Release Date: May 22, 2008
Washington, D.C. – Responding to accounts of scams and crimes committed against consumers by traveling sales crews—and risks faced by crew members themselves—the National Consumers League and Direct Selling Education Foundation have teamed up to create educational materials to help consumers and teen workers distinguish reputable door-to-door sales and charitable sales from unethical companies. Opportunities with legitimate companies that follow a code of ethics, such as those provided by Direct Selling Association member companies, are a great way for many young workers to earn income. Unfortunately, as a sluggish economy strains the wallets of consumers, advocates caution teenagers in search of a summer job against accepting offers of employment by traveling sales crews.
“NCL’s long history of fighting for the rights of workers and consumers finds us fittingly warning both workers and consumers about traveling sales crews. Consumers certainly don’t want to buy products from exploited and often physically abused young workers, and those who do are unlikely to receive the very magazines they paid for from these disreputable outfits,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director.
In two separate recent incidents, a 25-year-old magazine salesman was charged with raping a teenager in Durham, SC, and a 28-year-old magazine salesman pleaded guilty to kidnapping a 14-year-old boy on his way home from school with intent to sexually abuse him in Vista, CA.
Many dishonest companies capitalize on the positive reputations of established door-to-door sales companies and the generous response of consumers in supporting charities. Salespeople may seem charming and friendly, offering a compelling sales pitch, or requesting support for a program to help keep kids off drugs or to teach them about entrepreneurship. They may press residents to help them win a trip or prizes. These traveling sales crews quickly sweep in and out of neighborhoods. The companies recruit children, teenagers and young adults to sell products such as magazine subscriptions, cleaning supplies, and candy. They often falsely claim to support programs to help kids or raise money for charity, a religious institution, hospital, or local school.
NCL advises consumers to check that the company or charity is legitimate before responding to its sales pitch. A legitimate, ethical salesperson will:
- have a solicitor’s permit, if one is required in the city. Most non-reputable companies do not possess a local permit to sell.
- provide literature, which displays the company or charity’s street address and other contact information.
- present identification that shows he or she is affiliated with or a representative of the company, charity, or school
- be happy to set an appointment for another time to discuss their product, which will give the consumer time to research the company or charity by contacting your Better Business Bureau or Attorney General’s office to see if there are complaints against the company/charity.
NCL offers these tips and more in two new brochures (Door-to-door safety for consumers, and Is this job right for you? for teens) produced through an unrestricted educational grant from the Direct Selling Education Foundation, to help consumers and potential workers distinguish between a legitimate company and the scams of a traveling sales crew here. Consumers can request individual copies of the new brochures at http://www.dsef.org/ContactUs/
About the National Consumers League
Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.