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"That kid at your door with a magazine order form will tell you a story -- part sad, part hopeful."
July 18, 2008 5:12 AM   Subscribe

Winding their way down from California, they lost a few agents. Two were arrested in Albuquerque after they allegedly forced their way into the home of an elderly couple and beat them to death, raping the wife first.... Then, in West Texas, a van flipped, killing one agent and injuring three others. That's seven agents out of commission. That's about a $2,800 loss per day. After they turn in their cash and receipts, two agents, a pudgy girl and a lanky guy, hit the parking lot for a smoke.... It's a blast, they say. You lie all day to sell subscriptions, and you unwind afterward with some smoke. You tell the customers that you live a few streets over, that you go to the local school and play on the soccer team, that you just sold subscriptions to their neighbor, and the idiots buy it because by now you've got it down to a science. And on to the next town. And the next.
posted by orthogonality (68 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously.

I read this yesterday (I live in Houston) and the subject matter is super interesting, although the article is rampant with the sort of self-righteous snark that so often plagues alt-newsweeklies.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 5:19 AM on July 18, 2008


Always suspected this. When I tried selling cookbooks and magazines in Junior High, 1 in 2 houses had already been approached within a few days by much older (and seemingly more "professional") sellers.
posted by mystyk at 5:20 AM on July 18, 2008


1 in 2 houses had already been approached within a few days by much older (and seemingly more "professional") sellers.

They're called Jehovah's Witnesses' - and their magazine sucks. But they are professional.
posted by three blind mice at 5:23 AM on July 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


Wow, that's some poor writing.
posted by octothorpe at 5:32 AM on July 18, 2008


Didn't read the article, I'm already waxing cynical enough for this week.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:35 AM on July 18, 2008


Thanks for telling us BrotherCaine!
posted by garlic at 5:41 AM on July 18, 2008


Heartbreaking. Heartbreaking, especially, that life at home for a child is ever bad enough that this looks like a better life.
posted by jbickers at 5:42 AM on July 18, 2008


The agents themselves might do well with a few copies of Car and Driver. That's quite a history of multi-fatality accidents.
posted by netbros at 5:44 AM on July 18, 2008


pay cash and your "subscription" will never been seen again
posted by Allen3 at 5:44 AM on July 18, 2008


This is why I always subscribe to magazines from my Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes form. I can't tell you how many times I've nearly won that thing!
posted by DU at 5:48 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have to say 1991 was the last time I dealt with a magazine seller. I didn't know they still exist.
posted by tinkertown at 5:56 AM on July 18, 2008


Door to door sales have always creeped me out.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 5:57 AM on July 18, 2008


Crystal Mahathy is an example of the latter.

HAHAHA
posted by Citizen Premier at 5:58 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sadly, this also sounds suspiciously like what young performers are promised in the big touring spectacles. They promise you big bucks-- you'll have backstage jobs, and you'll be an understudy, etc. etc. You start out in the red for the first 2 weeks hotel, you are fined for infractions of the rules (but all the money "goes to the closing party"), there are mysterious payroll deductions, they take out federal taxes at the highest possible rate no matter what your w4 says, and they threaten you with never working in the entertainment industry again if you quit before your contract is up. At least they let their employees keep in contact with home.

In other news, unscrupulous major employers exploit the kids who make them their millions.
posted by nax at 6:19 AM on July 18, 2008


HAHAHA
I'm a bit puzzled by this response. I must admit I can't really see the joke in some poor dumb kid getting sucked in by worthless scammers, and eventually getting killed. But maybe I'm just a sicko that way.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:31 AM on July 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


Interesting subject, crappy article. It sort of meanders from thing to thing to thing, never quite finishes any thought it starts, and uses far too many words for far too little actual information. This choppy story structure, starting in the middle and then backfilling between vignettes, can be done fairly seamlessly by a good writer, but there don't seem to be many good writers in journalism anymore.

In the second sentence, the writer sets up a fundamental tension; "the money they think they're going to get", and then never gets back to the kids at all. They're the bait on the hook, but except for Crystal, he drops them entirely, and drones on at length about corporate structures instead. The entire hook of the story is the kids getting screwed, but he never talks about that. Yes, he covers Crystal's death, but if the kids DO survive their crappy managers, what's their payoff like? And that question, the one the author himself raised in the second sentence, is never revisited. The reader is left hanging.

Blech.
posted by Malor at 6:33 AM on July 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


The hahaha was at the crystal methiness of her name.
posted by cashman at 6:33 AM on July 18, 2008


Oh. Tee hee hee. But I suppose it's appropriate that she gets as much dignity in death as in in life.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:37 AM on July 18, 2008


Fucking pathetic! I hope those managers meet the same fate as their victims.
posted by winks007 at 6:39 AM on July 18, 2008


If you think this article is badly written, follow their "most popular" link to the story about the panic room. It's a masterpiece.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:41 AM on July 18, 2008


Once I was in the middle of cooking dinner and one of these traveling sales types knocked on the door. I answered it while still holding my big butcher knife.

Wish I'd had a camera....
posted by konolia at 6:44 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is why, living in Austin, I miss the Houston Press. Investigative reporting. For more fine examples from the Press, see these:

Run Over by Metro

Catching Elevators

Thrilled to Death

Quiet Rage

All the Austin Chronicle ever features is entertainment news, but I guess since we have no problems in Austin and all we do is sit around and drink beer and go to shows and life is peachy and the housing market is going up and we're busy making new jobs, there's nothing else to report on. Thanks for the link.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:45 AM on July 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


(And yeah, I'll be the first to admit that the editing leaves much to be desired, but I'm glad that they are using their publication to highlight actual issues in the community.)
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:47 AM on July 18, 2008


OK, OK, one more: Bootlegging Dr Pepper
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:53 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you think this article is badly written, follow their "most popular" link to the story about the panic room. It's a masterpiece.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:41 AM on July 18



Wow. That is truly atrocious. The opening line, for your pleasure:

The criminal heart of the city, wherever it lies, does not probably lie in Montrose.

*rolls eyes*
posted by detune at 7:21 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Actually, it sounds a little like a line from a Colorblind James Experience song.
posted by lodurr at 7:28 AM on July 18, 2008


I second the "interesting topic" SUPER crappy article. I could barely force myself to read a little over halfway through. I kept hoping that something of substance other than the same old shock nonsense would arise, and perhaps it does farther in, but the pain in my brain was too great. I also think that the true story lies in the people (kids and adults) who are employed in this scenario, not the management, corporations or crimes committed by the unsavory minority.
posted by Debaser626 at 7:32 AM on July 18, 2008


Whenever I open the door to a stranger, I always do so with my dog's collar in my free hand. If you're a small woman who says no, they'll try to get you to say yes. If you're a small woman with a mean-lookin' 65lb dog at your side, they apologize and take off so fast they kick up dust. It's funny to watch grown men jump three feet backwards, off my porch, when they see her.
posted by cmyk at 7:36 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I got about half a page in. That's some bad, sensationalistic writing right there.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:44 AM on July 18, 2008


The government calls it the Army, but a more alarmist name would be THE KILLBOT FACTORY!!!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:00 AM on July 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


Two were arrested in Albuquerque after they allegedly forced their way into the home of an elderly couple and beat them to death, raping the wife first.... Then, in West Texas, a van flipped, killing one agent and injuring three others. That's seven agents out of commission.

Actually it's six (2 + 1 + 3).
posted by biffa at 8:05 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dennis Cooper, Chuck Palahniuk, and the erstwhile, ersatz JT LeRoy are armwrestling tonight to see who gets to write the novel set in this seedy underbelly of youth culture.

Gus Van Sant and Larry Clark have the second match, for the film rights.

Who do you think would win?
posted by sixswitch at 8:07 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


The summer after I graduated high school, a couple of kids selling magazines came to my door one afternoon. After I declined their sales pitch, they tried to recruit me into joining the magazine crew instead. All of the stories I've read about these crews over the past few years make me really glad I declined that pitch as well, maybe even more than glad than declining to purchase the magazine subscriptions.
posted by owtytrof at 8:08 AM on July 18, 2008


Passenger Scott Tarwater was ejected into the Trinity River, whose rapids carried him so far away his body wasn't found for three weeks. But a timely burial wasn't a problem for Mahathy's family, because she was right there in the passenger seat. Crushed to death.

Magnifique.

Since most of the coverage of the industry is so breathless (drugs! fast driving! your darling child might be recruited by these madmen!), I can't figure out if the job is more dangerous than any other profession where you get ferried from state to state in unreliable transportation. Seems like maybe the story ought to be focusing on the fact that 15-passenger vans are deathtraps, not that an industry that doesn't conduct background checks and offers a free ride out of the state tends to be popular with restless and semi-criminal youth.
posted by Mayor West at 8:16 AM on July 18, 2008


My brother had a run in with a shady company doing door to door magazine sales during the time that I lived with him. He thought he was just subscribing to a couple of music magazines, and it looked like a pretty good deal. It turned out that he was signing up for a "magazine subscription service." What they did was they signed you up for every magazine that they could find that had a free trial issue. With these offers you have to cancel your subscription after the first issue or you have basically agreed to subscribe to the magazine. At one point he was getting 20 or so different magazines every month, and he didn't really have a filing system, so he wasn't cancelling in time.

In the end this kind of service was illegal and he didn't end up having to pay for anything, but our mailbox was just completely full of magazines.
posted by jefeweiss at 8:28 AM on July 18, 2008


It's like Rule 34, but for real life. No matter what the occupation, pastime, or habit, somebody's gonna figure out how to fuck it up.
posted by facetious at 8:31 AM on July 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


In the eight months the Press investigated door-to-door magazine sales across the country, the industry has seen at least three murders, one rape, two attempted rapes, one stabbing, one attempted murder, one vehicle fatality and one attempted abduction of a 13-year-old girl.

This seems like a lot, but how big is this industry? If it's a hundred people this is astonishing, if it's a ten thousand it's probably not out of line with any other profession.

This is an interesting subject spoiled by mediocre writing.
posted by quin at 8:38 AM on July 18, 2008


fiercecupcake writes "OK, OK, one more: Bootlegging Dr Pepper"

I work with someone whose family is from near there, and she brings me cases of the stuff. It's excellent, if you like Dr. Pepper. It's mostly the texture that's different. HFCS is much more syrupy.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:41 AM on July 18, 2008


Someone I met while hitchhiking got suckered into this. They pitched me over and over to join them, probably because I looked a bit hungry and desperate, but they came off way too skeezy.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:43 AM on July 18, 2008


This is amazing! You mean if you put a lot of 20 year old somethings in vans driving for days on end, some of them will have fatal crashes?

Really, would it have been that hard to provide some statistics? What exactly were they *doing* for eight months?
posted by tkolar at 8:57 AM on July 18, 2008


These people knocked on my door a year ago. When I told them I wasn't interested, they asked me to write a check and then cancel it a week later. No money would be deducted from my account, but they'd still get the commission from the "sale", so they said.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:02 AM on July 18, 2008


I never knew that selling magazines door to door had such a dark shady side??
posted by Mastercheddaar at 9:06 AM on July 18, 2008


I love how the article starts throwing around slang terms from the "industry" without explaining them first.

I've had these magazine sellers hit me up at home. If the first polite "No thanks, I'm not interested" doesn't work, then I just use the same voice I use on the dogs. "NO. NOT INTERESTED." That usually takes care of things and they tend to get the point.

Thankfully it's never had to proceed past that, which would be "In the closet to my right, there's a loaded shotgun. It would be a good idea to GET THE HELL OFF MY PROPERTY. Have a nice day."
posted by mrbill at 9:09 AM on July 18, 2008


netbros writes "The agents themselves might do well with a few copies of Car and Driver. That's quite a history of multi-fatality accidents."

It's amazing it's so low considering the amount of time their spending in vehicles everyday, especially since few of the passengers seem to know how to wear a seat belt.
posted by Mitheral at 9:12 AM on July 18, 2008


I checked this out when I was a kid. The ad said they went to Hawaii, and I was in a transitional period. Even though the interview took place in a very nice hotel room, with a very well-dressed woman, there was something hinky about it that I just couldn't put my finger on. This was twenty years ago, I'd never met anyone who had been involved in anything like this and the internet wasn't what it is today, so I had nothing to go on but my gut, which fortunately for once, came through.

All that I really remember is that everything in the interview sounded totally great, and they offered me the job (as it were) and I was like, awesome, let me get my shit together and I'll call you to arrange picking me up! And then once I left that room, I could not get out of that hotel and onto the highway fast enough.

It was *years* before I got a chance to go to Hawaii, though.
posted by padraigin at 9:14 AM on July 18, 2008


I feel like such a sucker... The magazine girl came by the day after my baby boy came home, so I was feeling pretty generous, and I really like Cooks Illustrated. I paid cash. I do have a receipt somewhere...
posted by joecacti at 9:27 AM on July 18, 2008


My roommate just out of college got suckered into one of these gigs. This was in the mid/late eighties; they've been around a long time. She called me in the middle of the night after basically escaping from a motel in the glorious wonderland that is Hollywood, South Carolina and her boyfriend and I went and picked her up. It was quite the experience; at least in her case the "job" was a couple days of brainwashing (Rah! Rah! Sell magazines! We're family now!) followed by insane amounts of walking from door to door: 14 or 15 hours a day of walking. Then they picked her up, took her back to a motel, took all the money she'd collected and told her that she still owed the company money for room and board, which is to say, a sandwich and 1/6 of a cheap motel room, but not to worry, because she'd be making money hand over fist soon and, hey, let's get high. The article was right about that - the magazine circuit was party central then too. The one thing they don't mention, though, is that they were not at all eager to let her go. This was in the days before cell phones and calling home was strongly discouraged, to put it mildly. She had to sneak out of that motel room in fear and for days she was afraid to answer the phone.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:29 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


A 65 year old woman in our town was beaten, raped and stabbed to death by one of these magazine salesmen a couple of years ago. The victim's daughter was the one to find her body.

My mother had a run-in many years ago with one of these guys. Man selling magazines faked a limp, played on mom's sympathies and weedled his way into the apartment. Once inside he tried to pressure her into signing up for subscriptions. When she refused, he became belligerent. Thank God for our dog--the moment the guy started with the verbal abuse our collie went into attack mode, and that cretin beat a hasty exit.

Don't open your door to these people.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 9:33 AM on July 18, 2008


"Steve: Hi, my name is Steve. I come from a rough area. I used to be addicted to crack but now I am off it and trying to stay clean. That is why I am selling magazine subscriptions."
posted by klangklangston at 9:57 AM on July 18, 2008 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I've gotten several of these since I moved to my new place, since the gate at the old one kept folks from coming to the door. And because I have had a couple of terrible door-to-door jobs (handing out coupons, sticking menus to doorknobs, canvassing for the Dems), and because I'm usually high when they show up, I get stuck talking to them. My girlfriend's much better about giving the unequivocal "No." But I'm always there suckered in by the "I want to go to college," and I start trying to tell them how to get better loans and scholarships, since it's obvious that the amount they're offered for this doesn't make sense on a per-hour basis… I dunno. I always end up feeling kinda bad but kinda manipulated after talking to them.
posted by klangklangston at 10:01 AM on July 18, 2008


I get one of these kids on my doorstep every couple of months. (They come to my town so often that the city government regularly runs a warning on the city access channel.) The last one tried some weird pitch about selling magazines so he could win a contest and visit the British Broadcasting Corporation.

So either the kid was batshit crazy, or he was taught to change his sales pitch according to perceived target demographics. I find the second thought a little more disturbing, because it means I must look like somebody who's really into the BBC.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 10:26 AM on July 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Actually it's six (2 + 1 + 3).

Check the original article. The OP's ellipsis cut out a sentence about another rape arrest.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 10:30 AM on July 18, 2008


Which means, quite simply, that publishers have decided the collateral damage is worth the boost in circulation.

Corporate capitalism: if they think they can get away with it, they'll gladly kill you to make a buck.

Except for the part about all the deaths, though, I think more captions should be like this:

Rick Senner, who was driving the SUV that plunged off a cliff and killed two crew members, celebrates Jesus Christ's birth with the lighting of special frankincense.

posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:20 AM on July 18, 2008


I've had these magazine sellers hit me up at home. If the first polite "No thanks, I'm not interested" doesn't work, then I just use the same voice I use on the dogs. "NO. NOT INTERESTED." That usually takes care of things and they tend to get the point.

It's simpler and more effective to just say "No thanks" and close the door over their protestations.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:22 AM on July 18, 2008


When we were in college back in the 80s, two guys came to the apartment when my girlfriend was home alone. They wouldn't take no for an answer and muscled their way into the apartment. Finally, she bought something in order to get them to leave her alone. I got home from class a few minutes later, and she was pretty upset.

I'd seen the guys working the apartment complex as I walked home, so I immediately went to the apartment manager. That lady's bitchiness finally served a purpose other than to intimidate college students. She literally dragged the guys into her office and browbeat them until someone finally came to pick them up.
posted by tippiedog at 11:27 AM on July 18, 2008


Dennis Cooper, Chuck Palahniuk, and the erstwhile, ersatz JT LeRoy are armwrestling tonight to see who gets to write the novel set in this seedy underbelly of youth culture [...] Who do you think would win?

Katherine Dunn. Attic starts with the protagonist in a door-to-door sales gang of some kind, though I don't recall what they are selling.
posted by whir at 12:09 PM on July 18, 2008


I found a good companion piece from the Portland Tribune, dated 2006. More focus on the sales agents...
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 12:13 PM on July 18, 2008


About ten years ago, before the internet, I remember my mother inviting a magazine salesman into our home. She wanted to buy some new periodicals and must have been thinking how convenient it was that a man showed up selling Home & Garden and some other cleverly named magazine that she needed. I was watching TV in our main room and could hear my mother's excitement growing. "Come in, come in. I need to find my checkbook," she said, assuring him all was well. As she scrambled through her purse looking for the checks, the man lingered in the foyer, fidgeting with his money pouch and returning the glare I must have been sending his way. Before my mother could discover her checkbook, my father came inside, shirtless and still sweating from mowing. As a man with a pumped-up basketball belly, like a gorilla with slightly less hair, he usually keeps his shirt on, but it was a hot, humid, summer day, and even shirtless, the heat must have gotten to him because what happened next scared Jesus right out of me.

Dad's face turned redder than one of those in a cartoon when steam shoots out of the protagonist's ears. Screaming mostly words I still don't know the meaning to, he literally grabbed the guy and drug him out through the front door. Threatened something heinous at him, then slammed the front door.

As bad as that must have been, to be thrown around and degraded by a stranger, my mother somehow got the worst of it. They fought, verbally, for ten minutes, as I listened from my room--being frightened by my dad's apparent jealously, I had retreated.

In the end, I found out that it wasn't jealously at all; it was fear. My dad had some crazy idea that this guy was going to steal our identities, or at least my mother's, and reacted. I'm not sure how you do that with a check, but I believed him. I was proud either way. I have only seen that side of my father a few times in my life, but it's nice to know that he's capable of it. Rage I mean.

I told that, to tell this. But I'll keep this shorter. Nine years after that, about a year ago, plenty of inept door-to-door salesmen later, my dad became one of the "Joneses." He wasn't in the market for magazines, and he expressed this to the man standing on his porch. Then came, what is quite possibly the best dirty canvas in the door-to-door game. The salesman offered an alternative to my father, one he couldn't refuse.

What he proposed they could do, instead of my father receiving the magazine, is have him sponsor--pay for--a subscription which would be delivered to a soldier in Iraq. My dad liked this idea and signed up. Come on, who doesn't want to support our troops? Right?A few months later, Maxim magazines started showing up in my parent's mailbox, addressed to, yup, you guessed it, my dad. What once was a high walled barrier between my family and scam artists came down two seconds after the right con was thrown his way.

I gotta run now, there's a kid at the door selling five dollar candy bars who needs my help paying for his AIDS medicine.
posted by trueluk at 12:39 PM on July 18, 2008 [7 favorites]


Trueluk, That happened to me a couple of years ago. Some smart and well spoken kids from some group call ed the Tower of Power (?) said that I could donate my subscription to a library. I was on maternity leave with two small kids at home and the idea just sucked me in. After I read all of the fine print and realized that I let my emotions take hold I sent him off with nothing but I realized then how people get sucked in. I am now completely opposed to buying anything as a "benefit". I dont even buy at the book fairs at my kids school. Cold hard cash to the school and PTO now. And I dont let my kids sell anything to raise money for the schools either. Its all a big scam.
posted by ameliajayne at 1:00 PM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I get one of these kids on my doorstep every couple of months. (They come to my town so often that the city government regularly runs a warning on the city access channel.)

Same here, although I get them at least once a month. (Keep meaning to post a No Solicitors sign....)

They're getting more aggressive. Of the last three who came to my door: The first two argued with me when I said I wasn't interested. Actually, what I said to the second guy was "I'm sorry, I can't help you." His response was "Can't help me? Can't help me what?" This, followed by a repeated sales pitch, along with questions like "Don't you want to help me get in to college"?" I finally had to close the door in his face.

One guy recently opened his pitch with "Hi there, I'm so-and-so. I just moved into the neighborhood and I'm out meeting all the nonviolent neighbors. Are you a peaceful neighbor?" I kind of laughed at him and said, "Uh, sorry. Not today."

The most recent guy, well. I told him I wasn't interested, and then he --

Wait, see, I used to canvass for an environmental group. I know that one of the 'rules' of canvassing is that when you're giving your pitch, you're supposed to physically hand your materials -- clipboard, hot sheet, whatever -- to the person at the door. It's supposed to be in their hand, because then when they try to say no and hand it back, you can refuse to take it from them. And they're still on the hook, see?

So this last guy, after I told him no, he wanted to hand me his hot sheet. Except the screen door was closed. So he reached out and tried to open the screen door. Startled, I said "Uh-uh!" and tried to pull it closed. He innocently said, "What?" and tried to pull it open. We played tug of war with the screen door, until he finally forced it open. I slammed the real door and locked the deadbolt.

These dudes scare me. They've got the polish of a smarmy used car salesman, but they've got the look of meth heads. I want nothing to do with them, and I now keep my screen door latched at all times.

I think I'm gonna go out and get that No Soliciting sign now, too.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:34 PM on July 18, 2008


I now feel lucky that my own childhood experiences selling door to door (American flags for the Boy Scouts, band candy, subscriptions for my paper route) were unsatisfactory enough to have kept me from seriously considering this as a young adult, and that the jobs that I have had involve enough of a dealing-with-the-public element that I'm not guilty at all about protecting my personal time from random peddlers.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:39 PM on July 18, 2008


...the federal Traveling Sales Crew Protection Act ... was a response to a 1999 wreck in Wisconsin that killed seven agents and paralyzed another. It occurred when the 20-year-old driver of the van — whose Iowa license had expired and who previously had his Wisconsin driving privileges suspended — saw a police car and panicked. Not wanting to get busted again, he tried to change seats with a passenger while driving 80 miles per hour. The coordination was a bitch. Twelve passengers were ejected.

That was right outside my city. There was still a small memorial at the nearby rest area, last time I checked. None of the kids were from around here, but we have a strong labor contingent and they apparently help maintain it. [photos, treacly midi]

Seems like maybe the story ought to be focusing on the fact that 15-passenger vans are deathtraps, not that an industry that doesn't conduct background checks and offers a free ride out of the state tends to be popular with restless and semi-criminal youth.

Isn't it enough that they're sleazy and exploitative? That would still be true even if they used safer transportation.
posted by dhartung at 1:45 PM on July 18, 2008


I've always been astonished that my friends/roommates/family were willing to deal with these people when they come to the door. They virtually exude 'scam artist' from their pores.

For some reason they never seem to heed my advice and deal with them anyway, which I don't understand. However, my secondhand experience with them is that it doesn't matter how you pay - you're never going to get anything you order. So it's best just to politely tell them no, if you can summon up the willpower not to be outwardly hostile and/or try to get the police to chase them away.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:49 PM on July 18, 2008


I was scammed by one of these people years ago in college. My roommate and I are just hanging out in our apartment one day and this really cute chick knocks on the door and quickly makes her way into the apartment. She was about our age, so the mood was very casual. She starts her spiel about the magazines, and IIRC the prices really were cheap, but of course, that's the scam. I took a chance and asked her if she wanted to smoke out, to which she happily agreed. In a more relaxed state of mind, she explained how she was part of a big group going around the country doing these sales, and how the money was really good, and hey do you guys want a job for the summer? I was certainly naive about many things (and still am!) but I had the wherewithal to know that would be a rough slog of a job, and said no thanks.

She left without a sale (but with a nice free buzz), and it struck me how dangerous her job could become. She just spent time with two strangers--two men--and we could've easily been the opposite of the wimpy nice guys that we were. It's a weird quasi-underground business, like the carnival, and one that attracts some pretty intense types.
posted by zardoz at 6:26 PM on July 18, 2008


My brother got sucked into something like this - probably 1975?
I probably have had 6 in the past 10 years at my house.
I always chat with them, offer a drink and tell them they can use the phone if they wanna call home (I'd like to offer them a bathroom but I dont feel comfortable inviting them in).
A coupleof them seemed pretty sick of the whole thing - I told them I knew I could get them home if they wanted to go home. No takers.
Last summer while I sat with a magazine girl on mt front steps a cop pulled up and hassled her. She said it was a misunderstanding about her asking a lady to use the bathroom.
posted by beccaj at 7:12 PM on July 18, 2008


Trueluk, That happened to me a couple of years ago. Some smart and well spoken kids from some group call ed the Tower of Power

Tower of Power?
posted by krinklyfig at 9:53 PM on July 18, 2008


Door to door sales have always creeped me out

The spammers of yesteryear. Although I guess there was an era when door to door sales might have been considered a service. After years of dealing with strangers at the door to no good effect, I simply no longer open my door to anyone that I don't recognize or wasn't expecting.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:49 AM on July 19, 2008


Late to the party, but... Thanks for this article. Yes, it was poorly written, and very sensationistic, but still a sad "must read".

I had one of these kids hit me up a couple months ago. Very slick, with a polished pitch. But thanks to my Skepti-sense, I was able to say no to him. Still, I will be more aware in the future. (And some of the stories you all have given were scary.)
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 10:43 AM on July 21, 2008


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