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.