketers after a Warenton widow was signed up for more than $14,000 in subscriptions.

The woman’s daughter said her 82-year-old mother, who lives in Warrenton, was so overwhelmed and embarrassed that she did not tell her family what was happening. The family learned of the problem after inspecting her credit card statements and checkbook records. The family found the woman had spent at least $14,000 on magazines.

The woman said she was so confused by the companies’ sales pitches that she did not realize she was ordering new magazines or renewing subscriptions. She told authorities the callers took payments directly over the phone from her bank account or harassed and intimidated her until she made the payments.

“We just want mom not to have to deal with this anymore,” said one of the daughters.

Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO said, “People should understand that there are unscrupulous telemarketers who simply won’t take ‘no’ for an answer and who will promise almost anything to make a sale. Never let these people coerce or bully you into buying something you don’t want or need.”

The victim’s two daughters said they believe their mother’s problem began as early as 2006 when she decided to take out four magazine subscriptions through a telemarketer. Eventually, she purchased more than 20 subscriptions from at least 15 different soliciting firms. The woman said some of the magazines she was receiving she had no interest in.

The daughters say they have been trying to get refunds from the companies, with little success. Thus far, they have managed to get a single $200 refund from one company after canceling a subscription.

The BBB and FTC offer the following advice to consumers contacted by a magazine telemarketer:

-Be wary of salespeople offering free or reduced-price deals. While they may seem like good buys, the subscriptions can ultimately cost hundreds of dollars.

-Buy only publications you want, and know exactly what you are paying for them.  Be cautious of sellers who offer to extend subscriptions years into the future by promising discounts.

-Make sure you understand your cancellation rights and get that information in writing before you buy.

-Find out how you will be billed for the subscriptions.  Avoid giving banking information that allows direct withdrawal from your account.

-Compare the quoted prices with standard subscription rates by contacting the magazine directly.

-Do not feel pressured into making immediate decisions. Get a phone number and tell the caller you will phone back if interested.

-If you do purchase a subscription, pay by credit card in case you wish to challenge the charge in the future.

Make sure you get the name of the soliciting company and check with the BBB for a Business Review by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.