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.

Back in the Houston Ramada, 79-year-old Diane Tork is in Room 301, smoking 100s, punching numbers into her calculator, taking calls on her pink cell and sifting through names and numbers of potential hires. Age has been kind to her body, but not so much her mind.

She'll get confused and send wrong birthdates back to the home office for criminal background checks, but of course it doesn't really matter anyway, because the checks are worthless. Only a formality. The kind of checks where you really don't want to find anything.

Tork says she started in the business on December 21, 1945, when she was 16. She eventually ran her own company, then took over for a company out of Spring when that owner died in the early 1990s. She worked alongside her now ex-husband, John Tork, who is 20 years her junior.

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.


John Tork also had his own company, the Houston-based Tork & Associates. In 1992, the Federal Trade Commission sued Tork's company for violating the "cooling-off" period, which allows customers three days to cancel an order. After Tork failed to respond to the suit, a federal judge fined his company $50,000. A year later, Tork was convicted of larceny and sentenced to three years and six months in a Texas prison.

Diane says she and John, who share a home in Atlanta, Georgia, are semiretired. John has long suffered type 2 diabetes, and recently had a foot amputated. Diane has been off the road for a long time and only pops into hotels to check on things once the crews are about to hop.

Her company is called Prestige, which clears orders through a Phoenix clearinghouse owned by the late Robert Spruiell (see "Upper Management"). Joining Prestige on this hop are at least two other companies — it's not uncommon for supposedly distinct companies to travel together. And it's not uncommon for these groups to say they have no idea what the other is up to, which is what Diane Tork tells the Press.

She can't speak for Team-XTreme, which is run by a guy named James Scribner, who was described as an alcoholic by every ex-agent who spoke to the Press about him. Diane Tork doesn't disagree with that characterization, saying, "He's a drunk. I've heard that he will take his clothes off and run around the hotel naked — never around me." ("Scribs," as he's known, is just one of the industry's many middle-aged men whose jobs require them to travel around the country in vans loaded with women in their late teens and early twenties, something that apparently creeps out no one in publishing. A few former agents accused Scribs of getting a tad too friendly with them when he was on a binge. One former agent said, "If you're 18 years old, he wants to fuck you. He's a dirty, nasty old man. I do not like that guy.")

Diane says she runs a tight ship: Her agents aren't allowed to bring alcohol inside the hotel. She also says her agents are periodically drug-tested. And if she hears any of them are using a dirty canvass, they're out. She says she's had to fire about 15 agents in the past month for failing drug tests and lying to Joneses.

The kids can be a handful. Yet it's precisely these kind of troublemakers that Diane targets, mostly because, according to her story, she's a philanthropist at heart. Sure, she could hire upstanding kids from stable families who are maybe looking for a summer job before going off to Harvard, but that would just be too damn easy. She'd rather take in needy kids and nurture their self-respect by giving them a job and responsibilities.

"Kids today, their parents don't want to talk to them; they throw them out on the streets...sometimes these kids need help," she says.

So she can be stern, but maybe not as much as her ex-husband John, who, she says, is especially hard on the young women in his crew.

"He hates girls," she says. "You know why he hates girls? He thinks they're all sluts. And he gets so mad that girls go around with half of their body hanging out...he doesn't like his guys associating with the girls." (John Tork didn't return numerous voice mails).

But deep down, she says, he's a softie. And neither he nor anyone else in the mag crew business should be painted with the same brush, she says. There are good and bad in every line of work.

It's a sentiment that was echoed by a lot of people contacted for this story. The media always wants to focus on the negative. Why talk about things like agents on probation who beat, rape and kill people when you can talk about kids who are honing valuable job skills?

James Scribner originally agreed to speak with the Press, but ultimately changed his mind, because of his belief that the Press just wanted to focus on the "negative."

Of course, Scribs and Diane Tork have a point. Few media stories describe how fun life on a mag crew can be — if you're not a WAB. First of all (based on what ex-agents told us), there is nearly unlimited access to marijuana, cocaine, pills and meth. It's like an especially fun dormitory on wheels. A lot of these young adults were already using before they joined crew, and find it absolutely wonderful that there are jobs where you can be high all the time, and instead of your boss caring, your boss is getting high with you.

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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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