Toni

My nephew just joined a crew. His dad asked me to write down my advice. Here's what I told him:

I did it for a 2 years, and was good enough that people all over the country had "heard of me." I was, temporarily, somewhat of a legend. Here are "the things that they do not tell you."

BAD STUFF

  • Living will be absolutely communal. You will be in a room with 2-3 other people. You will have to share a bed. Anything that is valuable will be stolen if you do not keep it on you and/or well hidden. There will be absolutely no privacy. I recommend super industrial strength condoms; magazine crews are notoriously promiscuous (even though there is nowhere private to have sex).
  • You will be paid daily, in cash, just enough to eat. I got $10 per day at the beginning. That was 16 years ago, but you get the idea. As you get better, the daily draw will rise significantly, but it takes a while. If they are making you think you will eventually have a draw good enough to afford a private hotel room, forget it.
  • Your "earnings" are on paper. You can, theoretically, cash them out at any time. But the crew boss will charge you for part of your hotel expense, and anything other extra they claim to have to spend on you. I don't know anyone who left with more than a couple of hundred dollars. I left penniless, and was one of the absolute top producers for the entire company.
  • You will work 10 - 12 hours a day, six days a week. You usually will not get a lunch break, and if you do, you probably don't have any money to buy lunch with. If you do not make quota, you will be required to attend an evening meeting after dinner break. Sleep will not be something you do much of. When I left, I weighed 120 pounds (I weigh 180 now).
  • This is not a good place to get away from drugs. There were lots of addicts on my crew at one time or another. The crew attracts people who want to leave town quickly. They were not, in general, an especially honest bunch.
  • You will be subjected to brainwashing. I am not exaggerating; I both was the recipient and the giver. And it is NOT all bad...when brainwashing is used to make you more confident and to avoid negative thinking, it's a good thing. But it is also used to make you less likely to dwell on the negatives of the living and working environment and call your mom to wire bus fare. You are "not allowed" to talk about certain things that they perceive as negative: whomever has "folded" recently, who's in jail, how lousy your day was, etc. It was the hardest part of it for me at first, although I became very good at it later.
  • When you quit (and you will, eventually) they will go to great lengths to talk you out of it. You will be made to feel worthless and weak if you walk away.
  • You will be operating on the edge of the law. Selling magazines is not illegal per se, but there are towns, counties, and neighborhoods with local ordinances against direct sales, or that require licensing processes that are too lengthy and expensive for most crews to bother with. These are usually the most profitable places to sell because they are less heavily worked! But people do call the police. I was never arrested or even apprehended by civil authorities (the MP's got me a few times, but they usually only send girls into military bases), but I am not 6'5" tall, and was able to become invisible pretty readily. I have hidden in dumpsters, stairwells, on roofs, in parking garages, etc. to evade police.
  • People who answer doors are mostly pretty nice. Even in New York City; I had record high days in Queens. But every so often you get a stinker. And I am not just talking about rudeness. Every crew member who has been there any length of time has seen a drawn gun. Everyone has had a dog set on them. Every girl I know who did this for any length of time received sexual overtures to some degree. Many have been raped. I myself was grabbed a few times and flashed a lot. The guys were often accused of coming on to the women who answered the door. Everyone has been accused of "casing the joint" for later buglarly, if not actual theft. Sometimes, no doubt, the accusers were right. If they've told you that you will mostly work business and parking lots, it may eventually be true. Only hot sellers become "stemmers," who work out in the open, and this is ALWAYS illegal and draws a lot of police notice.

GOOD STUFF:

  • I saw the USA up close and personal. I saw places and things I would never have seen otherwise. I got to know local people everywhere. I met celebrities.
  • I will never, ever be afraid of anything again.
  • I learned more about controlling a conversation, sales, and negotiations than 500 seminars could teach.
  • In between the miserable stuff, I had a lot of fun. When you are having a good day and everyone is buying, it's a great feeling.
  • I built up my personal self-confidence about 300%.
  • It got me to California. I never would have had the confidence to move 3000 miles without it.

MY CONCLUSION: If I had to do over again, I'd probably decide against it. I learned a lot and saw a lot, but to this day, I have nightmares about the crew. Bad ones.