How to Handle Sales Crews

March 30, 2016

How to Handle sales crewsIgnoring the “No Solicitation” sign on our door, the young man rang the bell and waited in our driveway. Due to the sign, it had been so long since anyone had come by and I had just that day talked about these very youth to a Rotary Club. How could I not open the door?

He was probably about 19. A handsome looking African-American from Detroit claiming to raise money for cooking school to make a better life for himself. He spouted off an impressive, albeit long-winded, spiel that required me cutting him off to ask any questions. Like, “where were you before Fort Collins? How many of you are in the neighborhood today? When did you start this morning?”

He kept talking. Wanted me to know how awesome his company was and how much he had learned from traveling outside of his home city. “Do you have to sell a certain number of magazines?” I asked. “What if you don’t? Do you have to pay for your food and motel? How many of you are in a room each night?”

He had more to say. We volleyed for control until I finally said, “Look, be careful. There are plenty of companies like yours that take advantage of young adults like yourself.”

He asked, “What do you mean? How can you know that?”

So I said, “This is what I do. I fight human trafficking. And we’re tracking crews like yours that take advantage of young people.” He laughed uncomfortably. Now we were both in the driveway and he was looking for his exit. Poor kid had no idea. “If you ever get in a situation and you’re like, ‘Oh that’s what she was talking about,’ and you want out… text ‘Be Free’ anywhere, anytime and they’ll help you. If you ever decide you’re done.”

“Okay. Okay, thanks” he said, walking away. And in an instant he was gone.

Do you have to sell a certain number of magazines? I asked. What if you don't? Click To Tweet


Traveling sales crews are not all labor trafficking rings, but they are a growing concern among law enforcement around the country. They recruit young adults who may or may not have graduated high school and do not have great future plans. They bus them around the country in crews 15-50 large, keeping them isolated from family and disconnected from community. The workers are required to pay for food, transport, and housing and to meet a quota. For their hard work, they are paid little. Often, when they fail to sell the product or pay off their debt, they are either left in a random city, physically harmed, or forced to sell sex. All of these are signs of labor trafficking.

To learn more about sales crews and labor trafficking, visit:

National Human Trafficking Resource Center

Polaris Project: Knocking on Your Door Report

For Youth, a Grim Tour on Magazine Crews

Trapped Into Selling Magazines Door to Door (Atlantic Monthly)

To report a suspicious sales crew in your area:

Call the National Hotline, 1-888-373-7888, Text Be Fee,

OR call the non-emergency number of local law enforcement.


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