Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

Traveling Magazine and Direct Sales Crew Scams

Many scammers start out their career on the road as part of a traveling sales crew while still in their youth. Many reputable salespeople also start out in this high turnover industry hawking their wares on a door to door basis or accosting people at shopping mall lots.

Direct sales products range from magazines to disability insurance, cookware to vacuum cleaners, electricity contracts to phone plans. Students seeking summer employment or recent dropouts lured by the freedom and unlimited income opportunities presented soon find themselves packed like sardines in vans bound for remote towns, the residents of which are unprepared for the fast talking enthusiastic youth.

One group of sites is dedicated to the senseless and growing death toll which appears to be endemic to this trade.

MagCrew ParentWatch Traveling Sales Crews

I myself sold encyclopedias, as a youth and before computers collapsed the industry, in towns so remote the residents would invite you for dinner just for the company. One person even insisted on buying a set for his neighbour who was away at the time, in addition to his own purchase. This was in stark contrast to the cold rude reception one would get in a larger city.

Single and living from sale to sale, teenagers are willing to endure the endless travel, greasy fast-food and challenge of sneaking six into a motel room for two. The freedom of working outside the confines of what you perceive most jobs to be, the escape from parental torments, the putting off the momentous task of deciding what you must do for the rest of your life; all these things draw young rebellious individuals to a life on the road.

Mind you, this phase for most, lasts from only a few months to a few years. Then most people either leave the industry or at least opt for a direct sales position requiring less travel.

Nightmares Are Also Considered Dreams

Last Fall, I was invited to interview for a "dream job" in the suburbs of Chicago, IL.

Arriving at the location, I was audibly assaulted with the sounds of the Dave Matthews Band, and other such modern music, which pounded out of hidden speakers in a lobby filled with people just like myself: college-age men and women, as well as a scattering of business-type men and women.

We had all apparently been lured by an advertisement from International Images which stated this was "The job you've always wanted", and other such tripe. After filling out a pointless application (pointless because everyone that shows up is hired, unless they're a real wacko) and waiting almost 3 hours to be called, I was escorted by a dread-locked young woman into an inner office and told to have a seat, the Manager would be right in.

Well, the Manager, a pierced-and-tattooed young man of 24, told me that "the average income of our associates is well over $100,000 a year, with a few exceptions".

Since I didn't know any better at the time (but had my doubts), I proceeded to ask him an array of questions, all which were answered with vague responses that were meant to keep one's concentration focused mainly on the fact that "You COULD make more money here than anywhere else!".

I still had doubts, but nevertheless showed up the next morning for "training" (unpaid, of course), which consisted of being driven around and shown the ropes of selling framed prints by a 19-year old named Oscar.The going price for one of the items they had in their warehouse, a reprinted 10x12 Monet with a gold-spray painted frame, was $20.00.

This is where the reality of this type of work began to dawn on me: Nobody in their right mind is going to purchase Monet paper poster prints from some kid off the street, no matter how much you try to convince them just how cool and hip Monet really is. In most cases, the so-called "customers" just gave us blank looks; in many other cases, we were told to exit the premises as quickly as possible.

I was all for exiting as many premises as possible, but "Oscar" decided to push the issue over and over again by going behind counters and front desks, even at the local DMV.

For my 8 1/2 hours outdoors that November day, I received not one damn cent for my trouble. All I got was a pat on the back, told that I'd probably do better tomorrow, and that the company was "pot friendly". Needless to say, I didn't show up the next day for "work".

I advise everyone to NEVER even waste your time with these types of "jobs". When you call in response to an ad, always, without fail, ask up-front if it's door-to-door sales, if the interviews are conducted one-on-one or if they are group interviews, and if there are guaranteed wages.

If anyone ever tells you that "Everything will be explained at the interview", just hang up. Trust me.

Very recently, I also attended a mass interview for a so-called "Talent Scout" job. Again, it was the same thing: promises of huge payoffs, stock options, excellent insurance benefits, and the like.

I thought there was a chance that this company was on the up-and-up, but when I got back home I did a little research, my eyes were opened to what was really going on: shady CEOs, rip-offs concerning men and women that were promised the world on a plate for $495 (up front and non-refundable, of course), and all that.

I was a little less sharp this time on picking up the vibe, but by the second half of the group interview I could pretty much tell which way the wind was blowing, because there are always major tells that alert you to their scheme:

1. They won't give you any information over the phone; only during an "interview".

2. They offer the POSSIBILITY to make ridiculous amounts of money in short amounts of time.

3. The company will never compensate you or pay you in any way for the required training; also, the training period is unbelievably long (usually 30 days).

4. When questioning the Manager or Supervisor about any sort of monetary compensation, base salary, or trouble you might have with their way of paying their employees, their answers are vague; also, they immediately either shift right back to "You COULD make this much if YOU work hard; if YOU don't work as hard as you can, it's your fault if you don't make tons of money", or they gloss over their answer with something about stock options or "Probationary Pay".

5. If the Corporate Office is kind of bare and contains only a desk, some thin carpeting, and a bunch of razzle-dazzle paintings on the wall, or if the atmosphere is "Everything's cool, this is the NEW generation of Corporate America", don't buy into it.

I've never seen any CEO or Regional Manager of a real corporation that has a Megadeth poster in their office; plus, if this 23-year-old kid is making "Over ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR!!", he wouldn't be driving a 1991 Honda Civic. Also, I've never visited one honest, prosperous business office that allows their Regional Corporate Manager to have purple dreadlocks.

I'm wise enough at 22 not to fall into these traps. I just wish I knew of some agency that hired willing young men and women to be moles, so that we could expose these companies for what they are.

Thorn, 09/04/02

Wrong Season for Sad Story Students

04/07 - Cary — At first, Wake County resident Jackie Craig didn't think anything of it when two young people came to her door and identified themselves as Florida college students trying to raise money for a trip to Italy.

"I wouldn't even usually open a door for a stranger mid-day, but they kind of looked like they could be neighbors," she said. "They looked like they fit in pretty well, but I wasn't really suspicious at first."

But that soon changed when Craig said they asked for a glass of water.

"This is not a time of the year when colleges take a break, so that was a red flag to me. They were very flattering, paying compliments," she said. "I started to get suspicious."

Craig said she looked around, didn't see a car, and then they asked her if there were other neighbors home that she thought would want to buy some magazines.

Raleigh police say the so-called students are likely to be part of a larger team involved in a door-to-door magazine scheme and are warning the residents that if they are approached to keep their doors closed and not to give money.

"It was a fraud -- a flim-flam -- and it was money collected for which nothing was ever going to be received," Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said.

Police, last week, received a tip from law enforcement authorities in Kentucky about the scheme, and authorities have received several reports similar to Craig's.

Although there have been no reports of anyone trying to enter residences, police are concerned that the sellers might be trying to case houses or harm someone.

'There are very few legitimate door-to-door solicitations these days," Sughrue said.

Eric Dixon said that when he was in his 20s, he worked for a company similar to the ones police are warning the public. He said, he was sent to Virginia, drove to neighborhoods and told to lie to make a sale. He was encouraged to get cash for any sales so that the transaction could not be traced.

"It's a scam to the customers who think they're buying magazines," Dixon said. "And it's a scam to the people who are trying to do the sales who think they legitimately have a job when they don't."

After about a month, Dixon said he quit, gave back the money to victims. He said he never got paid for his work.

"Each day, the lies became stronger and stronger and stronger, and I had a real bad complex about it," he said.

Anyone who is concerned about the scheme or approached should call local law enforcement immediately to investigate.

Scamming People Selling Speakers

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