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Life on a Mag Crew, Story Worthy of Dickens

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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Two days after graduating from high school last June, Jonathan Pope left his home in Miamisburg, Ohio, to join a traveling magazine sales crew, thinking he would get to “talk to people, party at night and see the country.”

Over the next six months, he and about 20 other crew members crossed 10 states, peddling subscriptions door to door, 10 to 14 hours a day, six days a week. Sleeping three to a room in cheap motels, lowest seller on the floor, they survived some days on less than $10 in food money while their earnings were kept “on the books” for later payment.

By then, Mr. Pope said, he had seen several friends severely beaten by managers, he and several other crew members were regularly smoking methamphetamine with prostitutes living down the motel hallway, and there were warrants out for his arrest in five states for selling subscriptions without a permit.

“I knew I was either going to be dead, disappeared or I don’t know what,” Mr. Pope said.

After persuading his manager to let him leave, Mr. Pope was dropped off, without a ticket, $17 in his pocket, at a bus terminal near San Antonio, more than 1,000 miles from home.

NY Times’ Ian Urbina: For Youths, a Grim Tour on Magazine Crews

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