Every year at about this time a swarm descends upon Madison Park and doesn’t leave until the neighborhood has been picked pretty clean. Those of us who are so unsuspecting as to answer our doors during this period may find ourselves accosted, badgered and sometimes even intimidated into doing something we really don’t want to do: buy some magazines. The swarm of which I speak, of course, is that thundering army of extremely aggressive door-to-door magazine-subscription salespeople, whose arrival in Madison Park in the summer is about as predictable as the return of the swallows to Capistrano. For the record, it’s magazine time again.
These solicitors are intensively trained before being flown into our midst, usually arrive from someplace in the Midwest (they are never from Seattle), and stay in town for a pre-set period before moving on. They fan out to the various neighborhoods in the afternoons and early evenings and report back to the boss at the end of the day. I have been told in past years that Madison Park is considered one of the best neighborhoods in which to work this trade.
On Friday I got to spend some quality time with one of these salespeople (I, stupidly, was out working in my garden and had no ready means of escape). Her name was Kari and she told me she was part of a group of 80 that had landed in our fair city during the week. She was from New York, and she started her spiel by telling me that a neighbor of mine said I was a nice person (that should have disarmed me). She stated that she was a “youth motivator,” so I asked if her motivational work had anything to do with selling me magazines, and she admitted that that was the case. Although I made it clear that I wasn’t buying, she still worked me over for a good 15 minutes or so. On leaving she asked both if she could shake my hand (yes) and whether I’d be interested in providing her with some assistance even though I wasn’t buying any magazines (no).
She was very friendly, personable and not intimidating in the least, but I can assure you this is not always—or even usually—the case. Many of the people in these programs are former felons, and there have been occasional problems reported in the past of violent behavior by magazine salespeople in Seattle. One of my neighbors felt threatened enough to call the police last year. A couple summers ago I was approached by a very large and physically intimidating guy who told me “I am not going to take no for an answer.” That was kind of scary. But the worst experience was with a woman several years ago who called me a racist and screamed obscenities at me for not buying anything. These belligerent tactics have been reported this year in other cities.
A word to the wise: If you do buy any magazines take note of the fact that under terms of the contract you will be required to wait 120 days before claiming a refund if your magazines do not arrive. And your chances of getting a refund are about 50%, based on my own personal experience (yes, I’ve given in and subscribed, though I have never gotten an actual magazine in the mail as a result). Note also that these door-to-door companies usually shut down after authorities get a lot of consumer complaints, and the owners simply start up a new company in another state and just keep operating. If all that is not enough to deter you, I suggest you compare their magazine prices with the cost of a subscription ordered online.