The Magazine Industry's Dirty Little Secret: Inside The Dark Underbelly Of The Door-To-Door Subscription Business

07/24/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The business of selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door is surprisingly shady. It consists largely of crews of young people--some under 18--recruited by (often) criminal characters who haul them around the country in vans, releasing them only to make their way through neighborhoods, using any lies necessary to tug the heartstrings of people enough to get them to buy something. Then all the kids are rounded up again, given their meager cut of the profits, and they all go do drugs. Sometimes they rape people, or drive off cliffs. The Houston Press just put out a monster investigation of the industry, and it shows a long but clear path from the offices of Conde Nast out to the wild kids hustling in the hinterlands. And there are some true horror stories:

# It's been a tough hop for this caravan of sales crews, though. Winding their way down from California, they lost a few agents. Two were arrested in Albuquerque after they allegedly forced their way into the home of an elderly couple and beat them to death, raping the wife first. A few weeks later, another agent allegedly raped a woman in Claremont, California, so he got picked up, too."

# "In the eight months the Press investigated door-to-door magazine sales across the country, the industry has seen at least three murders, one rape, two attempted rapes, one stabbing, one attempted murder, one vehicle fatality and one attempted abduction of a 13-year-old girl."

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