Most people have been approached by young men and women selling magazines door to door. They tell you of the great deals you will get on magazine subscriptions. They will go into a speech about how they can earn points to win a trip or help them through school. If you believed them, you probably purchased a magazine subscription or two from them. Unfortunately, the stories they tell while at your door are untrue. Door to door magazine sales is a danger to our youth because it holds them hostage to a very unsavory lifestyle.
Companies such as Alliance Service Company make big promises but few good results are seen. Kids and young adults are led to believe that they will be able to make huge amounts of money, enjoy a lavish lifestyle and travel all around the world. What they end up with is the opportunity to convince people to buy over priced magazine subscriptions which line the wallets of the company. The kids are often left without enough money to eat from day to day and are often subjected to not only verbal abuse but physical abuse as well.
Two young men who recently escaped the “mag crew” they were with shared some information with me. Jeff Hawkins of Maryland and his friend Jordan, from Tennessee, were able to escape the clutches of their tormentors without any harm being done to them. They decided to leave the crew because as Jordan stated, “We were just sick of being treated that way. the car handler cussed me out and I was in a really bad mood after that.” Jordan was stopped by the police twice that day when customers called the police to make a complaint. That is the day he and Jeff made plans to get away from it.
Jeff Hawkins said, “I just wanted to get away and make something of myself.” What he got was far more than he bargained for. “They tell us the money is going on the books, and there are books, but there wasn’t any money there for most people. They took enough money out of our pay for what it would cost for a room at the motels. The problem is that the money they were taking was enough for the room but four or five of us slept in the same room each night. They shouldn’t have been taking the full amount for the room from each of us.”
Jeff and Jordan were stranded in Dayton, Ohio after deciding to leave the crew. They made their escape plan and contacted the “boss”, Michael Woods, of the Thoroughbred Crew, which is part of the Alliance Service Company. They told him they were ready to go back home and they wanted the promised bus tickets so they could do that. Mr. Woods responded in a very hostile manner to them. They were told by Mr. Woods that there was no way they were getting bus tickets. He encouraged them to come back and turn in their books. Jeff told him that he would get the books back as soon as they got their bus tickets. Mr. Woods still refused to give them bus tickets home, as promised upon start up. The boys, afraid of what would occur if they went back to retrieve their belongings decided to stay away.
Jeff and Jordan spent the next four nights on the streets. They were able to find their way back to Jordan’s home state because someone from Dayton purchased bus tickets for them. This lady purchased the tickets and others helped the boys get food. Dayton Police aided the boys to get to the bus station two towns away.
Jeff Hawkins stated “One day, Jordan only got a $1.00 draw because he only sold one subscription and William Woods said ‘here’s your draw, enjoy’.” Jeff further stated, “one day I got a $15.00 draw which was pretty good. Cause you know, you have to eat and everything off that money. Luckily, the other kids shared with the ones who didn’t get a good draw that day.”
The kids that get caught up in “mag crews” find themselves far away from home and from anyone familiar. Contact with family and friends is nearly impossible for them. They are discouraged from talking to family and friends. It’s all about getting them on the streets, using them to get the subscriptions and leaving them stranded if they don’t live up to expectations.
The kids are subjected to verbal abuse on a regular basis. They are to remain positive at all times. Anyone that doesn’t is then subjected to horrible verbal abuse and at times, physical abuse. Jordan made the physical abuse come to life when asked if they had ever laid hands on him, “No, they never laid hands on me or Jeff. We did see them hitting other kids though. They would get hit in the head with staplers and ashtrays and stuff like that.”
These boys have a alliance now. They want to help others get out that want to leave and they want to make others aware of the dangers of these door to door sales companies. “It’s all a scam” said Jeff, “it’s not real, the stuff they tell you, it’s not real. They make it all up to get you in.”
These boys started out in Virginia Beach. “Everything starts out real nice the first couple of weeks. Then it changes and it’s horrible.,” both boys claim. Their eyes are wide open to the dangers now, their egos a bit bruised but their spirits are in tact. They learned a hard lesson and hope that others will learn from their experience.