Security Alert: Door-to-Door “Magazine Salesmen” Probably Not Selling Magazines


Bernal residents are advised to be aware of rogue “magazine salesmen” currently operating in the neighborhood. This week, a rather impressive number of Bernal residents have reported groups of men knocking on doors, seeking to sell magazine subscriptions. When residents decline the offer, the “salesmen” often become surly.

Here’s a Bernal neighbor’s description of an incident earlier this week on Franconia:

The evening before last (Monday, Feb. 10) a young, African-American guy, probably in his teens, wearing a blue sweater came to our door supposedly selling magazines and books. While we were talking, he asked if he could “step into our house,” which I found odd and said, “No.” When I told him we weren’t interested, he said, “Okay,” and ran down our front stairs and out of our yard leaving our gate open.

Last evening another young man came to our door. He, who was also African-American, was dressed in a white shirt and black tie much like the Mormon solicitors that we all see around the city. Before he could say anything I told him that we had told the guy the night before that we weren’t interested and he also said, “Okay,” and exited abruptly. I watched him walk down the middle of the street so I went down our stairs to see if he was going door-to-door.

This is when I noticed a large African-American man on the sidewalk across the street from our house in a red polo shirt. He asked me, “You got a problem?” I said, “Excuse me?” “You got a problem,” he repeated. I told him that I was minding my own business and asked why he was asking.

“I already know what you’re looking for,” was his reply as he started to walk up the street. I went back up to my house and called the neighbors on either side of me.

It turns out that they had been to both houses. A young man had also been at one next-door-neighbors’ house the night before but was espousing religion.

That incident is consistent with several others.

Another neighbor reports:

And another:

And another:

Notice a pattern?

The solicitors’ intent is unclear, but the whole thing is supremely fishy. They could be really really really really bad magazine salesmen. They could be casing properties to identify targets for a future burglary. They could be cyborg recon droids sent by a hostile alien planet to gather intelligence for a planned invasion and conquest of Earth. Frankly, we just don’t know.

Bernal residents should be alert, and the SFPD seeks your assistance to identify the individuals.

If they knock, do not let the solicitors into your home (where they can survey the contents of your crib). Be aware, keep them outside, bid them a cheerful farewell, and immediately contact the SFPD via the non-emergency number (553-0123) to describe the incident.

Carry on.

PHOTO: Bernalwood Air Force

73 thoughts on “Security Alert: Door-to-Door “Magazine Salesmen” Probably Not Selling Magazines

  1. This happened to me too, in Sunnyside last week (up the hill from Monterey & Congo). I didn’t open the door, but looked at him through the adjoining window and told him we weren’t interested. He tried to argue me into opening the door, at which point I shut the blinds and walked away.

  2. We got one on Precita last night. Nicely dressed with a bowtie, but really pissed off when I told him we weren’t interested. I called the non-emergency number, but I’m not sure if they followed up.

  3. Visited us on Cortland near Mission on Sunday (I think it was).

    Maybe someone should have their partner stand behind them when they open the door and shoot some iPhone video which we could post for the police?

  4. yup, one of them hit the last block of Treat Ave on Tuesday night, A seemingly nice fellow until I told him that I could not write a check or give him any cash, at which point he ran down my steps in a huff shouting that I was the only person on the block that had not helped him. He also wanted to know how friendly my dog was……
    His paper work said he was working with “PS Enterprises” which would “help him pay for college if he sold enough magazines” ( after he left, just out of curiosity, I looked them up and one does exist in SF (jewelry retailer) but his PS Enterprises “was from Arizona”.

  5. Remarkably familiar to a magazine salesman that came to my place in Noe ~6 months ago, no interest in dogs in my case (I also don’t have any) but quite angry that I didn’t want magazines.

  6. Same thin happened to me. Though no one tried to go in my house. I looked up the website and its uncertain whether the company is legit. I’m going to call and cancel my check. Thanks for posting this…


    Please excuse typos.
    Sent from my mobile device

  7. Visited me about 8pm at my home on Folsom & Tompkins. I didn’t open my door. Solicitor was polite about my ‘not interested.’

  8. i highly recommend mounting an IP camera trained on your front gate or entry stairs. makes saving images of solicitors and unwelcome visitors very easy. the cost for set-up isn’t much, compared to the peace of mind it can bring. and the hardware is getting cheaper all the time.

    • One of the easiest types of cameras to setup is one that has Power Over Ethernet(POE) This can get the power to your camera over the CAT5/6 ethernet cable you probably will need to get the data from your camera.
      A good review site:
      Get one that has infrared night vision otherwise you’ll be looking at a dark image.

      You can get a 1 Bay Synology or QNAP NAS that a program called Surveillance Station installed. Just add your own drive and this low powered device can stay on all day and night and capture video when motion is detected. A single bay NAS can be had for $100’ish.
      You can use your smartphone/desktop browser to playback the videos from home or away. It not hard to get the ports forwarded outside your firewall if you wish.

      If you don’t want to spend money on any of that and just want to keep your Mac running 24/7 without ever allowing it to sleep. This piece of software is pretty good.

      Another device I really like is this Power Line+POE injector. So this will send network traffic over your electrical wires and it will power up a POE camera. Two tasks in one. I own this and it works. I haven’t found anything else like it.
      Really helps when your camera is nowhere near where your networking gear is in your house. Don’t try to do anything surveillance related over wifi. Its not very reliable.

  9. These guys must really get around. Similar incident occurred on Bradford. St (near Bernal Heights Blvd) on Tuesday and then again they were ringing doorbells last night (Wed) after dark. Would calling the non-emergency police number do ANY good?

    • It may help if they get enough calls. All of the calls go into the SFPD computer system and that’s used to assign resources, which means the cops may stop them and check their IDs. If these guys are looking for places to rob then at least the cops would have a record of who they are.

  10. Same thing on Gates the other day – Monday or Tuesday. Dog barked their damn head off so I think they got their answer to that question.

  11. I was working on the new Bernal Dads Racing car, late afternoon yesterday. The garage door was open, and a man called out from across the street and asked if I would vote for him (?). I declined, telling him that I was rather busy at the moment. I couldn’t make out his response, but he seemed rather displeased with me.

  12. Canvasing of this sort clearly seems to be on the increase in Bernal, for whatever reasons. Like others have said, it does seem that a tough economy plus Bernal’s new reputation as the Pearl of SF has partly led to this. Once we are getting the same downtrodden weirdos coming around as they are in Russian Hill–while pricing out our similar “weirdos” at the same time–you know we’ve “made it.”

    We have not had a visit from a “magazine salesman,” but last week we had someone clamor up our staircase, knock very loudly on our door, announce that he was a “PG&E gas supplier,” and then leave after I did not open the door. He was with a partner and they were extremely loud and conspicuous on a street that is usually dead quiet–a kind of dead giveaway of an obvious scam, poorly attempted. (PG&E assured me that no one who works with them would identify themselves in this way, and a rep said that it seemed that such a person may actually have been looking to sell other energy products that have nothing to do with PG&E.)

    At least it’s fairly easy to spot such scams, since the perps are virtually incapable of masking their lack of legitimacy, unless you still believe in fairies, are waiting for Girl Scout cookies (should not be going door to door), want to get saved with help from strolling Christians, or are looking to support Greenpeace (which is fine and at least they usually don’t waste people’s time in their homes).

    Sadly, I’ve taken to virtually never opening my door (or even going to the door) unless we are expecting a package or a visitor at a certain time. If a neighbor needs to reach me, they have my number. I get enough junk in my email. I don’t need it on my front steps. This is unfortunate: My preference would be that I would not be annoyed (or even unnerved) by most knocks on my door, but I so often am.

    • I wonder if it is better to let them know someone is home in case they are looking for a vacant house to break into?

      • I had a natural gas salesman come to my door last year. It was about 7pm. He was polite until I told him I was not interested and refused to show him my PG&E bill. I asked him if he could leave a copy of his brochure with me and he told me it was his last one so he couldn’t give it to me. He tried really hard to pressure me into signing a contract and refused to come back the next day. I had no intention of signing a contract that day or the next. I was just trying to get rid of him. I can’t remember the name of the company he worked for, but when I called PG&E, they said it WAS on their list of independent natural gas vendors. I let them know that I did not agree to switch my service and to please make a note in my account.

      • YES: Rule #1 about solicitations whether they be via phone, email, or in person: Ask for a brochure and a street address to be MAILED to you. That will kill off the bogus pitches IMMEDIATELY.

        Since I’m an advertiser I get lots of phone pitches. I tell them that I will make my decision based on the info they MAIL to me. This commits them in writing, and since it passes through the U.S. mails it also makes it a federal felony to misrepresent themselves. (This is why so many bogus Craigslisters want to send those super-cheap iPhones via UPS or FedEx — no violation of federal law!)

  13. Brandon, same thing happened to us last night at around 6:30 pm. A man in khakis and a red polo shirt rang our bell and then knocked on our door (we live on the Joy St stairs). He immediately asked if I would vote for him. I gave a rather tentative “OK” and immediately noticed he had no clipboard, no notebook, no literature, etc. I only cracked my door open and told him I was being mindful of not letting my cat out. He then changed tacks and asked if I thought it was important to get drugs off the streets, I said, “OK” again and then asked how much longer he’d be, because I was on the phone (I wasn’t). He immediately (politely) said, “Oh, OK, thank you,” turned and walked away. About 15 minutes later, we were driving to Cortland for dinner, via Brewster St and saw him walking down the street, in no particular hurry. Very strange. We’re definitely going to order more signage from our house alarm company. We also need a No Solicitors sign while we’re at it.

    • No Solicitor signs work fairly well. It’s actually against the law for someone to try and solicit you if you have one of those signs. I forget the city code number, but it is there. So it is something the cops could cite them for if necessary.

      • Here’s the ordinance, should anybody be interested:

        (a) No person shall wilfully remain upon any private property or business premises after being notified by the owner, lessee, or other person in charge thereof to leave.
        (b) No person, without permission, expressed or implied, of the owner, lessee, or other person in charge of private property or business premises shall enter upon such private property or business premises after having been notified by the owner, lessee, or other person in charge thereof to keep off or to keep away therefrom.
        (c) Notice. Such notification referred to in subparagraphs (a) and (b) above may be oral or in the form of a written notice, posted in a conspicuous place, describing the specific area and hours in which persons are to keep off or to keep away.
        (d) Penalty. Any person who shall violate any of the provisions of this Section shall be guilty of an infraction, the penalty for which shall be a fine which shall be not less than $50 nor more than $500.
        (e) Exceptions. This Section shall not apply in any of the following instances: (1) where its application results in or is coupled with an act prohibited by the Unruh Civil Rights Act or any other provision of law relating to prohibited discrimination against any person; (2) where its application results in or is coupled with an act prohibited by Section 365 of the California Penal Code or any other provision of law relating to duties of innkeepers and common carriers; or (3) where its application would result in an interference with or inhibition of any exercise of a constitutionally protected right of freedom of speech or assembly.

  14. Tuesday afternoon, 600 block of Peralta, young black guy in white shirt, dark tie. Rang all the buzzers in the building. I ignored it, but a neighbor called down, said she couldn’t talk because she was on the phone.

    Guy: “When would be a good time to talk then?”

    Neighbor: “…I don’t know…”

    Guy: “What, you’re afraid of black people?!”

    A charmer, this one.

  15. Was visited on Peralta between Florida and York last evening at 5pm by man in red polo. Did not answer door. The “do you have dogs?” inquiry makes we wonder if they are casing the neighborhood looking for places to break into.

  16. Probably fraudulent, though it could be legit but paying pennies on the dollar to the kids. Regardless, there are better ways to fundraise than going door to door.

    I HATE it when some guy (usually black) says “You have a problem?” I respond, “Yes, I have a problem, which is why I just phoned 911” and then I walk off in the other direction. That always gets them to leave the vicinity.

  17. When similar news made the rounds in Glen Park a while back, one conclusion was that these are most likely “traveling sales crews”, which can be anything from pyramid scams to criminal-led trafficking-esque organizations preying upon vulnerable youth for a multitude of nefarious purposes.
    One hopes that the SFPD knows the full story and can properly identify victims at all levels.

  18. One of them approached me today as I was about to go up the steps to my house on Precita (bet. Shotwell/Coso). He was somewhat friendly but insistent like a salesman. He said none of my neighbors wanted to buy magazines, but “Mr. Hugh” who lives down the street wrote a check anyway in support of his working rather than being a deadbeat dad. It’s not a donation (I told him I’m tapped out for donations).
    I told him I was sorry I couldn’t help him and he said “OK” and moved along.
    I called the non-emergency police line and the dispatcher said she’s familiar with them; these guys really think they’re going to earn money. She put out an alert in case an officer is on patrol, obviously low priority. When asked, I had told her the only concern I had was based on what’s on the blog.

  19. I met one of these well-dressed young men about six months ago, selling “magazines” to my south Folsom St. pad. I told him I wasn’t interested but engaged him with lots of questions. What’s the fundraising for, what’s the organization name, how long has he been doing this, does he like it, what’s his name, does he have a card, can I order through a website later? He was very polite, answered my Q’s, apologized that he didn’t have a card or a website and left. It seemed not too different than the school kids at Safeway selling chocolate for their fundraisers (the only crime being how God-awful the chocolate is). My point is that they juuuuuuust might not be doing anything sinister. And it’s not a crime to be broke and on the hustle, or black.

    • The particularly suspicious part, though, is in the multiple reports of them being inordinately interested in whether people have dogs/leaving when they hear dogs. That starts to sound more like casing a property.

      • I ran into two of them on Lundys while I was walking my dog. One of them was VERY friendly with both me and my dog, and only after a few minutes did the conversation turn to the magazine subscriptions they were selling. When I told him (and his partner, who had just been rebuffed at one of the Lundys houses) that I was broke, the speed at which their friendliness turned chilly was … chilling.

    • My experience was similar. Nobody likes to be solicited in their own home, but I had a friendly enough exchange with the young man who showed up my door. He was a little pushy in the way you’d expect from someone trying to sell you something you don’t want, but he was nothing but respectful, kept a distance from the door, and left without making a sale and without making a huff. We should all do our parts to keep the neighborhood safe, but thank you Cranky Franky for voicing a perspective that deviates from the feelings throughout this thread. Your last line sums it up well, and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      • Maybe what these guys need, in order to stop arousing suspicion, is some training on how to behave while on this job.

  20. SFPD is questioning one of the “salesmen” on Mullen right now. They appear to be doing all they can, it doesn’t seem like they are able to make him stop-or go elsewhere. Before I saw them w/him now, I had seem him be pretty aggressive w/a neighbor who he ran into on the street. He had not been going up to doors, just walking the street, sizing up houses.

  21. I called in another two on Shotwell at Montezuma about 30 minutes ago. One was pounding on a door and yelling “hello! hello!” and the other was walking around looking at houses.

  22. Our visit was last week and the guy wasn’t that young – maybe mid thirties? He was dressed in a tie and said he was a felon and he was selling magazines as a part of an entrepreneurial program. He wanted me to buy magazines for the boys and girls club and he got a commission. He showed me pictures of his wife and kid. He was physically a little aggressive and tried to touch me. He got mad and yelled when I said no.

  23. Erin: thanks for calling in. I also saw these guys today on Coleridge near Virginia around 3pm. Didn’t seem to be in a hurry and didn’t bother me (which is probably wise since I was in a playground with my kid). But I remember about 6 months ago met an African American youth who said he was selling magazines for his school but didn’t have any forms or anything.

  24. One of these guys came right through our closed front gate yesterday on Aztec, and I encountered him in our front courtyard. He became confrontational when I confronted him, and rather than asking about a dog, he was prying me as to whether I had a gun. While trespassing beyond a closed gate, he was yelling that I shouldn’t have been so assertive with him. We called the cops and have the guy captured on our video security system.

  25. I don’t have anything good to say about PS Enterprises, but after spending about 45 minutes talking to one of these folks on Folsom Street yesterday, I want to offer another take on all this.

    The young guy I talked to, wearing a tie and in his early 20s, is from Tennessee. He told me he’s been doing this for nearly two years now, part of a large group of men that the company moves from city to city (they have been in SF for two months, and head next to Seattle). They are put up in a hotel, get meals and travel between cities by bus. In return they have to make daily quotas ($120), and are given a pretty hard time when they don’t make them (“I don’t even want to talk about that” he said looking away, when I asked what the penalty was for not making quota).

    Those of you who got the whole pitch saw that the idea is to get you to buy two magazine subscriptions for two years (for between $38-$52 each), which you can either receive or “donate” – with half of that amount going to him, half to PS Enterprises (there is also a $15 “processing fee” that gets tacked on at the end, which also goes to PSE). He showed me a complicated points system which I didn’t really understand (more sales, more points…), and also said that if a customer only bought one magazine subscription instead of two, he’d get a 35% commission rather than 50%.

    He told me that this wasn’t what he wanted to be doing for the rest of his life. When I asked how long he’d been on Bernal Hill that day he said he started at 7:30 am (I met him on the street around 5 pm), only had one and a half sales (i.e. one 50% commission sale and one 35%), and was below quota. As I said, PSE sounds incredibly exploitative, if not an illegal scam through and through.

    But here’s the thing. This is a step up for him, and about the only option he has.

    He said a bit about his life in Tennessee, how he had a terrible stutter (which you can still discern a bit) that kept him from learning in school, and that he can read and write thanks to his little sister. He expressed appreciation for PSE for giving him a job, for helping him gain the confidence to go up, knock on doors and talk to strangers. He said that while most of his workmates refused to train him when he started (because his stutter was so bad that it killed sales), one of them took him under his wing and helped him gain self confidence two years ago, and that guy is still the one he goes out soliciting with. He said he learned things from people he talked to, and they gave him good advice (When I asked him what kind of advice he said people always told him to stop saying “sir” and “ma’am.” I told him that was good advice and he said “Yes, sir.” We both laughed but he kept sir-ing me for the next 30 mins). He told me his mother back home was proud that he was making something of himself.

    I asked him what he really wanted to do instead of this, and he said cook (When I asked him if he could cook, he answered “I’m from Tennessee.” Enough said I guess). When I asked him if the job gave him sufficient time off to look around for something else, he said another job would be too risky because if he lost it he wouldn’t know what to do. He told me about his past years of alcohol and then cocaine addiction, and a bit about the time he was in prison back home. He said there weren’t many companies that would give him a job (I couldn’t disagree), and PSE was what he had. I asked if he was able to save any money, and he told me about his Christmas envelop (he spent what he had in that on Christmas day and then felt bad that he hadn’t saved it longer), and that he had a birthday envelop. I didn’t want to ask how much he had saved in it. But I didn’t get the impression it was much.

    I can’t vouch for everything he told me. But he was a very nice guy and I actually liked him, for that short time I spoke with him, quite a bit. He was pretty sweet and seemingly sincere. He kind of subtly choked up once or twice at hard parts in his story. At one point he proudly showed me that he now had a cell phone – He didn’t have a cell plan, but could use it to connect to the internet sometimes, even though he mostly used it as a clock. He really need me to buy magazine subscriptions, and although he had (and used) his sales pitch pretty effectively (i.e. pretty relentlessly), he wasn’t rude or pushy. Like I said, I felt bad for him and his situation, and I was more sympathetic, not towards PSE, but towards him, after our conversation.

    More than anything else, my conversation with him made me wonder once again about the kind of society we’ve created in which, for hundreds, thousands, millions of others like him, knocking on our doors for ten or more hours a day under the fear of not making a quota is actually a step up in life, the best, perhaps only, option available. With all of our wealth, all of our smarts, all of our technology, all of our generousness and caring, is this really the best we can do?

    I don’t think any of us believes that it is. Yet here we are.

      • Well, he made his quota yesterday, I can say that.

        Actually, one more anecdote. There was $5 more in cash than what was needed for the subscriptions and the “processing fee.” I told him I wanted him to keep it, and not give it to PSE. He said “Thanks, I’ll use it to buy a pack of Newports!” When I told him fuggedaboutit, give it back! he laughed.

        So now I’m guilty of contributing to the profits of a highly dubious magazine subscription company, and to those of Big Tobacco as well. Politically speaking, a bad day all around.

    • While I sympathize with people striving to make an income with few skills, this magazine subscription scam is not the way to do it. I’d suggest pointing people toward places such as Labor Ready, a manual labor temp agency at 26th & Mission. Sure, they pay minimum wages, but as someone proves themselves to be dependable and does a good job Labor Ready will increase the pay. Basically it’s a hiring hall where people come in the morning and hang out as the job calls come in.

      Some years back when I was between projects I signed up with them. I was immediately assigned to demolition/construction work at several Home Depot stores where they were tearing down a couple walls and reconfiguring the customer service area. Within 8 hours our team had removed the old wall, hauled out the debris, swept, constructed new walls, painted them, and raised them into place. We actually ended in 6 hours and were given a full 8 hours’ pay. Each night was a different Home Depot. After seeing I was dependable my pay was raised without asking. The pay as I remember was about $2 above minimum and the raise was $1.

      It was strange for me to be in a manual labor hiring hall, but at the time I wasn’t getting hired for my software programming skills (most tech companies want kids fresh out of college and won’t even look at older folks). But, having grown up doing manual labor it was actually a refreshing change.

      So, I’d recommend when some magazine kid talks about needing to earn money, point them to Labor Ready on 26th & Mission.

    • Mark- Thanks for the reality check on what was turning into a somewhat disturbing thread. It seemed pretty obvious to me that people were overreacting in assuming this was ‘casing for burglaries,’ based mainly on the fact that the people knocking on their doors were generally really bad salesmen. And black. Instead, just some barely-making it strivers being exploited by a crappy company, it appears. I wonder if Todd should consider changing the thread’s title? Probably Not Selling Very Many Magazines (?)

    • I hope Todd posts this Mark R’s comment as a front page story. It would be good for all the people who don’t follow the comments to know what’s really going on.

    • Neighbor Mark, you are a lovely person. We’re so lucky to have you. Don’t let the motorcycle gang find out you’re this nice…

  26. Hooooly moly Mark R is the only one here who isn’t a super paranoid racist piece of garbage! This comment thread could be summarized thusly: “BLAAAAAAAACK KIDS!!!”

    Great. Cool. Good job, Bernal.

    I experienced this same sales barrage in San Diego a few years back and had a chat with the mid-20s guy who rang our doorbell. He tried to bum some weed off me but I gave him a beer instead. I then looked their company up online later that day to verify his description. Same situation: high pressure sales teams, transported from city to city, via van. Vile company, but the employees had very few options. Find the company’s CEO (sociopathic old white woman ayooo) and then excoriate her, please.

    Their aggression is A) exaggerated by the crappy, xenophobic parts of your brain, and B) a symptom of the awful bosses/quotas that control their lives 12+ hours per day.

    ALSO, for what it’s worth: these scams work on elderly people, period. Any nice neighborhood probably has an above-average concentration of older residents with money, and thence come the vans full of pushy salespeople.

    • Hey, Andrew, thanks for calling me a super racist paranoid piece of garbage!

      I tend to believe the wisdom of Avenue Q, that everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes, but I don’t think my true story from earlier in the week was one of those times. The salesman was the one who introduced race into that brief encounter (“What, you’re afraid of black people?!”). He didn’t have any basis for accusing my neighbor of that. She sounded to me like she just didn’t want to talk to a door-to-door salesman, whatever his color.

      In conclusion, GFY.

      • When I lived and owned a restaurant and nightclub in Portland there was crime there, too. But the perpetrators were nearly always white (aka English, German, Dutch, etc background). Why? Because 92% of the population was of “white” background.

        So, who did we look at suspiciously? Meth heads. People who had gaunt features, whose eyes darted back and forth, people who were antsy, had bad skin, dressed poorly, etc. Was this being classist? Racist? No, of course not. We drew our conclusions on who might set out to rob us based on past experiences.

    • Asian kids doing this? No. Latino kids doing this? No. White (aka German, English, Dutch, etc.) kids doing this? No. Italian kids doing this? No. Black kids doing this? YES.

      A business associate of mine who is an event planning strategist and is black told me the other day that he quickly took off walking the other way when he saw a group of black kids walking toward him 3-abreast.

      Simply identifying people by their color or ethnic background is not being racist; it’s being descriptive. If I saw a couple Asian kids going door to door and on another street saw a couple black kids going door to door, would I tend to be more suspicious of the black kids? YOU BETCHA.

      Sorry ’bout that.

      • This is parody, right?

        Wait – I get it! You are pretending to be someone living in San Francisco in the year 2014 who believes it’s perfectly okay to post comments like these. But you are not of course, because such a person couldn’t really exist!

        This is in fact a trick, a cleaver jujitsu, to get us to respond in outrage at such discounted and retrograde ideas, thereby subtly increasing community awareness that being suspicious of a group of people because of the color of their skin is the very definition of racial discrimination. Which of course the good inhabitants of Bernal Heights reject, which we know because of the Bernal Heights Community Center logo with the two hands.

        You almost got me to respond! Well played!

    • It’s not “BLAAAAAAAACK KIDS!!!”. It’s people acting in a suspicious way. No one acting suspicious should be discounted because of their race. Just as no one should be considered suspicious only because of their race.

  27. While Mark R’s story is nice and I applaud him for taking the time to find someone, it still doesn’t change my mind about this organization.
    If you buy any magazines from one of these guys then you are just helping PSE continue on their exploitation and some guy at the other end is probably driving a Bentley.
    If everyone stops buying anything from door to door salespeople then maybe this practice will go away. You’re really not doing these folks any service.
    For once, David Kaye had a good recommendation above.

  28. Life can be pretty damn tough especially for people who do not have the good fortune to own a home in our lovely neighborhood. This discussion makes me think, regretfully, of times when I wish I had been more patient with and compassionate to people less lucky than myself. I, for one, support the calmer voices in this dialogue and respect those who take the time to find out what is really going on. Let’s worry less about self and instead take steps to create opportunities for people who have few to none. Each of us can participate in activities and support organizations that lift people up and pass on those that do not. It is not a question of should we try to help. We must, more than ever before, truly go through life with eyes and ears wide open and take more positive attitudes and actions for the better of everyone. And please try to always remember that all of us, at different times, wish for and need kindness from a total stranger. I don’t sell magazine subscriptions. And I hope that I will never have to go door-to-door to try to sell people something I cannot afford myself, but roles could be reversed. Next time, at the very least, we can ask the other person “How’s it going?” and exchange kind, not critical, words.

    • Life can be pretty damn tough especially for people who do not have the good fortune to own a home in our lovely neighborhood. This discussion makes me think, regretfully, of times when I wish I had been more patient with and compassionate to people less lucky than myself. I, for one, support the calmer voices in this dialogue and respect those who take the time to find out what is really going on. Let’s worry less about self and instead take steps to create opportunities for people who have few to none. Each of us can participate in activities and support organizations that lift people up and pass on those that do not. It is not a question of should we try to help. We must, more than ever before, truly go through life with eyes and ears wide open and take more positive attitudes and actions for the better of everyone. And please try to always remember that all of us, at different times, wish for and need kindness from a total stranger. I don’t sell magazine subscriptions. And I hope that I will never have to go door-to-door to try to sell people something I cannot afford myself, but roles could be reversed. Next time, at the very least, we can ask the other person “How’s it going?” and exchange kind, not critical, words.

      • RENT or OWN is not the issue. The quality of the neighborhood is not the issue. One has to ask WHY these people got themselves into the fixes they’re in. I have a friend I can no longer help. He’s managed to get fired from some high-paying tech jobs. He’s managed to hook up with someone who took advantage of him and got him evicted. Now he sleeps on the streets. I’ve known him for years, but one has to ask: WHY did he get this way. How many bridges did he burn and why?

        When someone reaches the age of adulthood they will have interacted with hundreds, if not thousands of people and will have formed friendships and business associations. They will have developed a support network to help get them through tough times, UNLESS they sabotaged those relationships.

        I’m not helping my friend. He hadn’t contacted me in years and when he did it was because he wanted a place to stay and a “loan” of money. He didn’t make our friendship work by being a friend to me. He only contacted me when he needed something out of me. Why should I be a friend to him now?

        Well, one has to ask about those folks who get themselves into predicaments where they have absolutely nothing. WHY are they soliciting door to door for shady magazine subscription companies? They had their school years to develop relationships with their teachers, their peers, various adults they came into contact with, and yet they DIDN’T, and so today they have nothing.

        AN EXAMPLE OF FRIENDSHIPS Last night I went to Chez Poulet, Chicken John’s warehouse on Cesar Chavez and Mission. It was a benefit for Paul DeJong, the karaoke jockey (El Rio, Toad Hall, etc). Well, it seems that Paul overextended himself putting on a party in Virginia City a few weeks ago and was left in severe debt. The party last night was a fundraiser to help Paul get some of his money back from the party that left him cash-poor.

        WHY would people throw a benefit (Chicken cooked for free; Mark Growden and Freddi Price performed for free, etc) for a guy who throws parties? Because Paul is a friend. When Mark Growden couldn’t afford to go on tour with his folksongs and stuff because he couldn’t afford to fix his car, Paul bought Mark a junker and presented him with the keys. That car took Mark on tour for 3 years! Paul is THAT kind of friend. When people have needs, Paul is there. When people have needs, Chicken John is there. And so it goes.

        OUR COMMUNITY doesn’t have a name, but it’s sort of the crowd that developed around the Odeon Bar, Cacophony Society, Burning Man, Cyclecide, Laughing Squid, Ask Dr. Hal Show, Chris Karney’s street shows, NIMBYspace, etc. It’s a strong community of people who are friends to each other. When someone is in need, the folks come around and throw parties or do whatever it takes to help them.

        OTHER FOLKS can build their own communities or they can plug into ours. But the person must participate; they must be a friend to have friends. They must help out when needed. When they do that they will have friends, have community, and not have to worry about finding work, because someone will always know someone who has something available.

        There will be no need to work for any bogus magazine subscription companies.


      • David, you make it sound so simple. Yet you do not know these salesmen nor why they didn’t make the simple choices to be part of a community as you suggest. They are clearly among the vulnerable in our society for a reason, and the answer to WHY is different for each one. Here is an example from an acquaintance of mine who I just learned is homeless. He just posted this on Facebook:

        “When I think about the genesis of the place I’m in, it all comes down to parenting. Namely, parents who taught us through their attitudes and actions that our purpose was to service their comfort and happiness rather than come to know ourselves and find and understand our own.

        Not only does this kind of parenting leave kids with a diminished sense of self, but such a depowering environment inevitably leads to diminished self-confidence regardless of appearance, intellect, ambition, accomplishment, talent or heart.

        And because that’s all we know, and because key aspects of the personality don’t fully form, in adulthood similar types who wish us to subvert ourselves to their comfort and happiness are drawn. And short of grace, short of the right relationships entering to counterbalance the damage done, it becomes like a pack of wolves ripping meat off a carcass. And eventually you will find yourself right where I sit. Not because you’re a bad or a weak person, but because something fundamental was never given to you that is so hard to place one’s finger on, most of us take it for granted.

        So parents, know this. You are not the masters of your children. You are the servants of their spirits. They have been placed in your hands not to rescue or validate you, but so that you may serve them.”

      • I don’t agree. A kid is exposed to MANY role models besides their parents. In fact, most of us can point out one or two teachers who had a big positive effect on us. Also, this idea of turning inward sounds nice on the surface, but it has caused a generation of narcissists to develop. This is why we have everything from greedy landlords to traffic accidents. It’s the me-me-me syndrome; we’re raising a generation of sociopaths.

        I grew up in a world where people served their parents and their church and school. We joined the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts where the emphasis was on learning skills and helping others. The best way for someone to come to know themselves is by doing things FOR OTHERS.

        Man, I’m sounding old here, but I know that the world is not lost. At Chicken John’s party the other night I met a guy in his early 20s fresh from Oregon who was so thrilled to be in our social group. He was just blown away by the people he met and what they did. I had been speaking to him and then the entertainment started. I’d thought he had left the party, but no, he was by himself in the kitchen washing dishes! Nobody asked. He was just doing his part to help out.

        Anyhow, as I said, kids have lots of influences, not just their parents. In fact, we owe it to the next generation to try to influence these folks for the better.


  29. I think I bought a magazine subscription from same group a few years ago. It was also expensive about $60, a little aggressive sales pitch, and complicated, I think carbon paper receipt was given. I wondered if the magazine would show up, but it did. Thanks Mark for the detailed back story.

  30. We bought a magazine subscription from them in February and I’m happy to say that we have received the magazine too.

  31. One of these people came in with the same intent. He was “selling” magazines and books, said he gets paid on a commission. He told me he used to drugs when he was younger. Overall, it was a friendly conversation, but I wasn’t going to give him anything. I didn’t trust him. Towards the end, he asked to enter my house so he could use the bathroom, at which point I drew the line and told him I don’t allow strangers in the house.

    • Whenever it’s tempting to give people money for “magazine subscriptions”, just remember that they could be doing LEGITIMATE work through hiring halls such as Labor Ready, which pay real hourly wages for real work. Yeah, the work can be hard (tearing down walls, dragging demolition materials to dumpsters, painting, etc., but it’s LEGITIMATE work, the company pays honestly, and there’s always work to do. I do not have any connection with them except that about 10 years ago when things were slow I did some labor with them, tearing down walls and building new ones at Home Depot stores.

  32. These guys are back! Same situation as described above. It just happened to me on Lundys Ln. I called the non-emergency number and reported the incident. The guys was wearing light brown pants, and a white shirt. He asked me if I lived alone and if I was the only woman at the house. When I refused to answer and also refused to buy his subscription magazine he left laughing surly.

    • A good way to deal with this is to turn your head slightly and yell to the back of the house, as if you’re calling someone, “RALPH! I need to get rid of someone at the door,” or perhaps, “JOHNNY! Can you come up here and see what this guy wants?” Doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man, for that matter. If the guy thinks you’ve got a back-up, he’ll take off fast.

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