D&T Connection Is An Accredited SubAgent, But I Still Don't Like Its Tactics

Last Updated Jul 31, 2009 2:49 PM EDT

At the beginning of this month, I wrote a post about my encounter with D&T Connection, a magazine subscription sales company which employs young people who are trying to better their situation in door-to-door sales of magazine subscriptions. After a visit from two of the company's saleswomen, I closed the door wondering if I'd just been had, despite their earnestness. The next day I put a stop payment on the check I'd written for a subscription to New York magazine based on some online research about D&T that troubled me.

Since then I've learned a bit more about D&T Connection, and that some of my original research -- specifically regarding whether or not it is accredited by the Better Business Bureau -- proved wrong. Therefore, in this post, I'll walk you through what I learned through my subsequent research.

As I said in the original post, I had put an email into New York magazine about whether it did business with D&T. Among other problems I had with the sales process was that the magazine is not listed on the D&T Web site as one that the company sells. A magazine spokesperson told me that New York doesn't deal directly with D&T; it is a subagent of SubscriptionAgency.com, which New York does use. In addition, the magazine told me:

We do our utmost to monitor our agents and expect those working with sub-agents to ensure that our standards are met. These standards include adhering to all legal and FTC guidelines, selling the magazine with a clear offer and, of course, fulfilling the subscription. We de-authorize any agent that we've determined has sold the magazine fraudulently or inappropriately.
That's great, but it's obvious that the relationship between New York and D&T is decidedly arms-length.

When I contacted SubscriptionAgency.com, it told me that D&T Connection -- also known as DNT Connection -- was accredited by the BBB; it pointed me to a listing showing that the company had an A- rating, to prove its claim. I then brought the matter to the BBB because, for the original post, I had found a BBB listing that said it was not accredited and had a C- rating, and I went with that information in the post.

How could one company have two drastically different ratings? And be both accredited and not accredited at the same time? Based on my notifying the BBB of the discrepancies, its Atlanta bureau has now merged the files involving D&T/DNT. It looks like part of the problem was that the company was listed under these two separate names. At any rate, D&T's listing now says it's accredited, with an A- rating. The BBB also told me, "we are reviewing the consumer complaints for any pattern."

I regret making an error based on a BBB snafu, but I still stand by the thrust of my original post, which is that using door-to-door salespeople, who are trained in high pressure tactics to sell subscriptions, does nothing for the magazine business' reputation. It catches those who answer the door off-guard, which is, of course, much of the point. When two people are standing in your foyer, there's no time to vet the organization they're repsenting appropriately on-the-fly to verify that they are, in fact, doing what they say are they doing, and all of the buttons and badges the salespeople wear don't do the trick. It requires independent research, such as, for instance, being able to check the Web sites of magazines for what agents and sub-agents they contract to outsource subscription sales. New York doesn't have such a list on its site, nor does Rolling Stone or Car & Driver, which also are sold by D&T; I'd be surprised if many magazines do, even though they should. These sales companies are ultimately representing their brands.

Door-to-door sales also leads to a high likelihood that these subscribers will be mere numbers that will become part of the magazine's rate base rather than something more. Did they subscribe to get the people who came to their door to go away or because they really wanted the magazine?

We're clearly dealing in gray areas here -- it's not that D&T didn't live up to the guidelines detailed by New York magazine's spokesperson. But it gets down to one's perception of what's appropriate. Maybe some find it appropriate for salespeople to show up unannounced and give you a concerted pitch to buy a magazine because they are trying to get ahead in the world. Something tells me I'm not alone in being among those who don't.