Inside Edition - Original Air date: Tuesday, February 3, 2003
 

EXPLOITED YOUNGSTERS SELLING MAGAZINES DOOR-TO-DOOR MAKE SALES COMPANIES RICH:
AN INSIDE EDITION INVESTIGATION


Youngsters abuse drugs while driving in vans, party in motels every night, and are exploited by managers

 

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.

Chris Thompson, 19, joined Pitts Sales last year.

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.

Vinny Pitts, owner of Pitts Sales.

He also says when he tried to collect his commissions and leave, he was told he owed the company money.

Drug and 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."

Pitts Sales is based in Coral Springs, Florida. The company’s owner, Vinny Pitts, lives in a million dollar home in a gated community and drives an $80,000 dollar Mercedes. While his young sales force was working a typical 14-hour day and paid next to nothing, Inside Edition found Pitts cruising on his 44-foot yacht.

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.

Monica Forges .

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.

"We were on our way home and we were smoking weed," Forges told Inside Edition.

In fact, in the past 10 years, accidents involving vans transporting magazine crews have killed more than 25 young people.

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.