The Mail I Get – The Crooks from People Magazine Edition

When my Mom died in November, and we were settling her accounts and subscriptions, we discovered that she'd renewed People Magazine through March 2015. We tried to get the magazine to cancel the subscription and refund the money, but they refused. So now we're getting the magazine here at the house. It's fine bathroom reading, let me tell you. What we couldn't figure out is what possessed my Mom to renew her subscription so far in advance. 

Now we know. She was tricked into it. 

Today, she got a bill from People Magazine, which I found pretty surprising, since my Mom was paid up well into the afterlife. 


Inside, I found an invoice that stated that her minimum amount due is $237.30, that her minimum current payment due is $158.20, and that it must be in by 1/16/11.  You can see the invoice yourself right here (I've redacted her account number and address).


You'll notice that nowhere on the "Summary of Account" does it state that this is simply a renewal offer, that she doesn't actually owe anything, and that her subscription doesn't expire for another four years.

My mother lived on a fixed income. She was tens of thousands of dollars in debt. And she had big medical bills. But I have no doubt that if she was still alive today, as ill as she was with "chemo brain," she would have paid this "bill" thinking that she owed the money and that she'd lose her subscription if she didn't. 

This invoice is an example of reprehensible business practices. You'd think that People Magazine would be required by law to say, clearly and in large letters, that this is a renewal offer and not a bill, that no payment is required at all, and that the current subscription is not in danger of expiring for a few more years.

The people at People Magazine are garden-variety swindlers, preying on the old and the addled, and they should be stopped from engaging in this kind of deception. It's shameful.

Does anybody know which government agency I can complain to about these scumbags? 

14 thoughts on “The Mail I Get – The Crooks from People Magazine Edition”

  1. What a pity that this magazine behaves so unethically. Reader’s Digest also has a reputation for unethical behaviour. RD sells it’s subscribers all kinds of junk by insinuating that they will win cash prizes if they buy the merchandise. They also automatically renew your subscription without asking you if you want a new one, then threaten collection agencies if you don’t pay right away. I’d be happy to join you in a campaign to inform the public about these two magazines if you are interested.

  2. Pro’ly the FTC – they’re s’posed to regulate this stuff. Never understood why they do such a poor job stopping blatant swindlers (car warranty salesmen, magazine subscriptions, cell phone bills, credit card fees, etc). I wouldn’t count on the government doing a whole lot. They’re spending a lot of time figuring out the appropriate genital blurring radius for their airport scanners – very, very important stuff. Nothing to see here, move along…

  3. This is just horrid!
    How about contacting the Federal Trade Commission.
    There was a similarly misleading INVOICE circulating via a Domain Name registry company out of Toronto Canada and the FTC stopped them from doing business in the US. Sadly they still are operating and sending bogus invoices in Canada.
    I hope they can help and that your efforts result in saving a great number of other People subscribers.
    I used to actually like this Mag years ago but it has gone down hill over the past 5 years or so. Not even sure I agree that it’s good “Throne” material anymore:)

  4. Probably the California Department of Justice, which should have a unit dealing with elder abuse. Don’t bother with the Feds. The Federal Trade Commission, charged with enforcing the Do Not Call law, doesn’t enforce it or any other small potatoes. In any case, publishers have largely gotten themselves exempted from federal regulation, on freedom-of-the-press grounds.

  5. I would start by sending the info to the folks at They’ll either know who to file a complaint with, or their readers will.

  6. You must have a consumer rights department.
    Although, you could have a twitter slam for People Magazine and shame them into changing behaviour.
    I’m happy to tweet if you want to.

  7. The people at People Magazine are garden-variety swindlers, preying on the old and the addled, and they should be stopped from engaging in this kind of deception. It’s shameful.

  8. I went to see my mother yesterday and she has received the seventh demand from Primus for payment. My dad canceled the service as required, returned the hardware and we have a reference number that the account is canceled. Unfortunately my dad passed away in September because he loved to spend his time dealing with these things. My mother was just going to return the bill, but I suggested she call again and speak to the supervisor about the situation.
    She got a gleam in her eye and went to get her confirmation number – she has nothing but time.
    So, it’s not just People Magazine. Let’s hope you resolve this soon.

  9. Try calling People customer service one more time. I had no trouble canceling my subscription one year before it expired and got refunded a year’s worth of issues fairly promptly. For four more years, you should be able to get several hundred dollars back. Best of luck.

  10. Lee, I feel your outrage.
    However, People Mag is a Time Warner company.
    You work in the entertainment industry.
    If you seek redress in a manner that may publicly embarrass TW, it may ultimately not be good for you.
    Perhaps you could contact the TW ombudsman and explain your complaint. They might make things right.


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