Did I Just Get Had By a Magazine Subscription Sales Company?

Last Updated Jul 1, 2009 1:17 PM EDT

(For an updated post about this, and why the BBB listing at right, turns out to be wrong, click here.)

Every now and again, it strikes most of us how bizarre the magazine circulation game is, be it the role of Publishers Clearing House in goosing magazine circulation numbers, or the relentless, and costly, mailing of postcards to subscribers, explaining in doomsday terms, what will happen if they don't re-up.

Which brings me to how I might have once again become a subscriber to New York magazine last night.

Those of you in the New York area know that yesterday in the late afternoon, we had one of our commonplace torrential downpours, replete with thunder and lightning. During the peak of the storm the doorbell rang. If I hadn't felt the need to beat my 5-year-old daughter to the door, I probably wouldn't have answered it.

There stood two young women, identification tags around their necks. They said they were representatives of D&T Connection, an organization which says on its Web site that it "was established for the purpose of teaching people who are highly motivated, but lacking resources and direction to achieve their goals." The women were bright, focused, and way too hard to turn down, as they gave me a dog-eared list of magazines that I could potentially subscribe to. I hate being put in these situations. There I am, about to launch into my speech that I have a policy against participating in door-to-door solicitations, my unknowing daughter charming these two women, and yet I cannot muster up the courage to tell them to leave. I know they see me, in my middle-class comfort, and I can't quite turn them back into the rain, even though I know that beneath their, I hope, honest intent to better themselves, there's a company policy of preying on guilt-ridden suburbanites.

So, I ended up writing a check -- not a big one -- to subscribe to New York magazine and closed the door. Then, I did the research. The site has what looks to be a Better Business Bureaus logo on it. But after further research, it appears it's a fake. I went to the Web site for the BBB, typed in the company's name, and, you guessed it, it is not accredited and has a C- rating from the BBB (above).

I won't ever find out whether New York magazine would have been delivered to my door. I decided I'd rather be out for the amount it takes to put a stop payment on the check than to deal with the frustration of an undelivered magazine. It's a way of taking back control of the situation. But since I'm not going to wait, I don't know if New York magazine, or Car & Driver, or Rolling Stone or any of the other magazines on the D&T list actually does business with this company. But, even if they don't, they've done this to themselves. By consistently selling subs using less-than-above-board tactics, they create a wide opening for scammers, which D&T Connection, may, or may not, be. Whatever the case, it hurts their brand.

At one point during this minor saga, I wondered if New York publishes a list on its Web site of who it outsources subscription sales to. That would be fairly easy to do and provide the transparency that consumers need to feel like they're not being had. Far as I could tell, New York magazine doesn't.

(UPDATE: I've put in an inquiry with New York to see if anyone there can tell me if the magazine does business with D&T.)