What Mainstream Publishers Don't Want You to Know About Door-to-Door Magazine Sales

That kid at your door with a magazine order form will tell you a story -- part sad, part hopeful. The truth will be infinitely worse than you can imagine.

The bill called for making sure crews stayed in hotels that met certain safety guidelines, and making the companies keep an itinerary of where their crews were at any given time. Such a schedule would have helped when, in Houston in 2005, a sales agent raped a 17-year-old mentally retarded girl who answered the door of the apartment she shared with her mother. To gain her confidence, that agent acted as if he had a disability as well. If the Traveling Sales Crew Protection Act had passed intact, there's a very good chance authorities would be able to find out which crews were operating in Houston on June 5, 2005. As it is, the case remains unsolved.

Although Smith says otherwise, when it comes down to it, the NFSA doesn't appear to do much except hold an annual conference in Illinois where members gather to play golf. Smith says actual work is accomplished at the conference, such as the year a cop talked to company owners about driving safety, and another year when a CPA discussed tax preparation. Smith says he's also given talks about negligent hiring. (After 20 years, the NFSA members are still scratching their heads over this pesky "driving safety" thing. Seven years before the fatal Wisconsin wreck, an agent driving a van with only a learner's permit lost control in Des Moines, Iowa, hit a median, flipped the van and ejected nine passengers. Five were killed, six others injured.) (see "Cataloguing Grief").

In its newsletters, the NFSA is careful not to mention names of the sales agents, particularly those who die on the job. In its fall 1999 newsletter, the first one released after the Wisconsin tragedy, the lead article was the president's message on "Stating the Cause for Utilizing Prepaid Phone Cards in the Field," followed closely by "Small Wonders," a reflection on "the simple discoveries of the century." Sample passage: "Where would we be without the brassiere, first patented in 1914, or the zipper, patented in 1913? Could those inventions be related?" (For the record, the sales agents killed in Wisconsin were Peter Christian, 18; Cory Hanson, 22; Amber Lettman, 16; Crystal McDaniel, 26; Marshall Roberts, 16; Malinda Turvey, 18; and Joseph Wild, 21. Monica Forques, 16, was paralyzed from the waist down).

Crystal Mahathy was working at an Arby's when she was recruited to sell subscriptions.
Crystal Mahathy was working at an Arby's when she was recruited to sell subscriptions.
Rick Senner, who was driving the SUV that plunged off a cliff and killed two crew members, celebrates Jesus Christ's birth with the lighting of special frankincense.
Rick Senner, who was driving the SUV that plunged off a cliff and killed two crew members, celebrates Jesus Christ's birth with the lighting of special frankincense.


Of course, it's different if one of their own dies, as in the January 2006 newsletter's tribute to founding member Don Fish: "The next time you pick up a golf club, look up and say, 'Good luck, Don' — he will be playing with the greats of the game." (The NFSA named its annual golf tournament after Fish, who had the opportunity to die at age 74).

Smith talks in a sort of aw-shucks manner that would have you believe he wishes the NFSA could do more to ensure the safety of its agents and the Joneses they solicit. But don't think the trade group is just giving up — after 20 years of existence, the NFSA is toying with the radical notion of mandatory background checks. The bitch is, the NFSA has to be really careful about violating antitrust laws that limit the rules trade groups place on their members. So Smith says the NFSA probably has to stop just short of forcing members to conduct background checks.

"We can mandate that in order to be a member you must agree to do background checks," he says, adding that the NFSA would have no way of confirming if any of the companies ever did the checks.

"We can't force proof," Smith says. "The name of the game is, we're a trade association...the key is, you can't tell people how to run their ­business."

Furthermore, Smith was at a loss as to how someone might be able to confirm a company did the checks in the first place.

Citing privacy laws, he says, "You can't conduct background checks and send copies to a trade association to show you did it," apparently unaware of the fact that one of the NFSA's board members runs a service that audits companies' criminal background checks.

"The name of the game is whoever's doing the recruiting has got to run the background check," Smith says. "They've got to determine from what they see whether or not to put this guy out there or not. Now if they do it and screw up, then shame on them, but I'll find out after the fact, just like you do. Now can I do anything about it? The worst thing, the toughest thing I can do is to terminate their membership. I wish there was something else I could do, to be brutally frank, but there isn't any."

But if Smith has the power to jettison any owner who gets caught not running checks, he apparently hasn't been introduced to the NFSA's president, Vinnie Pitts. In 2000, after one of Pitts's agents murdered a woman in New York, the woman's family sued Pitts, who eventually settled for $1 million. The woman's sisters told local papers that they believed Pitts would now conduct background checks for sure. But in 2005, another of Pitts's agents — who was on probation for felony burglary out of Minnesota and was not supposed to leave the state — raped and beat a woman in Wisconsin (see "Sales Force").

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*** WARNING *** Dedicated Memorial Parents Group: DO NOT ALLOW door-to-door salesmen into your home!!! LOCK Your Door And Call The Police!!! We have documented 89 deaths and over 400 criminal felony cases. www.travelingsalescrews.info www.dedicatedmemorial.org www.magazinesalescrews.info Facebook: Beware of Traveling Door-to-door Sales Crews https://www.facebook.com/pages/Beware-of-Traveling-Door-to-Door-Sales-Crews/100395130009145 Parent Watch: www.parentwatch.org www.magcrew.com The Scumbag Criminals: National field Selling Association President: Sandra Hall http://nfsa.com Magazine Publishers of America President: Nina Link http://www.magazine.org

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