Who are these guys? (door to door subscriptions)

I don’t know if this is just a SF Bay Area phenomenon or if it’s widespread…but for years, I’ve had people knocking on my door with this pitch:

It’s always a late teenage boy, claiming to be a student at a local high school (if I ask for the name of their principal, they start stammering)
They always carry a clipboard
They always say they’re working on some kind of project, that involves me subscribing to a magazine or a newspaper – and if I do so they win some kind of prize.

Smells like some sort of scam involving child slave labor, but I could be wrong. So what is the deal here?

I’ve always heard that it’s just that. Certainly never buy from them. (It’s not just SF - we get them here too, but I haven’t had any lately. Perhaps the fact that I got a really big dog who sounds like a thunder god when you approach the door has something to do with that.)

I’ve had a couple of these guys show up on my doorstep before. In fact, when I was in Iraq, my wife ordered a few magazine subscriptions from a door to door high schooler. We got the magazines just fine, though probably a littler pricier than if you just sent in the card.

Usually, they say they’re trying to make money for college or win a vacation or something. I take them at their word; I assume it’s like the high school version of selling candy bars door to door.

PS Late teens wouldn’t be subject to child labor laws. And even if they weren’t teens there’s probably a loophole, just like with grade schoolers “laboring” as candy bar salesmen.

They are almost certainly not from an area school. Here’s a 2007 New York Times article on the phenomenon.

Back in the 70’s my boyfriend and I went to a recruiting seminar at our college for one of these outfits. Took them over an hour to mention what product you’d be selling…that’s when we walked out. They make it sound like an easy, fun job…but it sure isn’t. More like slave labor.

It’s almost certainly a scam. They were quite prevalent when I lived in Texas. They’d always come by about the same time each year (in fact at my apartment I think it was the same guy three years in a row), with the same story about how they’re a college student, and they’re competing for a trip to Europe, and if they sell one more subscription they’ll be in the running.
Here’s a fascinating story from the Houston Press:


And yet the Houston Press accepts advertising for these very “jobs” in its very own classifieds.


If you see the words “Rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere,” “Sharp guys & girls,” or “Return trip guaranteed,” you know what it is. These ads bloom like roses this time of year, when kids get out of school and are looking for work.

They will hold “interviews” in a local hotel room. If a newspaper declines to run their ads, they’ll claim they’ve already rented the room and the paper is liable for the room rent. First Amendment, y’all. Come and get us, suckahs.

I had one show up on my porch about a month ago I guess. I listened patiently and said no thank you, and as soon as I did, his whole attitude chaned, became VERY pushy, basically tellin me I would buy a subscription. He had asked me what my hobbies/interests were and I mentioned dog showing… so he started makin ont a subscription form for the Dog Whisperer’s magzine… which I quite frankly wouldn’t use to line my birdcage if I had one, much less pay good money for.

I told him more firmly NO and he stormed off the porch, thoroughly pissed off. Even if I had been clammoring to buy magazines, his attitude would had stopped me cold.

My high school had a magazine selling fundraiser, not that long ago. Though now it seems that most of these sellers aren’t legit, and are trying to capitalize on their customers’ vague memories of actual fundraisers .

These guys must be all over the place. We get them fairly frequently (every couple of month or so) in Elizabethtown, KY, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere important.

Similarly to PapSett, we’ve never had a good experience with them. My sister answered the door the last time one of those little snotheads came up. He looks behind her, at me, and asks if I’m in the woodworking industry because I’m wearing a plaid shirt. Then he starts his sales pitch on my sister after making a complete ass out of himself (has to win that vacation to the Caribbean, won’t take no for an answer, etc.). She literally ends up having to scream at him before he will leave the porch. Then he goes around and talks to all my neighbors about the shirt I was wearing. What a moran…

Son of a gun, I just had one of these guys knocking at my door a couple of days ago! I was home alone at the time, very busy with something, and told him N.O. very politely. I guess I’m lucky I lived to tell the tale! Didn’t like the looks of him - he was super clean cut, one of those stupid buzz cuts (my mom would have fallen in love and let him in for cookies and milk) and kept dropping names “I was just across the street at your neighbors, the BlahBlahs, and your neighbors up the street, the Dorks…” Oh, well! If the BlahBlahs and the Dorks bought magazine subscriptions, I don’t want to be left out!!!.. I do feel sorry for people selling stuff, or collecting signatures on petitions, door to door. It’s like physical telemarketing. But I don’t sit around thinking, gee, I’d like some magazine subscriptions, I wonder how I’d get them…

You can ask politely to see their vendor’s license. They will tell you that their manager has it and he is nearby, “a couple of streets over” or whatever. Insist on seeing the license, preferably with cell phone in hand, and your guest likely will leave. If your town does indeed require licenses for door-to-door solicitors, I do encourage you to call the police. They might not issue a citation, but it might encourage the group to move on.

I also don’t see why they think that telling me that my giving them my money might help them win a trip to Europe or whatever. I also want to go to Europe and I will be able to afford it much sooner if I don’t spend my money on unneeded subscriptions.