ali (escalatorguru) wrote in anti_vector,
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anti_vector

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Company's hiring practices deceive students
Campus Report, October 2003
a. beaton


College students are having more and more trouble finding jobs these days. Coming across a job advertising $16.00 per appointment with no telemarketing or door-to-door sales and perks like choosing your own schedule, and winning scholarships, vacations, and other prizes, seems almost like a dream. As with any job, one should be aware when they sign on with any company. If a job seems too good to be true, then chances are it probably is.
On the Bedford campus, yellow and green signs have been posted advertising the aforementioned "dream job". The company offering the positions, Vector Marketing, is a relatively well-known (almost notorious) company. That is where any clarity ends. An Internet search on Vector Marketing returns over 20 pages of results, and lots of conflicting information. Since it is nearly impossible to read every page, here is some basic information about the company and the job that will help you to make an educated decision before you sign your contract.
First things first, Vector Marketing is a subsidiary of Alcas. Alcas is the "parent company" of Cutco and Ka-Bar (both are knife manufacturers), and you may be told Alcas is a Fortune 500 company. This is only partially true. Alcas was formed in 1948 from a Fortune 500 company, Alcoa, in conjunction with W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Company. In 1972 Alcoa bought Case, and in 1982 Alcas went private. For over 20 years Alcas has had nothing to do with Alcoa, and therefore nothing to do with Fortune 500. Vector Marketing is just a fancy name for their sales department.
During the 90-minute interview, you will be told everything you didn't learn over the phone. There is a product demonstration and a couple of reps will stop in and talk about how positive their Vector experience has been. By this point, most people are either skeptical or blown away. Essentially everyone in the interview gets the job, and training takes place not long after the interview. You are 'hired' as in independent contractor, meaning you do not have to be paid for anything other than work you perform, the company does not have to withhold taxes, and you are not eligible for unemployment or disability benefits (if you slice your hand off at a demo, it's all on you.) Independent contractors pay for their own business expenses, and are generally not represented by a union. However, since you are required to show up at meetings and perform a set number of demos each week, you are being treated as an employee-which means you are entitled to certain benefits, including paid training and mileage reimbursement.
Most people are not told upfront, but training is unpaid. Managers will say this is because you gain important business skills. You may spend 15 or more hours training, and you are not told until the second day how much money your sample kit will cost. This practice has been known to weed out representatives who come from lower income families-if they can't afford the $150 for the knives, then surely their family and friends won't be able to pay $805 for a set.
Reps are initially promised a base pay of $16 per appointment. This is unclear because many don't understand the difference between "hour" and "appointment". A demo could take 10 minutes, and the rep would still earn that $16. A demo could take three hours and result in (more)
no sales, and the rep will earn only $16 for three hours of work. Demonstrations are the only time reps are paid for-nobody is reimbursed for gas, mileage, and time spent on the phone trying to set appointments (telemarketing) or for demonstrations where the customer is not home. Now the tricky part: This $16 is based on two things- commission and make-up pay. If your commission for the week does not meet or exceed the $16 an hour you were promised, the rest of that money will come from the manager's pocket. (Don't worry about the manager-he or she makes a pretty penny off of every rep's sales. Between 35 and 55 percent of knife sales is spent on commissioning the reps and their managers.) Unscrupulous managers will deny reps of their base pay, using excuses such as "it wasn't a qualified demo" or "you aren't working hard enough".
Some of the materials reps are instructed to use, and the things they are taught to say and do, are deceptive or just outright wrong. At any given "demo" (sales call), reps lie about the quality of the knives, citing articles that don't exist, claiming that Cutco is the official cutlery of the Pillsbury bakeoff, and lying about the quality and value of the competitor's product. Since many reps don't take it upon themselves to look this information up on their own, they take those deceptions into the customer's home with them-without even knowing that what they are doing is illegal. This is fraud, a crime to which Vector Marketing has admitted to in Australia. As it turns out, the "best steel money can buy" really isn't, and the "heat-resistant" thermoresin material the handles are constructed from are actually flammable.
Vector is not all bad, however. Some people can do very well. Achieving their level of success requires a combination of numerous factors-starting with who you know. Since your business relies on personal referrals, starting with your parents, it pays to know people with money. It takes hard work, reliable transportation, and perseverance. People do, in fact, really win scholarships and trips. If anything, the Vector experience can be a lot of fun, especially if you have the right manager. The product isn't by any means excellent or professional quality, but is still pretty good.
The bottom line is that no business can be everything it claims to be. Always conduct a careful examination of any company you apply to. If a job seems too good to be true, turn around and walk the other way. The right job will come along.

-30-
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