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Thursday, September 30, 2004
Adventures in Marketing
I had two job interviews on Monday. One that lasted about a minute and they said they'd call me if interested (big shock: never heard from them again!) and then a second one in the afternoon that went a lot better. At least, that's what I thought until Tuesday, when I went out for my second "interview".

I'd answered an ad on Monster or CareerBuilder looking for someone in marketing/public relations. I've got a background in communications, so I figured this might be right up my alley. And on Monday is was described to me as a marketing position--if by marketing, you mean selling door to door. And if by position, you mean self-employed salesperson living strictly on commission with no benefits and having to work six days a week.

Needless to say, this is not what I was expecting based upon the conversations I'd had Monday afternoon. Of course, looking back, no one really lied to me outright. Sure, they left out large portions of the truth, but they never brought them up and I never asked. Of course, you don't generally think in an interview for a marketing position--hey, I'm gonna be out on the street selling door-to-door.

So, Tuesday morning, I show up at the office and signed away my day, saying that I understood this was a voluntary interview and I wouldn't be paid anything for that day, nor should I expect to be paid. I guess I should've supsected something then, but I'm niave and trusting. Now, I've gone on before about how I find it fascinating to sit back and watch what people who come to an interview or job fair choose as "professional" attire. For men, it's not too difficult really--the hardest choice we have most times is what color tie do we want to wear. Worst case for men: you wear a sport coat and you have to take it off. For women--all I can say is, I have no idea how you do it. So many choices and so many different messages you can send.

I bring this up, because one of the women who was one of the leaders of the second round of the interview is wearing a skirt so short it barely comes down below her behind, a halter top that is ripped open and leaves very little to the imagination. Oh yeah, and she's got a lot of pudge around the middle sticking out. Now, I don't want to appear to hypocritical here, but honestly, you've gotta know your limitations when it comes to what you wear. For example, I wouldn't wear a Speedo as a public service to myself and others. And I wouldn't be caught dead in biker shorts. You gotta work with the body you're given and not try to be something you're not.

So, this girl (who I later find out is named April) goes gets a guy from Kenya as her protege for the day. They head out of the office. Then, I and another girl named Janine are assigned to this guy, who happens to share the same name I do. We head out and he says--hey, this about selling and we're going to go and visit some clients. Are you still in? I figure, why not because as of yet, the whole concept of selling door to door has NOT come up. Mike makes the first of several comments about Janine's shoes (all names are changed to protect the innocent, except mine and Mike's). He also calls her "little lady" for the first of about a million times that afternoon. I am "big guy" and this wears thin after about five minutes. I mean, he's out "interviewing" us and since his name and mine are the same, it's not that hard to remember. You can tell this not bothering to learn her name is really bugging Janine, which I can't say I blame her. I don't think being referred to as "little lady" all day is exactly the most professional thing in the world.

So, we pile into Mike's two-door SUV. Yep, you heard it--two door SUV. And April (she of the outfit) decides to sit in the middle between me and Kenya guy. But wait...this isn't a bench seat back-seat so she's just hovering between two seats really with the seatbelt clicker "going into her butt." I know this because she tells us this at every oppportunity. Needless to say this ride is a bit uncomfortable because you've got three people piled into the seating arrangements for two, Mike has the windows and sunroof open so I can barely hear what he's saying or when he's talking to me and April is almost falling out of her outfit and keeps leaning over to talk to me. Oh yeah, and MIke has music blaring...that makes it so much easier to carry on a conversation.

It's at this point that old line from Star Wars comes up..."I've got a bad feeling about this." April and Mike pull out maps and look at thier assigned territories. I ask what kind of businesses we're looking at today and April looks at me like I've just fallen off the turnip wagon. It's not businesses, though there might be some. It's private residences. Ohhh-kay, I think. I start looking around for the cameras and Alan Funt, but alas, that's not to be. Turns out April doesn't have a car, so she's assigned each day to someone who drops her off in her terrirtory for, say, eight or so hours and then comes to get her. She has some snack food, a bottle of juice and that's it! Oh yeah, and coupon books to sell. Now, these coupon books sound pretty good--it's supposed to benefit children in wheelchairs playing sports such as basketball. But let's face it--coupon books is a pretty competitive business. There's the kids selling them for school, who are far cuter and more adorable than any adult can EVER hope to be, and the Entertainment Book with the card. We drop off April and the guy from Kenya in the middle of a neighborhood and head out to our own territory.

Mike drives around, scouting it out. "This will be the most boringest part of the day," he tells us both since no one is home. You go early, scout out a neighborhood and then do your heavy selling in the mid to late afternoon. The first question that comes into my mind is--OK, so no one is home. Why not drive around your territory quickly, scout it out and the come back, oh, I don't know, when people are home?!? That seems to be a better use of time and resources. (I will ask this later only to get a blank stare from Mike...apparently this thought has never occurred to him). So, we scout out the neighborhood and begin our marketing.

Now, along the way, they've told me that is only 10% of the job....selling. I figure out that the other 90% must be walking around and not having anyone answer the door. Mike also shares insights on how to sell--the books are two for $40, but if he feels he needs to make a sale, they're one for $20. So, I ask him--what's the value of buying two? Aren't they really just $20 a piece? Again, the blank stare. In less than five minutes, I've come up with two baffling questions...not a good sign.

As we walk around, Mike is telling us about the job, his life, etc. He pulls in $50,000 per year but he has to do his own taxes. Also, he makes $13 per every two books sold and he tries to sell 40 books per day. I do the math and this doesn't quite add up in my head. At one point, I tell him my dad sold encyclopedias door to door in college (he did this for two days) during the summer. Mike says what if I told my parents I was going to take this job, what would they say. I reply they'd be supportive of me in whatever I did and would want me to be successful. He asks, would they tell me not to take the job and would I listen. I say, I would use them as a sounding board for my quesitons, but I'm a grown man and make my own choices. He then says parents are full of crap and I shouldn't listen to mine since his mom told him he's suck at this job and he makes more than she ever will.

Still during all of this, he hasn't learned either of our names. Eventually, he makes one sale and I talk to Janine. This is not at all what we were expecting. We weren't told it was this, but again we didn't ask. Also, we were told to "not worry about lunch" because "it would be taken care of." Now, when I hear this, I assume we're gonna eat somewhere or have food provided. She asks Mike about this and again, the blank stare. He doesn't know what she's talking about--he's out here to sell and he doesn't know about lunch. Comparing notes, we find out that while we weren't out and out lied to, we didn't get the whole picture. Heck, we didn't even get one of those magic eye pictures where if you stare at it long enough you can see something.

Mike has told us time and again, if we think this isn't for us, tell him and he'll take us back so as not to waste his time. Janine says she's had enough and wants to go back. I figure it's time to throw in the towel as well and not waste anymore time in my life. Mike takes us back and is a lot quieter the way back. We are dropped off at the office, told thanks and Mike goes into the office. Janine and I head our separate ways. I'm just shaking my head.

Needless to say, it was frustrating. I wasted basically two days of my life in what turned out to be something way too good to be true. And it was.

But, hey...I got a great story to tell out of it. So it can't all be bad, right?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/30/2004 10:53:00 AM | |
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