Saturday, February 28, 2009

There is a Traveling Sales Crew Werewolf at the Door Jim!

My wife and I were riding in the car when a rock classic from the 70s came on the radio, the Werewolves of London. I was chuckling about how funny this pop song seems in retrospect all these many years later, when I realized that one verse of the lyrics fit perfectly with the Traveling Magazine Sales Crews that fall upon neighborhoods in the United States throughout the warm months of the year, usually just as many colleges and universities take their summer breaks. Think of some of these folks as the werewolves in the Warren Zevon song:
If you hear him howling around your kitchen door,
better not let him in.
Little old lady got mutilated late last night;
Werewolves of London again
(Think traveling sales crew or Kirby salesman again)

It was about ‘the little old lady getting mutilated last night' verse that first made me chuckle, and then I became sober as a judge! I just happened to recall at that moment all of the real life horror stories reported involving the door to door selling industry, where real little old ladies do indeed get mutilated--raped, robbed and even murdered--a gruesome reality and a theme repeated over and over again in the door to door selling industry where even sweeper salesmen have carried out atrocious crime. So when you have these people ‘howling around your kitchen door, you better not let them in!’ All good advice from Warren Zevon in this classical rock song from back in the day.

Not only are these door knocking youths possibly putting their own well being in danger; other 'down and outers' also recruited for the ride--usually with no background check--are free to prey on the vulnerable, those living alone, the elderly, and those physically or mentally impaired that are encountered along the way.

Werewolves, vampires, murderers in the rue morgue, all horror films remembered from my youth, all of which seem rather campy when compared to the true stories of the traveling magazine sales crews as well and the dark side of the door to door selling industry, a topic that I have examined in past blog posts. These crews are usually a mixed bag of ‘down and outers’ and the college aged youths all caught up in what I believe is a traveling circus, a veritable circus cage on wheels where youths travel like sardines in a tin can which can potentially be a one way a ride to dusty death.

People in these traveling sales crews are all generally in the hands of unscrupulous types who take orders from some boiler room call centers which might be operating in your home town. Some of these boiler rooms actually might look like Hitler’s war room in the Wolf’s Lair Bunker during World War II. Managers move the crews around on what most likely is a computerized map where complexities of managing so many dispersed personnel are indeed complex. Instead of Adolf moving little tanks around in his imaginary war, these folks move van loads of youths from town to town in their war on the pocket books of mostly vulnerable women who most likely are doing laundry or preparing the evening dinner. These boiler room managers have been operating these shady ‘boiler rooms’ for so long, they are old hat at it. For those working in these settings, the work is most likely tedious and the pay most likely low--as it is for nearly all boiler room call center operators who process sales orders made by all the door knocking salespeople.

Here in my home town, there exists a large complex of office suites, all of which are available for lease as call centers. A smorgass board of closely aligned tables and phone jacks. Many times one group of telemarketers move out and another unscrupulous bunch moves in. Local folk, many times displaced workers in other industries, line up for these boiler room jobs. Each of these operations I have noticed go by some sort of deceptive name, sometimes having little to do with what they are actually doing, this all to disguise from casual observers-- the town's people--what the real nature of their affairs is. These fly by night operations can in general involve any type of traveling sales/delivery operation. Some may seem more legitimate than others, but they all generally fall into the same loose fitting basket of telemarketing boiler room operators. Many of these people are subcontractors of magazine publishers, of traveling auditors, or traveling sales crews of one type or another, all offering any number of products or services door to door; some to organize the delivery of telephone directories.

Magazine publishers contract--many times with unscrupulous subcontractors--to sell magazine subscriptions door to door. Product sellers, to include bibles, books and sundry cleaning supplies may operate their own door to door operation directly. One example of this is Southwestern Company whose home offices are located along the skyline of Nashville, Tennessee. Most likely they have their own version of the boiler room as well, where managers move sales crews around like ponds on a chess board. Possibly direct operators also sublet some of their door to door operations as well, being able to conveniently lay these folks off at the end of the selling season.

Obviously the people operating traveling sales crews view their operations as sales generators where all expenses are closely evaluated and weighed so as to be a ‘penny pinching affair’ where the ‘take’ or margin is of more concern than the sales people, who might be forced to sleep 6 to 8 or more persons to a room or be put up in questionable locations and circumstances.

Indeed these operators set up what I would term to be 'safe houses' not so different than the 'safe houses' terrorist organizations set up for traveling bomb makers. Most likely many of these waysides residences become party houses, where almost anything imaginable is possible. Where the local crack and meth dealers hang about. Youths traveling in these caravans will be exposed to all the pitfalls of modern society, alcohol, cigarettes, pot, and drugs of every imaginable sort. Worse even, they will be bedding down with those who may have sexual intentions that absolutely are not honorable. Young people, many experiencing sexuality for the first time should not be allowed to go out on these magazine sales crews period! I single out magazine sales crews, because they are the worst of the worst of the entire bad lot of subcontractors, all intent on squeezing every conceivable penny out of their contracts with the magazine publishers and who do the dirty work that the respectable magazines--like Vanity Fair, or Time--do not want to actually do themselves.. The only label I can put on these fly by night operators of boiler room and traveling sales crews is: disreputable!

Not only are youths exposed to these potential vices and sexual experiences on the road, they are generally taught by others exactly how the traveling sales sub-cons works. I will not go into details here, but check washing, comes immediately to mind. I will put a link at the bottom of this post for anyone desiring to do a more intensive study of traveling sales crew horrors.
No one reading through the traveling sales crew horrors will ever think the same way about door to door sellers and door knockers ever again!

The Direct Selling Association (the DSA) oppose the proposed changes in Wisconsin law, which if enacted would prevent those who profit from these gypsy sellers to shield themselves from responsibility for crime committed against the dignity of the citizens. At present, the magazine publishers, and those they contract invoke a loop hole which makes these sellers 'independent contractors' solely responsible for their individual actions. Malinda's law would close this loop hole and hold those who stand to profit responsible for the actions of all their sales people. The DSA oppose all efforts to reign in the known abuses as proposed by 'Malinda's Law' where hearings are to be held in March 2009 in the Wisconsin state legislature.

The DSA trade organization is made up of some disreputable 'supposed' direct sellers and multi-level marketers operating extremely questionable product pyramid schemes of every sort, known to prey upon their 'distributors' (heavy irony) for nearly all of their sales. Many of these companies, like Amway operate under the disguise of being door to door sellers. Retail sales to non distributor customers has been reported to be a dismal 4 to 5 percent of total sales. Amway distributors are therefore, for all intents and purposes, the company's only customers, where no practical door to door selling is actually encouraged or significantly carried out. Amway focuses primarily on recruitment of new distributor customers through social networking.

New Amway distributors usually start out trying to recruit family and friends and then move onto those they meet in public places (like McDonalds) and possibly even coworkers in their day jobs. Door knocking is generally not taught as a primary sales strategy where recruitment of new buyers (self consuming 'distributors') is the primary method of operandi. Indeed, most distributors view direct selling as something which is unnecessary even though it is contractually required. Ironically, Amway and other DSA MLM member sellers operating 'join and buy from yourself' schemes represent that their 'self consuming distributor customers' as 'door to door' sellers, an elaborate reality inverting hoax all cooked up to appease the Federal Trade Commission who at one time tried to roll Amway up as a pyramid scam. While retail sales are required by fine print in every contract an independent signs in order to be eligible to receive commissions/bonuses (which in actuality are a form of rebate in a self consumption type distributorship), nearly all distributors conveniently disregard this rule. I invite concerned readers to more fully understand how these deceptions work by reading Continued Exploitation of Traveling Sales Crews Supported by the Direct Selling Association.

I have advocated my support for the adoption of Malinda’s Law in the state of Wisconsin, even though I live in a different state. If passed, other states may seek to implement change designed to protect young adults from unscrupulous greedy types seeking to take undue advantage of those just getting started on their journey through life. A journey through the horrors of the traveling sales crew shouldn’t be included. My heart goes out to Phil Ellenbecker, who lost his daughter in a traveling sales crew disaster that WAS NOT an accident but a negligent act. It didn’t have to happen! The elected representatives of the citizens of Wisconsin will have a chance to save the lives of those traveling through their state and set a precedent that other states should follow. The independent contractor loophole being the fine print that has shielded the magazine executives and their subcontractors from blame for way too long. Significantly, independent subcontractor fine print also has helped Amway avoid the misrepresentation their independents many times make about potential wealth (lifestyles of the rich) in the independent’s recruitment ‘dream selling’ scheme that I‘ve also blogged extensively about.

For more information click here and here and here.

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