Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It Slices, It Dices, It Lies to You Face!

A few days ago I was rifling through some old posts on the blog and came across a new comment on a previous entry. A few months ago I shared an amusing self deprecating anecdote that featured my own failure and humiliation. It seems to be somewhat of a theme. You can read the whole thing here. In short, I got a job at Costco and tried to pick up on a chick while working there and I, or rather the contents of my cart, scared her away for good. No hard feelings. It really was funny.


While recounting the events that lead up to me getting a job at Costco that summer, I threw in a random jab at Vector Marketing and their CutCo Knife bullshit. Here is the extent of my CutCo rip:


I was home from college for the summer and I needed a job. Always a sucky spot to be in. It’s hard enough to get a job, much less one that will only last for three months. I have sat through my share of scams being advertised in the want ads as “12 dollars an hour! No commission! No door to door sales!” You know what, Vector Marketing? You can take your CutCo Knifes and blow it out your lying ass.


Someone I don’t know, calling herself Jill took it upon herself to stand up for Vector Marketing by posting the following comment two months after the original post:


Pretty funny post. Anyway, Vector Marketing would have been a way better choice, especially because you had taken some/a marketing classes. On one hand you would not have bumped into Nicole, on the other, she wouldn't think you were a freak.


Now it was a complimentary comment that was in no way mean spirited. Although that link she sent is pretty amusing. I think it’s a little strange that Vector has people trolling the internet looking for critical comments on crappy blogs to defend their good name. Apparently there is a lot of anti Vector commentary, since they have gone through the trouble to publish that fancy petition Jill provided. By the way, nothing adds to your professional credibility like a petition whose opening sentence is “Vector Marketing is an awesome company!” That sounds like a High School pep rally, not a respectable response to criticism.


The civil tone of her comment was refreshing since anonymous blog comments can get pretty nasty. I recognize that by publishing my thoughts on the interweb, I am inviting people to disagree with me. If you are going to voluntarily publish details of your life, you need to have some reasonably thick skin. I’m looking at you Paige. (Another story for another day.) So I don’t want to launch a spiteful retort to Jill’s comment because I like Jill and thinks she's a nice person. But I am going to relay my experience that led to my skeptical attitude toward our friends at Vector. Of course this experience happened several years ago, so I can't vouch a hundred percent for authenticity of the details. But any reader of this blog knows to take anything I say with a grain of salt. (An expression, I've never understood.)


Picture it. Provo, 2001. (I've been watching a lot of Golden Girls recently) I had just got out of a Winter Semester at BYU. Provo is a terrible place to try and find any kind of summer work. There is a huge student population and they're all looking for some kind of income and hopefully something they can put on a resume. There are several companies that recognize this ambition (desperation) and they lure gullible (greedy) students into leveraging (exploiting) their networking skills (Missionary experience) into aggressively selling some kind of product that no one really wants.


Here’s the part where I could go off now on a screaming, mouth foaming diatribe about pest control and security systems sales jobs that are the moral equivalent of Catholic Church’s selling of indulgences hundreds of years ago. Sure it’s indefensibly wrong, but you can make a lot of money. My buddy Spencer loves to rant about this, so I’ll just link you to a few blog entries where he takes them to task much better than I could. Here’s one. Here’s another. Seriously, they are worth reading. Especially the second one.


So back to summer of '01. I started combing the want ads for summer work, ever aware of the exploitative nature of my job environment. I came across an ad that said something along these lines, “Vector Marketing: Twelve dollars an hour, no commission, no door to door sales.” Most hourly jobs were running between seven and eight dollars an hour. This seemed like a good lead however the ad said absolutely nothing about what it is I would be doing. Not even a two word description. This was a red flag. They weren’t saving money on their ad space. No, this was definitely a company that had something to hide. But it was worth checking out. So I called them up, figuring a five minute conversation would get the complete story.


“Hi, I was calling about your ad in the paper.”


“Great, it so happens that we are having an ‘Opportunity Meeting’ today at 2:00. (What luck!) Bring a notepad and our regional supervisor (or whatever bullshit title they made up) will give you the information you need.”


“I just have a few ques- "


“Our regional supervisor will answer any questions.”


“Could you just tell me what the job entails?”


“Come on in and we’ll tell you everything you need to know.”


“Couldn’t you just spend thirty seconds over the phone and give me a two sentence answer to that simple question?”


“It really is a lot easier if you just attend our opportunity meeting, today at 2:00.”


“But it does pay twelve dollars an hour.”


“Yes.”


“No door to door sales, no commission?”


“Yes.”


“Are there sales involved?”


“Again sir, it would be easier to let the opportunity meeting cover all your questions.”


It really was kind of a fun game. Trying to trick the nice girl who answers the phone (it could have been Jill) into telling you the forbidden information of what the hell this mystery job entails. It was summer, I was unemployed and bored so I took the bait. My buddy Gregg and I went to their crappy meeting and oh man, it was entertaining.


This incredible opportunity of a lifetime meeting was being held in an empty office with stained carpets next to a bowling alley. There was a beat up white board and some cheap folding chairs arranged in a semi circle. These weren’t even the nice folding chairs you borrow from the ward. They were the thin ones painted brown with one short leg making it rock back and forth. The kind that are always incredibly cold to sit on and made an amazing amount of noise when you folded them up. There were about twenty or so people (marks) sitting on said chairs who were also drawn by the promise of a relatively high wage. Some were wearing what were clearly their Mission suits, some were sporting the “I’m an Accounting Major boner that hangs out at the TannerBuilding all day” business casual look of a blue dress shirt and no tie. Gregg and I strolled in twenty minutes late wearing shorts and t shirts.


The head douche, who I imagine was the mythic regional supervisor (we missed his introduction which I’m sure included a detailed resume) was prattling on about some Steven Covey horse shit and pumping up the gullible (again, read greedy) among us into some fanciful dreams of easy money.


The head douche was a pretty interesting guy. He wasn’t much older than me, but he struck me as the kind of guy that really really wanted to an AP on his Mission. The kind of guy who carried around a brief case at Zone Conference and was completely shameless and unapologetic about his ass kissing and back stabbing. He’s the guy that would get off by busting you down for singing a Led Zeppelin song while trackting and would talk shit about you to the Mission President. The kind of guy who realized at about 20 months in that he never will be AP and then spent the rest of his time sleeping in, going to movies, ripping the actual AP’s and jacking off. And this particular douche was wearing a double breasted suit that he kept buttoned up the whole time. His smile was relentless and desperate. Genuine enthusiasm cannot come from someone who is fundamentally phony. Sorry pal, you could be offering me the job of a lifetime, but you have no credibility with me.


We sat there for some time waiting to have our simple question answered, only to be met with more warmed over Tony Robbins “90% of success is just showing up” kind of bullcrap. It was interesting to watch the crowd. The more intelligent among us saw this for the bait and switch that it was. But there were a few who were eating it up. They were eagerly answering questions and sharing past successes (almost always having to do with their Missions), trying very hard to impress the head douche. And how do you impress a douche? You out douche him.


After an hour, we still had not heard one word as to what the hell this job entailed. We heard all about Vector’s financial success. Strange that such amazing success translates into holding your recruitment meetings in an empty, bowling alley adjacent building with some pretty obvious water leakage. We heard all about the financial success that comes from setting ambitious goals. We heard all about a few case studies of college students that started at Vector and were now titans of industry and heads of state all over the world. But my original question of what the hell do we actually do to earn twelve dollars an hour had yet to be addressed. It was then that the head douche asked this question: “Who knows what the word ‘ergonomic’ means?”


One of the more vocal marks looking to impress the head douche shot his hand up, so excited that he knew the answer: “It means something that was designed to synergize with the human body.”


Impressive the way he was able to both use a Covey approved buzz word and make the answer sound creepier than it needed to. The head douche was pleased. He then opened a flat box on the stained folding table in front of him to reveal a complete set of CutCo brand knives.


“The ergonomic design of CutCo brand knife handles is its premier feature. This is Vector Marketing’s competitive advantage over its competition.”


I remember thinking, “Is he really going to sell us knives? Oh my crap! He’s really going to do it.”


He then launched into a steak knife infomercial with all the subtly and grace of a horny high school kid trying to cop a feel. It was forced and awkward. He actually cut a soda can and then followed that demonstration of brute strength up by slicing a tomato razor thin. Dude, at least be original. You should try to avoid being a living, breathing parody of yourself. What was he expecting our reaction to be?


“Holy crap! He cut a penny in half with those scissors! And they’re ergonomic?! I must own them! And I must sell them to everyone I know! It will be the easiest thing ever! There’s no way on earth I would end up alienating every friendship I have by trying to obligate every one I know into buying something they don’t really want. No, it will be a natural experience. One that will in no way portray me as an oily charlatan when I pressure my Aunt and Uncle to replace something they already have five of at our next family reunion. It can’t miss! Good thing I took the initiative and showed up at this fantastic opportunity meeting! 90% of my success is already achieved!”


After the entire knife shpeel, he then finally got around to describing the career opportunity that lay before us. We, as Vector Marketing reps, would be responsible for setting up sales presentations in people’s homes. Would we keep track of our hours on a time sheet and be compensated at twelve dollars an hour for doing so? No. We would be paid twelve dollars for every sales presentation, which usually take about an hour. Slightly different than twelve dollars an hour. Of course, that is after our initial deposit of a couple hundred dollars for our set of display knives. We then are paid a commission on any sales that are closed.


“But the newspaper ad said ‘No Commission.’” I said to the head douche.


“But you are paid that twelve dollars as a base and any added sales is gravy!”


“But there is no flat rate of work. We are paid only on the number of presentations not the amount of total activity. That’s a commission.”


“Not technically.”


And how are we to find people to present our wares to, you ask?


“How many of you have family and friends that would be interested in this incredible product? I know the girls at my sister’s Relief Society Enrichment night would love an opportunity to see what a quality set of cutlery is capable of. And if you don’t have any family in the area, door to door sales are amazingly effective. And hey, we’ve all knocked doors before on the 'Mish'. It’s not that bad.”


“Didn’t the ad specifically say, ‘No door to door sales’?”


“Well, door to door sales are not required but they can provide some fantastic opportunities. But you know what? Let’s all start out by writing down five people that you know that would be interested in this presentation right now. That’s sixty bucks you have on your paper. And that’s assuming you don’t make a sale and we all know you will nail it. Heck, depending on the sale, those five people could cover you initial deposit!”


At this point, my buddy Gregg nudged me and showed me his meeting’s worth of notes he had been doodling:




(This of course is a recreation I whipped up on Paint. By the way, the guy isn't Asian, his eyes are closed. I figured if I ever licked a set of balls, I would probably close my eyes while I did it.)


I laughed very loudly and unapologetically. It made the head douche a little uncomfortable. We then stood up and walked out while he was in mid sentence.


Seven and a half years later, I now find myself as a sales professional. A real salesman that consults with real businesses by selling them actual solutions to actual problems. Slightly different from selling penny cutting scissors door to door. And let me tell you something, this kind of garbage gives us legitimate sales reps a bad name. People smell this greasy bull crap a mile away and they resent the hell out of it. It insults and manipulates them. If CutCo Knives are so wonderful (and they very likely could be) then sell them at Bed Bath and Beyond. That way, when a customer needs a knife, they could go to the store and buy what they need, when they need it. I promise you that no one in the history of time has ever said to themselves, "Man, I need a good fillet knife but I just don't want to go to the store and buy it. If only a stranger would knock on my door, unannounced and uninvited and aggressively sell me a deceptively priced knife. Oh well. Guess I'll just get in my car and buy it the way I buy every single other thing in my life."


I don’t know what it is about us Mormons that makes us such easy prey for this kind of crap. I really wish I knew. What irritates me the most about it all is the way they shamelessly try to parlay the skills and confidence we developed on our Missions into the most hackneyed of sales jobs. It's shameful the way they often exploit the organizations of the church like Priesthood Quorums, Relief Society and Home Teaching assignments and turn them into a sales pipeline. There’s something deeply wrong with that. It’s not quite the same thing as the money changers that Christ threw out of the Temple but it’s along the same lines. Now before I go overboard with my indignation, I don't think it is nearly as bad as APX Security Systems reps lying to the elderly about crime rates to scare them into buying a crappy product. But I do think that this whole wheeling and dealing, Glenn Gary Glenn Ross culture cheapens the church and its members.


By the way, you gotta love the way I get all sanctimonious and righteous at the end of an entry that included several swear words, references to “jacking off” and “copping a feel” as well as crudely drawn balls. Such is the complicated paradox that is me.

8 comments:

pete said...

Brian,

When I read your blog, I feel like the old lady in the Febreeze commercial. I ignore everything else, and all I want is more...

Anyway,

I too have been to a vector marketing presentation. I kinda had an idea of what it was before I went, but I was curious nonetheless. The head douche pulled me out early to "interview" me one on one. In reality, he didn't like the questions i was asking. I think i was tainting the rest of the group. Also, I swear there was a plant in the group i was in. A really cute girl seemed a little to eager to sell knives and I thought that it appeared a little strange.

Ben Thomas said...

Seriously Brian, your blog kicks ass.

Scoosba said...

When I went to the vector show, each of us went into a seperate room to be interviewed by the the head douche who actually had his eagle scout certificate hanging on the wall. I made it through the first round but shortly after I asked him point blank does this involve selling knifes. He sheepishly skirted the question, so I asked the secretary and she said "well not only knifes but other products as well." I immediately picked up my stuff and walked out.

In the parking lot there was this dude that was all bumbed out because he hadn't made it through the first round of cuts. I told him not to worry about it because it was door to door knife sales and he would have to pay hundreds to them just for the previlage to sell this product. When he realized what it was he flipped out and started yelled "your sh#@ing me, I couldn't even get a second interview for door to F**@ing door knife sales? I'm going up there man, right now and I'm gonna rip this guy a new one".

I then watched this guy walk up there and I couldn't tell what he was saying but I could hear him yelling. Poor chap. When you can't buy a set of cutco knifes to sell you know it's time to work on your resume.

Gregg said...

It is true. Your facts are correct, all but one. I kept saying, "dude, lets just leave", but you wouldn't leave while head douche was making his presentation for some reason. After the pep rally, they said they would break into 5 minute one on one interviews, that's when you and I packed up and started leaving. As we were leaving, head douche stopped us and asked why we weren't going to our one on one interview. I don't recall if you said anything, but I, in a mildly Butthead-ish way just laughed and said, "yoou're stupid" and kept walking without missing a stride.

BusterBluth52 said...

Man, I wish I had a hot chick plant pretending to want to sell knives in our stupid meeting. Actually, that probably would have worked on me, so it's probably a good thing there wasn't. It's interesting that so many people have had the exact same experience.

Now that I think about it, I seem to remember being brought into an individual room for a private interview. And I remember them turning people away in my stupid meeting too. Of course this is a pretty obvious ploy to make you feel special and chosen. I'm quite sure there is no actual criteria they have for keeping who they keep. I don't know how CutCo could be in the position to turn away people willing to do this crap.

Ramsey said...

are you sure this head douche wasn't the assistant to the regional manager?

Ramsey said...

hey bri,
remember when you called me by accident recently? that was funny. It's too bad that's all we have anymore. It's like going from the Victoria's Secret catalog to the Sears Catalog.

Stacy said...

I worked for Vector while in college and actually really liked the company. I was able to make my own schedule, so that was really convenient. The only thing I have to admit is that it was hard work. But I did make good money for the hours I put in.