Since I’ve been here at the Advocate, I’ve received several Crime Watch notices from various East Dallas and Lake Highlands neighborhood groups warning of suspicious magazine salespeople. Two young people came to my door one excruciatingly hot day. I felt so sorry for them I let them in and gave them a couple sodas. I also subscribed to W magazine. Maybe it was because after my daughter opened the door, they expressed their shock that I was old enough to have a child her age! (Today, I find out disappointingly flattery is all part of the charade. Bummer).

Seriously though, these kids are often victims of vicious practices. I started to look into the origins of these young “magazine salespeople” and found the New York Times last year did all the research for me.

They are lured into so-called mag crews by promises of money, travel, and even relationships with the opposite sex. Then they are often taken from all they know in a cult- like fashion. Some are abused by bosses that act more like pimps; and exposed to drugs, underage drinking and dangerous situations. Oh and did I mention they work as “independent contractors”? So sometimes they don’t even make minimum wage for their 14-16 hour work days.

Unfortunately the abused often become abusers. That’s why you are right to be weary of them. According to the ex “mag crew” members in the Times story, they lie, cheat, steal, and are often high on drugs.

What SHOULD we do when these kids come to our door? A lady with the organization Parent Watch “advised customers not to buy from the sellers or to let them in the house, but to offer them a phone to call home or her organization’s phone number to help anyone who might want to arrange a bus ticket home.” There’s another site offering support for those stuck in this sort of situation (according to it they also sell soap.)

If I’d read this piece before they came to my door, I wouldn’t have responded the same way.

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