SC Exclusive- Investigating The Truth Behind Allure Magazine’s Subscription Scam
Image VIA Allure
It’s a well known and advertised fact that subscribing to a magazine will save you tons of cash versus buying it each cycle on the newsstand. From paper flyers hidden in between pages to online ads promising deep discounts, it’s hard to resist the allure of sartorial pages being delivered every month.
Unfortunately you might be getting scammed out of more dollars than you think when it comes to committing your credit card and trust to the powers that be.
Allure Magazine is owned by mega fashion conglomerate Condé Nast Publications which also rules over Vogue, W, Glamour, Lucky, Self, GQ, Details, Teen Vogue, Style.com, Bon Appetite, Epicurious, Condé Nast traveler, Wired, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and WWD.
Most folks refer to a magazine’s website in order to subscribe, which is exactly what we did the other day for Allure magazine. Heavily focused on beauty products, trends and how-to’s, Allure has really created a niche in the fashion zine world since it’s launch in 1991. The first offer that caught our eye was a front page ad that promised a red tote bag for free along with a 12 month subscription for $19.99. After casually entering a name and address, the submit button tossed us over to another page asking for credit card information which we did not enter. Fast forward to an hour or so after closing the page, an email arrives that
Allure has accessed the information entered and unceremoniously will be sending out our first issue in 4-6 weeks. A quick call to their customer service let us know that the magazine considers this whole entering your address thing as if you are entering a sweepstakes. Presumably because of the tote bag included in the deal. But is a magazine subscription, really a sweepstakes??? No.
This however is a potentially damning word for the Allure marketers to be using as the US Federal trade Commission's guidelines read that there should be no monetary cost to the entrant to participate in the sweepstakes prize drawing. It’s hard to see how a magazine subscription is considered a sweepstakes when you are asked to shell out $19.99 for its 12 issue life-cycle.
A second call to Allure’s customer service resulted in a whole new explanation. This time the woman on the other side claimed to have absolutely no clue as to how or why a bill was being drawn up for a subscription that had not been confirmed. Asked if this was a sweepstakes, she gladly informed us that it was impossible, because a sweepstakes would have had a box for us to opt-out of subscribing to the magazine. Bingo!
In reality though, as you can see in the screen cap below there was no such box in sight and no mention of the "S" word.
But wait- at the very top of the same homepage there was another offer link. We were surprised that when clicked, it tossed us over to a completely different page offering the same 12 issue deal for $14.99. That’s right, there was a $5 difference in subscription price for the same magazine, all accessed from the same website. The higher price tag had now been reserved for tablet + print use, versus just print.
Now listen, there are magazine deals available on many third-party websites like Amazon and Magazines.com, but this was Allure’s own principle website that seemingly had a bad case of multiple personality.
Baffled by the idea of differing prices for the beauty mag, we further poked around to see if there were any other links casually strewn around the site and indeed came upon a third offer. This was however the holy grail compared to the other offers. Once again, the dangling carrot (red tote bag) was enticingly gifted to the lucky subscriber along with a year’s worth of advice on water-proof mascaras and Salma Hayek’s morning beauty routine, this time for just $1 an issue.
Sensing our confusion over the subscription discrepancy the customer representative over at Allure referred us to her manager to see if this riddle could be solved. He solved it alright, by telling us point blank that these were indeed ploys to grab at curious site visitors at various points during their browsing experience. “It’s all in the hands of marketing to drive up revenue. By offering different prices it’s just the luck of the draw as to what you end up paying.” When asked to clarify if the 12 month subscription was the same across the board, meaning no other side deals, gifts or additions that would merit a higher price, he answered, “Yes, the product is ultimately exactly the same.”
Fashionista recently reported that Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair, Lucky and Allure were some of the worst hit. According to audited numbers released by Conde Nast, Vogue‘s newsstand sales fell 16.5 percent;Vanity Fair, 18.8 percent; Lucky, 15.5 percent and Allure, 19 percent. Monica Ray, executive vice president for consumer marketing at Condé Nast told WWD, “newsstand is still really important to us,” it’s hard to see why then are potential subscriber’s being royally screwed out of extra dollars and so blatantly driven away.
In an era where all sorts of fashion information and inspiration is readily available in the internet from heavily trafficked websites such as Stylecaster, Fashionista, Racked, The Cut Blog and The Huffington Post, not-to-mention blogs, pinterest and so on, the paper magazine industry has been suffering rapidly.
The decline in sales and subscriptions have understandably been slamming publishers hard and apparently desperate times call for desperate measures.