Life at the bottom of the pyramid

Imagine you’re online looking for a job. You don’t have very many qualifications if not any at all but you possess drive, determination and most importantly a desire to become wealthy.

Reviewing your CV things seem pretty hopeless and it looks like you are going to have to settle for an unsatisfying and mediocre job. That is until something pops up that you like the look of.

Junior Marketing, Sales and Customer service job no experience necessary!

You click to find out further information thinking there must be catch, it seems not. The advert the person is looking for practically describes the person you are and what you are striving to be.

The job boasts travel opportunities, financial gain, quick progression and most importantly reassures you ‘Not to worry if you feel you lack skills or qualifications’ because all they want you to be is eager and determined.

Unfortunately, it is indeed too good to be true. Thousands of people are being sucked into the promise of an amazing life opportunity and landing themselves a slot in company that resembles a pyramid scheme jumping through loophole after loophole, which prevents the organisation from being shut down.

The model of a pyramid scheme keeps the people at the top revelling in wealth, while a constantly changing throughput of employees at the bottom do their dirty work.

Artefact decided to do some investigation to this corrupt world and tracked down Chris*, 18, who went through the full process of initially handing in his CV, to handing in his resignation in the space of just two weeks. Chris was recruited by a ‘direct sales and marketing company’ based in a modern central London office, boasting a great view of the river.

“The first time I came to the office was for my interview. The office itself was pretty impressive, everyone looked happy and smartly dressed,” he told us.

“Everything felt like it was moving very quickly, I had only applied for the job the previous day and after just a couple of hours I had already received a call from Collette* saying my CV looked great and after a short chat on the phone I had an interview.”

Although Chris recalls that his first encounter with the marketing company was positive, taking a look at the existing reviews online about this organisation creepily mirror his own initial impressions and state how in retrospect what seemed to be a positive interview, was actually a take on a script.

“I applied for a job doing some sort of retail-based work, I received a call almost immediately from a friendly-sounding receptionist asking for me to come in for my interview,” an anonymous ex-employee from complaintboard.com recalled.

“However you get to the interview and it isn’t entirely what you anticipated. I discovered with these sort of scams there is usually a three-day interview process: day one will be a brief few questions where you meet a ‘high flyer’ and they ask you when you’re available to start. As a young, somewhat understandably naive person, you say immediately. They then offer you a job and you come in for an ‘observation day’ the next day, during which you shadow another ‘high flyer’ and spend the day doing street sales for some company followed by an interview at the end of the day from another member of management who tells you that you’ve done really well and can start the following day,” the post continued.

Chris’ early experience followed the same pattern. He told us that once he was fully submersed in his job after a few days, he overheard Collette interviewing the next influx of naïve potential employees in the exact same way, with the same expression and delivery, not forgetting to add the stock compliments that Chris thought originally set him apart from the rest.

So Chris now had the job which he had landed out of a field that Collette told him consisted of 42 applicants, he recalled feeling very pleased and excited. However, it turned out that it was in fact sales work but not the kind he had originally thought.

The job was fully commission-based, although the original advert said he would get £18-26K and he would be officially ‘self-employed’.

Chris was being managed by Wayne*, a guy claiming to be on £200K and possessing a multitude of rags-to-riches stories to keep the new naïve employees hooked, another characteristic of a pyramid scheme style and for Chris this was working.

“One day after work we went for drinks, Wayne showed me his pay check for the month which was around £4,000.”

“I would wake up at 5am, get to work for 8am where we would have coaching from team leaders (like Wayne) and be sent out to do our sales job consisting of getting people to sign up for charities. For every sale we made we would get £25.

“We usually would be sent quite far away, in places such as Essex and Kent; it was hard to sell here because of the demographic in the shopping centre but I tried my best anyway,” Chris said.

“The target was 10 sales a week, it sounds easy but it really wasn’t. By 6pm we would finish, travel back to the office, receive coaching about the day’s events and I would get home around 9pm feeling tired and defeated, but always with the drummed-in promise of imminent success, something I would soon realise wasn’t coming.’

Day after day would go by and Chris still wasn’t selling, his girlfriend began researching the company online and found many other organisations just like it, with undeniable parallels to what Chris was involved in. Despite this, the lure of success remained strong as Chris recalls being professionally groomed.

“The CEO of the company realised I was feeling down about my lack of sales and he took myself, Wayne and a few others to his penthouse apartment, he even showed me a top of the range car which he supposedly brought home that day, I sat in the driver’s seat and wasn’t allowed to take it for a spin in case we ‘lost his parking space’ but was granted the pleasure of revving the engine. I guess in retrospect he was saying this is what you could have Chris, in a ploy to keep me hooked in the scam.”

Alarm bells began sounding for Chris when everything began to add up and resembled the evidence he had been shown that the company was indeed a scam.

Like Collette, Wayne was telling the new interviewee shadowing the team exactly the same stories, with carefully placed expression. After realising he was part of a scam Chris finally handed in his notice, but he is yet to see if he is going to be paid for the six sales (£150) he made.

There is no denying Chris is a young, ambitious individual who wants to succeed but the organisation he worked for, and many others like it, are cleverly constructed to keep the individuals at the top wealthy and the new employees clueless.

 

Chris is now warning others not to fall for the alluring promises made by such firms, and to check out potential employers fully before accepting a post.

 

 

 

 *All names have been changed for privacy reasons


Featured image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr CC