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The Morning Call Inc., Copyright 1984

MAGAZINE SALES ENMESH YOUTHS IN MURKY WORLD
Morning Call; Allentown, Pa.; Jun 17, 1984; RON DEVLIN, Sunday Call-Chronicle;

Abstract:

It was about dusk when they arrived at the Lehigh Motor Inn, Kuhnsville, where a crew of 25 young men who were canvassing the Allentown area were staying. From there, Zeigler and the Hamburg girl were driven to Moosic, the Lackawanna County town where the girls' crew was operating.

Her mother's call brought state police and Moosic police to the diner, where Zeigler had stayed after calling home. But by the time police went to the motel, Lt. Charles Maurer of the Moosic police said, the sales crew and its three vehicles had vanished. Zeigler's luggage was all that remained in the motel, where the crew slept four girls to a room.

Indeed, Cyphers said Kimber told him he owed $200 for motel and other expenses not offset by commissions. Desperate and penniless, Cyphers called his mother collect to ask her to send $300 to Kimber. She did. Kimber took his $200 and gave the rest to Cyphers for bus fare home, Cyphers said.

Full Text:

Copyright Morning Call Jun 17, 1984
Second photo appeared on A02, THIRD EDITION.

Thinking back, Terri Zeigler says she should have realized during the interview in the Reading Motor Inn that something wasn't quite right about the job that required her to "leave immediately for beach and resort areas all over the U.S."

The Berks County teen later told police she was given four hours to get ready and report back to Vince Slaymaker, the recruiter who interviewed her that afternoon of May 31, if she was interested in a job that promised a two- week training period at the company's expense, high pay and nationwide travel.

Despite some misgivings about being interviewed in a motel room, the offer sounded pretty good to an unemployed 18-year-old with no formal education beyond high school and no prospects for a job in the area around her Robesonia home.

The fact that her mother, Gail, was allowed to sit in on the interview helped overcome the initial uncertainties. And she said the sparkling diamond ring on the 22-year-old Slaymaker's finger and his shiny white Cadillac, supposedly paid for in cash, seemed like proof that the job offered a future to a young person anxious to learn and willing to work hard.

So back she went to the motel, bags in hand, eager to begin training in New York and then join the workforce as a salesperson marketing technical manuals to hospitals and other institutions.

But she would quickly regret her decision to sign on with Slaymaker's sales crew, which was working for Trade Tech International, a San Diego-based company that is sales agent for some of the best known magazines in the country - Newsweek, Car & Driver, Ladies Home Journal.

Two days after leaving Reading, she said, she found herself with 20 other girls in an out-of-the-way motel near Scranton, where the job turned out to be selling door-to-door - not technical manuals, but magazines.

And she said the "high pay" was, optimistically, about $10 a day - if she was able to sell $100 worth of magazines.

Even worse, she said, were the "trainer" who never left Zeigler's side and the stringent rules on personal behavior, which she said restricted phoning home to Sundays and even went so far as to prohibit marrying outside the group. Then, she said, there was the obsession with "positive thinking" that surfaced in sales meetings where the crew chanted "Let's get Charlie, let's get Charlie," the name for its collective consumer targets.

Almost before she realized it, Terri Zeigler was mired in the strange world of door-to-door magazine sales.

It's a world where Dale Carnegie positivism - long used by other types of door-to-door sales companies to motivate their salespersons Williams of Parent Watch, a New York advocacy group, says is often a system of psychological repression and economic dependency that entraps perhaps 20,000 persons at any given time in a life that in her opinion borders on slavery.

"They're worked long hours, they don't get enough food or sleep and they don't get paid. That's our definition of slavery," said Mrs. Williams, who estimates there are about 50 companies - many inter- related

Although Mrs. Williams said Parent Watch has no such complaints making Trade Tech part of that world, she said its files are jammed with cases of kids who were recruited by traveling magazine sales crews with promises of high pay and nationwide travel, and ended up being underpaid, malnourished, physically restrained, psychologically abused and sometimes abandoned thousands of miles away from home without a cent in their pockets.

"These kids have been beaten, raped and even killed," charged Mrs.Williams, who founded Parent Watch after her son had joined an Indiana- based magazine sales crew and had a difficult time getting out.

She estimated that the subscription companies sell $100 million worth of magazines a year.

Mrs. Williams explained that most of the cases go unreported because of fear, embarrassment and the extreme mobility of the crews, which rarely spend more than a day or two in the same place. State and federal statutes are often inapplicable because the young people, mostly over 18, are considered independent contractors who are responsible for their own welfare.

"It's a national disgrace," says Mrs. Williams. "They're a new class of migrant worker."

*** "Girls and guys over 17. National firm now has openings for 10 neat people to assist me in my National Travel Program. Must be able to leave immediately for beach and resort areas all over the U.S. High pay and casual conditions. For immediate placement, contact Mr. Slaymaker . . . "

- Classified ad, May 30,

Reading Eagle

Terri Zeigler told police her magazine sales career ended abruptly the night of June 1 when she charged out of the Greenwood Motel and ran to a nearby diner - ironically, named Terry's - to call her mother for help.

"Something isn't right here," she recalls telling her mother, who alerted state police at Dunmore.

What wasn't right, Zeigler felt, was the group's restriction on making telephone calls to home, except on Sundays. She also was troubled by the way, when she tried to leave the motel to make a phone call, one of the group's sales trainers blocked the doorway, she said.

"I got up to go to the diner to use the phone. As I started walking to the door, the crew leader (known toher only as Carmella) started screaming, 'You can't leave, you can't leave!' " the petite, dark-haired girl said during a recent interview.

Zeigler told state police that when she persisted, one of the sales trainers attempted to prevent her from leaving. She had to struggle to get out of the motel room.

Beth Williams, Trade Tech International general manager, termed Zeigler's allegations "ridiculous," although she conceded it is difficult to keep track of the 15 or so crews spread across the country.

Trade Tech encourages its crews to get in touch with their parents on weekends, she said.

"They can call anytime Saturday or Sunday," said Williams, adding that some rules are necessary to effectively manage a crew of 30 people in the field.

Trade Tech is one of several magazine sales companies that have been recruiting and canvassing in the Lehigh Valley region.

TICOA (Trans International Clearinghouse of America) Corp. of San Antonio, Texas, held interviews for jobs that promised "Adventure, International Travel" on May 25-26 in Hamilton Plaza, Allentown. An ad in the Help Wanted section of The Globe-Times of Bethlehem, placed by Dan Shoemaker of San Antonio, sought "several neat, ambitious people 18 and over . . . free to travel the entire U.S." and promised "two paid vacations yearly to U.S. and International beach and resort areas."

"A lot of companies in this business are not very legitimate, but we are," said Lynette Yaro, a spokeswoman for TICOA.

She said that Rita Shoemaker, the person who conducted the interviews in Hamilton Plaza, and her husband Dan, are the company's newest sales team.

"They go around the country knocking on doors, selling magazines," she said of the crew managed by the Shoemakers.

TICOA is owned by Belo Kellam of San Antonio, the spokeswoman said.

Earlene Williams said Parent Watch has complaints in its files against sales crews working through TICOA involving incidents in New Jersey, Alabama, Massachusetts, Idaho and Connecticut.

Kutztown police issued a permit to Southeastern Magazine Co. of Nashville, Tenn., to canvass the borough during June.

*** Almost from the time she left Reading, about 7 p.m. May 31, Zeigler felt uneasy about her new job.

After a brief lesson in magazine sales techniques, Zeigler and a girl from Hamburg were driven toward Allentown by Slaymaker and a man introduced only as Steve, Zeigler says.

It was about dusk when they arrived at the Lehigh Motor Inn, Kuhnsville, where a crew of 25 young men who were canvassing the Allentown area were staying. From there, Zeigler and the Hamburg girl were driven to Moosic, the Lackawanna County town where the girls' crew was operating.

It was on the way from Allentown to Moosic, during a late-night drive through the Poconos, that Zeigler became even more suspicious when the conversation turned to the group's rules that discouraged contact with "outsiders." Then, when they arrived about midnight, she was immediately assigned a sales trainer who kept her up until 2 a.m. showing her the ropes of the magazine sales business.

After only a few hours sleep, Zeigler and her trainer were up and on their way to Scranton, where they would spend about 12 hours going door-to-door. They introduced themselves as Youth of America, Zeigler says, and the trainer sold about $100 in subscriptions.

Zeigler didn't sell any magazines, so she earned nothing for her 12 hours of work.

It was Zeigler's understanding that she was to receive a meal allowance, but she said the group expected her to buy her own and three other girls' breakfast because she "had the money." Because she refused to buy lunch, Zeigler said she "didn't get any supper."

Her mother's call brought state police and Moosic police to the diner, where Zeigler had stayed after calling home. But by the time police went to the motel, Lt. Charles Maurer of the Moosic police said, the sales crew and its three vehicles had vanished. Zeigler's luggage was all that remained in the motel, where the crew slept four girls to a room.

Moosic police said no charges were filed because Zeigler could not identify the person who blocked the doorway.

While the young women were canvassing the Scranton area, a crew of Trade Tech young men visited homes in Allentown, Macungie, Emmaus, Northampton and Quakertown on May 29-31, according to solicitation permits issued by the municipalities.

There were no complaints, but the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Pennsylvania, Bethlehem, said it received inquiries from persons who subscribed and were asked to make their checks payable to "cash."

Quakertown police asked two "Youth of America" crew members to leave town on May 29 because they were canvassing without permits. Chief James McFadden said Thomas Millander, 18, of Myerstown, told police he was selling magazines for Trade Tech International, San Diego. Millander and Roger Wayne Cope, 21, of Cincinnati, left town without incident in a Cadillac bearing Maryland tags, the chief said.

Police in several boroughs said Trade Tech had a master list of about 40 salesmen, but that the crews normally consisted of five persons. Addresses listed in permit applications indicate the salesmen are from all over the country.

Glen Henry, 22, of 282 Chestnut St., Allentown, was among the TradeTech salesmen authorized to canvass Northampton. There is no such address, according to the Allentown city directory, and efforts to contact him were unsuccessful.

Shawn Slaymaker, 18, of Lititz, was on the list for Macungie. Zeigler said Vince Slaymaker indicated his younger brother was a salesman. Lititz police said several members of a group calling itself "Youth of America" were asked to leave the borough about three weeks ago because they were soliciting without a permit. There is no phone listing for either Slaymaker in Lititz.

Trade Tech identified the elder Slaymaker as a crew chief working for one of its field managers, John Bonwit of New York.

A Lehigh Motor Inn spokesman said its field manager John Bonwit of Trade Tech International rented five rooms May 28-June 2.

Parent Watch files contain a complaint against a field manager John Bonwit who was operating crews for Magnet International, a subscription sales company located in Orlando and Las Vegas.

Parent Watch said in 1983 a Connecticut girl requested police in a town near Albany, N.Y., to rescue her from a Magnet International magazine sales crew. Ms. Williams said police found the girl lying unconscious in a park, suffering from malnutrition and exhaustion. The girl told police that she had been forced to work, even though she was ill, the Parent Watch director said.

Attempts to reach Trade Tech's field manager Bonwit and Slaymaker through their San Diego office were unsuccessful.

Tina Hipple of the Florida Consumer Protection office said Lonnie Devine, who owns Magnet International, last month signed a consent order in Orange County Circuit Court agreeing to repay money collected from hundreds of subscribers across the country who never received their magazines. The order resulted from complaints against National Press and Star Press, companies owned by Devine.

U.S. Postal Inspector Emily Holmes of Orlando is investigating 400 complaints from persons across the country who didn't receive magazines they subscribed to through Magnet.

The San Diego Better Business Bureau (BBB) lists Don Blakstad as owner of Trade Tech, incorporated in May 1983 in California. BBB says the company has a generally satisfactory record, but lists several customer complaints adjusted with BBB intervention.

BBB also lists Stargazer, a company formed in September 1981 in Las Vegas, as being owned by Blakstad.

San Diego Postal Inspector John Neff said his office is not investigating Trade Tech, but that it has received "repeated calls from all parts of the country" concerning sales techniques of the company's crews.

*** David Cyphers graduated from Twin Valley High School, Morgantown, on a Friday night in June 1981. The next day, his mother drove him from their Birdsboro R.3, Berks County, home to the Allentown Bus Terminal, where a ticket to New Bedford, Mass., was waiting for him.

Carrying luggage that was a graduation present, he kissed his mother good- by and boarded the bus bound for a career as a door-to- door magazine salesman.

That was the last Doris Kramer would see of her 18-year-old son for more than three months, when she would have to wire $300 to Galveston, Texas, to get him home.

Like Terri Zeigler, Cyphers' initial contact was an interview in the Reading Motor Inn.

Paul Kimber, who ran sales crews for U.S. Publishers Circulation, Inc., of Fort Worth, offered travel to Florida resorts and other exciting places. It seemed like the ideal job for a small town boy eager to see the world.

Cyphers would travel, but instead of soaking up sun at beach resorts,he says he spent 12 hours a day selling magazines door-to-door in dozens of towns and cities across the country. In Los Angeles and some Florida town, the name of which he no longer remembers, Cyphers says he was jailed for selling without a permit.

On a good day, Cyphers would sell 25 magazine subscriptions using a technique that played upon people's sympathy.

"Hi, I'm Dave Cyphers and I can win a trip to Nassau or the Bahamas and $1,000 spending money if I win a subscription sales contest my employer is offering," he says the pitch went. "Right now, I'm in first place and I just need a few more subscriptions to win. Will you help me win the contest?"

Salespersons were given points for each subscription, but Cyphers said the number needed to win was so high that "nobody I know of ever won the money or the trip."

Martha Burghardt, U.S. Publishers Circulation office manager, told the Call-Chronicle that the company awards quarterly cash prizes in a sales competition, and that salespeople can earn $1,000 bonuses if they amass 10,000 points. She said the company does not offer trips.

Crew members were paid $7 a day for meals, Cyphers said, but he added that many of the salesmen skipped breakfast and lunch because "$7 for three meals doesn't go far in a restaurant."

Those who did eat lunch were prohibited from eating potatoes or ice cream because the crew leaders felt a heavy meal would slow down the salesmen in the afternoon, Cyphers recalled.

Crew members had no personal lives separate from the group. Meals were eaten together and dating "outsiders" was prohibited, the former salesman said.

"You couldn't even talk about negative things like the sales you didn't make. You always had to have a positive attitude," recalled Cyphers, who now works as a machinist in a Schuylkill County plant.

Cyphers said he was under the impression that his commissions on sales were being kept in his personal account. But when, after three months on the road, he decided to quit and asked for the money, he was told there was none.

Indeed, Cyphers said Kimber told him he owed $200 for motel and other expenses not offset by commissions. Desperate and penniless, Cyphers called his mother collect to ask her to send $300 to Kimber. She did. Kimber took his $200 and gave the rest to Cyphers for bus fare home, Cyphers said.

"The police said they could do nothing since he was of age and was not being held against his will. They said he could have walked away anytime," said Mrs. Kramer, who still has a receipt of the Western Union wire and photos of her son boarding the bus in Allentown.

Parent Watch director Williams says the group has complaints in its files against Paul and Sue Kimber and U.S. Publishers Circulation, Inc. Kimber Sales had the same post office box number as Price Sales and U.S. Publishers Circulation, Mrs. Williams said.

Burghardt said the company, which she said acts as a clearinghouse for orders from several independent sales contractors, is no longer processing Kimber's orders. She said the company hasn't heard from Kimber for five weeks and doesn't know how to contact him.

She said he left the business voluntarily and that the company "never had a complaint about Kimber."

A 1980 report by D.K. Orr of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Arlington, Va., says U.S. Publishers Circulation has an "unsatisfactory business performance record based on its deceptive recruitment of its young sales force and on delays and non-delivery of subscriptions."

U.S. Publishers is one of six companies controlled by National Publishers Circulation House, Inc., which is owned by Joe W. Edge of Fort Worth.

Circulation Builders of America, one of the Edge group, was named with three other magazine subscription companies as alleged agents of "slavery" in a $100-million suit filed in June 1983 in U.S. District Court in New York City under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The others were North American Book Sales and Solar Circulation, both of Michigan City, Ind., and National Circulating Co. of Gettysburg.

Williams said reports from Better Business Bureaus in San Antonio and Fresno, Calif., connect TICOA, the company that recently recruited salespersons in Allentown, with a company called TIPCO, which listed its address as 2601 E. Michigan Blvd., Michigan City, Ind. The Parent Watch director said that is the same address as Solar Circulation and North American Book Sales, two of the companies named in the 1983 suit.

The suit, filed by Mrs. Williams' son and four other persons who once worked as magazine salesmen, contended subscription agents were conducting a "nationwide racketeering enterprise" involving the recruitment of thousands of young people in "cult-like" groups.

It also contended that the system operated with the knowledge of a dozen of the nation's most prestigious magazine publishers, who used the subscription companies' services. Named in the suit were American Broadcasting Co., Inc.; Atlantic Monthly, Inc.; CBS, Inc.; Hearst Publications; Johnson Publishing Co., Inc.; McCall Publishing Co., Inc.; New York Times Co., Inc.; Petersen Publishing Co., Inc.; Esquire Associates; Triangle Publishing, Inc.; Times-Mirror Co., and Ziff-Davis Publishing Co.

The suit was dismissed on technical grounds by the late Judge Henry F. Worker, but Mrs. Williams indicated it may be refiled this month.

"We just couldn't help but think that the magazines were partly responsible," said New York attorney Paul Traub, who filed the suit.

Mrs. Williams said Parent Watch is also lobbying for legislation to prohibit the recruitment of young salespersons without a written employment contract.

"These kids should be considered at least migrant workers, who are covered by law," the Parent Watch director said. "And the conditions under which they work should be at least as illegal as sweat shops."

[Illustration] PHOTO by BOB HOUCK, Sunday Call-Chronicle PHOTO by UNKNOWN.


The Morning Call

mcall.com

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Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.



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