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A Sales Pitch for Stricter Laws Against Door-to-Door Sales

A Sales Pitch for Stricter Laws Against Door-to-Door Sales

The Kansas City Star

When the warm weather hits, so do they.

A young lady selling magazine subscriptions knocked at Lisa Lund’s door last summer. She was friendly, compelling. Her pitch was personal.

“She said they were making money to help put themselves through school, to get a better job and support their family,” the Olathe, Kan., woman said.

Lund handed over a $75 check for three years of Seventeen magazine. Weeks later, she had nothing but a growing suspicion that she had been ripped off.

National watchdog groups say Lund and others have opened their doors to a largely unregulated industry where unscrupulous operators can flourish. Though some companies are legitimate, experts say, others can get away with defrauding customers and victimizing young salespeople, too.

Consumer and parent groups are calling for tougher laws.

Brian Frazier sees the sales crews almost every weekend in south Overland Park, Kan.

“They’re fun to talk to. They’re witty,” Frazier said.

But every time they knock, he tells them he was burned once and never again. After buying a subscription and getting nothing, he left nine unanswered messages at Kansas City-based New Direction, the same company that Lund bought from.

So far this year, the local Better Business Bureau has received 19 complaints against New Direction, which lists a Harrison Street address in Kansas City. Frazier and Lund each lodged a complaint, and others came from as far as Utah and Texas.

The Kansas City Star called the company’s two listed numbers, answered by women who claimed to have no association with New Direction. And when a reporter checked, nobody lived at its listed address, an apartment.

A national publishers group says it has long discouraged such activity.

However, the Better Business Bureau says it has received more than 11,000 similar complaints this year against 50 magazine sales companies.

“When there are that many stories, they are exactly the same,” said Cherie Reese, vice president of the local Better Business Bureau. “A young salesperson came into my home saying they want to make a better life for themselves.”