Friday, June 22, 2012

NEWS BLOG: An encounter with a ‘mag crew’

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 10:41 AM

Do you know what a "mag crew" is? Neither did I, until about 8 last night. A young girl rang my doorbell -- I'd say she was between 15 and 19 -- and said she needed me to judge her public speaking skills.

She was extremely enthusiastic, uncomfortably over-familiar, and scattered. Her name was Tiffany... I think. And she said she was from North Carolina.

I suspected a scam, so I asked questions. She insisted she wasn't pushing religion and expressed contempt for those who do. So then I knew it was probably a sales pitch. Sure enough, she pulled out some laminated materials with a list of magazine titles. She said she was trying to earn enough points to open a business -- a salon. My next-door neighbors had just bought a bunch of stuff, she said, and she was only one point away.

Uh huh.

But I got on the Internet after I shooed Tiffany away and learned, through the New York Times, about the sordid world of "mag crews": largely unregulated traveling sales crews. They're often run by unscrupulous people who promise especially vulnerable young people the world, and then abuse them emotionally and sometimes physically, often separating them from their families. There are stories of drug abuse, rape, burglary, and everything else you can imagine.

I called 911, and watched as the cops talked to the girl and the rest of her crew. I hope she was honest with the cop and that she spoke up if she was truly in trouble. I wish I had asked her.

There's a web site devoted to mag crews and tells you what to do if you encounter one, so you can be better prepared than I was.

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