New Stories 2005

D

I started working for a mag crew in Oct. of 2000. I was only 18. I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into, but had always wanted to travel and see the country. I thought that this was the perfect oppurtinity to truly be on my own. I was actually approached at the bus station in Dallas by a man who tried to sell me a magazine. When I explained that I was broke and on my way home, he told me that if I was looking for a job and was personable and liked to travel that they would send me a bus ticket. He wanted me to come with him right then, but I decided to make the trip home instead.

After deciding that I could try it and talking to a manager several times, I got on a bus in OKC, Ok and stopped in Amarillo. There, I was picked up, fed and then taken to the motel where the crew was staying. By this time I was terrified. I was assigned a room and then told that there was a sales meeting at 10 am and would be further instructed on what exactly I was going to be doing. There were probably close to 70 mag agents and about 6 managers staying in this hotel. That night as I walked through the halls, I realized that alot of these kids were just like me, and seemed to be having fun. It was a big party....
I had always been blessed with the ability to talk to people fairly easily, and caught on pretty quick. A girl took me under her wing and taught me the ropes, and within three months I was one of the best agents.
All the stories of long hours and horrible working conditions are true. I worked in freezing cold temps, rain, and 100 degree heat. And worked many 12 and 13 hour days trying to meet quota. You were paid on commission. If you didn't sell, then you didn't get paid. It was pretty cut throat. There were many competitions for a bonus. Usually money. I became very close with my crew. I worked very hard, and wasn't getting paid much at all. After a couple months of this, I decided that I deserved a raise. I knew that the money was not in selling door to door, but being a manager and having your own crew. So I demanded that I get a promotion, and after having a writing thirty orders in one day I recieved the promotion. The turnover in the business is very high, and finding new recruits that were willing to endure the long hours, and the high pressure atmosphere was difficult.

After a convention in Waco, where all of the crews came together and tried to outsell each other, I heard a story from the girl who took me under her wing. In Indiana a couple years before, a man had been beaten and left for dead. The crew that I was traveling with was involved and several of them were implicated. I later learned that the man had died and that several of my crew members were wanted for further questioning, including my boyfriend, who was a manager as well. No one really talked about the incident. It was kept very hush hush. In July of 2002 the owner was killed in a boating accident, which was very tragic for the company. I soon realized that it wouldn't be long before the company that I was so loyal to, would soon, I feared, go under. My boyfriend had worked for the company for six years, and was very loyal as well, but we both felt that we needed to find a different company to work for. So in January, we got on a bus with our agents and headed for Arizona. It was there that I found out that I was pregnant. I was also very tired and exhausted. I thought that it would be best for me to go home and start planning for the baby. My boyfriend stayed behind to try and get some money saved.

There were alot of kids who probably endured much worse than I. I learned very quickly that most of the sales that the company made were bogus. I personally wrote very good business, and never mislead any of my customers. I trained my agents in this way too, and if they were caught stealing, or being dishonest, they were fired. I always made sure that they were bought a bus ticket and given plenty of money to make it home. There were several times while I was an agent, that I was attacked. I started to carry pepper spray to protect myself. I had to use it three times. I think that it was a godsend that I got pregnant.
After being home for a couple of months my boyfriend came home. While going to pick up a check, he was pulled over and arrested. He was wanted in connection with the incident in Indiana. It was then that I learned that he was involved as well. After hearing his side of the story, I realized how much of a dangerous situation I had been in. My daughter was born without her father there. He was incarsarated in Indiana, and I haven't spoken with him for several years. As far as I know, the company is no longer in business.

I just want everyone to know that I am not defending any mag crew. There are always a few bad apples in every bunch. And by no means was my experience wonderful. I felt trapped most of the time, but had to much pride to tell my family that I wanted to come home. Coming from a broken home, I also felt these people were my family, and that I had no one else to turn to. Now I realize that in a way, I had found myself in a cult of some sort. There are some decent magazine agents out there. I worked with them. There are also some who abuse these kids, and are very greedy. So please don't be so quick to judge. And if you do have a child, or friend on the road, make sure that they know that they have a choice.

Anonymous

I ONCE WAS ON A MAG CREW THAT HAD ABOUT 65 MEMBERS. WE TRAVELED ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY. THE CREW WAS MAINLY KIDS IN THE AGES OF 16 TO 25. I WAS APROACHED IN MY HOME TOWN AND ASKED IF I WANTED TO TRAVEL AND MAKE LOTS OF MONEY WITH OUT THINKING I SAID YES. IT ENDED UP BEING A BUNCH OF KIDS DRINKING AND HAVING SEX AFTER A GOOD WEEK OF SALING MAG. AFTER A FEW MONTHS I QUIT AND WAS STRANDED IN JOLIET,IL. I HAD NO MONEY OR NO PLACE TO SLEEP. LUCKLY I GOT IN TOUCH WITH MY DAD AND HE SENT ME SOME MONEY AND I GOT A HOTEL DOWN THE ROAD FROM THE MAG CREW. THEY STAY IN HOTELS ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY. SO IF YOU ARE MISSING ANY CHILDREN, YOU CAN TRY TO LOOK IN BIG CITIES OR RIGHT OUT OF BIG CITIES IN HOTELS. DURING THE EARLY SUMMER MONTHS TRY LOOKING FROM VIRGINA TO NEW YORK. THE CREW I WAS ON USES A LINE THAT SAYS THEY ARE TRYING TO EARN POINT TO WIN A 50,000 DOLLAR SCHOLOSHIP TO GO TO COLLEGE OR OPEN A SMALL BUISNESS.

LIFE OF A MAGAZINE CREW SALESMAN

It almost seems like a dream now as i think back on the days i spent lingering in the murky world of the magazine crew.

FUN IN THE SUN! FREE TRAVEL! Those are the headlines you see every now & then in your local newspaper catching the attention of young adults everywhere. But as i and many came to find out nothing is free in this world not even friendship sometimes on the magazine crew.

I started out traveling with a sales group that was based somewhere in the mid-eastern part of the united states. I saw the ad in the local paper & quickly called the number. I had been searching for employment in my hometown for months & so far came up with nothing. The man on the phone asked if i could come to the interview today because they were leaving town that same evening.

At the interview i wasn't asked if i had any prior sales experience only if i had been on a magazine sales group before. It wasn't until later on i found out that these type of crews dont like to hire what they call "ex-agents" because they are aware of what they are getting into and they don't like anyone spreading a "negative" vibe to others. In my experience being with more than one crew i found this to be one of the golden rules, not to be "negative" which means your not allowed to complain at all or the consequences will be severe.

That evening i met back up with the individual who instructed me to put all my belongings into the white van because he was in a hurry to get back to wherever the rest of the crew was which was in another state close by. I remember that feeling i was experiencing at the time
that this was the beginning of a very long journey, to where i had no idea.

When we arrived at the hotel i was pleased to find that almost all of the other crew members were my age, ranging from 17-23, both guys & girls. At first it seemed like this was going to be the most awesome experience ever, however my feelings soon changed as the days went by & my experiences with the magazine crew grew.

I'll sum up the daily routine. You wake up rather early most of the time around 8 a.m. Your expected to be awake, alert, (never caught yawning), & ready to leave the hotel. On most of the crews i was on the "agents" (which are the main sales people not the managers) are given a "draw" which is usually about 10 bucks. The agents are split up & put on separate vans & each one leaves out to different towns most of them miles away from the hotel. First they stop at a resteraunt (sometimes a gas station) so everyone can get something to eat & drink. As you know 10 dollars doesn't go very far after a meal & a drink. Then after everyone has had a chance to eat something each individual is dispersed out of the van in different locations & told when & where to be picked up. I remember a few individuals who didn't heed this & were left behind. I always tried to remember where the hotel was in case this ever happened to me.

An average day usually consisted of four "drops" which were around 3 hours a piece. After the driver picked you up the first thing you were asked was "How many did you get?" If your response was zero sometimes you were verbally abused, sometimes physically, & even sometimes made to sit in the back of the van on the spare tire. This was humiliating & often if you returned to the hotel with no sales your draw the next morning would be revoked. I remember an individual who went without a sale for almost three days, they refused to pay him & he went hungry until another agent gave him some french fries from his McDonald's.

I remember a time when one of the managers in the van persuaded another manager with marijuana to leave an agent. I think at the time we were in new york somewhere & the agent was from Ohio. The manager pulled up the individual in the grocery store parking lot where he had been soliciting and asked him for his "ducket" which was the wallet like carrying case for the receipts each agent carried. He asked the agent how many sales he has & he responded with "nothing". The manager physically struck the agent with his fist & then drove off. I remember seeing the agent as i looked back out the window with that horrified look in his eyes. I never saw him again.

Getting sales sometimes seemed like a life or death situation on the magazine crew. Being left out in the hot sun for three hours with hardly little or no money or sometimes not even a store around turned into a quest for survival. I remember several times i didn't even care if the people at the door bought a magazine or not as long as i could get them to give me a glass of water or if i got lucky i'd get a cold can of pop or juice. Sometimes resorting to tactics like lying & saying you were raising money for college was encouraged. I've never spent a day in college in my life.

Often agents are dropped off in places where its posted that its illegal to solicit which alot of times brought the police. I myself went to jail three times for soliciting. Each time i spent two to three days in jail until my time paid the fine. Not once did the owner or any of the managers post for my bond. Some individuals were left behind due to the fact they wont wait on you while your in jail if they are planning to "jump" to the next location.

To sum it all up the phrase "if it sounds to good to be true it probably is" fits perfectly to this very true story. "FREE TRAVEL" means exactly what says which means they're not going to pay you hardly anything to help them get rich. Most of the owners are very wealthy & some even have limos & fancy cars. The only thing i ever got out of it was street smart experience & a strong desire to come home. The reason they pay such little wages is to keep the agent on his or her toes at all times. If you want to eat you have to sell its the only way. I just hope others can learn from this & think twice before leaving home. Sometimes problems at home don't seem so bad after going through an experience like this.