Phil Ellenbecker is on a mission. He is determined to do everything he can to halt the door-to-door sales of magazine subscriptions, and intends to personally call every single publisher on the Magazine Publishers Association
membership list to explain his concerns.
"I talked to Reader’s Digest yesterday," says Ellenbecker, "and they told me they would be active in looking into it."
The impetus for Ellenbecker is a simple, tragic one. He is a distraught father who has dedicated his life to campaigning against the type of magazine field sales services that would send a young person out selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door, because his teenage daughter was killed while doing just that.
In 1999, Ellenbecker’s daughter, Malinda, died in a van accident along with six others while being ferried from one neighborhood to another by Subscriptions Plus Inc., a field sales company that recruited door-to-door salespeople, many of them students. The company has since disbanded; Ellenbecker says its owner, Karleen Hillery, has continued operations under the guises of other companies. In 2002, Hillery was accused by the Illinois attorney general of defrauding consumer magazine customers across 14 states.
"I’m not out to sue magazines or anything like that," says Elllenbecker. "My intent is for publishers to really look hard at what’s going on in the industry, and how their magazines are being sold."
Ellenbecker wants to warn publishers of the type of activity some sales agents carry out in the name of magazines. Several Web sites attest to the violent crimes that have either been committed upon or by young people who sell door-to-door subs (including Ellenbecker’s own www.travelingsalescrews.info and www.parentwatch.org). Ellenbecker believes that if publishers knew about the inherent danger in these types of sales, they would not do business with door-to-door sales companies.
Says Ellenbecker: "I’m tired of getting calls from parents who’ve lost their children to something as simple as selling magazines."