I’m already missing those rainy days last week. It felt like earthquake weather, but instead of earthquakes we got a downpour of really eventful national news. The Supreme Court decisions on voting rights, DOMA, and Prop 8; Wendy Davis and the feral feminists in Texas standing up for women’s rights in a huge way; the Zimmerman trial, Snowden making moves, Cronuts; it’s like a whole Billy Joel song happened in one week. I felt a strange upwelling of American pride pushing out the dregs of my birthday hangover.
Speaking of my birthday.
Funny thing happened on my way out to dinner. A nice-looking young man from the Eastern Bloc knocked on our door to sell us some proverbial encyclopedias published by a company called SW Advantage. No, you’re not getting déjà vu—Melissa Daugherty wrote a letter from the editor extolling the virtues of this charming Estonian salesman. And indeed, he was very polite as he deftly extracted information about my family and my children, the school they go to, our neighbors, and the state of their fecundity and educational leanings. He had skills to make mils. I can see how Melissa got sold. And let me tell you, he dropped her name over and over. “Melissa considered it an investment in her children’s future!” An investment indeed; $750 for a set of textbooks? Bought from a kid with no business card or cell phone? I’ve got a Nigerian check I’d like you to cash for me, Melissa.
A teensy tiny bit of research shows that SW Advantage is an old school door-to-door Baptist Bible-selling business—and apparently they’re dipping their toes into the colorful world of indentured servitude. These kids are recruited from foreign countries, trained in Nashville, sent out to work 6 days a week (in the field from 6am to 9pm), and made to spend their one day off in sales meetings. They come over here already in debt—owing upwards of a few grand, if they’re from foreign countries. They’re considered independent agents, so they’re on the hook for their own food and living expenses. And this shady-ass company even lobbied to kill a bill in Wisconsin that would “stop [door-to-door sales] companies from putting workers in dangerous and unfair conditions.” The bill was passed, but only applied to salespeople who traveled in groups of two or more. Southwest Advantage doesn’t have to adhere to that bill because they send their salespeople out one at time, for extra danger. But hey, don’t take it from me—ask SW alum, Rick Perry. You’d buy a textbook from Rick Perry, right?
So Melissa, thank you for the reminder to “be nice, would you?” (Otherwise truly, I might have thrown him right into my dungeon.) But I’m not a fan of exploiting people, nor of inferior textbooks. I think we’d be better off handing the kid some cash.