|Inside Edition - Original Air date: Tuesday, February 3, 2003|
YOUNGSTERS SELLING MAGAZINES DOOR-TO-DOOR MAKE SALES COMPANIES
An Inside Edition investigation has found that many young people are being exploited by a nationwide scheme of magazine sales that rip off consumers, endanger the youngsters, and has made the owner of one sales company fabulously wealthy.
In the report Inside Edition shows how young people have been ensnared by magazine sales companies which lure them by advertisements promising awesome jobs with free travel.
They go door-to-door selling subscriptions to some of the most popular magazines in the country, often telling consumers they are students trying to win a scholarship or a contest.
But, Inside Edition reports, the kids aren't from local high schools, their sales pitches are often untrue – and the teens themselves are being exploited and endangered.
An Inside Edition producer went undercover at one of the largest of these companies, Pitts Sales. Hidden cameras caught verbal abuse, cursing, ranting and raving by a crew leader when sales were considered too low.
Chris Thompson, 19, joined Pitts Sales when he was in Savannah, Georgia, last year. He says no matter how long the youngsters worked, if sales were low they would incur the wrath of the crew manager.
"Sometimes I was out here until 11:30 at night," Thompson told Inside Edition.
One punishment for low sales is being forced to sleep on the floor of the hotel room. Thompson told Inside Edition that sometimes the abuse was even physical.
He also says when he tried to collect his commissions and leave, he was told he owed the company money.
alcohol abuse is also rampant among the young sales crews. Every
night, Inside Edition’s undercover producer watched
as crews smoked marijuana and drank alcohol, with many of the
participants being underage. Both our producer and several sales
people we talked to at Pitts Sales say they saw managers drink
and smoke marijuana. When Chris Thompson was asked whether the
managers knew they were drinking and smoking marijuana in the
vans, he told Inside Edition "The managers were
doing it with us."
Vinny Pitts wouldn't agree to an on-camera interview, but on the telephone told Inside Edition he does not condone drug use among his sales teams and will terminate anyone found smoking or drinking while driving. Pitts acknowledged that managers at times raise their voices, but denies the young salespeople are physically abused.
In 1999, Monica Forges, then a healthy 15-year-old, joined a magazine sales crew run by a different company. Today, she's a quadriplegic, one of the 14 young passengers in a magazine crew van when it crashed in Wisconsin. Seven young people were killed.
were on our way home and we were smoking weed," Forges told
It’s not just the youngsters who are being exploited – customers who purchase subscriptions are too, Inside Edition reports.
For instance, one young salesman was pushing Good Housekeeping magazine for $35.50 a year, but Inside Edition found it could be obtained on the magazine's website for just $10 a year.