Reflections on a Former Job

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Last year, on a whim, I typed in the name of the marketing company for which I worked about a month or two after college, just to see if anyone I knew had made it into management. Yes, I had fallen for one of those pyramid schemes, the ones wherein new college graduates are recruited to sell or market a product door-to-door for as little money as possible. On paper, it looked amazing: the opportunity to make $45K your first year of working, flexible hours, no day the same as the day before, potential to reach management within six months, et cetera, et cetera. I was interviewed by the head honcho, an intense woman, probably in her mid-twenties, who was dressed impeccably in a very expensive suit. After the usual questions – “Tell me about yourself,” “Why are you interested in this position?” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” – she took me into the back room, which was full of excited twenty-something-year-old people. I remember the thought striking me that those people all seemed strangely happy and enthusiastic, but I took that to be a good sign.

I was asked to come back the next day for an eight-hour interview. Yeah, you read that right – eight hours. I should’ve seen the warning signs right then. And of course, no one told me to wear comfortable clothes, so I show up in my suit and stilettos only to be dragged out the door by one of the so-called ‘leaders’ for an incredibly long day of going door-to-door, from business to business, trying to gain or retain Verizon customers.

I honestly thought it would get better. Once I was put out on my own, I figured I had the flexibility to create my own selling style, and actually did pretty well – but the fact that work was commission-based hit me hard. I made approximately $120 my first week, putting in nine- to ten-hour days. And this is without benefits, mind you. In addition to this, gas, wear-‘n-tear on the car, meals, and everything were all covered by me and not the company.

I pulled out about a month later. The place seemed too much like a cult to me; many of the people working there seemed, well, almost brainwashed, if I can say that. As in, they seemed devoid of logical thought. One of the young women who trained me actually freaked me out when she was talking to potential customers; she got this wild-eyed look and leaned forward as she shot out her spiel. Honestly, if I were a customer, I’d wouldn’t want to have anything to do with her. And as her trainee … well, damn. Even on our ‘business trip’ to Lynchburg, Virginia – classy, eh? – she refused to talk about anything but work, even at dinner, or when we were chilling in the hotel room after an extremely long, hot day. Let’s face it, she lacked a good personality. Hell, she practically didn’t seem human. But this was the same for quite a few people working there.

Well. You live, you learn, I guess. It was certainly an experience!

But anyway. As I was saying, I looked up the company last year, just for fun, and guess what I found? Surprise, surprise. Dozens of comments about the company and its CEO on web sites dedicated to revealing scams and rip-offs. Ha. Apparently head honcho woman had had problems with legality in the past, and has actually changed the name of the company three times to avoid pursuit. One former employee said, “I became … aware that we were ripping people off. When I would voice these concerns, I was hushed and reassured that everything was protocol by legal standards. After reviewing [a worksheet for sales reps from AT&T] I realized that I had been committing fraud.” Well, it’s true. I saw numerous people flat-out lie about what we were marketing, and it was just awful.

It’s amazing to me that people can get away with things like this, but head honcho woman certainly has. While I was working there, she drove a BMW, flew down to Miami every Thursday for a long weekend with her boyfriend, and came in with a new, expensive suit every day. I’d like to be in her position one day, but not if it’s the result of exploiting my employees. I have too much pride for that.

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Ingrid is a B2B marketing professional with a decade of experience in online marketing, marketing automation, demand generation and marketing strategy for both start-ups and large corporations. She specializes in developing strategic and integrated marketing campaigns, optimizing marketing automation and CRM systems and developing content for sales/marketing utilization. On the side, Ingrid enjoys antiquing, playing guitar (not well), and traveling both within the US and throughout Europe.

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