Mr Magazine Man

Zarathruster By Zarathruster, 15th Mar 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Jobs>Careers

This is a non fiction account of a job I had as a magazine route salesman.

Mr Magazine Man

Mr Magazine Man

I was in between jobs and looking for a way to pay the rent and catch up on the phone bill. My options at the time were limited and I was barely surviving with a courier job delivering small packages throughout the city of Jacksonville, Fl. I heard through a friend about a job in the 'publishing' and magazine business. I began to think of the high profile world of publishing and writing for magazines, traveling the world and meeting important people - this couldn't of been further from the truth.

I met John, the owner of the company in a telephone interview and he assured me that the Jacksonville market was 'wide open' and all needed was someone to 'take the ball and run with it', to help his magazine business grow. We set up a time to meet and discuss opening the Jacksonville market. John was the typ of guy who liked to throw money around and try to impress people - this was evident at our first meeting where we ate at a five star restaurant at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl. After dinner we went back to his suite to talk about how to approach the Jacksonville market. Upon entering the room, John began to talk about titles his company offered and the legitimacy of his publishing business. Then came the truth. He opened a briefcase and out spilled several pornographic magazines. "this", he said "is what we sell the most of..." although we carry all the major titles like Sports Illustrated, Cosmo, Field and Stream, etc. All right, I thought, how bad can it be? I sell and distribute all the major magazine titles and some 'other' titles as well, I needed the job. John explained that I would have a van for delivery and store maintenance and that he had two stores to start with. The two stores were owned by Syrians and their family network of store ownership extended to over 50 locations in Duval County. The potential was there for a quick start and a possible distributorship of my own.

We arranged to have the magazines drop shipped to my house as the new titles dropped. I separated them and organized bins with each stores delivery in it. The first six months were the most difficult. The language barrier and the Syrians' distrust of me seemed impossible to overcome at the time. I felt that these people truly hated me for some reason. They were very foreign and extremely weird. The store owners had makeshift efficiency apartments behind the counters in their stores. they slept on the floor, covered in brightly colored blankets, they sipped yerba mate tea through a device that looked like a hash pipe. Their eyes would glaze over when they drank that shit I swear they were getting high off of it. My foreign comrades smoked incessantly and they always thought they were being ripped off..Middle Eastern music was played in the background. I felt like I was in Marakesh! The Syrians always kept loaded weapons behind the counter in obtuse places. I once reached into a magazine rack and pulled out a loaded .45. I once asked one of the store owners how he liked owning a business in the Untied States, his attitude was best summed up in the following quote "... both countries fuck you, at least over here they give you a kiss while they're doing it!" I was able to gradually warm up to the Syrians and slowly acquire more of their business as they saw me week after week. Every now and then I would hear them say " call my cousin he have three store on west side..." or "...I open new store at beach, you go there next week and talk to Sam.." Over eighty percent of these guys were named Sam, John or Saieed, pronounced 'Sod' or 'Si-eed'. A sa lama laka! I was learning their language, Shukrahn! All of my accounts were independently run convenience stores, none were corporately owned. None were the same however they all sold the same endless stream of completely useless items. Anything they put on the counter would sell and rack and counter space was always being fought for. Every square inch of the counter was covered with key chains, roses in small tubes, lighters -just about anything they could fit in there. You could barely walk through some of the stores, they were so crowded. I remarked to one of them that you could probable take a dump in a box, out a $1.00 sticker on it - and someone would buy it.

After about a year or so I had 75 stores on my route. I was regularly stopping at every store each week as new titles came out. The mainstream magazines like Sports Illustrated, Cosmopolitan barely sold. They were just a front for the real business - porno mags. I put them out then picked them up. the publisher would give a credit to the company if the magazine was returned when the new edition came out. Hustller, Penthouse, Playboy, etc accounted for 99% of the business. Selling these magazines in a pre-internet environment in 1998-99 was like selling drugs to junkies. It was like a feeding frenzy. Every month, people would wait for the new editions to arrive. I had no idea of the appetite for this type of material. It was sick and these people needed help. I regularly carried an additional 5 - 10 bundles, (50 in a bundle) of Hustler, Penthouse and Playboy - and regularly sold every single one of them, I could never keep enough in the van. "Hey Mr Magazine Man" become my calling card and the mantra of the store owners. Not every store was able to sell them though. The really poor stores in the worst areas of town couldn't sell them. When I asked the owner of the Blue Front store on Moncreif Blvd, his response was "...Steve...why would they pay $5 for the magazine when the hit of crack is $2 and the girl is $2,,, why Steve, why they pay for that?" That was a defining moment and we laughed about it for weeks.

No wonder John was able to throw around money like he did, he was a direct arm of organized crime in the pornography business. As a result, my business continued to grow and I saw more and more of the seedy downside of life. Stores got robbed. A crackhead was shot and killed in one of my stores, thankfully I wasn't there at the time. One of the Syrians shot him on the way out the door of an attempted robbery on the West side. A store owner near my house was stabbed in the throat after being followed home and robbed. He died at the seen, left behind a wife and two kids. Another one lost his six year old son to an accidental shooting after the kid and the kids cousin found one of their loaded weapons and it accidentally went off. Add all of this to the fact that most of the stores were located in bad parts of town and it was a cash business. It was nothing for me to regularly collect over $10K a week, more than half of it in cash. I rented a small warehouse and the magazines were coming in upwards of 5 pallets a week.The business was starting to get big. John would fly me to Atlanta for the weekend to go to his cabin on the lake and ride jet skis and party with the other employees. He had all the toys - new cars, ATV's, jet ski's - he was living the life - of a porno pushing gangster. I got raises every year and continued to expand the business, all the while feeling nauseous about the whole ordeal. I really didn't like what I was doing and wanted to get out.

My income continued to grow as we expanded into video sales. The law in Duval County at the time stated that any display of pornographic material could be deemed offensive and the offending party could be arrested for it. In other words, selective enforcement. This was ramped up considerably during city and county elections. The local authorities began to focus on my venue of video sales. Luckily I was never caught up in one of their dragnets however I dealt with store owners that were. I was too quick for them. I was in and out of those store in a flash, typically in the morning so I was never caught. The store owners however were sitting ducks for selective enforcement. One of them was ticketed and fined, another hauled off to jail. The guy called screaming at me that we owed him bail money. I told him to take it up with the local authorities, they are the perpetrators here, not me. I was shouted at and threatened however I continued to sell them, the money was too easy. The wholesale cost of a typical video was $2. I got them for $5 and sold them for $20. the store owners then sold them for $25 - $30. I sold what we called 'Tear off's' or 'rips'. for $2 each. These were back dated issues with the cover torn off. As long as the publisher got the cover back, the business got credited for the magazine. I would routinely make an extra $2-300 per week from the tear off's and more from the video sales.The money was getting better however I still wanted out.

The end came right after I secured a deal with the largest newsstand in the county. They had five outlets throughout the city and would generate over $10K in revenue. This would put gross weekly sales somewhere near $25K per week. If I kept 1/10th of that, I would make over $100 grand per year! I was literally praying to God to get me out of this awful business and at the same time thinking of the money I could make being a porno gangster. I thought about running my own warehouse, buying a computer system, hiring employees - and I even hired one! Gave him a van and set him up in Ocala and Gainesville, Fl. After getting a tacit agreement with the newsstand outlet to carry our product, one of the supervisors came down to ride with me for the day. After lunch, he informed me that I was being fired. My prayers were answered! I was angry initially however that faded. I had no job and no vehicle yet I felt better than I had in a long time. At least I was away from the daily sale of a bad habit to a weak public. The company never got the newsstand account and the rest of their business dried up except for a few stores that were drop shipped each month. I think the mob got to John for something, to this day I can find no reference of him or his company. It's just as it should be - like it never existed.


Convenience Stores, Magazine Industry, Magazines, Route Sales

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author avatar Zarathruster
Internationally Acclaimed Writer of Satire and Human Interest

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