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February 22, 2007

Subscribe Or Else

Vicious beatings. Rape. Cults. Methamphetamines. Runaways. Enforcers. Kidnappings. Guns. And...magazine subscriptions? It's a bit of a long story, but The New York Times has a surreal article diving into the world of magazine crew, which hire runaways and delinquents to go door-to-door selling subscriptions, force them to do push-ups and sit-ups when they miss quota, and beat them when they try and leave. These crews are totally unregulated and basically off-the-radar, so little is known or seen until blood or bodies are left behind. And all this so Grandpa renews his subscription to Trout Fisher's Monthly.

February 22, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Isn't it "try to leave" instead of "try and leave." It seems like the insertion of "and" is a shortcut used in speech, but shouldn't be included in the written language.

Hank.

Posted by: Hank Porter | Feb 23, 2007 12:21:11 AM

Hank, "try and" actually predates "try to."

Posted by: Alon Levy | Feb 23, 2007 12:54:51 AM

"Try to...," rather'n, "try and...," is a likely prescriptive rule which needn't be adhered to outside of very formal writing and only there because of the general conservatism of formal language. I recall that J. R. R. Tolkien reacted in horror when he learned that his publisher had changed, "try and...," to, "try to...." I do say, "try to...," in speech, but I also use, "anfractuous," in casual conversations (I'm even more fun at parties than Mr. Klein). At least it would be a less onoxious prescription than the silly, nonsensical prohibitions against sentence-final preposition (which are as often as not verbal particles anyway), split infinitives, and beginning a sentence with a preposition.

The story itself is a very odd one, almost as though a background piece for an independent film. I'm rather taken aback that the described violence and misery is done in the name of selling magazine subscriptions. That they make claims about acruing points for trips doesn't surprise me, I've heard like claims in various forms before and never believed it. The whole industry seems to prey, predictably enough, on people without the education or real capability to find better employment. Given that printed publications seem likely to decline as time moves onward, I should imgine that it can only worsen as those controlling these organizations ssem unlikely to adjust their expectations sensibly downward. It's a racket in a rut.

Posted by: Paludicola | Feb 23, 2007 1:09:57 AM

Do they still have those subscription drives in which they enlist public school authorities to rope children into selling subscriptions for them, with the promise of the school getting a cut of the take? Man, I hated those.

Posted by: Matt McIrvin | Feb 23, 2007 1:11:08 AM

I hated those too, Matt. Parents who are upset about commercial material on school property (a minor issue I remember from my highschool days) ought to be more upset about their kids being semiofficially co-opted as salespeople.

There's got to be some reason why magazine subscription sales lends itself to these various unsavory practices, but right now I'm too drunk to figure out what it is.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Feb 23, 2007 2:45:11 AM

"Do they still have those subscription drives in which they enlist public school authorities to rope children into selling subscriptions for them, with the promise of the school getting a cut of the take?"

Yup. My son's school was involved in one of those.

"ought to be more upset about their kids being semiofficially co-opted as salespeople."

Amen. It ticks me off to no end that my kids' school has to, essentially, beg for money in order to provide a solid education. And I live in a good neighborhood in a relatively well off are, too.

Posted by: kevin | Feb 23, 2007 9:23:30 AM

I'll probably get jumped on for being a finger-wagging moralist, but what the hell:

It's odd to see the comments to this post, which calls attention to the abusive exploitation of vulnerable kids, focus on grammatical details and pet peeves from high school.

My (self-righteous) $0.02, no more, no less.

Posted by: Headline Junky | Feb 23, 2007 9:53:11 AM

Ah, it brings back memories of the old days: Six of us 12-year olds in a VW bus driven by two twenty-something longhairs, selling newspaper subscriptions around the metro area, getting stoned, dropping off packets of pills to select locations around town, and making $.90 a sale (before taxes and withholding, of course). For $.90 you could buy two joints out at the bleachers before school, or four of those little white crosses . . .

'Course, that was in the early '70s, and you could do that then . . .

Posted by: phein | Feb 23, 2007 1:58:32 PM

Blogwhoring alert. I looked at this a while back and it seems me that these companies also violate minimum wage laws.

Posted by: cactus4321 | Feb 23, 2007 3:10:01 PM

For a moment when I started reading the post, I thought you were trying out a new tougher approach in your efforts to recruit new subsribers for the print version of the Prospect. Imagine my relief to find that's not the case.

Also, does this remind anyone else of that 7-Up guy from Office Space who, if memory serves, started out with a crack-dealing sob story and ended up asking for magazine subscriptions? Makes you wonder if Mike Judge had some insight into the industry ...

Posted by: yave begnet | Feb 23, 2007 3:22:54 PM

Doesn't this all remind yall of the great moment in office space, where the three guys try to get the dude selling them magazine descriptions to tell them how to launder money. It turns out, of course, that he isn't actually a reformed crack addict and they end up buying

Orlando Jones character: HELLO SIR. MY NAME IS STEVE. I CAME FROM A ROUGH AREA. I
USED TO BE ADDICTED TO CRACK BUT NOW I'M OFF AND TRYING TO STAY CLEAN.


STEVE
Look, I'm sorry. I do not know anything about money laundering.

MICHAEL
Look, we're not asking you if you know about money laundering, we're
just trying to see if you can hook us up.

PETER
He doesn't know anything, all right?

SAMIR
Wait, wait, wait a minute. Wait a minute. You just give us the name of
one drug dealer. I could talk to him. I have good networking skills.

STEVE
NORMAL) I LIED. ALL THAT STUFF ABOUT ME BEING A CRACKHEAD WAS TO HELP
ME SELL MAGAZINES. I'M A SOFTWARE ENGINEER.

PETER
You can't tell anybody about any of this stuff I told you. I mean, we
know a lot of the same people.

STEVE
Actually, that all depends.

PETER
What am I going to do with forty subscriptions to Vibe ?

Posted by: mattz | Feb 23, 2007 3:24:41 PM

A while back, my husband was working at a homeless shelter as a case manager, and a couple of kids involved in this kind of thing approached him needing someplace to stay for a couple of nights. They had signed up for a program where they would sell magazines, and as part of the "application process" had to send their birth certificates and drivers licences to the company's headquarters. They were then moved from southern California to northern Idaho, and made to sell magazine subscriptions. They didn't have any money, they didn't have any identification, so they had no way to get home. They also still had apartments back where they were from, so they didn't even qualify for services from the homeless shelter. They were able to scrounge up some bus tickets from some local charities (Mormons, as I recall) and get the guys home, but one did have to spend the night on my couch because he couldn't catch a bus until the next day.

It's slave labor.

Posted by: Sara | Feb 23, 2007 6:33:53 PM

Welcome to Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia and just about any other 2nd world country except the kids there are not selling magazines.

Posted by: decline and fall of the American Empire | Feb 24, 2007 5:47:02 AM

Send me everything you got!

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Posted by: judy | Sep 26, 2007 11:47:37 AM

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