But, aside from knowing it was a complete and total racket, who knew about the dark, seamy underside of magazine sales?
In interviews over seven months, more than 50 current and former members from almost as many crews painted a similar picture of life on the road.
With striking uniformity, they told of violence, drug use, indebtedness and cheating of customers during their cross-country travels, often in unsafe vehicles and with drivers who lacked proper licenses.
“The stories about life on crew you hear from these kids are almost unbelievable,” said Officer George Dahl of the Louisville, Ky., Metro Police Department, who estimated that his department had cited or arrested more than 70 sellers for assault, unlawful solicitation or drug possession in the last two years. “But you get them alone and start hearing the same sort of thing over and over from different crews and you start believing them.”
In Collinsville, Ill., Daniel Burrus scrolled through digital photographs of bloodied faces as he described how, on a crew he helped manage for several years, men who missed their sales quota were forced to fight each other.