November 2, 2009
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WASHINGTON, DC — The National Consumers League (NCL) has long warned about the dangers traveling sales crews pose for young workers. Last week’s discovery of the remains of Jennifer M. Hammond, who disappeared from a sales crew six years ago, heightens our concern about the safety of traveling sales crews for teen workers.
“Jennifer Hammond’s death should serve as a tragic warning. We urge parents not to allow their children to join traveling sales crews,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “The dangers are too great. Without parental supervision, teens are at too great a risk of being victimized. Traveling sales crew workers are typically asked to go to the doors of strangers and sometimes enter their homes—a very dangerous thing for a young person to do.”
In August 2003, co-workers at Atlantic Circulation, Inc. dropped Hammond, an 18-year-old native of Littleton, Colorado, off in a mobile home park in Milton, New York. She failed to show up at the designated pickup spot two hours later. A hunter found her remains in a forest in Saratoga County, New York last week.
Local police are investigating the case as a homicide—another young woman, also missing from Milton, New York, was found dead just miles from the location of Hammond’s remains in 2005.
Each year, traveling sales has consistently appeared as one of NCL’s list of “Five Worst Jobs for Teens.”
“Frequent crime reports involving traveling sales crews suggests that the environment they present is not a safe one for teen workers,” said Greenberg. “Working in unknown neighborhoods poses risks, especially if you are carrying money from sales or goods to sell. Workers are vulnerable to assault and exploitation from customers, crew members, and their superiors.”
Unscrupulous traveling sales companies charge young workers for expenses like rent and food that in some cases requires them to turn over all the money they earn from selling magazines or goods. When they try to quit or leave the crew, they are told they can’t. Disreputable companies have been known to seize young workers’ money, phone cards, and IDs and restrict their ability to call their parents. Drug use and underage drinking are not uncommon. A New York Times report in 2007 found that crew members often make little money after expenses are deducted.
“The crews also expose young workers to grave danger from vehicle accidents,” added Reid Maki, NCL’s director of social responsibility and fair labor standards. “Teen sales crews are often crammed into poorly maintained, unsafe vans and driven by young distracted drivers.” In November 2005, two teenagers were killed and seven were injured when the van they were riding in flipped near Phoenix, Arizona. A month earlier, 20-year-old, James Crawford, was ejected and killed from a van crash in Georgia. Eighteen young adults were crammed into the 15-passenger van when the driver fell asleep.
Unfortunately, Jennifer Hammond’s suspected murder is not the first associated with work in traveling sales crews:
- In November 2007, Tracie Anaya Jones, 19, a member of a traveling sales crew, was found dead of stab wounds in Memphis, Tennessee. Her killing remains unsolved and is featured on “America’s Most Wanted” Web site.
- In Rapid City, South Dakota in April 2004, a 41-year-old man was charged with murdering a 21-year-old woman who came to his home to sell magazines.
About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.