Trapped into selling magazines door-to-door


These guys (EDIT) Magazine salesmen used to come knock on the door at my old apartment. Finally I asked, “you’re not selling magazines, are you?” The guy assured me he wasn’t. He then handed me a brochure filled with… magazine covers.
“You just told me you weren’t selling magazines!”
“They’re periodicals, man!”

Between those guys and canvassers/nonprofit solicitors (e.g. PIRG), I never got hit up as much as I did in that apartment complex. Never heard from JW there, though.

EDIT: And if you look at my subsequent post, you can see that I was once part of the problem. (Thanx @crenquis for the reminder).


Why don’t they just do it the time honored way?
Sell Grit!


People read magazines?

Actually this article is not evidence of that, I should say;

People sell magazines?


I tried that, briefly. Come to think of it I was the same age my son is now.

I figured I could sell x issues per week, so they sent me x issues per week.

I did not sell x per week but I did sell a nonzero amount. In a few weeks I received a bill for the issues they’d sent me, but that I had not sold. I couldn’t wrap my head around that, but my dad did, and sent me back out to sell as many as I could. I sold a few more, but not all of them. I vaguely remember writing up an apology/resignation and sending it to them.

I don’t remember ever hearing from them again, probably because they couldn’t legally enforce a business agreement with a 4th grader.


I remember getting sucked into one of these magazine sales things when I was 14, I think. Though if memory serves, it wasn’t just magazines. They were selling all kinds of crap. We had to lug around a big rubbermade tub of samples. I “job-shadowed” one of the other kids one day, as a training exercise, and stopped answering their calls after that first day. Complete nonsense. The next summer I got a job at my mom’s office, doing filing and then a little bit of programming (also making a good $10 an hour, which in 1993 was significantly higher than Ontario’s $6.35 minimum wage that I would have been making otherwise).


This does sounds like a shit job.
But how exactly can someone be “Forced” to sell magazines? Armed escorts? Family members held hostage?

Well, from the first 30 seconds of reading the article, it sounds like these people are given lots of promises, and then taken hundreds of miles away from their homes to other cities, with no money of their own, and if they refuse to sell magazines they’ll be abandoned there.

I should note that the one I got suckered into trying as a teenager wasn’t quite as scummy as this one.


I worked an equally scammy sales job, years ago, and I can vouch for one fact: a sales manager in a business like this can make really good money. All they have to do is deceive their workers, and look in the mirror every morning.


But I really want to know what your question was! Maybe somebody else will read the rest of it and explain it to me.


One thing that I didn’t see in the article was any sort of info on who buys the magazine subscriptions. It’s been a while since I subscribed to any sort of magazine (it may have been Wired), but $75-100 seems like an awful lot for any sort of magazine; I know that they have higher cover prices now, but part of the point of getting a subscription was the discount. I’m going to guess that at least a big chunk of their sales are from shut-ins who fall for the hard-luck stories (really, it seems more like door-to-door begging) and maybe are nostalgic about their own door-to-door adventures.

I myself used to have a paper route when I was a kid, and occasionally sold new subscriptions for prizes; I did less well when I had to sell candles or American flags for one class or Scouts fundraiser or another. The fundraisers where we’d sell candy I did better on, because I bought it myself.


I believe there’s a film (narrative? doc?) being made on this subject. Just another one of those things that govt. could very easily stop, but won’t.

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Well if these kids wanted representation in Washington, they could pony up a few million like the rest of us.

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I got duped into selling Cutco knives once when I was 19. I had just been laid off from the first job that had a W-2, and was looking for work anywhere. They made lots of promises: that I wouldn’t have to generate my own leads, I wouldn’t have to go door-to-door, and that I didn’t have to pay for the demo equipment. All in ads specifically saying things like “student jobs” and “no prior sales experience required” and I’d been working at RadioShack up till then, so I thought “I’m a shoe-in! I sold overpriced diodes to hams for like a year!”

These promises were all outright lies, which I found out only after agreeing to work for them.

They promptly turned around, said the leads were for the “super sellers” and to go pester my family and friends into buying these knives and then if I sell enough, I might be qualified to use the sales office leads.

Needless to say, I sold two sets of knives, which was just enough to cover the costs of the demo kit, then walked away.

Fucking con artists. The knives may be good (I have a set of cutco knives, they really do stay very sharp), but lying through their teeth to teenagers who have limited job opportunities is just evil and fucking fraudulent, and I hope someone burns down cutco’s offices someday, because it’s a fucking pyramid scam.

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See also: the white van speaker scam. But the person I know who did it, wasn’t roped into anything as bad as this job.

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A buddy of mine bought a pair of those white van speakers. They actually weren’t horrible (I think he still has them from like 10 years later), but they were WAY overpriced. We still tease him ruthlessly about it.

"Hey man, there’s a white van - why don’t you go see if they have any a/v equipment for sale?

Even better, he actually GOT A RIDE from the guys in the van to an ATM to take out money, because he didn’t have enough cash on him.


Isn’t that just the standard tactic for succeeding in a capitalist economy?

Coffee is for closers.

Bleah, Vector Marketing. It was a very happy moment indeed when I walked away from them, and I’m glad my family didn’t encourage me to get into it any more deeply. Sadly, Vector Marketing is still around today.

Cockeyed (famous for How Much Is Inside? among other things) did an awesome piece on Herbalife marketing some years ago, and it still makes for fine reading.

But considering they aren’t dragging people out of their homes and stowing them in substandard living conditions, I reckon they’re a step up.


I remember some friends of mine got a bad case of Amway, and were forever trying to get my girlfriend and I to join up using the latest techniques they’d learnt off at their indoctrination conferences. I just pointed out that I would be better off selling weed, as all my friends wanted it, and it’s a far less sleazy business than Amway.