magazine/book sales cult
Posted by: spiff ()
Date: December 07, 2003 07:02PM

Has anyone come across this particular cult, or know anything about it? I have encountered several people who have "escaped"
as they call it, however they dont seem to realize how wide spread it is. they all just think its their own little group, but i have found 3 totally unrelated people who have had similar experiences, with traveling magazine sales groups.

magazine/book sales cult
Posted by: Sparks ()
Date: August 03, 2004 08:22AM

I haven't heard of a cult that does that. But, I do. My Grandfather was in the magazine business for 60 years. He made his living at it and my Father took over his business. He has clients he's had for over 30 years. So, needless to say, I have access to every magazine practically at a very low cost, if you're interested. :wink:

magazine/book sales cult
Posted by: PennyBright ()
Date: August 04, 2004 02:29AM

I worked for a traveling soap/accessories sales company for several months, and I've spoken with a number of young people with various traveling magazine companies. Usually because they come knocking at my door trying to sell the mags, and since I know the set up, we get to talking about it. They all seem to work roughly the same way.

Enticing job ad offers good pay and free travel to interesting places (the company I was with took us to CA, and we worked around Hollywood and Disneyland). You go to a preliminary interview, where they assure you that all travel and living expenses are paid, that your pay is wholly yours. If you know enough to ask, you can find out that your pay is 100% commission based. You are told that the company is will to take a chance on you, and is hiring you on.

Within a few days, you find yourself riding a one way ticket on Greyhound, usually with a few other new hires. It seems the standard to send hires fairly far away from where they were hired -- I was hired in Chicago and sent to CA. Here in OH I talk to kids who have been hired from FLA and TX alot.

Once you get to your group you go through a new hire introduction where you're told about the standards of behaviour/dress/etc the group expects, and giving a room assignment at the motel, usually with a longer term sales person who is supposed to 'mentor' you. This is also where you learn about the 'draw system'.

For the most part, instead of paying their sales people directly, the company maintains an account in the persons name, to which all of their commissions are deposited, and from which you draw funds as you need them, for food, clothing, entertainment, and so forth. A salespersons maximum draw is on a sliding scale -- as a new hire I could draw up to 20 dollars a day, and 80 a week. Fully established (after 90 days) hires could draw up to 100 a day, and 500 dollars a week, assuming they maintained a minimum sales level. Most companies also have a debt ceiling, at which point you drop back to the minimum draw level -- which is just enough to eat on. The account also usually pays a minimal level of interest - 1 to 2 percent. Most companies seem reluctant to pay their sales crew in full ('payout' as it was called with my group was only really acceptable if you were quitting).

The social set up is pretty isolating -- you're all roomed together, and there are pep meetings every morning where the daily prizes are announced, and check in meetings every evening where the prizes are awarded. The peer pressure is *HUGE*, and I've been told that some groups will really rip into the people who don't make their quotas. I never saw that in my personal experience, but I do think that I lucked out and was working for one of the better companies.

Another isolating factor is transportation -- the company controls it, unless you're willing to spend your money on cabs. And why do that, when every evening after work everyone piles in the vans and goes out clubbing or dancing together?

So the cultic potential is definitely there. But I think that the companies themselves probably range from horrific to 'not to bad for a summer job during college'. Certainly, for a good salesperson who has decent money management skills and knows what they are going into, it can be a very lucrative job, and a lot of fun. The problem arises when less reputable companies deliberately focus their recruiting on disadvantaged populations, claiming to offer a good opportunity, when all they are really looking for is indentured labor.


magazine/book sales cult
Posted by: acacias1 ()
Date: August 06, 2004 11:57PM

what i remember about this comes from the experience of being a 'potential customer'. i was in college and a couple of VERY CUTE boys came walking around the dorm under the auspices of flirting saying they were from a 'different type of college program' and were off for the year traveling learning about 'business'. this business, of course, being magazine sales. i remember feeling kinda sorry for these guys as they looked really tired and were so desperate for the sale, but as a student, i didn't have any money to buy anything from them. the flirting stopped immediately, and they moved on.

it wasn't until years later that i read about the recruiting processes used by these companies ("come travel -- see the world -- make money") and then the truth that these kids had a ridiculous daily quota...whether or not they got any food often hinged on this quota...and most often then slept in vans and had no adequate heath care, etc. i had also read that if their sales were really bad, the 'management' thought nothing of leaving them behind on the road with no cash to get home or anywhere else for that matter.

so, i don't know whether in my humble opinion, this practice is a 'cult' per se -- or more a case of horrid businessment misleading and abusing young people.


magazine/book sales cult
Posted by: Concerned Oz ()
Date: August 07, 2004 09:48AM

From time to time I have seen adds in the Sydney papers for this kind of work.


magazine/book sales cult
Posted by: PSIsurvivor ()
Date: August 10, 2004 12:37AM

I talked to my brother recently and he told me a story from about 25 years ago. He was 16 and answered one of these ads to sell stuff. He said they had him all excited about the fun and money making potential so he signed on. Then they got him hundreds of miles from home before they told him about the commission, sleeping arrangements etc. He put up a fuss and they just dumped him. Left him by the road and told him to find his own way home. He said he called dad and had him arrange a bus ticket home. Pretty creepy way to run a business. It's been going on for many years. Why isn't stuff like this illegal?

magazine/book sales cult
Posted by: elena ()
Date: September 07, 2004 01:12PM

Here's a link:



Re: magazine/book sales cult
Posted by: isitacult? ()
Date: October 22, 2009 09:58AM

I just saw this thread. I am not sure if this business can be called a cult, per se, but I do think it is dangerous.

I have been approached several times in my life by people selling these magazines or newspapers. The tip off is the sales pitch. They all use the same one and are obviously told to lie through their teeth. They are all either in a contest for a trip to some exotic location or trying to get a scholarship for college. Of course, they only need one more sale (that would be me) to win the contest. When it becomes clear that the sale will not be made, all the lovey dovey nicey nicey suddenly disappears into the either and is replaced by a venomous accusation hurtled almost violently, such as, "you don't want me to go to college?" Sigh.

The last one was an understated accusation that I was lying about not being able to afford to buy a magazine just then. (It actually wasn't a lie. It was a truth, albeit a convenient one.) It went something like this, "All of you people tell me you can't afford to buy a magazine but I can't believe the people who hired me would tell me there was a market for this if it wasn't true." Yes. He really did say that. So, of course I was the bad guy. If I knew then what I know now I would have learnt the poor fellow a thing or three about the people who hired him and their believability.

It was this encounter that got me to wonder if these sales people are victims just as much as their targets are. So I looked this thing up on the web and found a lot of abuses. It is just like what has already been accounted here. Someone died from an asthma attack that went untreated for too long. The girl had an attack in the middle of a sales pitch and her partner ditched on her, taking her purse-in which was her inhaler. The partner and the crew manager fled in the van and left the asthmatic girl to her own devices. She died in the emergency room. Another was killed in a car accident. There were accounts of people having to beg food from their targets because they hadn't eaten in several days. There were other accounts of kids being verbally and physically abused for failing to produce. As far as the sales that are made, as often as not those people never do receive their magazines.

The Better Business Bureau has been contacted many times about these sales crews. This is allowed to continue because there are 3 companies who supply these crews and they all deny responsibility for how the sales people on the crews are treated. These companies say they are just suppliers to the folks who run the crews- the abusive managers. Why the managers get away with it I don't know.

Next time I encounter one of these sales people I intend to inform them about this business they are involved in.

Re: magazine/book sales cult
Posted by: Sol Ivictus ()
Date: October 27, 2009 09:47AM

The Southwestern Company uses cult techniques to recruit and retain its sales force. Look at this page []

Here is an excerpt:

She told me about the schedule that these kids were told they MUST adhere to. Wake up at exactly 5:59, take a ONE MINUTE COLD SHOWER, out the door and sell until 9:00 pm. EVERY day except Sundays. On Sundays they were all told by their student managers that they must go to a meeting, which was held at a different location every week. At these meetings they performed what was called execs. These are cult like chants--- running in circles, rhythmic hand clapping...below is an excerpt taken from this site ( which details this bizarre activity: "Executive Exercises.

In the morning, we will do execs at our breakfast spots out in the parking lot or in a nearby open area. We will do them in front of roads or highways, we will do them in front of the restaurant's patrons, and on Sundays when we are at a hotel we will do them in the hotel parking lot.

What are these 'execs?'

Well, they start with someone mentioning execs. That person will usually then raise his hand up in the air shout "ohhhhhhh...hhhhh... Ohhhhhh...!" indefinately while running around in a large circle. Everyone else follows this person doing the same exact thing until everyone is present in the circle.

At that point we will start skipping and singing a song. The song goes --
It's a great day to be a bookman.
It's a great day I know.
It's a great day to be a bookman everywhere I go.
Goodbye no-nevers, goodbye doubts and fears
It's a great day to be a bookman -- be of good cheer.
I feel happy. I feel terrific. I feel GREAT!

Then someone will yell out loud "UH-OH!" and we all will chime in "Book Time!" We all sing/chant this in unison four times while doing a very specific rythmic clap that took me a few tries to get down. (I still mess it up on the really sleepy mornings.) After chanting that four to five times someone makes the conductor's sign for stop and everyone goes silent.

After about three beats another iniative-taking (sic) individual will jump or dance into the center of the circle and yell/scream out, "Now let me see that funky chicken!" at the top of his voice, and everyone else will yell something like, "What's that you said!?! This happens three times with slight variations each time based on the whims of the person in the center of the circle. At the end He will say "I said unh..." and everyone in unison will sing "Oooo, ah ah ah oooo; ah ah ah oooo; ah ah ah oooo; one more time now!! Oooo, ah ah ah oooo; ah ah ah oooo; ah ah ah oooo." Or whatever other chant, saying, or sounds that go along with the particular thing that the initiator wanted to "see."

The variations on this are numerous and growing. We come up with new stuff from time to time. I come up with new stuff all the time, because I enjoy execs and I come up with stuff that I think will be fun all the time. Most of the time the stuff I come up with doesn't really pan out, but that is fine because every once and again I'll come up with something really fun and even "classic."

After doing that there are several other execs that we do. Some we only do in a large group on Sundays, but most of the other ones are just thrown in as people remember them. If no one remembers a particular exec it's fine -- it doesn't get done.

At the end of execs we do this thing where we all gather in a circle and get fired up and then we all run off acting like birds, ostriches, video game charaters or bookmen..."

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