Swimming in Magazines

Proposed law aims to tackle ‘mess’ of freebies
Durell Godfrey

A proposed law that would regulate the way free magazines and other miscellaneous printed matter are distributed in East Hampton Village was introduced at last week’s village board meeting. The magazines, which pile up in front of stores in the commercial district, are welcomed by some shopkeepers and loathed by others. 

“They are left on our doorstep with no agreement on my part. I am never asked and I do not want any of them,” said Valerie Smith, the owner of the Monogram Shop on Newtown Lane. Although the law the village board introduced would require that the magazines be hand-delivered to “a person of authority” at each store, Ms. Smith isn’t a fan of that idea, either. “I don’t think managers should be interrupted to deal with magazines,” she said. “I suggest that the magazine distributors agree to pay for a kiosk somewhere in the village from which they could be passed out. There would have to be a kiosk manager who kept things tidy and dealt with expired copies in a timely fashion.” 

The idea of an attractive kiosk as a public convenience isn’t new; it has been brought up to village board members in the past, but the question of where it might be located remains a puzzle.

Lorna Dreher, the owner of Bonne Nuit, a lingerie store on Main Street, has a different view on the matter. “The magazines are great, they’re fun,” she said. “People like to pop in, grab the magazines, and take them to the beach.” When told that the village board was concerned about the mess that is created when a pile of magazines becomes upended, she said that in her experience, “that doesn’t happen.” 

At Set Point Tennis, Lisa and Ricardo Winter have developed a strategy for dealing with the publications that is in keeping with the proposed law, which states that if store owners agree to accept the magazines, they must secure them in a way that prevents them from creating litter or becoming hazardous to the public. “At the beginning of the season, we asked one of the magazine companies if they had stands, and they provided them to us, just to make it a neat presentation,” said Ms. Winter, who likes to put aside one copy of each magazine for herself. “I think it’s a store’s responsibility to clean up their storefront. You’d think that the magazine companies would have some sort of a program to present their product in the best light. They shouldn’t want it stomped all over or wet.” 

Publishers of free magazines, in general, each distribute copies to hundreds of stores and restaurants between Montauk and Hampton Bays, “some to points farther west on Long Island,” and it is highly unlikely that any could afford to hand out magazine racks on a broad basis to solve the mess problem, however.

Heather Stengel, the manager at Loro Piana, said that after her store had received one uninvited bundle of magazines, she asked the delivery person to refrain in the future. “My corporation won’t allow me to distribute media,” she said. She hasn’t had any deliveries since.

Katie Martell, the manager at the Everything But Water swimwear store, hasn’t been so lucky. “We told them to please stop, but then they deliver them overnight, so we leave for the day and in the morning they’re back,” she said. She agrees with the village’s assessment that the magazines are a safety risk. “We’ve been told not to have them out there because then the company would be liable if anything happens,” she said. Ms. Martell said that she and her colleagues are often forced to throw the magazines in the trash. “It’s annoying,” she said. “We don’t want them.”