There’s a whole group of companies out there which look as if they’re giving job opportunities in the field of marketing and on-site promos. You know, those pop-up booths in shopping malls where young, keen people accost you to try & buy some product or other. It might be a new flavour of coffee, or a ‘meals-in-a-box’ plan, or even signing up to donate regularly to a charity. But these companies are hugely deceptive and abusive of their ‘staff’, who are actually independent reps, only earning commissions. There is no real job. There is no guaranteed income. They need to ‘build a team’ under them. Is this sounding familiar yet?
Ben had a run in with one of these companies, Source Marketing Direct. Here is his open letter to them … Please keep in mind that this is Ben’s personal experience.
[Ben]: This is an open letter to Source Marketing Direct. I have many questions about Source Marketing Direct.
Let me fill you in with my personal experience with your company, and my understanding of your system.
On the last day of my traineeship with a digital marketing company, I began job searching on LinkedIn. I quickly came across AJG Direct’s now critically acclaimed ‘Worst Graduate Job—Don’t Bother’. A job description, much like many of the ones that both your company and AGJ Direct post regularly, containing little to no actual description of the job being advertised. Although clearly written to prey on gullible students and people with little experience in the working world, I applied anyway, not looking to throw away any potential opportunities.
Within the hour I was called on the phone by a woman called Joan. Joan was quick to tell me that I had successfully applied for a Direct Marketing role with Source Marketing Direct and how darn excited I should be. I was confused by this, and in addition to the other standard phone interview malarkey, I asked her repeatedly to email me this job role with Source Marketing Direct that I had supposedly applied for. I thought I’d applied for a position with AJG Direct! She couldn’t do this (obviously) and instead decided to direct me to an assortment of LinkedIn pages. Source Marketing Direct’s page, the CEO’s page, anything to quell my doubts.
This is where I come to my first question. How are Source Marketing Direct and AJG Direct connected? By occupying the same office space and employing individuals from opposing job postings, they are surely operating as the same company. Is Joan, or whichever secretary is available, given a document with a list of names and phone numbers collected from hundreds of job postings, with a goal to maximise the number of in house interviews?
I attended an interview the next day, although calling it an ‘interview’ is being generous. I entered from the rain, and the first thing I noticed was the booming music coming from an office room upstairs. Why would you need to play music so loud upstairs that visitors downstairs can’t even hear the music being played on the TV music station? Are your ‘Atmosphere’ meetings really that loud? After having made my presence known to Joan, she handed me a form on a clipboard. While filling out this form I noticed the sheer number of bodies in the room. A whole lecture hall’s worth of students. I also noticed the rack of ‘business magazines’ with the CEO’s face on them, no doubt self funded or self published in a similar vein to your endless online articles on websites like Journalism.com, praising them as the next great thing in business. These magazines are clearly put there as an attempt to impress visitors, to give them a fleeting view into the life of this God-like man that Source Marketing Direct’s employees worship so fervently.
The actual interview was pretty standard as far as interviews with these companies go. The person I was being interviewed by admitted it wasn’t a ‘marketing’ role per se, and then began faking an interest in everything I said and pretended to be incredibly impressed by all of the answers I give to his questions. Essentially finding any excuse to give me a chance at the job. I was told right then and there that I was successful (of course I was, I had a pulse and didn’t ask any big questions) and I was invited to shadow an employee on the following day.
I arrived at your office the next day and waited an hour to be assigned to a team. I was eventually assigned to a guy called Steve’s team, although I spent a majority of the day with Phil who was presumably looking for people to recruit, as he was moving into a management role. I was told we were going to an ‘event’ and we headed off. On the train ride there (that I paid for) Phil relayed as much information as he could on; the Superiority of Source Marketing Direct over other Direct Marketing agencies (mainly that they were no-win, no-fee, a roundabout way of saying that the job was commission only), street selling (Traffic Light Theory, 5 Stages of a conversation, law of averages), why SMD was looking for new recruits (I was told that new positions were opening up which is partly true, but turnover in Direct Marketing companies is always high and they’re always growing so constant hiring is necessary), and my career trajectory with SMD (1. Entry Level, 2. Leadership, 3. Crew Management, 4. Assistant Manager, 5. International Management).
We then arrived at the ‘event’; a fold out table in a high street with a St John Ambulance banner strewn across it. Phil then brought me a coffee, which was very kind of him because that must have cost half of the money he’d earned that day, and I would spend the next 7 hours being ordered to write endless lists on marketing and the qualities of a leader as Steve’s team failed to make any sales across the street. These lists include but are not limited to:
10 Direct and Indirect Marketing forms
10 Pros and cons of Direct Marketing
10 Pros and cons of Indirect Marketing
30 Characteristics of people that inspire me
20 Characteristics of a leader
5 Characteristics of successful people that I have
5 Characteristics of leaders that I have
5 of my strengths in detail
5 of my weaknesses in detail
What makes me the best candidate for the role and separates me from everyone else. What value can I add to industry?
Short, mid, long term goals (in job or not)
None of this was to test my knowledge, but instead to gather information on how well I could follow orders and repeat mind numbing tasks over and over again without question.
By the time the team left and started to head back to the office it was 8PM. I was exhausted and bored out of my mind. I was tired of Phil’s constant bragging of being the ‘Best salesman in London’, and his promises of me soon earning over a grand every week were clearly complete [censored]. Aside from Phil and Steve himself, Steve’s team was a complete wreck. Their newest recruit, a young girl in her early 20’s, had been dead silent all day and hadn’t made a single sale. She looked absolutely terrified. The final member of the group, a guy in his thirties, was held up as we entered the station. He hadn’t had enough money to pay for the train back and was in tears. Phil topped off his Oyster card for him and promised him that things would get better. That this would all be worth it one day. This man also remained dead silent on the journey back, clearly regretting his decisions.
Upon returning to the office the team rushed to that day’s sales celebration. Phil handed me an assessment sheet with questions pertaining to information he’d been sputtering at me all day. I just copied my notes, nobody was there to notice. Eventually Phil took me outside and told me he was about to see the CEO. He told me to sell myself. He asked me why I should be hired, why I was special. I replied with some nonsense about the 4 F’s. Phil acted unsure about my answer but promised to put in a good word for me. To this day I do not know quite which word it was, but it must have been a very special word because when I was sitting across him in his office, the CEO was falling over himself to give me a job. I was chuffed. Chuffed to bits I dare say. Of course I was until I got home the next day and did a little more research. I called Phil to ask him why he said nothing about the job being only commission. About it being classified as self employment so the company can avoid paying minimum wage. He gave me a scripted answer and said ‘all companies have online reviews like that’. I wish him and his family well.
In conclusion, I recommend avoiding Source Marketing Direct, AJG Direct and any other Direct Marketing Agencies when job searching. I also recommend reading the Devilcorp blog for more information on such companies:
Also watch this insightful documentary [The Slave Circle] that goes further into the details of the misleading practices of these types of companies:
If you’re reading this after having been invited to an interview, then I’m sorry your time has been wasted by this company. Good luck in your continued job search.
Photo by Anthony Young on Unsplash
Thank you for this article!!
I was in the waiting room of SMD (45 min waiting) when I saw your article and some other reviews. I wish I would have read it before go there but anyway. You described exactly what was happening to me, the loud music, other candidates waiting… so no doubt. I was at the point to leave when the “HR manager” arrived. I didn’t let him the time to talk, I just told him what I had read about the company in internet, the reviews etc… “the scam” side and said that I didn’t want to waste more of my time and his, and I left. London is full of scam companies like that in various industries. It’s really disgusting the way of all sharks want to take advantage of people! This was just my opinion 😉 good luck
Anna, we are really glad our article was so well timed for you. We, like you, are very concerned that so many companies are springing up all the time. One of the best things we can do is share experiences so that others are saved in the nick of time, so please feel free to share our articles.
Good luck with your future endeavours.
I was scheduled to have an interview tomorrow with AJG Direct, and was reading the website to prepare myself, as soon as I saw the ‘we are definitely not a pyramid scheme’ section and did some digging. I found the very fake and the very real reviews on Glassdoor as well as Ben’s article. Thank you for saving me from what would’ve been an extremely toxic and soul-sucking experience.
Just read your article. I left SMD just about a month ago. Literally everything you described happened to me as well. Except instead of going out on the field for an observation day, I had in-house training instead so I was even more unaware of what exactly i’d be doing on the job! My first day on the field was a real shocker, literally standing out in the cold bothering people that are just trying to do their shopping. The CEO is very full of himself and makes it sound like working at his company is the only way to financial success as a graduate. I raised my concerns with other members of leadership and they all literally gave me the same robotic answer of “it’ll be worth it in the long run”. The online reviews are clearly very fake, and management make their employees post positive reviews, I wish people who apply to this company would realise that before applying. I was deceived by the job description as well, no where does it say that it’s a commission only role, no holiday pay, no sick pay, nor does it say that you’ll be standing outside in the freezing cold for 10 hours a day, and also have to pay for your own travel to these locations, which means If you don’t make any sales (which you probably won’t for a while) you are literally making a loss everyday. They had the audacity to state that I am obligated to work Saturdays as well! So that’s a 60 hour work week (minimum) whereby you probably won’t even make any money. It is very very unsurprising that the turnover rate at this company is astronomically high.
I wish I found this article before I applied. I left after a week. Thank you for posting this and letting people know about this scam company. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.
Swomi is an MLM disguised as a technology company.
The site says you get money from posting things on their site. But when you pay money to sign up, you only make money if you sign up other people and sell them subscriptions to swomi. You can post and post as much as you want, but nothing will happen if you don’t sell subscriptions
Oh my actual God. Everything that has been documented in this letter parralels my own experience at Source Marketing Direct. I remember applying, initially on LinkedIn, to AJG Direct and went for an interview there in Highbury and Islington. There were countless numbers of people, no older than 24, in suits filling out questionnaires. I filled out one with some generic bullshit questions such as who inspires you and where do you want to be in 5 years time. I then met the Mr Man himself and I can say now it was not an interview. He sat on his arse ranting on about the progression of an associate into one of these positions. I suppose in a way I can describe what happened next as serendipity considering his waffle was useful in making me want to get the hell out of there and never return. Knowing what I know now, I think I dodged a massive bullet knowing I most probably wouldn’t have got paid and would have had to endure the same meaningless motivational speech every single day.
I remember applying to SMD and I went for an interview along with a couple of others, this interview process again mirroring what happened at AJG Direct. This demonstrates how interwoven these companies are. Then I was called into the office to meet the leader and said I had already progressed to the second stage. He didn’t really ask me anything so I was abit flabbergasted.
I then went onto to shadow one of the people who worked there and we went around selling this product. Similarly with yourself, he asked me a number of questions such as 10 reasons social media is effective etc. I then returned to the office and the account manager, who I’m fairly convinced looks like they are on drugs , said they were impressed and offered me the position. They asked me, “When is your availability?,” to which I replied, “As soon as possible.” Then he responded, “As soon as possible means first thing Monday morning,” (I’d like to point out that it was a Friday when I went so that meant I would be starting in three days time; more on that later). Given my personal predicament, needing to find a job as a recent graduate, out of sheer desperation I accepted. I unknowningly entered into a world of pain.
I arrived on Monday morning at 7:30 into atmosphere with rave music radiating from every corner of the room. The account manager arrived and shook my hand and smiled. What I mistook for genuine interest was actually relief another gullible individual desperate for a job had signed onto their exploitative company. I knew from very early on that I didn’t want to work there as it had nothing to do with the marketing they professed to be experts in. All this jobs consisted of was walking around London for 9 hours asking businesses would they accept this generic product we offered. The guy I went with too was this guy who I DID NOT get on with at all. As a matter of fact, when I returned from Xmas one of the first things he remarked to me on Monday 5th January was how was your weekend. This simple enough question was followed with the answer, “Oh yeah fine. I was just relaxing. Catching up on sleep and stuff.” This clearly did not sit well with him as he said, “Oh you know you can work weekends too?” I had already been aware of that since the Friday before he berated me for not wanting to come on Saturday. I replied to him, “Yeah I know that.” He then tilted his head at me and gave me that disappointed look your grandparents give when you don’t eat your broccoli. “Oh well if that’s going to be your attitude, that you would rather sleep then put time and effort in, then how are you going to get to leadership?” I said nothing. As much as I would have loved to get into a heated argument, purely because I loathed everything about him, I decided not to. My silence was born out of the basis that every atom of respect I once harboured for him and entirely disintegrated into ash. Throughout the remainder of the day I actually questioned whether or not he was serious ? The recurring thoughts in my head were:
1) Do you honestly believe people want chose to work weekends if they didn’t have to ?
2) If I already work roughly 60 hours a week, an additional Saturday would include another 12 hours which would total 72 hours. Yeah that’s about as likely as Katie Hopkins replacing Jodie Comer as 2020’s most influential and attractive woman.
Eventually I realised this endeavour was entirely pointless and I threw in the towel. I wasn’t on a contract so fortunately me leaving, in one respect , didn’t cause a problem. Again I can only assume the principal reason is because as you quite rightly suggest they want to keep costs at a minimal. A further point of contention was I made £400 in commission and only received £162. This again shows the extortionate philosophy these people labour and operate under.
My genuine sympathies for people who have had to endure this shamble of a situation. But take comfort in the knowledge that if nothing else, working at SMD has shown me all the qualities I don’t want to have in a company. Such examples include a commission only pay, criminally long hours, day after day of rave music bursting my ear drums and the same rehearsed motivational speech that does nothing but make me want to jump off a cliff.
The joke is them though. I’m an educated person with a degree and I know my qualifications will deliver me into a good job that will make me grow professionally and personally. In other words you may be able to break other people but you tried and failed to break me. These people have the nerve to scold the 9-5 as if it’s nothing. No mate your company is a pyramid scheme. AJG Direct, Inspire 212, Alpha Gamma Solutions, Source Marketing Direct, Bone and Marrow and Bounce are all nothing more than pyramid schemes draining people as though this were modern day slavery.
Thank you guys for all these comments so I stopped before about going next day for my first day with a guy call Joel. I applied for Wolf Marketing Group but after 3 rounds interviews and questionnaire (which wasted all my time and effort), I finally was invited to the company at 56 Stamford St, South Bank, London SE1 9LX to sign my contract. As soon as I walked in, I suddenly had really strange feeling as staffs ran up, down and yelled at each other. I was waiting for 30 mins until I asked to see Hector to sign my paper work and how ridiculous that it turns to be Source Marketing Direct (just like Ben’s story). They normal inform your everything at the end; for instance, they will not let you know in advance what time your interview or what time to meet in the office but 3 hours earlier. Also, they will not tell you what exactly your job roles are. Stay away from these companies people and be careful when you apply for job without crystal clear description !
Thanks for writing this, I was suspicious when being interviewed for a similar position at a similar sounding company in London recently. The first interview went well but something was off…Luckily I did a bit of research the evening before the second interview and saw terrible things written online about the company, pyramid schemes, 70 hour working weeks and commission based pay. I too had applied for a marketing role (which sounded similar to my previous job) however during the interview they just kept on about this trainee management position that I hadn’t applied for and was not interested in. Definitely agree that people should be warned of companies like this.
For all new people – WAVE, VP Promotions, Inspire 212, and probably a dozen others are the same type of a company/if not one and the same company altogether. Avoid! You can see something’s wrong because they never post responsibilities, always mention they got your CV from a headhunter, don’t put a signature/person’s name at the bottom, and also send you SMS texts. they have the same format/style everywhere
Digital marketing is essential, are you just starting a business or already have a small business? My friend’s fashion is my favorite, you should invest more in online advertising, because the number of visitors is increasing.
Odyssian Sales is just the same scam, under a different name. The brand is ‘new’ but most of its staff come from Alpha Gamma so they probably changed their name so people could not find any reviews of it. I progressed until the second interview and started to dig for more information about it. Then, by having a look at their weak website and their poorly made powerpoints I figured out there was something shady going on. When we discussed the salary and infinite hour shifts, it was pretty clear. Pyramidal Scheme. ODYSSIAN SALES = AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
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