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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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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 health protections.
While mainstream publishers and their trade group, the Magazine Publishers Association, say door-to-door sales account for a minuscule percentage of annual sales, this seemingly small percentage still translates into millions. It's profitable enough to publishers like Condé Nast, Reader's Digest and others that they still consider door-to-door sales a worthwhile venture in the 21st century. And without publishers' participation, the industry would cease to exist. Which means, quite simply, that publishers have decided the collateral damage is worth the boost in circulation.
If the magazine sells 100 pages of advertising per issue, then the total value of the 50,000 jump would be $250,000 per issue. ($2,500 per page x 100 pages). If the magazine runs 24 issues a year, that's 24 x $250,000 — $6 million, from an extra 50,000 copies. That's enough incentive to keep using sales agents. Of course, publishers don't want to be linked to any of the kids knocking on the doors, so the system has been arranged to keep everyone at arm's length. It works like this: Agents knocking on doors turn their sales receipts in to their managers, who send them off to clearinghouses. A clearinghouse submits the subscription orders to the publishers, who then mail out the magazines. The clearinghouses choose which traveling sales crew companies to work with; the heads of those companies usually have their managers do the hiring. This arrangement allows the publishers, clearinghouses and road crew company heads to pretend they have nothing to do with the kids pushing the publishers' product.
Originally posted by Afterthought
I'd never heard of Mag Crews before and I'd like to thank you for the information you provided.
I may have fallen for this scheme when I was nineteen and living in my first apartment. It was later in the evening when a teenage guy and girl came to my door selling magazines. They told me that they were trying to win a trip. I guess I fell for it since I was in college at the time and knew of certain clubs that were doing things to win trips. These two were saying they were from a high school though.
I did consent to purchasing two magazine subscriptions.
Well, they never did arrive. I tried calling the number they gave me, but nobody ever answered and the website for the company was a shell. It was all just a complete scam.
I learned my lesson though and will never ever buy anything from someone selling me at my door again.
Unless I know the kids or their parents, nobody is going to con me into buying anything again.
Originally posted by supine
reply to post by 2manyquestions
My husband told me about a month ago that he allowed his granddaughter to get on a bus from Louisiana to California to do one of these jobs. She might have been who ended up at your door.
When at first he told me she was going to California, he did not specify what the job was, this was before she got on the bus to do so. After she left, he told me it was to do door to door magazine sales, to which I replied that I wish he had told me this before she left. This is a well known scam.
He just replied, "oh well, she's 18."
He must have told her what I said and done some research for himself, because by the time the bus made it to Phoenix, she was already on the phone to him crying, and begging for a bus ticket back home. He said he would not supply one for her, that it was her decision to go and would be a learning experience for her.
A lot of these kids end up getting stranded when they do not meet quotas, or they are denied daily living expenses, etc.....
These comapanies need to be shut down!
Originally posted by 2manyquestions
This girl was maybe 5 foot 6 or 5 foot 7. She had blonde straight hair that reached down below her shoulders. She was fairly thin/petite. Does this sound like his granddaughter?
Your husband should have bought her a ticket home. Who knows what kind of painful experience she might be going through. Maybe he should read through these articles so that the next time he receives a phone call, he will do the right thing.
These kids are naive. They have NO idea what they're getting themselves into. They are lied to, so whatever it is they think they'll be doing for a job is not the truth. As adults we have to make sure they understand that these dangers exist. Up until last night I had NO clue this sort of thing even existed. I thought these kids were doing it of their own free will. I thought that when they're done selling these around the neighborhood for one night, they go right back home to their parents. Not so. We're talking beatings, rape, and a multitude of other offenses against young kids and young adults who were hoodwinked by these criminals.
Originally posted by 2manyquestions
It's too bad about your husband's granddaughter. I'm sure that she wasn't always a bad person. There must have been some wrong turn in her life that set her on this path of deceit and manipulation.