My First --And Last-- Days Working For MRM Marketing and Kirby Vacuums (A Cautionary Tale of Business Ethics)
When I applied for the job at MRM Marketing, I had just quit Olive Garden after a year and a half of feeling like a slave with feet that never stopped moving. I wanted an atmosphere change-- an office setting perhaps, maybe clerical work. I saw this ad in the classifieds for customer service with a salary of $1,200 every two weeks with bonuses. I called the number and they scheduled an interview with me that day. On retrospect, it was a bit odd that they wanted that immediate of an interview (now I realize it’s because of how frequently employees cycle in and out).
The building that the business operated out of was a very normal “office” type, boring space. Brown bricks and all. Once inside, it looked kind of like the set of “The Office”-- complete with motivational posters framed on the wall. I was excited. I figured I would Have Kelly Kapor’s job, talking to customers on the phone. Nope.
I interviewed with a young woman who told me I would make $600 a week plus commission.
“Commission.. I thought this was customer service.” I said.
“Oh it is. You aren’t selling anything. We’re a marketing company. You are paid to show off this product whether people buy it or not. It’s just about getting the word of mouth advertising out there.”
There were two tricks to this: one, they called themselves a marketing company, and two, they called sales “demos”. Wording can be such a tricky thing, can’t it..
I don’t know, I was gullible. I wanted to believe that I could make money not having to work as a server or a cashier (I was burned out from working that way for four years). I began my orientation a few days after my interview, and every day the deal they were offering got not only less appealing but also more confusing. They’d slip in undesirable aspects and then bombard us with the prospect of making tons of money. The woman training us, Brandi, was extremely nice and excited about the company. She was a great cheerleader. But, she remained vague about what EXACTLY we would be doing. It was all about how much we could rake in. I knew I should have been skeptical, but I really wanted it to work out-- I want to earn money not only to live day to day, but also to save to raise a family. $1,200 a week guaranteed without actually having to sell anything still seemed like it could work out. I’ll even admit that the product worked well; but, it cost $3,000, which is a pretty hard selling point for a vacuum.
That’s right folks, Kirby Vacuums. See, when I accepted the job, MRM Marketing failed to tell me I would be selling Kirby Vacuums. I might as well sign up for Vector and sell Cut-Co Knives. But, I’m not here to bash Kirby or Vector. In fact, they make quality products and the companies generally don’t rip off the customer. It’s the employee that gets hurt. With Vector you’re basically on your own, but Kirby is structured a little differently, or perhaps it was just the way MRM Marketing was operating. I didn’t technically work for MRM Marketing (for tax purposes to help the owner), but I did have to go out with them every day and sell vacuums like I was on the clock. They were not up front at all about the details of the job.
The first problem I had was obviously that they called the job “customer service”. Corporate loopholes aside, nothing about cold calling is customer service. During my training, Brandi kept telling us that we would have “appointment setters”, I later found out that one of the many, many managers that drove me around set the appointments by knocking on strangers’ doors minutes before I would have entered, asking them to allow me to make my pitch. I’ll get to the effectiveness of that strategy later.
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The second problem I had with what the company had told me was that it was originally supposed to be a twelve hour workday, from 9AM to 9PM. I wasn’t pleased about it, but Brandi said it passed by quickly. I was under the impression that we would drive out to three houses a day, going to and from the office for each one. What actually happened was, four “customer service reps” would cram into a van with one manager and drive around all day knocking on doors and hoping someone would let us in. The people in my van (who had been working there for a while) told me I would be lucky if they stopped for lunch or dinner. What.. I can’t not eat, and a sandwich won’t last in a lunch box for twelve hours. But, I’d be lying to you if I said twelve hours, because they were lying to me when they said a twelve hour work day. My first day, I didn’t get back to the office until 11:30 PM, and was expected to come back and do it again the next day. I might sound like a wimp, but I have a life and I like it. I have a wonderful boyfriend I love and two sweet cats that I want to be able to spend time with when I come home from work. Did I mention they had a mandatory-but-not-mandatory six day work week (I got constant conflicting opinions on how many days were required to work there. Confusing, no..).
Lastly, and here’s a huge clincher: the “salary” pay of $1,200 every two weeks, apparently stopped coming in after 4 months. So, basically, in four months I would become a salesman working solely on commission. And, the management didn’t even mention this HUGE fact. I had to learn it from coworkers who had been working there longer.
I spent three days actually out in the field (not to mention the week of unpaid training) and never even went into a single house. We often had the police called on us because the manager would drive to houses that had signs that said, “No Tress-passing” or “No Soliciting”. When I finally decided to quit, it wasn’t even because I wasn’t making any money or gaining any experience, it was actually because the manager had allowed an unlicensed girl to drive the van, who ended up driving it at least 60 mph straight into a tree (with me in the passenger seat). The worst part is that the manager covered up the fact that she was unlicensed from the cops. And because I technically didn’t work for MRM Marketing, they wouldn’t pay for any medical expenses.
All in all it was an extremely draining two weeks. I felt trapped to the job, used by the company, and worst of all, I felt like a rube for trusting them. Again, the product works fine, but the way the individual franchises decide to treat their employees is not for me. I met a ton of people who enjoyed doing it, one guy said it “kept him out of trouble”, but I don’t get into trouble. I read books and drink tea on the couch, and would like to have a job that gives me time to do that. I had wasted two weeks on a shady company that wanted more than 60 hours a week from me.
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