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Trapped Into Selling Magazines Door-to-Door

Trapped Into Selling Magazines Door to Door The Atlantic


Dobbs says she’s also been left for not selling enough or for disagreements with managers. Crews have no obligation to get their workers home, since they’re independent contractors. She claims that the crew managers try to hide the abuses by encouraging a festive atmosphere, sometimes even providing alcohol and even drugs. “I’ve seen every drug you can imagine,” Dobbs said. “Young kids partying, not knowing what they’re in for, then abandoned to life on the street in a strange place when they don’t pull their weight. The managers can intimidate you, make you feel like you owe them, humiliate you, even beat you. This is a dangerous business.”

It’s been nearly 30 years since Congress launched an investigation of the magazine sales industry, finding widespread instances of fraud and abuse. The investigation revealed that many of the young workers were essentially indentured servants: In one company, 413 of the 418 sellers owed money at the end of the year, even as the company itself reported sizable profits.

In 1999, Senator Herbert Kohl from Wisconsin introduced the Traveling Sales Crew Protection Act, a piece of legislation that would have regulated the industry. The bill was inspired by an accident involving an 18-year-old Wisconsin girl named Malinda Ellenbecker. Earlier in 1999, Ellenbecker had died in a highly publicized crew van accident: The van was speeding and being pursued by a police officer just before the crash, and the driver didn’t have a valid license.c

Stashed in: Crime!

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So once the Internet finally kills the magazine industry, this particular brand of crime will go away.


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