How to Avoid and Escape Phony Job Interviews.

I am lucky enough to have never lost any money to a network marketing pyramid, but I have been subjected to two time-wasting seminars. One MLM seminar became the stage for one of my proudest moments.

This is an old story.

In 1996, I was approached by a longtime customer at the cafe I worked at in Sacramento. He asked me about my job prospects for the future, and complimented me on my customer service. Then he invited me to an interview at his job. I had my suspicions about the legitimacy of his offer, but I got dressed up that night and took a bus out to Response Road to give it a shot.

I signed in at the front desk. There were about 25 potential recruits there with me, each paired with the person ("recruiter") that had invited them. They gave us some vague promises of the company's success, then split us up.

At this point I didn't have any idea what the company did, except that it had to do with the stock market. The new recruits and I were seated in one tiny room, where we watched a video. The video outlined how easy it was to become rich, how fast the company was growing, and how great it was to be a big success in life and business.

After the 20 minute video, Dr. Wong turned up the lights and continued the fluff-parade for another 25 minutes, making it clear how fast the company was growing and how easy it was to become rich. He paged through about a dozen transparencies on the overhead projector.

At this point, I decided I had seen enough, and that if there was a great company behind this curtain of words, I would have heard some REAL information by now. Forty-five minutes, and I had no idea how the company operated.

There was pressure to stay until the end of the seminar, so I could meet back up with the guy that brought me there. If I walked out at this point, I would have to face him the next day at my work, and confront him with how lame his "company" was and define the term "interview" for him.

There was no way I was staying any longer. My heart was pounding with anticipation as I stood up to leave. Dr. Wong stopped talking and everyone in the little room looked at me. I inched past people's knees until I was at the door.

There, at the threshold, I turned back toward the room and took advantage of their silence. "Anyone coming with me?" 

No one moved.
I shut the door behind me.

I slinked back toward the lobby, and over to a seperate side room, eavesdropping on the speech the recruiters were enduring. It was more syrupy motivational crap.

As I walked back toward the exit, two guys came out of the video presentation room I had left.

"You were right, that was a total waste of time", they said.

Success! My exit had encouraged someone else to leave. In some small way I had gotten revenge for their devious " job interview" deception.

I caught the last bus home, on top of the world.

I was reminded of this story when Christine Tisano wrote me last week. Her letter is below.

Hi Rob, First of all, I'm a long time fan of your site, even though I happen to be on the wrong coastline. I was invited to an event that promoted perhaps the most deceptive pyramid scheme yet.

I just graduated from college, and I was going to an interview about a week ago when I ran into another young woman in a fancy suit at Penn Station in midtown Manhattan.

"Hey, are you going on an interview?" she asked, "Do you have any resumes with you? Can I have one?"

I did have a few resumes with me, and feeling flattered, I gave her one. "I own a cosmetics business, and my partner and I are looking to hire some new people. I took a look at you, and I got the impression that you might be the kind of person we're looking for." She took a look at my resume and commented on my fluency in Spanish, my internships in the financial world, and said she would give me a call for an interview.

A few days later, I heard back from the woman in a phone call. She said that both she and her partner were very interested in my background, and she wanted to schedule a meeting at the Pennsylvania Hotel. "It's a group interview being held in the ballroom on the 18th Floor." By group, I thought that perhaps this was a sales recruiting event, with eight or ten recent grads being offered commission based jobs in the cosmetics business, or maybe even Mary Kay or Avon. I had another interview coming up this week, and I thought it wouldn't hurt to go.

I went to the 18th floor ballroom of the Pennsylvania Hotel, only to be overwhelmed by a crowd of people, all in suits, numbering somewhere around 2000. I was asked by an usher who had invited me, and after I provided her name, I was given an assigned seat in a lecture hall. This was not at all what I expected. The host of the evening walked onto the stage and introduced the evening's "speaker," a gentleman with a PhD in psychology who had "never had to hold a job in eight years because of BWW!" The event was sponsored by a company called Britt World Wide, which was referred to as BWW. BWW was referred to as the "Independent Business Owner training program" which was linked to a website, Quixtar.com, which is like a shopping search engine and also sells its own line of energy drinks, cosmetics, and other household items.

 The speaker touched on these points, along with several others - all very offensive.

  1. All jobs in the U.S. are either being outsourced to Asia, or will soon become obsolete. There is no such thing as job security
  2. The only way to ensure one's financial freedom is through E-commerce. 
  3. If you get "your own business" through Quixtar, you will never have to work again, leaving you free to enjoy life. 
  4. You will make so much money through Quixtar, what is the point of completing your education? Student loans are what drain your finances! 
  5. If you become an independent business owner through Quixtar, you will never have to shop again, because Quixtar will anticipate your needs and send you everything you need in the mail. (!) Shopping is what is keeping you from enjoying life!
  6. The more you buy from yourself, the more money you earn.
The evening ended with two dozen "financially free" Quixtar "business owners" marching across the stage and announcing that they no longer work or go to school, but enjoy life from the fruits of Quixtar. One woman said, "When you have to go to work, you have no time to realize what it is that you really like. I like to coordinate my clothes. I can spend hours every day coordinating my clothes now. I didn't know that this was my passion until I was freed by this program!" 

I got a folder diagramming the pyramid for this scheme. If you'd like, I could send it to you. It's really remarkable, and it seemed like ALL of the people present were completely taken by the presentation. In fact, perhaps I might have been as well, if I had not remembered in the back of my mind, "Hey, this is a pyramid scheme, like the airplane scheme I saw on cockeyed.com."

There was food, music, and everyone was LOCKED into the room until the end of the presentation (no bathroom breaks allowed!). I'm thinking of reporting this group to some higher authority, but I'm not sure exactly who it might be. (FBI? BBB?) Thanks, Rob, for putting that info on your site - you saved me at least $7500!

 -Christine Tisano


Quixtar and Amway are both Alticor companies.

A similar Primerica story by Michael Rhudy.

A similar Cutco / Vector Marketing story

 

 I'd like to discourage fake interview scenarios. There are two important steps.

If you are ever tricked into a phony group interview for an MLM company,

  1. Leave before the end
  2. Take as many people with you as possible.

Don't stay until the end. I'll ruin the ending for you: They MIGHT tell you the name of the company, and they ask you for $299 to sign up. 

The End.

Leave early, you'll be glad you did.

As for taking people with you, I have an idea for that too. Yelling "fire!" is no good, because innocent people could get trampled. If you rush the stage, or try to disrupt the meeting, you will just be insulted and discredited by the guy on stage with the microphone.

My suggestion is that you stand up and wave your hand politely, perhaps saying "Excuse me, excuse me." at a conversational volume.

If you get anyone's attention, ask "Does anyone else smell ammonia?" scrunch up your face and look nervously at the ceiling air vents. Make your way toward the exit, perhaps covering your mouth and nose with your hand or scarf.

This action may

  1. Divert people's attention from the sales pitch at the front of the room.
  2. Cause paranoid people to leave the room.
  3. Give an excuse to those other people who are considering an exit, but don't want to be rude.
  4. Test the speaker at the front of the room. If he doesn't treat the problem seriously, he will look insensitive.

Additionally, if there happens to be another person who knows about this ammonia scheme in the room, that person can also stand up and help.

"Yes, I smell ammonia too, lets get out of here."

I think that two separate people making this statement, and exiting the room, could cause a significant disruption in the tone of the "job interview". 

Thanks for reading this suggestion.

Update! July 8th, 2004

Laura Smith goes to an "interview" at Banker's Life

Update July 15th, 2004

Amy Pritchard gets thrown out of a Cutco interview

Cockeyed.com home | Pyramid Schemes

 I realize this will not work if the crowd is too loud or too large. I don't think this would ever cause a panic.

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