Friday, April 24, 2015

Food service, yes. Door-to-door, no.

From The Atlantic, a rather horrifying story by Darlene Cunha:
...Over a cup of coffee, she introduced herself as Tysharia Young and tried to do what she’d come to do: sell me overpriced magazine subscriptions. It was not the first time someone had knocked on my door for this purpose, and I was sure it wouldn’t be the last. Gainesville has had such issues with magazine sellers that our local police department recently issued a public warning. 
Young came armed with an official certificate stating her company’s mission. According to the paper, Certified Management Incorporated was dedicated to helping youth and other troubled souls get off the streets by giving them the opportunity to sell subscriptions door-to-door for points while the company provided room, board, and food. The workers get placed on “crews”—teams of four to 12 people—and travel across the country, canvassing neighborhoods. At each door, they tell residents their personal stories—which generally include a litany of poverty-driven hardships and the need to support a family—and then try to sell them magazine subscriptions for a staggering $75 to $150 apiece. After a week or two, the crew moves on to another city. 
But Young was hundreds of miles from home, and she worried that if she failed to deliver, she wouldn’t earn enough to make it back to her kids. “If you sell too low or you’re a troublemaker, they’ll leave you,” she said. “And I ain’t got nothing.” 
Young is one of tens of thousands of people working for door-to-door magazine crews, and the fear of being left behind is nearly universal. 
I had a college friend who sold encyclopedias for a summer; he made it back and I didn't hear any horror stories. But I'd hate to have one of my kids abandoned in the middle of nowhere, as seems to happen to some of these kids.

I worked food service for a little bit, but I never did any door-to-door sales. I don't think the majority of door-to-door is for charlatans like Certified Management International, but I presume that it's still soul-crushing to try to work through hundreds of rejections and literal slammed doors.

Readers, any stories of door-to-door sales? 


  1. I had one guy barge into my house as I was moving in. I asked him to leave, but he planted himself in the living room and refused to leave until I bought something.

    It took me and Mr M9 Beretta to convince him to leave.

    You never know what kind of psycho you are dealing with in these door-to-door people. These days I rarely answer the door unless I'm expecting someone.

  2. If I'm not expecting visitors or do not recognize the person standing at my doorstep, I simply don't answer the door until they go away. I'm a single woman living alone -- my need for safety outweighs whatever sad sack pitch someone is trying to give me. I think I've neglected to answer a few census takers, though.

    But, I feel really bad for those kids. They sound like those foreign kids that were duped into working at that Hershey factory in the middle of Pennsylvania using a Summer study/travel visa.

  3. A friend of mine had a father who is a bit unhinged. He decided he would be a nudist at all times while at home. Not too many door-to-door salespeople stuck around after he opened the door.

  4. My parents get kids coming to their door selling raffle tickets for guns. Some are very young <6 years old.

  5. We've had them at our door a few times. One gave me the story she was part of a group of inner city youth learning how to boost their communication skills. One asked to come in the house and have a glass of water. I always feel like they are scouting out homes for burglaries... Often they will jot down notes upon leaving or leave a tiny sticker on your doorway.

  6. I sold vacuum cleaners door to door one summer during undergrad. As you say, it was soul crushing and sometimes terrifying. I had multiple firearms pointed at me, many more people come to the door armed, and even more spew verbal abuse, often before I had even said a word. After this experience (20 years ago) I always treat the people who knock on my door with respect. We're all just people trying to get by. Otherwise get a No Solicitors sign.

  7. Off topic: Im thinking of teaching Chem as adjunct at a university and PUI nearby: both schools want someone to teach Organic (!) Is this a coincidence, or is there something going on here?

    Also, does anybody know of a good book/reference for organic demos that can be done in class without killing students?

    1. I like to read the Chemistry Guide newsletter by Anne Marie Helmenstine from chemistry section of She has some experiment ideas that should work in a classroom.

      I am not associated in any way.... etc. etc.

  8. Here is an organic demo which they'll remember.

    My high school organic chemistry teacher asked for a volunteer take a beaker to the restroom and return with a urine sample. He then used a test strip to test for diabetes.

  9. We had one of the super expensive vacuum sales people knock on the door a few years back and offer to vacuum a room for free. We let her in. Big mistake. She was there for like 2 hours, vacuuming our couch and trying to show us how great the $4000 vacuum was. She kept asking for water, stuff to eat, etc. and we obliged. Felt sorry for her, but learned a lesson.

  10. A former chemistry colleague (who happened to be Mormon) spent a summer selling security systems door-to-door. He said he made a lot of sales and money. Apparently the company hired mostly post-Mission Mormons, as they were good at the door-to-door thing, and used to rejection.

  11. One summer in collage I was having a hard time finding a summer job so my mom made me answer this highly suspicious add in the paper. I ended up going to a mass interview where we spend like 2 hours just listening to how great this job was but weren't really told what it was. Eventually I figured out they wanted us to sell perfume door to door, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that it sounded pretty cult-like (ie they prepped us in saying our friends and family will be concerned about us but they would just be jealous of all the money we would be making). After getting many of those magazine sellers at my door, I decided that they are probably in a similar cult. Now, that is sad, but if you bring up the fact that you think they are in a cult, they end up leaving pretty quickly.

  12. The magazine folks come around less frequently, since it seems that a lot of people either don't read them or get them digitally. Occasionally we'll get the folks trying to raise money for some organization. I ask for a brochure and tell them when I read it I'll decide to give or not, but there is no way I'm giving out my credit card, check or cash to someone walking around the neighborhood.

    Girl Scout Cookies I make an exception for the door-to-door thing.

    We get a lot of the college painters in our neck of the woods since most of the houses are cedar sided. Like I'm going to give a bunch of college kids a shot at staining my siding when I can have a professional do it for basically the same price. No, thanks CollegePro!

    I worked as a telemarketer one summer in college. That was soul crushing work, but no-one could point a gun at me. I tend to be polite to them now given how much that job sucks. I explain that I did it for a few months, know they've got a retort to every possible answer I have, but that I'll save them the time and energy so they can move onto another call. Either that or I tell them I just lost my job, this really tends to make them feel awkward and hang up pretty quickly. I only do this for the organizations that loosely affiliate themselves with law enforcement, fire or veterans, but then say they aren't a non-profit.

  13. Aqueous - I've heard CollegePro Painters is a scam; the kids have to recruit their own crew of other college kids, and usually end the summer owing their crew money rather than making a profit.