Traveling Door-to-Door Sales Testimonials
Dedicated To Presenting The Violence, Crime, Fraud, Human Trafficking and Exploitation
that have turned the Traveling door-to-door Magazine Sales Industry into a National Tragedy.
The GRUESOME reality of traveling door-to-door MAGAZINE sales crews:
Magazine Sales Agent Beaten Bloody during a boxing match:
The DMPG has many more pictures like this that reveal the hidious and evil acts
of the magazine sales companies and their enforcers, managers, and owners.
We also have hundreds of steaming media videos from 1999 to 2012.
Permission to post granted by the magazine sales agent.
Magazine Sales Company: Entrepreneurs Across America aka: Points Across America
Owner: George Frederick Senner
Magazine Clearinghouse: All Star Promotions.
Owner: Russell Wood
Senner's magazine sales agents were forced to box each other when they returned with low sales for the day.
Senner (Senner Sales) is also responsible for the deaths of two magazine sales agents
(Crystal Mahathy and Scott Tarwater) on 02/05/00 in California.
See Texas Trio and Slaves to the sale: this website.
Mack Hall (one of the NFSA founders and former husband to Sandra Hall: current NFSA president:
Magazine Company: Alliance Service Company Inc.)
was Karleen Hillery's mentor and taught her the fine art of deception and exploitation.
Deaths directly connected to Sandra Hall (Current President of the NFSA) and Alliance Service Company Inc:
Juliea Ann LeBrun
Mag Agent Drug Overdose
Shamblin Jo Rodriguez
Mag Agent Van Rollover
Joshua James Wolf
Mag Agent Van Rollover
Mag Agent Drug Overdose
How does this predator sleep at night knowing she is responsible for these deaths ???
How does this THING look at herself in the mirror ???
Hillery is responsible for the deaths of 8 young kids (see March 25, 1999 Janesville Van Rollover and Amanda Spurr 12/20/98).
Amanda Spurr 12/20/98
Peter Christman 03/25/99
Cory Hanson 03/25/99
Amber Marie Lettman 03/25/99
Crystal Faith McDaniel 03/25/99
Marshall Lee Roberts 03/25/99
Malinda Lillian Turvey 03/25/99
Joseph Wild 03/25/99 Janesville, Wisconsin Van Rollover March 25, 1999
Research: Subscriptions Plus: this website.
Hillery is currently serving a 10 year prison term in Arizona for multiple felony counts of DUI and Assault.
Her last husband Robert Spruiell was stabbed to death in a drug deal gone bad in Miami Florida in May of 2008.
Her husband before Spruiell - Choan Lane (scumbag manager for Subscriptions Plus) served 3.5 years in prison
for his role in killing the seven kids on March 25, 1999.
He is currently WANTED by the State of Wisconsin and the 12 families for $500,000 in unpaid court ordered restitution.
Karleen Hillery and Robert Spruiell (Integrity Sales/Integrity Program/Magazine Fulfilment) were members of the NFSA.
At this time in history Nathan Edwards: (Austin Diversified Products/ADVANAGE™ Wonder Cleaner) was president of the NFSA.
And the NFSA was an active member of the Magazine Publishers of America: President: Nina Link.
But what is the connection between the magazine sales companies and the magazine publishers?
The murdering scum cleared their magazine sales subscriptions through the
NPE (National Publishers Exchange. https://www.npemags.com/npemags
And PUBLISHERS CONSULTING CORPORATION. http://www.mag-full.com : Owner: Robert Lake.
NPE and PCC are the toxic SCUM 'magazine clearinghouses' that connects the criminal magazine sales companies to the magazine publishers.
They are the PIGS for Profit that are responsible for countless van accidents, rapes and murders.
We will continue this sick and fowl history of the traveling door-to-door sales industry
on July 6, 2012 when our new websites become active.
We will expose in great detail the evil scum that are responsible
for KILLING our children and Raping and Murdering innocent homeowners.
I was abandoned.
I was beaten.
I was raped by my manager or car handler.
I was abused and exploited.
I was lied to and cheated out of the money I earned.
I was forced to commit fraud and lied to the home owner to make a sale.
I was forced to prostitute for selling magazine sales subscriptions
for the National Field Selling Association and the Magazine Publishers of America.
I was mutilated or killed in a van rollover.
I have a venerable disease.
I have a Broken Heart and a Broken Spirit and Broken Dreams.
I have been Beaten, Abused, Raped and stranded 2000 miles from my home.
I have not eaten in 3 days and have no money to get home.
My personal possessions have been stolen by the sales crew.
My best friend was beaten for low sales.
I have experienced extreme violence and have seen managers beat my friends bloody.
I am stranded at a Greyhound bus station
Then call us for HELP:
Dedicated Memorial Parents Group: 608-845-1711 (24/7)
Contact the Polaris Project (Human Trafficking) at 1-888-3737-888 (24/7)
Door-to-Door Sales Agent Testimonials Parent Watch Magcrew
The Traveling Door-to-Door Sales Industry is Immoral, Modern Day Slavery, Human Trafficking, and above all CRIMINAL !!!
If you are a sales agent or manager and need our help we will do everything in our power to right the wrong.
We can HELP YOU !!!
The NFSA and the MPA are WICKED and EVIL Pigs for profit and will do anything including RAPE and MURDER
to make their almighty dollar. You are a pawn and a slave for the sale. You are being abused and exploited by
a multi-billion dollar a year industry that rapes and murders innocent kids and homeowners. See Why We Say This
You Decide - Read the following story:
or contact Phil at 608-845-1711 for more details about the 95 deaths and over 400 documented criminal felony cases.
Little Rock Arkansas - National Coverage
Job Seekers Beware: Magazine Sales Crews Trafficking Teens?
November 5, 2012
Job Seekers Beware: Magazine Sales Crews Trafficking Teens?
By: Marci Manley, KARK 4 News
KARK 4, KARZ 42
Updated: November 5, 2012
Between the pages of his local paper, 20-year-old Dylan, who asked KARK to not reveal
his last name, thought he had found a way out of Arkansas two years ago.
"I saw an ad in the paper, to travel the world and do sales, you know," he said.
The company bought him a greyhound ticket to Texas to meet up with a crew selling
magazine subscriptions for $20.00 a day, at least at first.
A fellow team member, left stranded in a small Texas town for failing to meet her magazine
sales quota, tried to tell Dylan of the dangers his travels had in store.
"She said it's fine in your training, but after that it's all downhill," Dylan said. "She tried to
warn me. She told me I'd have no money, and I would starve to death."
But Dylan was skeptical, assuming the girl just wasn't cut out for the fast-paced sales
environment. He thought he would be different.
"I thought it wouldn't be that way for me," he said.
"You thought you would be the exception?" we asked.
"Yeah, but I wasn't. I was definitely the rule," he responded.
Pounding the pavement began at 8:00 a.m. each day, knocking on doors for upwards of 12
hours. At the end of the shift, teams would sleep five to a hotel room, and most days they
were forced to rely on good Samaritans for a meal.
"A lot of times I wasn't doing well selling magazines and I didn't have the cash on hand to
buy me something to eat," Dylan said.
The quota for the crew was often set at six subscriptions a day, with team members
receiving a five dollar cut. It's money Dylan said the crew members never actually saw.
"Every time you needed money you had to go to your team leader," he said. "All of your
money was kept in an account that only he had control over. If you wanted a new pair of
sneakers, you had to go to him. If he didn't think you needed them, you didn't get them. It
was just like having a master. You had to ask permission to do this and do that."
There were even fines that left sales crew members in the hole -- owing money for missing
phone numbers and addresses on information sheets.
"They could find a reason to fine you for even the smallest things," he said. "Those fines eat
away at your money, and then you don't have a dime."
And the punishments for failing to perform, could be severe.
"It never happened to me, but the kids under some other team leaders were being beaten
because they weren't making their quotas," Dylan said. "The leader would have members of
the team beat them, haze them, give them a hard time. Because in the leader's eyes, that kid
was causing everyone else to suffer."
For Dylan, his beating came from a stranger on the streets in a rough part of town. He was
mugged for a pack of gum and his cell phone.
"It was dark, one of those late working days," Dylan said. "The guy came up to me,
demanded I empty my pockets. Another guy came from behind and punched me in the face
and head. I had a bloody nose and a busted lip. My face was swollen and black eyes and
Dylan was never taken to the hospital by his team leader or given any type of medical
attention, other than a gas station bathroom and a water faucet.
"It didn't hurt him [my team leader] none. He just wanted me to fill out the paperwork and
give him the money I had made," Dylan said.
And that's when Dylan decided he wanted to return home.
"I stayed up all night trying to think of a way to get out. I didn't know if they would let me
go, leave me stranded, or hold me there," he said. "So I came up with a story that my family
had called and that my brother was deathly ill. I told them I had to go home or my parents
were going to start making a fuss."
Like his former team member in Texas, Dylan was dropped off at a Las Vegas Greyhound
"I had no ticket, no money, no nothing," he said.
His parents received a phone call from a man who had discovered Dylan's stolen cell phone
after it had been discarded. They contacted Dylan's uncle, who had a friend living in Vegas,
to track down their son.
"I was finally able to get in contact with my parents," Dylan said. "I was scared, and I didn't
know what was going to happen to me at that bus station by myself. But they were able to
scrape together some money to buy me a bus ticket home."
Dylan had spent two months being told my team leaders and fellow team members to never
reveal his location. The worry that contacting his family would come back to bite him never
ceased until he arrived home three days later.
"I came home with absolutely no money whatsoever, beaten, bruised, and scared," he said.
"I just can't think about what all could have happened to me. It was just as likely that I
would never have made it home."
Dylan has no doubts he was caught up in a labor trafficking ring.
"I think that the company owned all of these teams and crews that were all connected,"
Dylan said. "I don't have proof of that necessarily, because we weren't ever allowed to
know how the system really worked. But I think these people decided, 'We can talk these
18-year-old kids who think they know everything - con them into coming out here and
making money for us."
Arkansas legislators like David Meeks are looking to create new laws to fight human
trafficking, which includes labor trafficking and sex trafficking.
"It's slavery. It's modern day slavery, and we have to combat it," Meeks said. "We really
want to him them [traffickers] in the pocketbook where it hurts."
Arkansas has one trafficking statute on the books, but it's never been used to prosecute.
"The penalties just aren't great enough for prosecutors to have any use for the statute,"
Now, a team of state leaders is working to draft new legislation to seize operators' assets,
hand down stiffer sanctions, and provide protection for victims.
"The Polaris Project considers Arkansas one of the 'Faltering Four' states, because we don't
have enough laws on our books to really combat human trafficking," Meeks said.
It's an estimated $50 million-a-year industry going largely unregulated.
Dylan's experiences seem to be textbook for these fly-by-night sales crews which appear to
recruit young adults who are legally free to leave home on their own.
"At 18, we think we know everything and own the world, but we have no idea," he said.
The crews promise travel, fun, and big pay to target those from low-income communities or
those with broken backgrounds.
"Me, I was from Arkansas, but I even had a good family that loved me and supported me,"
Dylan said. "Most of the kids there come out of bad homes or where they ran away from
The companies also seem to take advantage of parents' and the public's ignorance to remain
"Everybody I told what I was going to do, nobody had any idea what was going on. I had
never heard of it anywhere," Dylan said.
For Dylan, his journey has lasted far beyond the two months he was out on the streets
"I haven't really been able to talk about it until now. It's something that's difficult to come to
terms with. For a long time, it didn't seem real. I think I've spent the past two years in
shock," he said.
And after being taught to make sales on the street, he's hoping parents and the public will
listen to his pitch now.
"I would do anything to keep people from going through the same thing I went through," he
said. "It was very scary and very life-changing."
We contacted a number of listings that offered fun, travel, and sales through Craigslist and
the local newspaper to ask them about industry practices. None of them returned our phone
While there are legitimate door-to-door sales companies that work in the United States,
you'd be wise to do your homework, including determining if the company has an actual
physical address and business phone number, a Better Business Bureau rating, and
contacting the Attorney General's office in your state to see if complaints about the company
have been made.
You can also check out the following websites: parentwatch.org
which both work to highlight sales operations that have found to be illegitimate.
By: Marci Manley, KARK 4 News
KARK 4, KARZ 42
Little Rock Arkansas Read This Story
NATIONAL CONSUMERS LEAGUE
Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens 2012
Tips to Stay Safe at Work This Summer
The National Consumers League’s annual guide to help teenagers
select safe employment and protect themselves on the job
Traveling Youth Crews Performing Door-to-Door Sales
The startling discovery of the remains of a long-missing 18-year-old girl, Jennifer Hammond, in
October 2009, served as a painful reminder that traveling door-to-door sales jobs are very
dangerous. A Littleton, Colorado native, Hammond had last been seen in 2009 in a mobile home park in Milton, New York. She failed to show up at a designated pick-up spot two hours later. A hunter found her remains in a forest in Saratoga County, New York six years later.
Parents should not allow their children to take a traveling sales job.
The dangers are too
great. Without parental supervision, teens are at too great a risk of being victimized. Traveling
sales crew workers are typically asked to go to the doors of strangers and sometimes enter their
homes—a very dangerous thing for a young person to do.
Under pressure and scrutiny from advocacy groups and state law enforcement entities, it appears
that the traveling sales sector today rarely hires individuals under 18. However, in recent years,
there have been isolated reports of minors--and more frequent reports of 18- to 21-year-olds--
Frequent crime reports involving traveling sales crews suggests that the environment they
present is not a safe one for teen workers or young adults.
In March 2011, two men in Spartanburg County South Carolina called police and asked
them to take them to jail because jail seemed like it would be better alternative than the
traveling sales crew they were in. Vincent Mercento, 19, and Adam Bassi, 21, told police they
needed to quit going door to door asking people to buy magazines. They said they were tired of
being wet and selling magazines and tired of the abuse from the company that employed them
which seemed “cult-like.” Their lives were so bad they thought jail would be better.
How Dangerous are Traveling Sales Crews?
In February 2011, Columbia County Georgia authorities arrested a traveling sales crew of 17
individuals for peddling without a license. Five of the arrestees had criminal records, including
one individual on probation for child molestation, another with a conviction for statutory rape,
and a third for not registering as a sex offender. Would you want your son or daughter to travel
in such company?
All 17 individuals were crowded into one van. With vehicular accidents being one of the most
common causes of death for young people, NCL urges teens not to accept any job like those on a
traveling sales crew that involves driving long distances or for long periods of time.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warned consumers in May 2009 that deceptive sales
practices are common in door-to-door sales—the group had received 1,100 complaints in the
prior year. “Experience tells us that customers aren’t the only victims of [these scams],” said
Michael Coil, President of the BBB of Northern Indiana, “the young salespeople are also
potentially being taken advantage of by their employers and forced to work long hours, endure
substandard living conditions and have their wages withheld from them.”
Unfortunately, young salespeople are also vulnerable to violence by crew leaders. The New York
Times reported in October 2009, that “two young people working as itinerant magazine
salesmen” in Lakewood, Washington were beaten with baseball bats and golf clubs after they told their bosses they wanted to quit. The victims, whose names and ages were not identified in the article, were hospitalized and their six assailants arrested.
"The industry’s out of control as far as violence," Earline Williams, the founder of Parent Watch,
one of the groups that follows the industry told the Orlando Sentinel in a December 2009 article
that reported the beating of Brian Emery, a sales crew member called “The Kid” by his
colleagues [Emery’s age was not reported]. New to traveling sales, Emery told deputies that his
team members gave him $12 to buy beer in Osceola County, Florida, but became enraged when
he bought the wrong brand. Two men were charged with beating Emery, one of whom broke a
beer bottle across his face.
In May 2008, police in Spokane, Washington investigated a 16-year-old’s claim that she was
held as a captive worker by a door-to-door sales company. She escaped after the sales crew
leaders beat up her boyfriend because he wasn’t selling enough magazines.
Many youth desperate for work are lured in with promises that they will earn good money, travel
the country, and meet fun people selling door-to-door. One young man was told that the
experience would be like MTV’s Road Rules.
The reality is often far different. Many salesmen work six days a week and 10 to 14 hours a day.
Unscrupulous traveling sales companies charge young workers for expenses like rent and food,
essentially requiring them to turn over all the money they ostensibly make from selling
magazines or goods. When workers try to quit or leave the crew, they are told they cannot.
Disreputable companies have been known to seize young workers’ money, phone cards, and IDs
and restrict their ability to call their parents. Drug use and underage drinking are not uncommon.
A New York Times report in 2007 found that crew members often make little money after
expenses are deducted. On some crews, lowest sellers are forced to fight each other or punished
by being made to sleep on the floor.
Few of the magazine sales teams do background checks on their workers, according to Phil
Ellenbecker, who runs an industry watchdog group based in Wisconsin that has tracked hundreds
of felony crimes and over 80 deaths attributed to door-to-door vendors. ”It’s not uncommon to
get recently released felons knocking on your door trying to sell you magazines,” said
One salesman who spent 10 years on crews and eventually became a crew manager told the
Indiana Student Daily newspaper, “I regret a lot of stuff I did….I’d become this monster. Lying
to kids, telling them how good the job was, and it wasn’t a good job at all.”
A tough economy has made it tougher to sell magazines, and according to Earline Williams of
Parent Watch, that has meant more violence on crews and more sales employees abandoned.
“It’s gotten meaner,” she told NCL.
Among the possible dangers of working on traveling sales crews:
In addition to the suspected murder of Jennifer Hammond in 2003, other relatively recent
• In November 2007, Tracie Anaya Jones, 19, who was a member of a traveling sales crew,
was found dead of stab wounds. Originally from Oregon, Jones was last seen working in
Little Rock Arkansas before her body was found 150 miles away in Memphis, Tennessee.
Her killing remains unsolved and was featured on America’s Most Wanted Web site.
• In Rapid City, South Dakota in April 2004, a 41-year-old man was charged with
murdering a 21-year-old woman who came to his home to sell magazines.
Working in unknown neighborhoods poses risks, especially if you are carrying money from sales
or goods to sell.
• Although not part of a traveling sales crew, a 12-year-old selling candy for a school
fundraiser in a Jacksonville, Florida neighborhood in March 2009 was robbed by three
individuals who drove up to her in a car.
• In April 2003, a 16-year-old Texas youth selling candy was robbed and shot in the
stomach by two teens.
• In March 2011, an 18-year-old woman selling magazines in the Myrtle Grove, North
Carolina area was approached by a man driving in a truck who assaulted her. Police
arrested the man.
• In May 2009 in Bethesda, Maryland, a 19-year-old woman selling magazines was
attacked and nearly raped by someone she encountered while selling magazines door-to-door.
• In Lawton, Oklahoma, a19-year-old Nevada woman was selling magazines door-to-door
in February 2009 when her potential customer invited her in. The man gave her
something to drink and she awoke several hours later and realized she had been raped.
• A 19-year-old Ohio magazine salesperson was assaulted by three men who expressed an
interest in buying magazines. The victim was waiting for a pickup by co-workers when
she was approached, abducted, and sexually assaulted (April 2003)
Consumers are also at-risk of the dangers associated with traveling sales. Traveling sales crew
members have committee a number of assaults and other crimes against non-sales crew
• In May 2011, Ruben Barradas, a door-to-door salesman was sentenced by a judge in
Omaha, Nebraska to five to eight years in prison for convincing a woman that she and her
7- and 10-year-old daughters should submit to sexual examinations.
• A Texas man, Jesse Estep, who worked in a magazine sales crew, was convicted of
sexually assaulting a teenage girl in Litchfield, Connecticut in May 2010.
• In April 2010, police in Oak Ridge, Tennessee arrested a sex offender for possession of
crack cocaine and other drugs.
• In February 2011, a Texas man from a traveling crew was arrested in Florida for sexually
assaulting a 16-year-old girl.
Traveling sales crews face greater risk of vehicle accidents and in many cases, crew leaders are
driving without licenses or driving on suspended licenses. Vehicles are not always maintained
properly and the use of 15-passenger vans in some cases presents safety concerns.
• In June 2011, a van carrying a traveling magazine sales crew rolled over in American
Falls, Idaho. Three crew members aged 20 to 22 died. Seven others aged 18 to 24 were
• In November 2005, two teenagers were killed and seven were injured when their van
flipped near Phoenix, Arizona. The vehicle crossed a median strip, and ended up in the
opposite lanes of a freeway. All nine occupants, who worked for a magazine subscription
company, were thrown from the vehicle.
• A month earlier, 20-year-old, James Crawford, was ejected and killed from a van in
Georgia. Eighteen young adults were crammed into the 15-passenger van. The driver fell
asleep and was allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana. The occupants were
heading north from Florida to sell magazine subscriptions.
• Two young salespersons, age 18 and 19, were ejected from a vehicle and pronounced
dead at the scene after a vehicle accident in which 15 salespersons were crammed into a
10-year-old SUV that rolled over on a highway in New Mexico (September 2002).
• In 1999, seven individuals traveling as a sales crew were killed in an accident in
Janesville, Wisconsin. Five other passengers were injured, including one girl who was
paralyzed. The driver of the van, who was trying to elude a police chase, did not have a
valid driver’s license and attempted to switch places with another driver when the
accident occurred. The fatality victims included Malinda Turvey, 18, who has inspired
ground-breaking legislation—Malinda’s Act—which passed in Wisconsin in April 2009
to regulate traveling sales crews
The young salesman told NCL about some of the driving dangers, which included unsafe vans
and unsafe drivers: “You’ve got drivers that have licenses but they’re suspended. They shouldn’t
be driving [and] they let young adults drive under the influence.”
Alcohol and Drugs
This excerpt from “Shauna’s Story” (a memoir of life on the road with a traveling sales crew
appears at www.Travelingsalescrews.info
,a watchdog site for the industry):
[We were] a whole group of 18 and 19 year olds, and every night we drank more alcohol, and
smoked more weed than the wildest college kids. It was the way we relaxed after some of the
days we went through. We were out there rain, sleet, or snow all day, just like little soldiers.
From the scorching summer days in Alabama to the near freezing temperatures of New York
winters. We had only one mission: bring back the money and that we did. And for all that we
went through, dealing with [the crew leaders] screaming at us when we didn’t have many sales,
to refusing to take us to eat if we didn’t have any sales. To people slamming doors in our faces
all day. We felt like we deserved to escape for a little while. And since we weren’t allowed to
have our own vehicles on the road, we were stuck at the hotel. So every night after work, we
would walk to the nearest store, find the closest dope man, and escape for a couple hours.
Young salesmen have been stranded if they try to quit or do not sell enough.
Parent Watch’s founder Williams told the Orlando Sentinel in 2009 that she handles two to six
phone calls a day from frightened, stranded workers seeking bus fare home.
In the summer of 2009, the National Consumers League received a call from one stranded
salesman, Ricky, who had been left on the side of the road a thousand miles from home with no
money to pay for transportation.
Crews often work in bad weather, walking miles in blazing heat or in cold weather. They often
wait hours in strange neighborhoods for their crew leaders or drivers to take them back to the
hotels they are staying in.
Crews often operate without proper licenses and permits and young sales people are subject to
Young workers, far from home, are at special risk of exploitation from older crew leaders and
crew members—many of whom have criminal records.
Parent Watch estimates that as many as 30,000 to 40,000 individuals are involved in traveling
sales crews, selling magazines, candy, household cleaners, and other items door-to-door each
year. It’s difficult to estimate the number of minors involved in this industry. Anecdotal evidence
suggests that most recruits are over 18 because of the legal risks of transporting minors.
However, NCL worries that there are still occasional minors lured into the business. In April
2011 in Manhattan, Kansas a 17-year-old was one of five magazine crew members arrested for
peddling without a license. In August 2010, police arrested 8 individuals for illegal sales in
Holden, Massachusetts. Two of the individuals were 17.
• In Gainesville, Florida in November 2009, police responded to a disturbance involving a
17-year-old girl who had been fired from a crew for low sales. The girl said she had
nowhere to go and was not allowed to collect her belongings until police helped her.
Police ran background checks on the crew of 50 sales people she was traveling with and
found many with extensive criminal histories.
While this report focuses on protecting teenagers, traveling sales crews present significant
dangers for young adults—large numbers of 18- to 24-year-olds who make up most crews--as
• A news report from Mankato, Minnesota concerned an 18-year-old man with
developmental delays who was lured into following a sales crew. His panicked family
was able to retrieve him about a week later. Another 18-year-old who suffered from
schizophrenia and manic depression was lured from his home in Gaston County North
Carolina in April 2011.
The Web site Parentwatch.org contains an account by an 18-year-old traveling sales crew
member who said she was drugged, raped, and impregnated by a fellow crew member. She also
said she regularly saw fellow crew members get beaten to the point that they needed
The number of crimes in which 18 to 21-year-olds in traveling sales crews are victims or
perpetrators is staggering and can be tracked at here.
Shauna, the young woman who wrote about her experiences in a crew, reflected:
“It’s crazy the things people will put up with to feel like they belong, to feel loved, and to be
accepted….Now that I have been off the road …it’s given me the opportunity to sit back and
reflect on just how blessed I was to be involved in something so dangerous for so long, and make
it out safely. Sometimes I still have nightmares of some of the things that I went through, and
some of the things I witnessed.”
What can be done to help clean up this industry?
States and localities should consider model laws like the one passed in Wisconsin in 2009. It
requires sales workers who travel in pairs of two or more to be employees rather than
independent contractors and subjects them to labor laws. Companies that employ crews would
have to register with the state and their operators would have to pass criminal background
checks. The law requires companies to tell recruits in writing where they will work and how
much they will be paid. It also requires them to carry insurance, and mandates employers pay a
$10,000 bond with the state.
Local police can ensure that crews in their areas are properly licensed and can talk to young
salespeople to ensure that they are not being physically abused or held against their will.
NATIONAL CONSUMERS LEAGUE
Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens 2012
Washington, DC Read This Story
January 23, 2012
I used to love eating breakfast sunny eggs with a tall glass of orange juice now every time I see an orange it’s as if I lived a nightmare it all started from craigslist add.
My name is joseph sanfilippo I have a sales experience background and I am a survivor of just one of the traveling sales crews that sell this orange cleaner that tours this country like gyps in caravans. The add was on craigslist it said I can have fun traveling and seeing the country while you can make a lot of money. At the time my life wasn’t in that great of a situation. so I was desperate I called the number the man’s name was nick Joseph he explained that he had sales reps earning 2000.00 per week what he didn’t say was that the 2000.00 weekly pay goes directly to making this corrupt industry rich and keeping the employees living day by day. He asked questions like who do live with. Do you pay rent? Can you leave your family behind? Also asked if I had a girlfriend he even asked would she or he as he said could join my new career and fun adventure. But as I soon learned that these interviewing questions was just a way to find out how desperate I was .he even asked can I pay for my ticket in advanced he assured that I would be reimbursed he said it’s easier for me to book that him to book my ticket . I told nick I was broke that I only have 30-40$ to my name his reply was PERFECT I thought that was weird though. Never the less I was on my way to the bus station waiting for my ticket to lucky town however I ended up spending 30$ on food and why should I not? When nick joseph from green street solutions’ assured me that I get 3 weeks paid training every day $25 per day for food expenses.so here I was mid February 2011 on a bus I rember the date because it was after valentine’s day. All I knew is that I was going to learn how to show homeowners how to save money I was going to be traveling from city to city this at the present time were actually an exciting experience for me.
26 hours later I arrived in west VA I get off the bus so then all I see is this panel van with two gentleman playing loud music whistle at me they pick me up the entire way to my hotel all I here is nagging from the 2 musketeers about how they need me to buy them liquor I tell them no I’m good I can’t buy for minors they laughed so hard at me then they decided to drive into a grocery store they went in told me to wait outside they stole candy and soda it was very uncomfortable as we arrive to the hotel that couldn’t cost more that 20$ per night I find out that I have to sleep on the floor nick told me I get my own hotel room buy I had to share a room with 3 other people .this experience only got worse.so here I try to sleep but I’m not used to sleeping on the floor . I ask one of my peers when I meet this nick joseph. But they didn’t even know him I called him from my cell he never answered it wasn’t until the next day that he called my cell phone to not only wake me up at 4 am with a drunk dial awful experience babbling about how I’m going to get so rich with this company selling eco orange but that I need to speak with Paul because has my boss while he is out of town nick said was under the impression that I would make 50% commission like I was told on the phone. However 8am I was in for a rude awaking by what this green street solution has called mangers this Paul opens the door cursing telling everybody get the F%$#K up and out of bed and to the meeting. Can I take a shower I asked your fine Paul replies then he slams the door on us. Know body in my room took a shower nor did they say anything good about this Paul and nick Joseph fellow in my room they all seem to work for the owner XXX it wasn’t until later that I had the luxury of meeting this outspoken crude man.
They teamed me up with a young girl from Louisiana she said the job was better that being homeless. I really felt sorry for her. pro tek makes a cleaner called eco orange and they distribute this product to XXX who own green street solutions’ . They demonstrate the cleaner to homeowners. first you knock on the door tell them hi I’m Joe & I’m showing everybody this new green product called eco orange is safe it is concentrated add water and you can take out even the toughest stains around the house they keep a rag and a marker in their pocket to show consumers or should I say to trick consumers how it will take out the black market they are trained to use tools like steel wool when cleaning the brass on the door to show how it will shine the girl told me that you can clean the brass using steel wool with water she explained that the cleaner is good but that it’s all smoke and mirrors. The one thing that was really disturbing was that these sales reps was taught to tell consumers that if a child swallowed the cleaner it would only make them poop then would even do this trick where it looked like they took a drink of the cleaner even though they weren’t really drinking a little bit would make it down your throat each time they did this it was very dangerous thing young girl even got sick she said so she only did this trick on certain people she said it was very bad to do so only do it if you think it can really get you the sale. Now at this point so far I was really starting to wonder what kind of company is this? now I am a great salesman I just am not sure if I want to risk my health to make such a small commission however I caught on only after a few hours so I was sent into my own subdivision to sell this wonderful eco orange super cleaner. A few tries and I was making sales ,and I assure you didn’t drink any cleaner and I didn’t do any tricks or lie to people to get them to buy it . that night I got back into my room nick joseph called to tell me how great it was that I made 5 sales in 1 day but unfortunately he said I was still on training pay which was 20-30 dollars a day but after this short conversation Paul his partner paid me 10 dollars I tried to dispute this with him explaining that nick joseph promised me more he then asked me am I having diarrhea at the mouth this is what we pay and that you get out of his face before he punches me I asked him are you threating me his reply was look fag do we need to take this outside from this point I knew I need to get away from this company as quick as possible. Every day was such a struggle know matter what I was selling or how much I made them I only made 10 per day I was furious with this nick joseph who I still have not met I called him up explaining to him I’m working keeping my sales up what’s wrong with this pay plan I was on so he then had Paul give me 20 per day however because of the TRAINING PAY he started giving me which was what I supposed to earn anyway that at the end of my training when I was supposed to start making the real big commissions that was advertised in the add and explained to me by nick joseph.
Then they deducted my training pay my bus tickets and any meals the company provided which wasn’t many plus 40$ per night for the hotel room. so my first pay period that I was expecting to have at least a 500.00 week I was told that actually I owe the company money however nick joseph said he will work with me he had Paul the manger pay me 20 dollars for the entire week. It was a real nightmare what this company does is have servants or slaves nick joseph always finds ways to not pay his employees it’s a constant hamster wheel nick Joseph and XXX the owners of this company is a sick and twisted individuals that run this industry making sales people have bad reputations. It really didn’t matter if it was pouring rain or heavy snow we was forced to work at one point it was up to me when I was selling cleaner to make extra sales on the side selling demonstration cleaner that is used strictly for demo purposes only but if I could just sell 3 or 4 of these bottles without the company knowing I could make enough money to get back home. Now by this time it was ready for the crews to go to a new location we went to new jersey it was then I had the luxury of meeting this XXX all he did was curse a lot and make fun of people in meetings poking his finger in young kids face showing how he was such a tough guy. He clearly needs to visit a shrink for his mental issues. So from I could see this place was great for a drug attic because there was always drugs in the hotel room and plenty of underage kids drinking liquor but for a professional like myself I seen no reason to stay I spoke with some of the reps telling them my situation they advised me not to tell nick Joseph or XXX because he would rather not see me get hurt .apparently they leave people in the field a lot it’s just something that is done in this industry so fighting sex and drugs is what these traveling sales crews have its worse than being a groupie for a rock group luckily for me at the time I had a cousin that was picking me up he just happen to be in ny for business so that week my plan was to get away from this place as soon as I could get closer to the city because even though we was supposed to be in new york city we wasn’t quite there we was in a smaller town outside of new jersey called Somerdale new jersey in fact I was even picked up by a local Somerdale policeman and wrote a summons that I still haven’t shown up to. Needless to say finally I made it to new york by saving enough money to get a cab to the bus station that I from there then caught the subway to Manhattan ny but my cousin was still in Hartford ct I even had to stay 1 night in the bus station before he picked me up I’ll never forget waking up at the port authority it was awful all the next day I received calls from nick joseph he was threating me telling me that his crew was going to take me into the field with the van and jump me and he wanted to know who was I with as if I was a spy. I only worked for XXX for 1 month and was so glad I’m alive.
I have been out of that horrible intrapment for 4 years now
story: I was 18 when I saw the ad about having fun in the sun and traveling for free. I called and within two days I was on my way to meet up with the crew in Tn. Once I arrived at the bus station, I was picked up and taken back to the hotel. Since the crew had already left for the day, I was left in a room for 6 hours. Finally the manager called my room and told me "Hey beautlful, get ready I want to take you out to dinner." At 18, I was flattered and ready to get out of the hotel room. Once at dinner, the manager and his girlfriend went on and on about how great the magcrew life was.
Once we got back the crew was there and packing because the next day was Sunday. Sunday, the only day that we ever had off, was used for "jumping", going to a different location.
After two days of training I was dropped off by myself in what the car handler called the "joust". I was made to work 10 hours a day Monday-Saturday and travel Sundays. I was always tired and with only given 20 a night max for food, usually hungry. I saw many people get beaten til we had to call an ambulance, and then they would lie and say that the person got jumped while walking outside. I saw people humiliated by not having made their quota for the day. Many of the people were strunge out on drugs and alcohol. I choose to lock myself in my room at night. Luckily, my 3 other room mates slept in their boyfriends' rooms.
This endless cycle went on for about 3 months. I was scared to even ask to go home, I had seen many times where girls that wanted to leave were kicked out of the van on the side of the road, or rapped by guys on the crew. Every now and then I would have a beer or two with some people that I worked with. Well, while doing this one night, I drank one beer. Approximatly 15 min later I was so dizzy I couldnt see straight. I figured that it was due to the lack of food over the course of three days. I woke up the next morning not knowing how I got back to my room or where some of my clothes were. I didnt say anything and just went out and did what I was suppose to do. A couple of weeks later I was getting very sick, having a bottomless feeling in the pit of my stomach from remembering this night, I took a test and sure enough I was pregnant. When I showed my manager the test and told him that I wanted to go home, he said no its ok you can work til you show and then you can handle car.
The next day my manager approached me and told me before I got dropped on T that in he had an abortion scheduled for two days later. I told him that was never going to happen, and he laughed and joked about accidently pushing me down a flight of stairs. I was so scared after that, I got a hold of my mother from using someone's phone that I had sold a magazine too. She bought me a bus ticket all I had to do was to go to the bus station the next morning.
At the end of the day, we were headed back to the hotel, our manager was driving and was completely wasted. He stopped at a bar and told the rest of the crew members, I was always made to be in a van of all guys, that they should have some fun with me. When I replied I will wait here I am pregnant and going home tomorrow, my manager laughed, and said oh come on have a drink with us again I have another pill you wouldnt know a thing. All of the guys started laughing and my manager proceeded to tell me, I'm serious come have a beer let us have some fun with you and you can leave tommorow.
After realizing he had confirmed I was drugged and then asking if they could do it again I felt like I was going to puke. When we finally went back to the hotel, I asked a car handler if she would drive me to the bus station the next morning before everyone got up. She had been through the same thing but was forced to get an abortion and was more than willing to help.
I hope that this story helps people realize this is a horrible thing. Whatever you do stay away from these crews.
DOOR TO DOOR SALES: SCAM OR SURVIVAL?
(SECRETS OF LIFE ON THE ROAD)
When I was asked to write about my experiences, thoughts, and feelings during my two years on a magazine crew, the only thing I could think was, “I have TWO YEARS worth of experiences under my belt!! You want me to talk about everything?!” After doing something like that for a certain amount of time, you start to have mixed emotions, but I’ll do my best so here I go.
I was a couple of weeks away from turning nineteen. My job was only giving me about fifteen hours a week, I was having major family problems at home, and I couldn’t find another job to save my life. So at this point, I thought my life was pretty screwed up. After weeks of constantly searching the classifieds, I saw an ad that I hadn’t seen before, “TRAVEL JOB!! TRAVEL THE COUNTRY SELLING BLACK BOOKS AND MAGAZINES IN A HIP-HOP ENVIRONMENT. HIGH COMMISSION +DAILY BONUSES+ON THE JOB TRAINING. NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY!!” I read it again, and my first thought was, “problem solved”. As soon as I read the number, I immediately called. The manager told me that they sell books and magazines door to door. He said it was completely safe because each female was paired with a male. He went on to explain that they stayed in “nice” hotels, and I would even be getting daily cash advances called draws. It seemed like the perfect job. He asked me if I was at least eighteen and able to travel, I told him yes, and he told me I could start as soon as tomorrow. I was so happy, you could have slapped me, and I probably would have let you get away with it!! He made a little small talk, I guess to make me feel comfortable, and told me that he and his group were touring in Connecticut, and he would send for me by greyhound bus. I was so desperate to get out of North Carolina; I didn’t even contemplate how weird it was, like there was no application or anything. I can say my family was very much against it, but all I knew was I was getting away from them, and I’ll be making money in the process. I put in a two weeks’ notice at my other job, and when that was up, I called the manager to let him know I was ready. He told me when to go to the bus station, and sure enough, he had sent my ticket. I said good-bye to my grandmother, and twenty hours later, I was getting off the bus in Hartford, CT. When the manager came to pick me up, he had on a clean pin-stripe suit, and was driving a fairly new, nice looking Cadillac. All I could think was, “oh yeah, I’m about to get paid”. I remember the drive took about fifteen or twenty minutes, and when I asked the manager why we were driving so far out, he told me that he liked to stay on the outskirts of a major city because it was cheaper. When we finally pulled up to the hotel, cheap it was. It was a raggedy, dirty-looking hotel in the middle of nowhere, and the rooms weren’t much better. As I looked around the small, dingy room with two double beds, a half a light bulb went off in my head, and in the back of my mind, I thought, “oh hell”. But since I had just walked through the door, I decided to ride it out, and see what happened.
I met my two room-mates, one of which introduced herself as the “room captain”. She informed me that I was going to be sharing a bed with the other girl, something I wasn’t completely comfortable with, but she just kept assuring me that it was ok. “We’re all a big family”, she proceeded to tell me, “we eat, live, and work together, it’s kinda like camp.” It’s safe to say that I was sold on the idea. By this time, it was about 8a.m., so she told me to take a shower and get dressed because the morning meeting starts every morning at 9:30, and we had to get to work. Ok now Pause!! Mind you, I just came off of a twenty hour bus ride, with like 3or 4 layovers, almost no sleep, and I’m exhausted. Ding, ding. That should have been the second light bulb to go off, but dumb, naive me ignored all the signs. Just the joy of being away from home over-shadowed it all. Ok, now we can press play. After my shower, and change of clothes, my room captain takes me to a conference room with about 7 or 8 other people. They were all saying some sort of speech to each other. After I met my trainer a couple of minutes later, she informed me that they were practicing their “sales-talk” or the speech that they used to get the customers, whom they call “Jones’” to buy the books. The sales-talk consisted of a college canvass which has a “point program”, where they can win a thousand dollars toward college if they accumulated twenty thousand points by selling different types of books and magazines. A point system which I later found out was fake, and so was the whole story about college. My trainer told me the reason why they all used the college canvass was because that’s what the “Jones’” responded to the best. They’ll buy from a struggling college student quicker than someone just selling books as a real job. “Besides”, she told me, “everybody here is around the same age, so we look like real college kids. It makes it more believable.” The whole while, I’m not really saying too much, I was just pretty much observing. After I thought I had gotten the jist of it all, I figured, “as long as I get paid, it won’t be the first lie I ever told, and I’m sure it won’t be the last”. People always said “all salespeople lie”, and to me, these people had just confirmed that statement. “Oh well”, I thought, “at least I’m getting paid for it, so my lies will not be completely in vain”. While my trainer was talking to me, the other crew members came up and welcomed me and introduced themselves. A couple of them even gave me their sales-talk, and just as my trainer had said, they all used the college canvass. About an hour later, the manager comes in and tells us to sit down. “What’s happening TOPS?” Everyone responded by saying something like “cash” or “sales”. ( I soon learned that TOPS, which stood for Team of Professional Salespeople, was our crew name, and “what’s happening TOPS” was how we were to greet each other every time we saw or came across one another, no matter what we were doing, and we had to respond by saying something “positive” or conducive to getting sales). He introduced me, and welcomed me to “Chapel Sales: TOPS Organization” (Chapel Sales changed their name to Millennium Sales a year later). He proceeded to motivate us, or what they called “pump” on things such as “just stay positive”, “selling is the art of persuasion”, “if you keep your quota on your mind, your most dominate thought will manifest itself”. He kept telling us how he bought twenty-two acres of land from just knocking on doors. He called himself the “master salesperson”, and now I know why.
The first couple of weeks were ok. Every day we had our “motivational meetings”, all loaded up into a big fifteen passenger van, and knocked in different neighborhoods for about ten or twelve hours. We usually worked the “hood” because that’s where the car-handler (person driving the van) considered “cash territory”. Even though we were allowed to accept checks in the company’s name, cash is how we survived. Every night when we got back to the hotel to check in our money, our manager usually gave us between five and seven dollars (twenty on Saturday nights because we didn’t work on Sunday’s), just enough to get something to eat, use some of the money to pay the rent at the hotel, and the rest, he would put in his pocket. The checks would get mailed back to the main office in New Jersey with all the sale reports. People have asked me how I know so much about the “technical” part of the magazine business. That’s because about my first year I had proved myself trustworthy enough to become my manager’s “right-hand man”. He broke the cardinal rule: to keep the agents in their place, but them on a strict need to know diet. Managers are not supposed to discuss things like how they get paid, the extreme mark-ups of the books (usually 150%-300%), things they write off as tax deductions, or even the portion the company owner gets paid. I liked being the right- hand man. Anybody that knew me at that time could tell you that I got away with a lot. Every night we had curfew at midnight, which we rarely obeyed. Drinking was only allowed on Saturday nights, and we weren’t supposed to have drugs. The rules made it feel like summer camp for real, but we partied like rock stars anyway. A whole group of 18 and 19 year olds, and every night we drank more alcohol, and smoked more weed than the wildest college kids. It was the way we relaxed after some of the days we went through. We were out there rain, sleet, or snow all day, just like little soldiers. From the scorching summer days in Alabama, to the near freezing temperatures of New York winters. We had only one mission: bring back the moneyand that we did. And for all that we went through, dealing with car handlers screaming at us when we didn’t have many sales, to refusing to take us to eat if we didn’t have any sales. To people slamming doors in our faces all day. We felt like we deserved to escape for a little while. And since we weren’t allowed to have our own vehicles on the road, we were stuck at the hotel. So every night after work, we would walk to the nearest store, find the closest dope man, and escape for a couple hours. Our manager used to catch us all of the time, and yes, he used to pour out the drinks and throw out the weed he found, but the next night, it was on again. It finally got to the point where he didn’t even come by our rooms at certain hours because he knew what we were doing. But later he told me that he often looked the other way a lot because we were bringing in the money, and we didn’t cause any problems. But it wasn’t just our manager. As long as we brought in the money, the other managers went by the same code. When our business dropped, they tightened up the reigns, our business picked back up, the managers loosened up. Our law of supply and demand. We supplied the money, making sure we paid the rent, and kept money in our manager’s pocket.we demanded to be left alone while we did our own thing after work. So how did we afford to survive and do all this with just five dollars a night? Being the right-hand man had its perks, but it also had its price.
After my first couple of days in the business, I soon realized that it’s damn near impossible to survive on the road from just selling books. So we relied on a second source of income, one of the biggest sins of the magazine business: taking donations. The books were so expensive; sometimes people couldn’t afford to buy them. But we were so charming; sometimes people just gave us 5 or 10 dollars to put in our pockets. Sometimes people already knew what magazine crews were really about, so they threw us a 20 and advised us to get the hell out. The managers grew furious if they heard that any of us were taking donations. Even though we never heard any of the managers say it out loud, we all came to the conclusion that the reason why it was such a big deal was because they weren’t getting any part of that. Donations were 100% commission for us, and the managers couldn’t stand it. When my manager saw that I was good with people, and he could trust me with one of his vans, he would send me on hiring sprees two or three days a weekwith no pay. I didn’t get paid for going out, or for the people that I hiredand some of those people ended up making him a lot of money. He told me that I had to pay my dues in the business to be successful, (it was times like this, that the “master salesperson in him came out). He definitely sold me on that idea!!! Those days that I couldn’t knock, those donations that I had saved up from the days before literally saved me from going hungry many days, and I like to eat!! But I’m getting ahead of myself; let me tell you how I became this so-called “right-hand man”.
I went through a lot of stuff that the average person wouldn’t dare put up with. I can’t even count the number of times the car handler left me stranded. When they said, “don’t be late for pick-up”, that’s what they meant. They always gave us a certain time to be back on our corner, and sometimes we would be late because we wanted to bring something back to the car handler, so we wouldn’t have to hear their screams and name-calling. But that last pick-up was critical. It was a sin to come back with nothing, and a sin to be late. But sometimes we had to choose, and most times we went for the moneybut that came with a price. If we were late, the car handler would drive through your area one time, and keep it moving, taking everybody else back to the hotel. I don’t even want to think about the number of times I knocked on a stranger’s door at 11 and 12 o’clock at night crying, not knowing what to do. But I can honestly say that GOD was with me, because they always brought me back, but each one advised me to go back home. But this didn’t happen to just me, I’ve seen it happen to plenty of people. Sometimes the car handler would be mad at that particular person, and leave them on purpose. How am I so sure about that? Because most times I was the one my manager sent back out to get the person they had left, after letting them sit out there for a couple of extra hours. Ok, so we got being stranded, let’s move on.
The constant police problems were an issue. For me, it was a minor setback when trying to knock on doors in certain types of neighborhoodsespecially at night!! But for some of us, it was a major issue. Sometimes the police used to pull over the whole van. Looking back on it, those times were kind of funny. We would be riding down the street, and all of a sudden we would see an officer ride up on us real closerunning our plates of course. Everybody starts looking over their shoulder real slow, praying that he doesn’t cut on those lights, and almost every time, that’s exactly what they did!! You can hear everybody sigh and say “damn” at the same time. Those who had weed started stuffing it in their pants, those who had warrants started praying that they didn’t run our names, and the rest of us just went on ahead and pulled out our i.d’s, same old drill. We wouldn’t have had to go through all that if the manager had actually gotten permits for us like the police kept telling him to, but once again, it all came down to money. The managers all figured out how to keep as much money in their pockets as possible, and getting individual permits for us in every city that we worked would cost way too much. So we kept taking our chances in the same neighborhoods with no permits. We kept knocking, and the police kept coming. And eventually, people started getting locked up. At one point it got so bad in Florida that I had one officer to know me by name. Every time someone called the police on me for soliciting, he for some reason would always be the one to show up. GOD BLESS HIM!!! He saved me from going to jail many a day. Unfortunately, everyone wasn’t always so lucky. There have been many days where we went to work with 15 or 16 people, and only returned with 13 or 14. We wondered why they were missing for 2 or 3 days at a time, only to find out that they had been in jail for soliciting without a permit. The manager would always refuse to pay bail, he would always “wait it out” because usually once the officers realized that the manager didn’t give a damn about the kids, they would let them go with the strong warning to go home. I learned my lesson the first couple of run-ins I had with the cops. If the police came and said stop knocking, that’s what I did. The more people kept telling our manager about the police, the more furious he became. “Excuses are like assholes, everybody’s got one. You mean to tell me you gonna let them mutha fuckas stop you from getting paid, from being successful.” He would scream that at us every time!!! But that’s how he kept us in check. He would always put us back out or someone else in the same neighborhood, and dare us to say something else about the police. We always used to wonder why we would act so crazy when we talked about the police. It got so bad with him that if he came on our street and saw us talking to the police, he would just keep riding by, and come back about half an hour later or when he thought they were gone. He would tell us, “You caused the problem by yourself, you take care of it by yourself, don’t get me involved with that shit.” It wasn’t until he later told me about his warrants and past jail experiences that I halfway understood why he did it (I’ll tell you about that later). If I happened to be put out in the same neighborhood the cops told me to stop knocking in, I would just walk to the nearest store and chill until it was time to gomama ain't raise no fool, I ain’t going to jail for nobody!!! Ok, I survived that, now let’s move on. I guess after that you would say, “Damn, there’s more?”, when I tell you that I was dedicated, that was an understatement. This is why my manager trusted me, going through all of that, and I still stuck around I was definitely a keeper. I really proved that when I knocked on crutches.
I was a couple of months in on the job. It was getting to be winter, so we headed so sweet Miami, Florida. Our manager used to teach us to run door to door. He told us that it built momentum, and we get to more doors. I was fairly new, and had a sincere intent to do a good job, so run I didwell, more like a heavy sprint!! Anyway, long story short, I was running from door to door, and I fell down some steps in an apartment complex, busting my knee. For a whole week I complained and begged my manager to take me to the hospital, but for a week, I was ignored. It wasn’t until everybody else noticed that my knee had started to swell, and I was limping, that he finally took me. Turns out, I had torn an ACL in my right knee. I was on crutches for two weeks, and a knee brace for a month. So what did my manager do? Well, he was nice enough to give me three days off, and it was right back to work. He left me responsible for everything. Getting my own medicine, handling my doctor bill, even for getting my own food while I was stuck in bed for those three days. It was times like that, that made me thank GOD I had good friends. They picked up my medicine and made sure that my room was stocked with food. The good side is that when people saw me hurt, and still selling books, I didn’t even need a sales-talk. They respected my hustle so much, the only thing they could say was, “how much is it?” I was actually one of the top salespeople that month!!! Me and my crew were straight soldiers. We’ve been out in the field with bronchitis, laryngitis, the flu, on crutches, half deadwhatever. Our manager trained us to overcome any circumstance. Did he cross the line at times, of course, but I can say that each one of us is a stronger person because of it. His training might have been heartless, but so is life sometimes. But if you can make it on a magazine crew, you can make it damn near anywhere else.
There’s not enough hours in a day, or even enough words in the English language to make people understand what we go through on these crews. My friends have been raped, robbed at gun point, I was there when my manager got so mad one night, he literally beat up one of my friends. He was already upset because we didn’t have such a good week. So when my friend had come to one of our Sunday night meetings late, and drunk, my manager went through the roof. I couldn’t do anything but sit there as my manager snatched my friend from his seat, threw him up against the wall, and started beating the hell out of him. When he saw some of the other guys starting to get up to help, he threw my friend in the back room, and locked the door. When they came out about ten minutes later, my manager’s shirt was all bloody, and my friend’s head was bust wide open. They both left that nightmy manager in his Cadillac, and my friend in an ambulance. This hadn’t been my manager’s first incident like that, so he already knew to leave before the police got there. By this time, he was a pro about running from the cops. He would always stay gone for a couple of days, but by that time, we were more than capable of holding our own, so it was never a big deal. To be honest, it was kind of relaxing. When he was around, you could feel the tension, everyone was on their toes. Those days he was gone, we could all breathe a little easierand we were still about our money. When it comes to the things me and my crew went through, the list goes on. But we still hung in there. We had gotten so close over the years; we didn’t mind being around each other all of the time.
Our crew finally started to separate when some of the girls started getting pregnant, and leaving with their boyfriends. We had new people to come and go between this time, but when they saw the other agents leaving, they didn’t last too long either. The crew really fell apart when we started traveling with other crews. They had some habits that we didn’t, and operated in ways that we didn’t agree with. We often times got into arguments and fights with the other managers. After a few months with the other crew, our crew started dropping like flies. When it got down to just three of us, our manager hit hard times. He had to borrow money from the other managers to pay the rent, even going as low as to “borrow” money from me. I had saved up some money to send back home to my grandmother, but gave it to my manager with the “sincere promise” that he would return it. It’s safe to say that by the time I left, he had found a “legal” way to keep him from giving my money back, and sent me on the bus back to North Carolina with no money in my pocket.
So you may ask, “Why did you stay so long?” It wasn’t because I necessarily loved the job so much. To summarize, throughout my two years, I’ve been hurt, nearly arrested, stranded, watched my friends get beat up, robbed, and mistreated. Why did I stay? Because for the first time in my life, I felt like I had a real family. I never got along with my own, and on the crew, I met people just like me. Some had nowhere to go, couldn’t find any other job. We just wanted to be accepted. My particular group were the A-Dubs. We even called each other sisters and brothers. We were kind of like a non-violent gang. We didn’t associate with the other crews when they came around. We walked differently. We had a different swagger in our step. The other crews knew when the A-Dubs were in the building, because we made ourselves known. Yes, I can say that we were cocky, but so was our manager, and he did a great job of teaching us to think that we were the best. As evil as our manager was, we stuck together, watched out for each other, confided in each other, even fought for each other. It’s crazy the things people will put up with to feel like they belong, to feel loved, and to be accepted. And when you grew up like I did, and like so many other young people on these crews: some homeless, broken homes, abusive backgrounds, it’s nice to be surrounded and accepted by people whom you have something in common with. So we learned how to deal. And I dealt with it all the way to the end. The A-Dubs went through a lot together, and amazingly enough, we still keep in touch with each other. Some have children now; some are in school and have steady jobs. But one thing that we definitely still have in common is that we’re all truly happy now. But I would not say that my experiences were completely in vain. I learned confidence, strength, but most of all, the importance of family. So I guess that saying is true, “What the devil meant for bad, GOD meant for good”.
Now that I have been off the road for about a month now, it’s given me the opportunity to sit back and reflect on just how blessed I was to be involved in something so dangerous for so long, and make it out safely. Sometimes I still have nightmares of some of the things that I went through, and some of the things I witnessed. Writing this has been somewhat of a therapy for me. But I don’t just write this for me, I write this on behalf of the hundreds upon thousands of young people that are not here with us or not able to tell their stories. Some people think of magazine crews, and the first word that pops into their head is “scam”, but if you ever take the time to sit down and really talk to one of us, you’ll see that for us, the salesperson itself, it was literally survival.
July 26, 2010
Jeremy and Alicia
Homeless Youth Labor Trafficking
Door-to-Door Magazine Sales Company:
Urban Development Solution
end DMPG Info
Jeremy and Alicia
Homeless Youth Labor Trafficking
July 26, 2010
Jeremy and Alicia
I received a call today from Chris, an outreach worker at Denver's
homeless youth services Urban Peak [http://www.urbanpeak.org/].
He said he had to pick up some kids left stranded by a "sales crew". I never
heard of such a thing so it didn't "register" or make sense. ... When I arrived
at their down...See More
Friday at 3:04pm
January 15, 2009
My Life as a Magazine Sales Agent
I was an honor roll student from an upper middle class family in a nice suburban neighborhood in Richmond,
VA. I was the captain of our high school soccer team that went to the state tournament, and later, went to
Virginia Military Institute. I was no stranger to pressure, high expectations, and I always produced results. After
college I had several jobs that just didn’t excite me, and I was looking for something more. One day, I
answered an ad in the newspaper that promised “Fun, Travel, and Great Money”. I went to the interview in a
hotel and was delighted to speak to a bubbly young blonde who obviously was a tremendous salesperson.
Before I even knew the details of what I would be doing, I was headed home to pack my bags and leave for
destination unknown that evening. Thus began my year and a half descent into the world that is door to door
I experienced hell week at VMI, meant to exhaust you and break you down and not allow you more then a
few moments to assess your situation. Looking back, this first week in magazine sales is much the same. You’re
allured by talks of hotel parties with the forty other teenagers and kids in their twenties you would be traveling
with. You’re whisked from one room to another, meeting tons of smiling and often drunk or high agents
unwinding from their day on the streets. You don’t get a moment alone, always meeting new “power sellers”
and kids supposedly making thousands a week. You have an “old hat” that is assigned to you by the manager,
you don’t know this, but that person is completely responsible for inducting you into this lifestyle and has
incentives to do so. Whether the rewards are promises of money, a bigger car that holds more agents, or
“juicier” territory in the next city, there is definitely incentive to get the new guy into the program.
My “old hat” was Jacob Russel, a tall dark headed kid with a big smile that stated he was from California. He
opened right up to me, told me about his abusive Marine father and that this was the best thing he had ever
chosen to do. I was assigned to his room that evening, and was a bit dismayed at having to sleep on the floor.
We apparently all slept four or five to a room every night, the top two producers that day got the beds. I
learned very quickly that every single privilege was directly related to your performance that day. Those who
produced got respect, the front seat in the vehicles, chose where and when to eat, and made practically every
other decision that could be made. I quickly got a few sales my first day, and was greeted by cheers from
everyone, especially the managers. In my first week I had a day with eleven sales, and distinctly remember
feeling ashamed that people were getting screamed at and compared to me when they didn’t produce. No one
complained about anything, because if they did, they were deemed to be “negative” and that was something the
manager’s couldn’t afford to spread through their crews, literally. If you got down about anything, you typically
got put in a car with a handler that had a reputation of either straightening someone out, or running them out.
These were the especially abusive handlers that used nothing but intimidation to get the job done. They would
leave people all day on a drop and threaten to leave them permanently if they didn’t get a certain amount of
sales. In my year and a half selling I can recall at least five people who never arrived home with their handlers
that evening, with no explanation of where they were.
If your car handler couldn’t motivate you to make your sales, they were held responsible. After the manager
had a closed door meeting with you that included furniture turning over, fits of rage, verbal insults and
intimidation; you could bet your car handler received all of that and much worse. I was a car handler two
months in to the job. If you didn’t sell your quota that day, you didn’t make a car commission on all of your
passengers’ sales. If your car didn’t produce, you were threatened with having your keys given to someone
else. In our life, keys were everything. They were your freedom to have a moment to yourself, to choose your
territory and your drops, i.e. the neighborhood you worked. They were the opportunity to choose where and
when you ate in the evenings, and they were respect. Imagine forty teenagers that all wanted to go somewhere
in the evenings, and six car handlers that could deny or grant them that wish. You couldn’t imagine the favors
that were traded for special treatment. After a year and a half, I could honestly say there were less then a
handful of girls that didn’t at some point in time trade sexual favors for something that a car handler could give
them. It seems far fetched, but when you add in the exhaustion of 12 hour days six days a week, the pressure
that not only the managers, but your fellow employee’s were trained to put on you, and the mental stress of
door to door sales; people did some unbelievable things to get what they needed. Something as simple as the
opportunity to sleep in the car for a drop was worth a ton. Sex was traded and condoned by the managers if it
would motivate people. They would purposely put people together in cars that they felt would influence each
other. If you couldn’t sell enough to meet your quota that day on the streets, you could bet your car handler
could purchase a couple subscriptions from you, for a price.
Every morning after a meeting of yelling our rehearsed spiel and getting all pumped up, it was a race to get out
of the lot and get to your territory. The vehicles were overused, under maintained, and driven with reckless
abandon. Reckless driving was common, and often used to motivate people and to literally keep them awake
on their way to work. If someone fell asleep, the car handler pulled over and forced them to rehearse their spiel
at the top of their lungs to a road sign with the rest of the car laughing at their humiliation. With the long hours,
the lack of adequate sleeping conditions, and the stress, more then one car handler fell asleep at the wheel, me
included. We worked six days a week, and most weeks after work on Saturday, we left for the next city
overnight, which allowed the company to save on rooms that evening. I remember allowing someone else to
drive my van one night because I was falling asleep at the wheel and had another four hours to drive, only to be
woken up laying on my back in the back seat to a loud bang and the sky spinning. Once we came to a stop in
the grass median of the highway, I got out and saw that we had hit a guardrail, blown two tires and demolished
the side of the vehicle and that I had awoken to us spinning 360’s on the highway. Only now do I realize how
close we all were to a fatal accident.
If you were a good car handler, you got a better and bigger vehicle to hold more agents. If you always
produced, you got the “juicy” territories for your crew to work. If you were really good, the managers began to
hint to you and talk about the ever elusive “own crew” to manage. If you struggled as a car handler, you got the
old beat up car that sat 4 but you put 6 in there. You got the territory near the train tracks on the map, and you
drove further, and got home later every night then the others. Jacob was one of those handlers. Not only had he
gotten his keys yanked from him multiple times and had to ride with me, his old trainee, he was constantly
ridiculed and berated by the manager and laughed at for having to ride with the new guy. This was something I
took no pleasure in, as a matter of fact I took no pleasure in any of the verbal abuse I saw tossed around like
some kind of medicine ball meant to make the “weaklings” stronger. It was common practice for the car
handler’s to buy magazine subscriptions made out to friends, relatives, or just bogus people in order to make
their quota. Our quota was seven sales a day to be able to make a commission off our car, ten a day was what
was required to not be frowned upon and given a hard time.
About a year in to the job, we were in upstate New York, in a hotel in Batavia. Jacob had recently been given
his keys back, and was driving one of the smaller cars we had on crew. It was Jacob, an older kid named
Michael who was kind of heavyset, always loud, and was supposedly a stand up comedian back home. Then
there were two somewhat new guys, both of whom I spent some time training and had walked with in
neighborhoods and helped them with techniques to help sell. The first was named Billy Joe, and I remember
him being pretty tall, always wearing cowboy boots, and he said he had previously worked for a carnival. The
other new guy was named Adam and seemed very young and impressionable, but he was always bright eyed,
smiling, and had just recently given himself a crew cut. Don’t ask me why I remember that almost 13 years
later, but the guy was so innocent and willing to please, I recall it being at the suggestion of some co-workers
and he did it. The last passenger was Sabrina, she was cute, had long brown hair, and was easy going and very
laid back, she and I were buddies and she had a great sense of humor. We all sped out of the parking lot that
morning to go “get a bunch” and come back that night to compare our books.
I remember people talking about Jacob’s car not being back for our cash turn-in, and how no word had been
heard of them that evening. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to Jacob coming in, and going to
bed on the floor. When we woke up the next morning I was running a bit late to the meeting, and got on the
elevator at the same time as Sabrina. She seemed distracted and had a slight limp walking down the hall and I
asked her about it. She said she broke her toe, and I asked her how and she said she couldn’t talk about it, I
laughed it off as her being dramatic and I asked her why they got back to the hotel so late, again, she said she
couldn’t talk about it. At this point we were rounding the corner to the meeting room and I remember being
annoyed at my friend being so elusive and dramatic. We had our meeting, and I quickly rounded up my agents
and hit the road. We had a pretty good day, and I was ready for a big last drop, it was always the best because
most people were home from work. When I started picking up my guys something weird was happening. Even
my good sellers were saying “zero” when I picked them up, I started to get bits and pieces of information about
people saying two magazine agents had been killed and it was on the six o’clock news. I told everyone to chill
out, expressed my disappointment in our last drop, but told them I would go straight to Tony, our manager, and
find out exactly what was going on and let them know. We had an hour drive back to the hotel and I let my
guys sleep while I thought about what in the world was going on. I will never forget pulling up to the hotel and
seeing all of those news trucks. I literally had to creep through a horde of reporters to the back parking lot
where detectives in suits and ties made me roll the window down, and asked if I was part of the magazine
crew. When I told them yes, they instructed me where to park and escorted us onto the elevator. They walked
us to a room and had us sit there as other cars arrived and were ushered in there with us. Then a detective
entered and closed the door behind him. He told us that two magazine agents had been beaten to death. He
told us that Billy Joe and Adam were found that morning by the police, and that Jacob and Michael were in
custody for their murder. There was just stunned silence in the room, some people started crying, a couple
showed no emotion, but I am pretty sure everyone was in shock. He then said that those of us that would like
more details were welcome to stay, but those who didn’t want to know any more could leave. A few people
got up and left, but I needed to know what had happened. I don’t really recall what the detective said after that
in terms of details, but he spoke in very matter of fact like police terms at the brutality of the crime and some
specifics of the crime scene. Most of the room was in tears at this point. Some people asked about Sabrina,
since she was there, and not a victim or a suspect, but they said they were still investigating and they couldn’t
comment on that. They told us of chasing Jacob and Michael that morning just after our meeting and arresting
them, and I remember feeling sick about having left the hotel moments before and having worked all day while
two of us were dead.
Our managers told us to pack our bags because we were jumping that night. In magazine terms, that meant
heading to a new city. We were assigned our people and our cars and given directions to a motel in Oklahoma.
I remember it being like sixteen hours or something ridiculous like that, and that it was specifically to get away
from the press and bad publicity. We arrived at our new motel at around 5am, we slept till noon, and went
back to work at 1pm. God forbid All Star Promotions miss a day of productivity and allow people to think too
much on the “negativity” that is two kids being bludgeoned to death. I went from being a model employee to
barely making my quota each day. They started off pretty easy on me, joking about new kids beating me, telling
some of the female high producers to be nice and spend some time with me, that kind of stuff. I have always
been a pretty laid back and nice guy, even in this job I never yelled to get results, I typically just tried to lead by
example, spend some time with someone having a hard time, and let them see my sincere disappointment when
they let me down. I got along with all of the crew, and was good friends with most people, especially the girls. I
confided in a couple that I was thinking of going home, and that I missed my friends and family there. That’s
when they told me that we were heading to VA in a few weeks, and that I could go visit. We hit VA Beach for a
week and I kept asking to go home, and kept getting elusive answers. While in VA Beach, Tony, my manager
actually was the one driving me around, dropping me for like 20 minutes at a time instead of the usual hour to
hour and a half. I got the feeling he felt as if I was going to be picked up and whisked away back home and
was keeping a close eye on me. I finally was able to go home for 2 days, and as soon as I got back to the crew
we jumped again.
A few months later Sabrina suddenly showed up one day. I sat down with her and she started to talk about
what had happened that night, something in me just needed to know, and from the sounds of it, she needed to
talk about it. Apparently their car had a horrible day, only writing like 12 sales between the five of them, and
Jacob knew he was going to lose his keys again. She told me that Michael was up front with Jacob, and they
had to stop for gas on the way home. They pulled up to a station that had one young female working alone, and
that Jacob and Michael started talking about robbing the convenience store. They talked about using that
money to write up some fake sales, and no one would get yelled at or in trouble. She said that Billy Joe
basically said no way, drop me off somewhere, and come get me after your done, I won’t say anything but I
won’t be a part of it either. Adam on the other hand said he didn’t care what they did, but he didn’t want to get
in trouble, and he wouldn’t say anything either. Sabrina said she just stayed quiet and was scared out of her
mind. She said they dropped Billy Joe off, and instead of going to the convenience store, they went down this
road to a quarry; and that Jacob and Michael had been whispering to each other. She said that Adam began to
plead about not saying anything to anyone, and that he was cool with what they wanted to do, and started to
get really nervous. They parked the car and Michael came around and held Adam while Jacob started beating
him, they yelled at Sabrina to get out and hand them rocks, and they bludgeoned him to death, and drug him
facedown to hide him. She said she will never forget seeing that part of his face was torn off from the dragging.
They then went and picked up Billy Joe, brought him to the same spot, and snuck up and killed him with a
blow to the back of the head with a large rock. She said they were cheering about it, and that one of them
made a comment like “it’s been so long since I have done this!” in a triumphant way. Whether this was false
bravado and disbelief at what they were doing, or truth I have no idea. She said she was scared for her life,
and thought that if she didn’t hand them rocks, they would kill her too. She broke her finger and her toe from
picking up the rocks in the dark, and from a rock bouncing back and landing on her foot. She then said that
when they drug Billy Joe to where Adam’s body was, Adam was still breathing, and that they used the jumper
cables from the trunk to finish him off. After all of this, it was too late to rob the convenience store, and they
simply returned to the hotel. They rehearsed their story on the way back, with threats of jail time for all of them
if anyone talked. She woke up the next morning and immediately talked to our manager who called the police,
and that was when I saw her on the way to our meeting, with police on their way to us. She led them to the
bodies shortly after Michael and Jacob were in custody.
After my conversation with her, I wished I hadn’t wanted to hear the details, because 13 years later, I still think
about it. I especially think about Adam, the young eager new guy that aimed to please. The one that said he
was willing to help them with their twisted idea of robbing a store to buy subscriptions. I blame Jacob and
Michael, but more-so, I blame All Star Promotions and any other magazine sales crew that travels this country
feeding off the impressionable minds of young people trying to find something worthwhile to do. Without the
pressure, the ridicule, animosity, and abuse of companies like this, those two young men would be alive today,
most likely with wives, and children of their own. After a year and half of high production, and driving people
whom I supposedly made commission from, I walked away with about twenty dollars. After a screaming match
in a closed room with three managers, they finally realized they could intimidate me into staying no longer; they
put me on a three day bus ride home. You couldn’t imagine how many thoughts of regret raced through my
mind those three days, how much guilt I felt for being part of such a disgraceful organization. I find it hard to
believe that these crews are still out there alive and well, funneling money into the pockets of men and women
who purposely endanger the lives of young people in order to satiate their greed. I bumped into a crew
member I recognized a couple years later at a mall he was working, he gave me a fake name of a hotel they
were staying at and I was unable to get in contact with some old friends that were still on the road.
I was obviously too “negative” to risk having any of them talk to. I often think about who may still be out there,
who might have their own crew, and hope desperately none of the people I worked with stuck it out that long. I
want to hold on to the little bit of respect I had for those few that were hard working salespeople that ended up
being sucked into the void and cult like life that is magazine sales.
I have a son that is 8 now, was fortunate enough to have gotten out, and I would track him down to the ends of
the earth if he ever became a part of something like this. I think any parent, had they really been informed of
how these crews operate would do the same. My parents were professional, caring, and responsible parents
who would have done the same for me had they known the true nature of the business. I work in long term
healthcare now, for a company that manages Nursing Homes, a highly regulated business that is scrutinized
closely in order to maintain the best care possible for our elderly population and their well being. I am simply
disheartened to know that in 2009, after all of the hundreds and thousands of children that have experienced
this farce of a job that is door to door magazine sales that there is no real regulation on it. That while the kids
out on the streets dodge police for not having permits to sell, their managers sit in their hotel rooms waiting for
their money to roll in, and dish out pain in order to make it happen.
That kid that knocked on your door
January 15, 2009
Derek Isbister, George Tibbetts and Sue Rodabaugh talk about their experience as magazine salesmen.
(Staff photo by Martin Gavin)
When Sue Rodabaugh answered a help-wanted ad that turned out to be from an itinerant door-to-door magazine sales company, she hoped for fun, travel and an opportunity to see a bit of the country while making money to catch up on bills.
But Rodabaugh, who accepted an offer to travel to the Philadelphia area to join a street sales crew, along with her boyfriend and their roommate, said they found neither fun nor a bootstrap opportunity.
Instead, she said they were dropped off in unfamiliar locations, forced to walk up to 10 hours a day and were housed with up to 40 other young salespeople in a threadbare New Jersey motel.
The 19-year-old, her boyfriend, George Tibbetts, 23, and their roommate, Derek Isbister, 21, left before completing a three-day training period when Rodabaugh's grandmother agreed to wire them bus fare.
But along the way, the Attleboro trio said they witnessed lying and misrepresentation by magazine salespeople, rampant drug use and mistreatment of crew members.
In one instance, she said, one saleswoman stole checks from a residential mailbox and coerced her to sign them - presumably so they could be cashed.
"It was unbelievable," Tibbetts said. "We were all looking at each other, asking one another what are we doing here?"
Rodabaugh said she and her friends were desperate to earn money, all having lost their jobs within the same week. But she now regrets urging the others to take the chance.
"I can't believe I was so naive to go along with it," said Rodabaugh, who along with the men have since told their story to the FBI.
Rodabaugh and Tibbetts said that after agreeing initially to take a bus to Philadelphia, they were given tickets to Wilmington, Del., where they were picked up by a crew representative.
As trainees, each was given $20 a day to help them get started. Most of the time, however, they were broke.
Crew members and trainees performed daily calisthenics and attended meetings at which their handlers "amped up" their charges by having them repeat slogans and sales routines.
Nights were devoted to partying, punctuated with drug use and underage drinking, Tibbetts said.
During their days on the road, Tibbetts and Rodabaugh said they spent up to 10 hours a day walking and canvassing neighborhoods through 100-degree heat mixed with thunderstorms.
Crews were transported from neighborhood to neighborhood in vans whose drivers were sometimes so reckless that Tibbets said he literally had to hang onto his seat at speeds up to 80 mph.
Tibbetts said he and his friends weren't the only ones shocked by the conditions and business practices of the crew. Eight other prospects also dropped out over a three-day period.
Sadly, said Earlene Williams, director of Parent Watch, which tracks the activities of itinerant magazine solicitors, such reports are neither rare nor isolated to major metropolitan areas.
Labor abuses against crew members, mostly young and with few skills or job prospects, are widespread, she said.
In the past, sales crew members who failed to produce or stray from the rules have been beaten, had their commissions withheld , been abruptly fired and dropped off at the side of the road, she said.
Sometimes, members who make their team look bad by not selling enough subscriptions are subject to isolation or humiliating treatments, like being forced to run a gauntlet of jeering fellow sales people.
Often, young women end up sleeping with their titular managers or supervisors.
"It's one way to protect yourself," Williams said.
That's not the worst that can happen.
Phil Ellenbecker's teenage daughter worked for an itinerant sales crew for only two days in 1999 before a van, driven by a serial traffic offender, overturned in Janesville, Wis., killing her and half the 14 young salespeople inside.
Ellenbecker later formed the Dedicated Memorial Parents Group to expose abuses in the door-to-door sales industry.
Contrary to enticements found in advertisements, Ellenbecker said, most crew members earn relatively little in commissions. And with $20 or more a day deducted for hotel costs, many members end up heavily in debt to the operators.
"It can be compared to indentured servitude," Ellenbecker said.
It's different for those who run the crews. They reap the benefits of profits earned by the salespeople who work for them.
On his MySpace site, the supervisor of the crew that employed Tibbetts and Rodenbaugh claimed to earn from $45,000 to $60,000 per year.
Neither the supervisor, the company that employs him nor the National Field Sales Association, which represents door-to-door sales organizations, returned calls from a reporter.
Howard Polskin, a representative of the Magazine Publisher's Association industry umbrella group, said subscriptions obtained through door-to-door sales represent a tiny fraction - estimated at 1 percent or less - of the magazine business.
He said the MPA has established strict guidelines for solicitors that require background checks for sales personnel and ban false or deceptive selling practices.
A statement released by the MPA said the group "has long urged its members to identify any subscriptions" coming from organizations that prey on the vulnerable or pose a danger to the public, "and recommends that its members cease doing business with any company that does not fully comply with the law."
Nevertheless, salespeople are constantly under pressure from their bosses to make sales quotas, watchdog groups say.
Rodabaugh said that during her sojourn in a vehicle with three other women, salespeople frequently represented themselves as local residents to gain the trust of potential customers. She said one worker took a box of blank checks from one house's mailbox - a federal offense - and coerced her to endorse them.
Subscription orders are frequently paid by check.
Williams said crew members typically work as independent contractors to avoid minimum wage laws and other requirements for employees.
Workers usually bunk three to four to a hotel room and are dispatched on their daily rounds in vans driven by a car handler. Crews are usually dropped off and picked up four to five times a day, knocking on doors in different neighborhoods.
After two or more weeks based in a particular region, crews move on to other parts of the country.
Salespeople are usually given a quota of five sales a day or 30 sales a week, Williams said, which can be raised later based on production.
Those who fulfill certain sales criteria may be told they can earn points toward a $1,000 prize or a trip to Disney World.
A 2007 investigation by The New York Times, however, found that many crew members made little money, saved less and were subject to violence and taunting.
The report said the earnings of many members was kept on the books for later payment, rather than paid to them immediately.
Many states, but not Massachusetts, have attempted to control traveling crews by requiring permits for door-to-door solicitations. But even in those states, companies often flout the rules, moving their operations rapidly to stay ahead of law enforcement.
While riding with a sales crew as a trainee in New Jersey, Rodabaugh said her van driver was stopped several times for not having the proper permits, and then was yelled at when her crew did not make enough sales.
State Rep. Cleon Turner, D-Yarmouth, has been trying to push through a bill that would require door-to-door sales firms to register with local police before beginning sales campaigns. And citizens would be able to have their homes placed on a "no-knock" list if they don't want solicitors calling at their doors.
The bill, which was promoted by the Yarmouth Police, was occasioned by reports of crimes, harassment and intimidation during and after walk-up solicitations, Yarmouth police Lt. Steven G. Xiarhos said.
So far, however, the bill has made little progress. A few Bay State communities, such as Amesbury, have adopted local ordinances requiring salespeople to register with the police.
Crimes by door-to-door solicitors are all too common.
Ellenbecker's group, which often aids police in investigating crimes related to door-to-door selling, currently has 27 alleged felony cases on its books, including a woman customer who was raped and murdered by a salesman.
In May, Beverly police arrested a 25-year-old Philadelphia man on a charge of assaulting a 13-year-old girl near her home. Police, who said the man tried to grab the teenager, classified the incident as an attempted abduction.
Both the suspect and two companions working for a magazine-selling crew were convicted felons, according to the police report.
The same trio also visited several other Massachusetts communities last spring, including Seekonk.
Most sales crews are run by independent companies rather than magazine publishers. Selling organizations get their magazine supply either through contracts with publishers or through clearinghouses linked with individual sales organizations.
The third-party connection makes it possible for publishers to eschew any responsibility for sales crews or their tactics while still reaping the benefits of subscription revenue, said Parent Watch's Williams.
In most states, door-to-door salesmen are subject to little regulation, Ellenbecker said.
However, the National Field Selling Association maintains a code of ethics for sales organizations to promote fair treatment of salespeople and to keep out criminals.
For example, the NFSA code requires that blind ads for sales crews contain "sufficient information so that an individual may know the basic nature of the offer."
However, an advertisement placed in The Sun Chronicle by the sales group that hired the local trio made no mention of selling magazines or where or under what circumstances trainees would live or earn money.
A series of ads placed by the same company on Internet help-wanted sites carried the enticement, "Live Like A Rock Star."
The NFSA code also specifies that background checks are to be conducted to ensure that salespeople are of good character.
Tibbetts and Rodenbaugh said they were told about the background checks, but were not aware that any checks were actually conducted on them.
The NFSA, which did not respond to a Sun Chronicle reporter's phone call, does not publish a list of the members who subscribe to its code on its Web site.
Although disgusted with what they called abusive treatment, unsafe driving and deceptive practices, the Attleboro trio said they're happy about at least one thing.
"We're glad to be back," Tibbetts said.
Ellenbecker, whose daughter died under conditions similar to those endured by the local trio, said he hopes consumers who know the facts won't patronize sales crews whose members are likely to be exploited young people.
"If someone comes to your door, and you don't know them or can't be certain they're with a legitimate group, don't do business with them," he said. "You're just feeding the monster."
April 21, 2004
Services Unlimited Plus (Karleen Hillary)
I joined Services Unlimited Plus (SUP) about two years ago, in August, when I was seventeen. I didn’t want to stay on crew, but I met David Mack Pierce, Kay’s son. David is 22 now. Mack Hall and his wife, Sondra Hall, raised David until he was about 15 and dropped out of school and went on crew with his mom. He felt that Mack’s wife was his. Mack Hall trained Kay in the business.
Kay occasionally gives David’s father, David Pierce, money to keep him out of her hair. Kay has two or three brothers. One of her brothers is running a crew that she gave him. She doesn’t speak to them anymore. After she gave him the company the sales dropped dramatically and she felt they ran her name through the dirt. They didn’t take the time to build the crew—a 200 man crew. She took it as an insult and completely stopped talking to them. She may have given her house in Illinois to one of her brothers, but I’m not sure.
When the Wisconsin van roll happened, the company was called Subscriptions Plus, and that was the original company. When the accident happened another car handler, Bill, was the only one she didn’t fire. She wanted to start a brand new company to clear the company name after the accident. She started from scratch. There were only four top sellers on crew. One girl was fired when I came on crew because she refused to have an abortion.
There were only 30 sales people on crew, and only five selling over ten a day. When I left she only had one crew, and George Ellswick was running the crew. Her husband, Robert Spruille, also had a crew of his own. We had about 30 people. David would live in the hotel and so-called train the new recruits, and he would go work and make two or three sales, for cash, and he would spend the cash. I don’t think any of David’s orders went through. He would do cash orders or gift cards. He’d make $100 or $200 a day and go to a movie or go shop. This was when he wasn’t drunk or on drugs.
To the new recruits Kay would say drugs weren’t allowed, and you could only drink on Saturday night, but she knew what happened on crew. If somebody didn’t write a good day, they were called a WAB, and she’d give them a drug test. This was her way of taking control back. If they failed the drug test she’d send David or her ex-husband, Tino Hillary, or Tony to go kick their ass. Tony was fired for refusing to do this.
One young kid was hung upside down from a four story balcony because he had only written four sales and failed a drug test.
While I was on crew, drivers changed places while moving. Chris did it all the time. I saw him jump in the back twice because a crew member was “talking smack” on him. Chris had gotten mad at a crew member for not selling anything. I could hear the kid screaming in the back “man, get off me.” I didn’t look back there. Greg took the wheel.
Speeding was a main thing for all car handlers. The only handler that cared about any kind of safety was Bill. He didn’t let people move around in the van or smoke in the van. But he’s a lot older.
Bill tried to rape me once on my birthday. He refused to drive me back to the hotel and was driving to another hotel. At a stop light I got out and started walking away from the car, and back to the hotel. That was the second time. A week before I had a fight with David and went into Bill’s room, and his girlfriend, Holly was away. He said I could sleep in the spare bed. When I came back with my pajamas, he slammed me onto the bed and I screamed and tried to get away but he said “shut up, just shut up, and it’ll be fine.” I hit him with all my strength. I ran into my room and cried and told David and he said it didn’t happen, that Bill wouldn’t do that. I told Kay and she said I was lying. David said I was lying. But I wasn’t the only one Bill tried to do it to.
Holly smoked weed and drank while driving. David Mack did, too. He was either coked out or high or drunk. He hit his windshield one day while car handling. He was pissed off because I didn’t bring in anything on a drop. All car handlers were violent. Bill was mostly verbal abuse.
David was actually selling coke to most of the crew. If anybody told Kay she said “Oh, I’ll deal with it but she never did anything. As long as they wrote sales they could do whatever they wanted.
My roommate, Michelle, was dating David. When she got fired he said he was so bummed, and we started talking. We ended up getting drunk that night and hooking up. About three days later I said the job wasn’t for me, I didn’t like lying. He said give it a month and I’ll talk to my mom and I’ll get you to be a manager’s assistant, clean out the pad cases, and so on, and so I said OK; but I still didn’t want to do this.
After a month I was so good at selling that I would only have to go out from nine until noon and I would have written my thirteen sales. So I stayed on.
Kay bought me a car to keep me on crew. When somebody buys you a car you’re kind of stuck. I only sold magazines for about six months when David wanted to go back to Arizona. We were in Nevada at the time. Kay said we could go home, but we had to keep selling magazines.
We went back to Arizona with the intention of selling magazines just out of Phoenix, but decided not to. We bought a house in Peoria. Kay paid the down payment and then I thought it would be David and me living in the house. But about two weeks before we moved in, she told us that Tino Hillary would be moving in and so would her two daughters.
About a month after we moved in Tino’s, half-brother, Jeff (different last name) moved in with his little boy. I didn’t like any of the people. Kay wasn’t being a mom. I had to play mom to these two girls, Brittany and Brooke Hillary and take them to school. Tino was the father of these two. She hated her dad. She would leave in the middle of the night and ride her bike to Kay’s house, and then ride her back three or four miles back to Tino’s house because Kay was too drunk. Tino was so high on drugs that he didn’t care.
Kay’s husband, Robert Spruille, also has a crew out of Arizona as well. That’s Integrity Sales.
My mother became concerned about all this because I was telling her I didn’t want to live this way. My mom came into town and we were making dinner and Kay came in and was drunk. I wasn’t peeling potatoes right so she ripped the knife out of my hand and said she didn’t believe I was marrying her son, blah, blah. I didn’t come out of my room for three days. My mom left.
Kay was drunk downstairs again, and I told her she didn’t have the right to yell at me. I went upstairs to pack and she came after me, jumped over my bed, pinned me against the wall, started hitting me, calling me a bitch and a slut.
David came in and way trying to get her off me and couldn’t. Tino came in and pulled her off me. I got my car keys and left. When I came the next day to get my stuff, she had had a bon fire with all my things, my pictures, my sheets, everything. She took it all out to the desert and burned it up.
I broke up with David and decided to move in with my mom. I called him when I got here and told them I needed a break and would call them in two weeks. I decided it was not a healthy relationship or a healthy lifestyle so I told him I was staying. I told David to tell his mom I wanted the rest of the money she owed me but couldn’t because she was dealing with legal problems. She didn’t say what they were. But that was her excuse.
I wasn’t paying rent at the house because she was taking it off my books. But I still had $8,000 and David said that I wasn’t owed anything because I left. So I mailed them the 5 carat diamond ring and was done with it.
Kay kept a black, bulky gun in the house, the kind like policemen carry. She kept another one with her at all times. The other one is small, half the size of the other one, and it’s not black. I never asked why she had the guns. I saw one in her purse when I was getting her keys to move her car. I saw the house gun when David and I were spending a couple of nights with her at her house.
About the business:
Kay married Robert Spruille after breaking up with some doctor because she was cheating on him with Robert.
Kay met Robert at a bar and started talking about what she did for a living and found out that he did the same thing. They started another business, which should be open by now. They were going to open a telemarketing company and save money on sales crews.
Instead of recruiting young people and putting them in motels and having them bolt within two weeks which cost Kay a lot of money, they were going to do renewals and stuff and make more money that way, a business investment.
Robert’s sales crew is honest. He isn’t abusive verbally. He doesn’t drink. He’s a good guy and really cares about these kids. His motive for doing it is money, like everyone, but he doesn’t take it to the greedy length. He’s careful who he hires as managers and there is no drug or alcohol abuse. And he doesn’t run a crew of 30 to 100 people like Kay does, but it’s a small crew with two managers. This is the root of most of their arguments. They argue a lot about the way Robert handles his crew. She says they walk all over him, and they run the crew, not him. But this isn’t true, he just treats them better.
I looked at Robert’s website and his crew has grown. He has 30 or 40 people on crew and when I was there he had no more than 20, if that.
Kay didn’t mail receipts or money to anyone, as far as I know. I didn’t see anyone do this. She would sit at her desk and all of the receipts and orders were processed by her. Every day we were probably bringing in $10,000 to $14,000 per week on a good week. Some weeks the agents would slack off, and by the end of a week like that Kay would hold a meeting because she was getting fed up with it. Most of it was cash.
Kay shares office space with Robert. He has a clearinghouse. His orders aren’t mailed to him. They’re sent to somebody else. He only keeps the P & H and whatever he gets from the clearinghouse. I have no idea who the clearinghouse is, or how much he gets.
The last two months I was there, April and May of 2003, Kay boxed her own orders, and put them in the garage in the house in Peoria there were boxes and boxes of who knows what. I wasn’t allowed in the garage. Storage boxes with lids, taped up with months written on them. She didn’t process the cash orders because I heard her specifically telling the manager, just rip that one up and deposit the money.
I was told that after I had been there three months, not to give receipts unless they asked for one. At that point I was scared to ask, and I didn’t care. You meet these people and you get them under their thumb and you don’t want to be one of those people hanging from a balcony or being pointed out in a meeting, so you just don’t ask questions and do what you’re told.
She doesn’t store money in her own account, she asked me once for my social security number so she could open an account in my name. Then she said she didn’t want me to break up with David and have me steal all her money. But she had bank accounts in other peoples’ names-- ex-sales people. She’d have their social security number and even if they were gone for a while she would open up accounts in other peoples’ names.
She’s asked me for my number, and asked David to pull money out of somebody else’s account and David looked at her like “who is this” and I realized the girl had been off crew.
She was using First Security Bank in Phoenix with one of her personal accounts but closed that and I don’t know where she reopened it. This was February or March of 03.
She tells managers to tear up cash order receipts, and I’ve never ever seen her mail anything out to anyone that would be bulky enough to be receipts and money.
Her computer was coded and no one was allowed on it. Robert wasn’t allowed on her computer, and Robert didn’t have keys to her desk or her garage, or even one special room. Part of her life was very secret.
Kay and Robert have had major marital problems and she actually moved in with Tino about a week before I left. I don’t know if they are sometimes still a couple. I tried not to get into that.
Kay owns Tino’s house. She moved into Robert’s house when they got married.
I would say Kay has a lot of money, she threw money around constantly. She never struggled. She drives two Corvettes, Robert drives an Escalade, an older Mercedes. He pays for a Deru (foreign car), two mortgages.
Kay was on probation for drunken driving. When she got off she started getting calls from different enforcement agencies and we were screening her calls. Different detectives were calling her. At that point I was scared to even bring it up to David. Tino never left the house, but I don’t know why. Kay was constantly drunk and didn’t even carry her cell phone. This is while she was separated from Robert. They all changed dramatically in the last two months. The whole thing got really scary. She was violent to her kids, to her crew members, to Tino. Her step kids, Robert’s kids, were scared of her.
She was verbally violent toward Robert but I never saw her hit him. She swore she would stop drinking and go into counseling with him but she never did. David said that she needed help but he didn’t know how to bring it up to her.
David got a DUI in Utah when we were visiting over Christmas, and for solicitation. He was drinking under age, stole a kid’s ID and got two tickets, one for speeding and another one for DUI under somebody else’s license.
David’s DOB is December 27, and he’s 21 now.
Kay has two Ford Focuses that were on crew when I left. One is white and one is silver. Holly ___ drives a red one, and it’s in her name. Her boyfriend, Bill___is a car handler. He has a blue van, which belongs to him. George drives a Harley Davidson truck. Chris has a red truck, and older one, in his own name. They went through multiple accidents, and owns three different vans, impounded in multiple states for drunkenness. Robby was put in jail in between AZ and CA for driving w/o license and DUI. There haven’t been any fatalities.
Michelle Wenzal (or Wenzel) had a miscarriage because a car handler jumped a curb and hit a pole and the airbag gave her a miscarriage.
About a week after I left I discovered I was pregnant. I’m pretty sure it’s David’s. The baby is seven weeks old. In six months when it’s safe to do it, I’ll do a DNA. My boyfriend now has been with me through the entire pregnancy.
Once David told me that a friend of his died in the Wisconsin crash. He resented his mom for not fixing the problem. I didn’t know about the crash until I had been working there for two months and I was on territory with Michelle and when we knocked on the door of a lady who told us about it. She was just talking and I didn’t know it was Kay until later, but that’s how I heard about it.
Cell phone numbers: My dad has Kay’s cell phone, David Mack’s cell phone, the Peoria house’s number, and others. He’ll help you.
When someone quit or was fired, the suitcases were searched for pad cases. We were fined heavily for receipts we didn’t return, or if things were missing from the pad case. It could be up to $500 each for a missing receipt. She had a lot to hide, so she didn’t want any receipts to get away from her.
Once Kay got drunk in a bar and a porn actress was there and looked at her wrong, and Kay jumped over the stool and hit her. She’s had fights in bars with crew members. She was kicked out of the Flamingo Casino in Las Vegas for a bar fight.
Her probation was ten years, I think, but she only did two or three years, or so she said. She was waiting to go back on crew. She left for a while in March 2003 to build her crew before she had gotten off probation. It was hush-hush. If anyone knew and called law enforcement that she was out of state, she would be in trouble.
She doesn’t report most of the money she makes to the IRS, so my father, who is a lawyer, is going to report her to the IRS in Arizona. He’s helping me and he’s very forgiving. He’s been very supportive. I’m living with my mother until the end of the summer and then my boyfriend and I are getting a condo.
She used fake W2 forms to get the house in Peoria. She went to an office supply store and bought the forms and had them made at Kinkos.
My father is Mark Winsor, and his office number is 480.505.7044. His cell number is 480.250.1271. You can call him. He’s got Kay’s addresses and he’s been collecting information on her businesses. He’s very upset about what happened to me.
Kay’s lawyer’s name in the Illinois AG’s case? James Schultz, Rock Island, Illinois. He used to call for Kay and leave messages. Just “call me.” No details.
What happened to Circ I and Circ II? Before my time.
November 20, 2003
Services Unlimited Plus (Karleen Hillery)
I’m 19 years old. I was hired through an ad in the Houston Chronicle and started to work on June 6, 2003. I left on November 17, 2003.
I was interviewed by Keith Medau, an ad runner. This was at the Sheraton in Houston. It’s a nice hotel. Two other kids were there for an
interview. We all three got the job but the other two didn’t come back. The company name was Services Unlimited Plus. The address was
15820 North 35th Avenue, Suite 10, Phoenix, AZ 85053. This is an office building.
During my interview Keith told me I would be selling magazines door to door to the general public. He said the job was on commission and the
number of hours we worked was totally up to us because we’re independent contractors. They treated us like we were employees, although they
said we weren’t. We had no control over the number of hours we worked. We had no control over whom we roomed with, what time we got
up, where we ate. I worked in a tornado one time; rain, shine, everything.
Keith said we’d have a 1099 form sent to our house at the end of the year but he didn’t explain what it was or what it meant. Most people who
are there don’t pay any taxes anyway.
Keith told me that everybody is in a contest called NCA (National Cash Award), that it was a noncompetitive contest. Once you hit 20,000
points you would get $1000, and if you were one of the top three people to hit 20,000 first you would get a trip to London, Paris or Acapulco.
To get the 20,000 points, it’s one point for one dollar, and you could lose a lot of points for breaking rules, although I didn’t know it then.
Keith asked if I smoked pot or was I addicted to chemical drugs, because if I did I would be fired, but they would overlook pot smoking because
99% of America smokes pot and you can’t stop natural habits.
Keith asked me if I was currently employed, on probation, any previous arrests, tickets, warrants, insured, drivers’ license, how old, in school, like
to travel, married, had kids, boyfriend, smoked cigarettes. He asked if I had any problem with people “smoking” around me, drinking, or if I
personally drank. He asked if I liked to party, go clubbing, if I was a social person.
Every time you came in without enough sales they would yell really, really, loud. It was like you were home and broke something and your mother
was screaming at you. They made you feel like you were five years old again.
My first manager, George, said they would support you if you needed anything but I spent two months in a hotel room as the secretary not
knowing what to do. They would yell at me if I messed up on anything; if I added up a number wrong or forgot something Kay told me to do. I
was cursed at constantly.
The owner of the company was Kay Hillery-Spruiell. My first manager was George Ellswick, then it was Bill Fennell. Then Danny Hyer, and
finally Tino Hillary. Bill Fennell was usually my car handler, sometimes George.
I was transferred from George because he quit. Kay put Bill in charge of the crew temporarily while she looked for someone else to run the crew.
Then Danny Hyer was put out to run the crew. When we hit Dallas in October she put her ex-husband, Tino Hillery, in charge.
I was on crew just two weeks when George fired me and said I wasn’t good enough to do the job. But they found out I could do computers
really, really well, so five minutes after they fired me they asked if I wanted to be Kay’s secretary. I answered directly to Kay after that but I still
answered to whichever manager was in charge if Kay wasn’t there.
Kay was in Houston with us for three days, came into Atlanta and North Carolina for a month. But it wasn’t until we got to Phoenix that she came
on again, since she lives in Phoenix. This is the crew’s second week in Phoenix.
I filled out an application like a normal one. They asked for your birth date, social security number, and previous employment, references, schools,
what position and salary you wanted. Then after you filled it out they told you it was commission. I didn’t care about the salary because I just
wanted to travel.
I signed a contract. It was very complicated. There were 19 clauses altogether. Number 7 clause was the most important because it states about
illegal drug use and under age drinking. It said that Kay didn’t have to give you any money whatsoever, or she would fire you if you caught you
drinking or drugging. This was a loophole. She could then fire anybody she wanted and take all their money.
Everybody smoked and drank and she didn’t say they couldn’t. She would take people out to drink. She even took me to the bar. She used
pot with George and other managers. I know Tino used pot but he always did it in private. I watched Kay roll a joint, and snort coke, so I think
she probably did “glass” as well. She knew a lot about glass and explained it to me. Kids on crew were using glass and she knew it. She caught
13 using glass and fired six of them, then waited about 30 minutes while they were packing, and then rehired five of them. The sixth one wanted to
leave and wouldn’t stay.
Besides recruiting in motel rooms, the agents could bring in anyone to hire. We would interview them and Kay would usually hire them. The agent
got a cash bonus of $50 for guys and $100 for girls. The bonus was in cash in the kid’s hand. A kid could be hired right out of his house.
Danny hired one minor that I know of. He bussed her from Phoenix to where we were in Florida. He said he had parental consent. I never saw
The crews lived out of motels. We had a nice one in Dallas, but we also stayed in motels in bad neighborhoods, usually. The rooms were in the
manager’s name. In Phoenix, we were at the Howard Johnson (this last week) and the rooms were in Kay’s name. The phones in the kids’
rooms were not hooked up; only the one in the office where I worked.
Kids had cell phones and Kay didn’t mind that.
Kids would give their parents the company address and say they could get their mail there. I found out that my mail was saved and bundled up
and given to me all at once. Agents didn’t get any mail. I asked my mother to Fedex my mail to whichever hotel I was in.
We didn’t get permits. Never. When the police came, Kay would bail out the agent if it was a solicitation charge. Most police won’t take you to
jail for solicitation, but for disorderly conduct. Sometimes cops would tell you they were taking you in on a solicitation charge, but write it up for
something higher. Then Kay wouldn’t bail you out.
Fines were paid by Kay off her credit card. She has a Bank of America business check card because there are Banks of America all over the
country. She had seven or eight accounts all in her name. She did her banking on line through one password.
My first day on the job I was trained by a woman named Angel. She stayed with me for the whole day on a BBC (British Broadcasting
Company) canvas. I would say I’m in a really big contest with people from my communications class and we needed 20,000 points and I get an
internship at the BBC for six weeks if I win the contest. Kay would say on numerous occasions that she didn’t care what you said at the door as
long as you sold magazines. There is also the “neighbor” canvas, which is that you live in the neighborhood. There’s a “soccer team” canvas, a
“marine biology class” canvas.
At first Kay told us to stick to the NCA award but sales were bad so then she said to say whatever we wanted. She knew about all the different
canvases. She didn’t care if you used them. But she said if a customer called the office about it she would say it was the MCA contest only. She
wouldn’t lie for you. Kay knows what you do but she won’t stop you and she won’t cover for you if you get caught.
At night you fill in a check out sheet, how much money you have in cash and checks and turn it in to Kay or George (he had returned to the crew).
Kay would add everything up and make sure the prices were right. If she was in a good mood she’d ask you if you needed a haircut or clothes,
or extra money. If you had less than seven sales she’d start yelling at you: how could you only write this much, what’s the matter with you, and she
would use the threat of firing you very, very often.
Kay would tell you to get cash because that’s how she paid for the hotel and our draws. She’d put the cash on the table and hand over the cash
as draws to the kids--$20 here and $20 there. If she ran out of cash she’d go to the bank and get more cash from her card. I’ve seen Kay’s
bank accounts. On average, the smallest one would hold at least $3,000 and the largest one $30,000. These were standard amounts.
Kay would take your draws off the books, hotel of $11 a night for seven nights, fines for losing receipts, at $100 each. If you were late for a
meeting she could charge whatever she wanted to off your books. She had a lot of different fines. If you went to the hospital or went home, she
would take it off your books. She was supposed to pay your way home, but it was off your own books.
Kids saw their books seldom. Some people would ask and she’d say she’d look it up, but she’d just give them an amount. If the kid persisted
she’d pull it up on the computer screen, or she’s forget. She’d say there were too many people for her to remember.
Once I asked her if I could look the books up for the kids because I was the secretary but she said “no.” She said I might pull the books up and
change the amounts, but I told her that wouldn’t be so if she didn’t tell me how to change things. But she said that was personal information and I
didn’t need to know. I could figure it out, because I did a manager’s report every day, with all the totals in and out, so I would know round about
how much money was made, just not on an individual basis.
In the last couple of weeks the company sales have been down. The kids were bringing in about $4000 day, but before that it was about $9000 a
day. There are less people on crew right now. There used to be about 30 people, and now there are 15 to 20. All the old heads were either fired
I did all the manager’s reports, the day to day, an expense account for the group; gas receipts, hotels; that stuff. I did Quicken Deluxe 2003 for
her and entered all her receipts in.
I went to the post office every day and mailed off the reports and checks to Magazine Fulfillment Services, the same address as above. I went to
the post office very day. I know that receipts are verified there, that people who work there are supposed to call the customers and make sure the
address is correct. I don’t know where they go after that. I talked to a girl at MFS named Tara and a guy named Brian. Tara is Kay’s secretary
there. I would call Tara for more check-in sheets, point cards, price lists. I would talk to Brian about the web page and he dealt with the
independent contractor forms. Every time there was a new independent contractor I sent a copy to Brian and I kept a copy. If I forgot to send a
form or he couldn’t read the name, he’d call me and ask me for the spelling. He’d ask me for a photo of a person for the web page. The website
I have never been inside MFS but I’ve seen it from the car outside.
I did some hiring. Kay wanted to run an ad and asked me if I thought I could do it and if I knew what type of people she wanted to hire. I said
yes. She was racist. She didn’t like hiring Mexicans or black people or people who were over 25, if they were married or had kids, or pregnant.
She didn’t care if they had a disability. Two people were on crew who were diabetic and she took care of them. She wanted girls because
they’re harder to keep on the job.
I met the kids on Integrity Sales. This was Robert Spruille’s crew. He’s Kay’s husband. He had about 15 kids. He didn’t travel with them. John
Toruc (sp?) was the manager. He’s about 36 years old. There’s a website for that crew at www.integritysale.com .
Everybody hooked up eventually. You had boyfriends. But Kay was big on getting the quota. If my boyfriend didn’t have seven or more sales I
couldn’t stay in his room, or we couldn’t go out or get a car for the evening. If you didn’t have sales she wouldn’t give you the keys to the van or
let anybody else drive you. She was always very critical about who I dated. She would tell me to only date the people on top of the wall chart
and making a lot of business. I didn’t listen to her, and she wasn’t always there so I dated whoever I liked. When she was around, everybody was
very careful not to upset her. If Kay wasn’t there the other managers wouldn’t care who you slept with but it was different when she was there.
Kay would take a kid who was doing well into her office and tell him to help put a new hire over or an old head who was struggling. She called
“putting them across.” For the next week or so you would go out on drop with that person, room with that person, show your tricks to get sales,
and when you write 42 they get a training bonus. Kay had a strict rule about new people; no fraternization for the first two weeks. Guys train
guys and girls train girls.
There were always threats from Kay or the managers like “don’t make me sic my boys on you, you don’t know what they’ll do if I let them
loose.” “I just want to punch you or slap you.” I’ve seen her threaten every single person on the crew with it. I never saw her hit anybody.
Kay had a gun in the safe, and George and I had the combination. So I saw the gun. It was a small one, white handle and silver. It was in a hip
holster. She said the gun was for protection, if somebody harassed her crew, or a guy who was harassing the girls, or maybe a robbery. At first I
thought it was OK because I thought if I screamed for help someone would come running. But after George left, I was the only one with the
combination, and I couldn’t get into the safe without a manager being with me, so I felt any protection was gone.
Kay bragged about smacking kids around. She couldn’t intimidate me because there wasn’t anything she could say that I hadn’t heard before.
But she intimidated other people.
Kay was drunk all the time. She drove drunk. Once I was in the car with her. I took her keys because she was drunk and she threatened to beat
me up if I didn’t give her the keys. She took them anyway and forced me into the car. I was thanking God the hotel was two blocks down the
Kay has one lawsuit right now with Jenna Jamison, a porn star, for disorderly conduct. Kay was eating dinner at Maestros and got really drunk.
Something was said and Kay punched her. Jenna fought back and Kay beat her up pretty bad. Then Jenna Jamison sued her because she makes
her living off her looks. Kay broke her nose. Jenna went on the Howard Stern show and talked about how she had beaten up a chick at
Maestros so Kay got a copy of it and got the charge dropped down to disorderly conduct. That was in Phoenix in March 2003. She’s still going
to court for the lawsuit.
She never said anything about Wisconsin other than the fact that we couldn’t go there. Somebody asked why we couldn’t go to Wisconsin or
Illinois, and she said there were stricter solicitation laws in Wisconsin and an uninsured driver who was intoxicated and lost control of the vehicle in
Illinois and some people were hurt. She didn’t say that anyone died. I’m sure she said the solicitation problem was in Wisconsin and the accident
was in Illinois.
She said one of her crew members was driving the van that crashed and that’s why she didn’t go there.
She treats her own kids like she treats the other crew members. I babysat Brittany and Brook when they came on crew. Brittany is 14 and
Brook is 11. David will be 21 in December and he works on Kay’s crew.
Here is how to find Kay’s and Tino’s houses: you have the whole of Phoenix, but there are sections, and they are actual cities, but they’re all part
of Phoenix. Tino lives in the Peoria section, and Kay lives in the Glendale section. Just look on a map of Phoenix. They’re about three streets
away from each other.
Kay lives on West Clare Lane. Tino has a house on West Cadillac.
If you take the I-10 West Cadillac exit, Tino’s house is somewhere down that street, right off the exit. It’s a brown two story house with a white
garage on the right hand side of the street.
For Kay’s house, you go off Highway 101, there are a lot of twists and turns. Take an exit (don’t know which one), down about three or four
streets and make a left, go down to the next street and make a right. That street sort of curves around, and then you take the first street on the
right and Kay’s house is the second one down on the left side.
I was at Kay’s house once to drop her daughters off. She lives there with Robert Spruille. I didn’t go inside. It was at night and all the houses
look the same. The girls mostly live with Tino. Usually Kay’s the one on the road, but whoever is not on the road has the kids.
I’ve heard from other agents that Kay owns other crews but I never heard the name of any of them.
I know she married Tino and later she married Robert. I know that David, her son, had a father named David.
Photos are on the website.
So far all of my friends are still on crew.
Kay’s son, David, probably cheated his mom out of a lot of money. She paid for everything for him. He worked by going around and talking to
chicks all day. And he didn’t get any shit for it. He never turned cash in, but he did turn in the checks. When I would sit there and count all the
receipts, if he was short any, Kay didn’t care all that much. If anyone else was short even one receipt or part of a receipt she freaked out and was
sure they were stealing from her.
I don’t have any documents because you hand in everything every night. You get 25 receipts a day. As the secretary I filled in the pad cases every
day with receipts.
Some mags were Maxim, Four x Four Off Road, Seventeen, Glamour, Woman’s Day, YM, U.S. News and World Report, House and Garden,
Elle. The titles would change often. Kay said the publishers would say they needed a boost for a percentage and she would make a deal with the
publisher, but it would come off the list when the publisher took their magazine off because their percentage was up. I never saw any contracts
with publishers but Kay said she contracted directly with them.
January 17, 2001
I WORKED FOR KAY HILLARY, SUBSCRIPTIONS PLUS, KAY’S NATURALS
I was 19 years old when I was hired by an ad runner at a hotel, after answering an ad in the Oakland Press. I worked for them for two years (about May 1995 to about June of 1997). The ad said FUN, TRAVEL AND SUN, LOOKING FOR YOUNG PEOPLE 18 TO 25 looking to travel all over the states, good pay. I went to work for Rick Clair, Kay’s natural brother. James Clair, who is also a brother of Kay, runs another crew.
I was hired right away and they said we would be traveling and they never said what we would be doing. They said we would make anywhere from $100 to $500 a day plus bonuses and trips. If I didn’t like it, I’d get a bus ticket home. The ad runner was very outgoing. His name was Frank Warner, an older man.
I never worked for any other crew.
I never got a pay sheet. I always got $15 every day when I came in at night, a draw. On the weekends, on Friday I would get $50 to last Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
We went to the hotel after I was hired, with my clothes. I kind of knew right away that I didn’t belong. There are a lot of people and the first night I noticed they were all partying, drinking and drugging. I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t have a bad home but I wasn’t getting along with my mother so I thought I would stay and see what it was all about. I think most of the kids were either fighting with their parents, are came from broken homes or were even picked up from the street.
The second night I was there Kay was there in the hotel. She had a meeting and she was yelling at the people who didn’t bring in business, the older people who had been there longer. She was actually giving people away to her other crews that she didn’t want on this crew. All of the crews are her crews.
Kay physically got into a fight with Sharon Pallister, a car handler that night. I don’t know why because it was my second night. When you’re new they try to keep you from seeing or hearing things like that. They take you to get something to eat or show you around or talk about canvassing and tell you what to say.
Kay took the money from the people as they brought in their sales, they call it “check-in.” You would come in and give them your ducat and they would add up all your money and checks and sales and make sure everything was right and then they would give you $15 in cash. The people who didn’t have good sales were yelled at. We were in Southfield, Michigan at the time at a hotel.
I was put into a room with two other girls and I never had to sleep on the floor. But some did. Mostly the guys did who didn’t have business (low man). They were called “WAB’S (weak-ass bastards).” The two other girls spent the night with their boyfriends, but they took me around to all the other rooms before they went to bed. They were all smoking marijuana. I spent the night by myself.
The next morning we went out on territory and they put me out with another girl, Michelle Cooke, and she showed me how to sell magazines. Life was kind of like that for a long time.
During this time I was away from everybody the first month. Rick kept me away from everybody so I just went out and went door-to-door. They give you a canvas (speech) to do. If people ask for a magazine you didn’t have, you’d always tell them you had it but it wasn’t on the list. You’d write them up for magazines they didn’t order. You were supposed to never tell them that you didn’t have a magazine.
After the first month you should get three to four subscriptions at every drop. If you didn’t get that they would holler at you and then drop you off again. The car handlers would drive crazy, yelling and looking back at you and not watching where they were going. Most of the car handlers didn’t have driver’s licenses, they would smoke before they went out and there would be paraphernalia in the vehicle. They would drop you off in bad neighborhoods if you didn’t do well as punishment and not pick you up until last. Sometimes car handlers would kick you out of the car and tell you to find your way back to the hotel. One time a car handler chased a girl with his van because he felt she didn’t have enough business and he thought she was being smart. His name was Chris something.
Kay was always verbally abusing somebody while she was on crew. Always. Everybody was scared of her. When you weren’t doing well they always threatened to call Kay. She pushed everyone around and smacked a few of the girls. Rick Clair hit a few of the people who had been there a long time. He hit Ashley Sceteric and Jacob Bell and Michelle Cooke.
Ken Cook was just another sales person on my crew when I was there. He hardly sold anything. Kay gave him his own crew after I left. I can’t believe they actually gave him a crew of his own when he was so bad at sales.
Rick and Ken Cook used to beat each other up. Ken, Rick and Kay were at a bar and Ken broke a tooth and had to get it fixed or replaced. Kay took $1000 off of his books for that. There was fighting among the crew, boyfriends smacking girlfriends and management would see it, it was an everyday thing and they didn’t care or do anything. Whenever Kay came on crew she would go out to a bar and get drunk and fight.
I became pregnant on crew by another crew member who was working in Kay’s office in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and when I told Rick he wasn’t very happy. He wanted me to go on a “hop” and I wouldn’t go and he was unhappy. I only had one sale and he threw everybody out of the office and hollered at me. There were two other girls on crew who were pregnant and Kay made them get abortions. She said that they would never amount to anything and she would send them home without their boyfriends and that she had someone set up to do abortions in the town we were in. Rick kept my pregnancy from Kay for about five months. I wanted to go home because I had talked to my mom and I wanted prenatal care and Rick was upset with that. He didn’t want me to leave the crew. This was in December, after our Christmas trip to Las Vegas. Kay had paid for everything. My mother sent me a ticket to come home and Rick didn’t know she had sent the ticket and when I told him he was upset.
Rick had somebody drive me to the airport and I came home and they kept calling, Rick and Kay to see if I was coming back. They offered me a position in their office, or whatever they call the office that they set up in the hotel rooms. After I had my son, Tommy, I went back with my son and worked in the office. I traveled with Rick’s crew and I was in charge of keeping the so-called books that they say they have. It’s not really keeping a record of anything. The ledger of expenses was the most important thing because they had to report to Kay the cash the kids brought in.
In the office I didn’t do too much. I kept track of what they spent on food, gas, hotels. And I kept the books for the kids, but this wasn’t important to them. The kids never got to see these books. It wasn’t at all possible to tell what a kid was owed. When I got the books they were so confused that I couldn’t update them. They were so far behind. They didn’t care about the books. They never give you your money anyway. Rick had to call her on a daily basis to report to her where they were, how the sales were doing, how much money the crew brought in. Everything went through Kay. Her ex-husband Tino, had a crew, too and he reported to her. There were about seven crews at the time, and some of the managers were Rick Clair, James Clair, and Tino Hillary. I can’t remember the others.
All of the crew managers had to report in to Kay. Kay ran everything, from what state to hop to, to what hotel to stay at, to what salesperson needed to be hollered at because they weren’t getting enough business, who needed to be abandoned that she didn’t want on the crew or she thought was a negative influence. They called her about all arrests and the managers would post bail for them and tell the kids that everything had been taken care of and they wouldn’t have to show up or pay for it, but that wasn’t true. They just took them to a different place. It is a common practice for the drivers not to have driver’s licenses. They’ll apply for driver’s licenses in many states if they’ve been suspended in others.
Rick was speeding one day and a cop pulled behind him. Rick stood and moved half way out of the seat and at the same time told me to get into the seat. I was sitting in the passengers’ seat. We were going about 75 or 80 mph. The speed limit was 60. I switched places with him and got into the drivers’ seat. We were pulled over and I didn’t get a ticket because I had no violations on my driver’s license and the cop let us go. Rick told me to keep driving until we got to the next drop.
It was common practice to switch and they would do it all the time when I was in the back seat. I was never in a car with a car handler who didn’t speed or drive reckless. We got pulled over quite a few times and the drivers would get tickets and take the tickets back to Rick and he said he would take care of them and he would call Kay and she would tell him what to do.
Kay told the managers to bail out the kids that she wanted to keep and get out of a state if it was a “hot” state. A hot state was a state where you had a lot of problems, like a lot of arrests for kids who were selling.
There was a lot of sex on the crews. A lot of times all the crews were together and everyone was everywhere with everyone. If you had a lot of business, seven or more subscriptions, you could sleep in a guy’s room on Rick’s crew. The guys weren’t allowed in the girls’ room. It was just one of their rules so they could fine you $50.00 off your books. There were a lot of pregnancies, a lot of venereal diseases, hepatitis.
Some crews wouldn’t give any draw if you had no money so you couldn’t eat. I would lend money to other people who didn’t have money. Rick always gave a draw.
Management never took you to the doctor. You didn’t have time, they didn’t have time to take you. The only thing they would allow, that Kay would allow, was to go to an abortion clinic. One girl had to go to work the day after her abortion to sell magazines.
When you were out on territory you would go to a gas station to grab something to eat and when you got back you could get fast food.
George Elswick, one of the car handlers, Rick Clair and Kay Hillary had handguns. Kay had a little tiny, silver handgun. They went to shooting ranges while people were on territory. When we were in Camden, New Jersey, one of the worst hotels we stayed out they had a gun out on the table, either Rick or George because the area was bad. All the salespeople saw this gun. They never said why they carried them.
I was most worried when we were in Camden. I had my son with me and it was so dirty, and the gun was out.
If Kay or Rick or George didn’t take a liking to you, they would be physically and verbally abusive to you. I was always good with my sales so I never had a problem with them. I left shortly after seeing the guns.
While I was there a lot of detectives would call looking for information on people. “Angie” was on crew for a long time and detectives called about her and Kay said that she had to change her name so I had to go into the books and change her name.
Kay might have owned a bar in Indiana.
In the past, Kay worked for Mack Hall. They would talk back and forth and all the crews would get together with Mack’s crews. Mack’s grandson or nephew worked on Kay’s crew while I was there. I don’t remember his name.
The vans were put into different peoples’ names, car handlers, friends: a bunch of people. When I worked in the office they wanted to put a car in my name and I didn’t want to. She does everything so that nothing can be traced back to her. She arranges it so that if something would happen to the vans she wouldn’t be responsible. She gives the person who is going to take the car the down payment for the vans. Her words were that should anything happen she didn’t want to be responsible for the vans or have them in the company name. She wanted me to get a car put in my name. She wanted me to apply for the car and she would give me the down payment for the car. She would then continue to give me money for the payments and I would send the payments to the car dealership and everything would be in my name. I don’t know if she also used banks for these loans.
Kay sent money to the crews. If you didn’t bring in enough cash, because the crews live off the cash that the kids bring in, Kay would Western Union money to the crew. If the managers ever needed money they would always call her for everything.
We were told that Mack Hall runs the National Field Selling Association or has something to do with it. When we were selling we were told to say that we belonged to that group. I don’t know what it is.
Kay said it wasn’t a problem if kids were minors, there was something the parents were supposed to fill out but they never did. The youngest on my crew was 16. Everything goes to Kay so she knew about everything.
One girl got arrested on James’ crew because she solicited an officer for subscriptions and she didn’t know he was an officer and she was arrested. Girls would bring guys back to the hotel and have sex for sales.
Quite a few times people were prevented from leaving. When people wanted to leave they sent somebody to talk them out of it. They never wanted anyone to leave. They would hold their clothes. Luggage was kept in a large box truck and you were always separated from your possessions. If you had been on crew for three or four years you might be allowed to keep a little bag with a few things with you.
If people wanted to leave, they wouldn’t let you back in the room so they couldn’t get their belongings.
Kay hides people with warrants. There are a few people on crew who have warrants for their arrest, maybe 75% of them. Some of these are for selling without a permit. People that they pick up on the street might be running from something. Kay picks up street kids because they’re easier to keep. They look for the troubled kids, and target the troubled kids. Sometimes they’d use the kids’ warrants against them if they wanted to leave. Kay and Rick would get into disagreements about how to handle things but she was the evil one. She was evil.
Kay’s niece was on crew and she made her niece strip in front of the guys.
Kay has always had some problem or other with the law. It’s an ongoing thing. There have always been lawsuits. I don’t know any details, it was just always happening. To get my money I had to threaten that I was going to get a lawyer and even then I didn’t get all of my money. Kids who didn’t get their belongings back would hire lawyers, so she was always having problems about something.
Kay owned all the crews. She called them “her crews,” “her girls and guys,” she said she owned us. Anything financial had to go through her. She would call and question the money. She sets up the crews with money and with everything. I don’t know whose name things are in, but everyone reports to her. She states all the time that she owns them. She’s always gotten drunk and belligerent and says that she owns the people and runs everything.
I got all the checks together and gave them to Rick and he would send them by Federal Express back to Kay. They have an account with Federal Express or Airborne. I never got any 1099, nobody ever got tax records. I don’t think Kay reported anything.
I don’t know where Kay sent subscriptions after she got them, but there were different clearinghouses. Some of the orders weren’t legitimate, people would want Cosmopolitan and they would put it down and change it at the hotel.
When I left, my mother came to the crew and said why didn’t I just come home with the baby, and I left with Tom, my boyfriend, and we both went home with my mother. Nobody was around at the time.
I get along well with my mom now. Tom and I had another boy together. Tommy will be five in February, and Alex will be two. Tom and I broke up last March but keep in close contact.
I think Tom would be willing to talk to you. Also I am also in contact with a friend, Jeff, and his friend Anthony who was on for a short time. Maybe they would talk to you.
The main office was in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I sold in Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Virginia Beach, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Texas, Oklahoma, etc.
I don’t remember which cities in Wisconsin, but I am certain we sold there. It was when I was first on crew and not working in the office yet. We sold in towns all over the state for probably about a month. Tom might remember; I have a call in to him.
January 17, 2001
Slaves to the sale
Read these 'award winning' articles by Nancy Stancill.
The 'Slaves to the sales series' reveal a shocking glimpse into the dark and murky
past of the ‘traveling door to door sales’ industry and provides an excellent history of
an unregulated and immoral enterprise that continues to exploit young adults for profit. Read This Story
June 21, 1992
MAGAZINE SALES JOBS CALLED SLAVERY
TEENS REPORT TOILING 60 HOURS A WEEK FOR $7 A DAY IN PAY
NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE
By George Weigel
The Patroit News
Credit: NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE
This story ran: June 21, 1992 Read This Story
April 7, 1987
ABUSES BY DOOR-TO-DOOR SALES OUTFITS ALLEGED
By Steve Goldberg
Copyright: Media General News Service
Media General Inc.
This story ran: April 7, 1987
Page: A-6 Read This Story