When magazines you don't want are clogging up your mailbox (2023)

When I was starting to brag about how I managed to reduce the numberunsolicited catalogsHere's what happened in my mailbox: I started getting magazines I never ordered.

Maybe you have too.

In my case, the magazines turned out to be a "gift" from online shoe retailer Shoebuy.com, who wanted to "reward" me for using the site. The magazines - Prevention and Fitness - had nothing to do with what I was buying, so I probably had no idea that by paying I would also be buying magazines I didn't want to read.

Online shoppers are complaining

At least I was lucky in a way. These one-year subscriptions didn't cost me a penny. In recent years, however, thebest business place(BBB) ​​has received numerous complaints from other online shoppers who inadvertently subscribe to magazines. Many of them were charged for subscriptions but didn't find out until they checked theirscredit cardAccounts.

Although I didn't pay for these magazines, I was upset every time they arrived. I struggle enough to find time to read all the magazines they doAgainI like to read (just keeping up with my New Yorkers is almost a full-time job). And I don't want to add more unnecessary paper to the recycling pile.

(FORWARD:How to get good customer service over the phone)

As a cautious consumer reporter, I had to ask myself if my freebies were part of a huge numbers game that allowed magazines to claim me as a subscriber, get greater circulation and raise the fees they charge advertisers.

Why Unwanted Magazines Arrive

So I decided to find out what was going on, why and how I (and you) can avoid receiving unwanted magazines.

Of course, cheap or free magazine tests are nothing new. As Meredith Wagner, executive vice president ofMPA, die Magazine Media Associationnotes, “This is a tried-and-true method for publishers to find new readers. And consumers can try out new magazines and find one they enjoy reading and that matches their interests.”

But in recent years, as print magazine circulation has declined, promotions have become particularly aggressive despite being perfectly legal, says Katherine Hutt, a national spokeswoman for the BBB.

The Mistake of a Consumer Advocate

"We've seen some pretty confident sales tactics," he says, thanks in large part to the growth of third-party companies working with retailers and publications.

Hutt found this out for himself, he sheepishly admits, having signed up for two $2 subscriptions along the way.compre online. Says Hutt, “I was on a reputable website about to complete my order when a pop-up ad appeared saying I could 'thank you' for my order by purchasing multiple magazines for $2 a year. I ordered some without reading all the fine print... which, of course, the BBB always advises consumers to do."

Had he read the fine print, Hutt would have realized that upon renewal, his initial annual fee of $2 would increase to the regular subscription price ($39) and his credit card would be automatically charged.

"I was lucky enough to use a credit card and not a debit card," says Hutt. “If it was a direct debit, it would be like a cash payment; the money would run out."

(FORWARD:Why don't companies love their loyal customers?)

My magazine detective work

AftermiThe first magazine arrived, I thought it was a sample to be followed by an invoice to be able to cancel. But when the third issue came out, I saw that the magazine label said my subscription ran until 2014.

When I called to cancel and find out why I received the magazines, the magazine sales representative said that I had subscribed through a team calledMedia set M2as a result of my order on Shoebuy.com. (M2 Media Group is, according to its website, "a leading subscription agency in the magazine publishing industry" that "drives subscription acquisition for magazine publishers" through online marketing and advertising programs.)

Later, when I started reporting for this blog post, a prevention officer told me that the only way to cancel my subscription was to contact M2 Media.

Since then I have tried on the phone, where calls were only answered by a machine, and on the M2 Media website to fill out a customer form. None worked.

What Shoebuy Told Me

After more research and some help from Shoebuy, I was finally able to get in touch with a few people at M2 Media, including their general manager, Dave Rock. He said programs like the one that led to my subscriptions offer online retailers "added consumer value." Consumers get a subscription to a targeted magazine at no additional cost [and] publishers get access to new targeted customers.”

Rock said he was "unable to disclose the financial terms of the agreement" between the retailers and the magazine companies. But Shoebuy could.

Kavita Baball, senior vice president of customer experience and retention, said her company receives "a small fee for every subscription." Baball added, “We believe this free magazine subscription bonus offer is a boon to our customer base. Most people who receive the magazines choose to keep the subscriptions."

And Baball explained how I got into the magazines. Apparently, you would automatically receive it unless you specifically ticked an opt-out box and said you didn't want the magazine. I don't remember seeing this box. Baball said Shoebuy is in the process of being redesigned "to make it easier for a customer not to end up with unwanted magazines."

Rachael Battista, porta-voz daAlliance for Verified Media, (formerly known as The AuditDeskof Circulations), the voluntary industry standard says that publications must prompt consumers to proactively sign up for digital subscriptions if they choose to do so. However, this is not the case for print publications, where consumers have the option to participate or not.

Publishers need to differentiate between free and paid subscribers in their circulations, Battista said.

5 tips for consumers

Here's what experts say you should do to avoid unwanted magazine subscriptions and cancel incoming ones:

1. I know onecautious online shopper. Before completing a transaction, check the transaction and the site itself for any "thank you" boxes or additional offers. If so, please read them carefully.

If you're looking to sign up for a free or low-cost subscription, read the fine print to find out how much you'll actually be charged now and after renewal.

2. Watch out for unwanted posts in your inbox.Don't assume they are free. Call the magazine to find out how you got on the mailing list and ask to unsubscribe.

Just finding the phone number for circulation might not be easy. You may need to check the magazine, call the ad number, or search the Internet for a customer service number.

Ask if you need to notify other companies, e.g. B. An intermediary such as M2 Media, who may have been responsible for the registration. If so, follow it (good luck with that!). And if the subscription came about through an online purchase you made, contact the e-merchant as well.

3. Always use a credit card to shop online. It offers more consumer protection than a debit card, and it also makes it easier to dispute charges if you run into problems.

4. Check your credit card statements to ensure there are no unwanted charges.If you find one for a magazine, call the phone number listed with the charge to see if it was credited to your account. If that company doesn't accept it, protest the fee to your card issuer.

5. And if you want to go one step further, you should completely empty your mailbox.Once you've gone through all the spam you're getting (catalogues, coupons, credit card offers, and donation requests), sign upcatalog choice, find and click on the companies you no longer wish to receive emails from. Trust ID (which now owns Catalog Choice), "will get things out of there," according to its website.

This last tip worked for me until I accidentally declined a magazine offer while shopping online. Lesson learned.

Caroline Mayer is a consumer reporter who has worked for The for 25 years.WashingtonMail. Follow her on Twitter @consumermayer.

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