Door-To-Door Salesman Accused of Shocking Sales Pitch
Stories of violence in door-to-door magazine sales is raising concern. The latest incident involves a salesman in Boone, N.C., who has been arrested and charged for purportedly giving an astoundingly sinister sales pitch.
The man, Jerad Michael (pictured at left), who was peddling magazine subscriptions, allegedly forced his way into a woman's home, and refused to leave unless the woman either "submitted to drug use and sexual activity" or bought what he was selling, reports TV Station WCYB in Bristol, Va.
The woman said that she bought the magazines and promptly called the police. Arnold was charged with common law robbery, and was booked under a $20,000 bond.
Among other recent cases: Last November, one salesman plead guilty to beating and sexually assaulting a 58-year-old woman in American Fork, Utah, after he had made his pitch. In October, a magazine salesman reportedly forced his way into a woman's home in Vancouver, Ore., with a 12-inch blade, and preceded to sexually assault her.
After people posing as door-to-door sellers committed a series of crimes in Idaho Falls, Idaho, last summer, including one rape and one robbery, its city council began to push through an ordinance that would require all door-to-door peddlers to get a criminal background check.
In 2010, a Maryland woman reported letting a magazine door-to-door salesman into her home to use the bathroom and that he sexually assaulted her while inside. The suspect in the case was later charged with second-degree assault, perverted practice, fourth-degree sex offense and sodomy. Also in 2010, a salesman allegedly sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl in Manatee County, Fla., after she let him in her home so that he could check his MySpace page.
In 2009, a salesman was sentence to life in prison for raping and killing a 90-year-old woman in Lafayette, Calif. In 2007, another magazine salesman was arrested for allegedly raping a teenager, this time in Florida, although not while making a house call.
Magazine door-to-door selling is mostly unregulated, and the industry often recruits young and inexperienced people, seduced by "help wanted" ads offering money and travel. While many of the sellers are clearly predators, many others are victims. For a significant number, it's their first job, and crew members end up traveling the country, living out of cheap hotels, paying for all their own expenses, earning around 10 to 25 percent of every subscription they sell, and handing over most of their commission to higher-ups, according to The New York Times.
A bad sales day, or a bout of sickness, can easily send salesmen into debt. The Portland Tribune called the industry a "slimy, violent and mostly invisible underworld -- an underworld that turns homeless, naive and scared young adults from across the country into what often amounts to 21st century indentured servants."
Door-to-door magazine selling took in more than $147 million in 2005, the National Field Selling Association reported. According to some estimates, there are as many as 30,000 magazine sellers knocking on doors every day.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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