Have you ever had eager young kids come to your door and ask you to buy a magazine subscription? Were they overly friendly while they tried to
persuade you, and then turned into monsters when you said no? Maybe it was to help them get an education, or help them win a trip. Well...... up until
about an hour ago I had no idea what a "Mag Crew" was, and I was most certainly not aware of it's very dark and insidious side.
It was approximately 9:00PM when I heard a heavy knock on my door. I wasn't expecting anyone this late, so I rushed to the door to find out who it
might be. I didn't have a good feeling about it, but I cracked the door open anyway and saw a young lady of about 16 to 18 years old standing in
front. She put on her best smile and started with the spiel. She's selling magazine subscriptions in order to win a contest to go to some island
getaway. She says that if I want to come with her, her suitcase is big enough to fit me right in. She has far too much energy and she smiles so wide,
her face is about to split. I tell her "Sorry, not interested." She says "Aww, really? Sorry is so boring", but I say "no thank you" again and close
There are a few things wrong with this picture.
A.) It's 9:00PM. Who sells magazines at this hour???
B.) She's way too energetic and a little young to be selling anything, especially that late.
C.) She had pronounced acne, the type you see on methamphetamine addicts. You can tell because they like to scratch themselves until parts of their
faces bleed. It's a shame, because she was quite pretty otherwise.
This encounter peaked my curiosity. I've seen more of these kids selling magazines door to door, but I never researched where the hell they come from.
Here's what I found:
For Youths, a Grim Tour on Magazine Crews
Two days after graduating from high school last June, Jonathan Pope left his home in Miamisburg, Ohio, to join a traveling magazine sales crew,
thinking he would get to “talk to people, party at night and see the country.”
Over the next six months, he and about 20 other crew members crossed 10 states, peddling subscriptions door to door, 10 to 14 hours a day, six days a
week. Sleeping three to a room in cheap motels, lowest seller on the floor, they survived some days on less than $10 in food money while their
earnings were kept “on the books” for later payment.
By then, Mr. Pope said, he had seen several friends severely beaten by managers, he and several other crew members were regularly smoking
methamphetamine with prostitutes living down the motel hallway, and there were warrants out for his arrest in five states for selling subscriptions
without a permit.
Essentially these Mag Crews are managed by adults who treat these kids like slaves. It's a legal form of child slavery, because there are no laws
against it as long as they have permits. Most of them don't have permits, and so end up having warrants out for their arrest across many different
“The stories about life on crew you hear from these kids are almost unbelievable,” said Officer George Dahl of the Louisville, Ky., Metro
Police Department, who estimated that his department had cited or arrested more than 70 sellers for assault, unlawful solicitation or drug possession
in the last two years. “But you get them alone and start hearing the same sort of thing over and over from different crews and you start believing
them.” In Collinsville, Ill., Daniel Burrus scrolled through digital photographs of bloodied faces as he described how, on a crew he helped manage
for several years, men who missed their sales quota were forced to fight each other.
So, there you have it. I've never seen or heard anyone discussing these Mag Crews, but it seems to me like this is a huge problem.
Onto the next issue. Who hires these Mag Crews??? According to the article, magazines such as Rollingstone and Reader's Digest hire Clearinghouses to
sell subscriptions, and the Clearinghouses hire these Mag Crews to go door to door to sell these magazines.
Rolling Stone declined to comment. A representative for the Hearst Corporation said that in recent years it had stopped hiring clearinghouses that
use crews. But when subsequently asked why Redbook, a Hearst publication, appears among magazines sold by one crew, a Hearst representative e-mailed,
“We constantly fight unauthorized agents,” adding, “It’s an ongoing battle.” Generally, the clearinghouses get about 40 percent of the
subscription money and the publishers about 10 percent. The crew leaders get the other 50 percent, out of which they pay all expenses on the road,
including the sellers’ commissions. “Nobody is forced or pushed to do anything,” said Tim Peek, manager and recruiter for New Generation, a crew
based in Vero Beach, Fla.
One girl goes on to tell her horror story from her days on the Mag Crew:
“I know it sounds crazy,” Ms. Steele said. “But I believed my manager when he said he would never let that happen again, and I believed him
when he said my mom had told him she didn’t care about me.” In January 2006, Ms. Steele left her crew and was placed in the witness protection
program during an investigation of her former managers, who were accused in the beating and kidnapping at gunpoint of her boyfriend from a city bus,
an incident that was caught on videotape and led to the conviction of one person for kidnapping for ransom and assault with a deadly weapon.
Now... what can YOU do to help? Here's a suggestion:
Ms. Williams, from Parent Watch, said her organization advised customers not to buy from the sellers or to let them in the house, but to offer
them a phone to call home or her organization’s phone number to help anyone who might want to arrange a bus ticket home. She said her organization
had lobbied for legislation to prevent sellers from being categorized as independent contractors and to provide them with minimum wage and safety and
The link to their website is the following: ParentWatch.org
If you have any of these kids come to your door, please do as instructed and offer these kids a phone to call home, or if you're not comfortable
handing them valuables, ask them if there is a number you can call for them. These kids are being taken advantage of and physically abused by their
I know the article says they only hire people 18 and up, but I know for a fact that they employ even younger children, we're talking 12 to 13 year
olds, having them go door to door pretending that they're selling for their school. I know, because I was ripped off by one of them. All the signs
were there, but I ignored my instincts. These handlers are ruthless and they prey on weakness. Let's put a stop to this!
edit on 27-10-2011 by 2manyquestions because: (no reason given)