Infiltrating the halls of campus buildings, a highly controversial direct sales company that former employees have called a pyramid scheme, is targeting students desperate for a wage. Posters advertising a lucrative employment opportunity with a base pay of $25 per hour hang in hallways and classrooms on posters and whiteboards from Funger Hall in Foggy Bottom to West Hall on the Mount Vernon Campus. They claim to offer full- and part-time positions and working hours without any previous experience required. The only thing missing? An explanation of the work itself. The only description is a vague label that reads “Customer sales/service” near the bottom of each poster. But the truth behind these posters is darker than one may think at first glance.
Headlining the posters, you’ll find the name Vector Marketing, a sales company that promotes cutlery. With a self-reported employee base of nearly 85 percent college students, Vector Marketing sustains the growth of its company with a revolving door of easily replaceable young adults who are prone to be fired or forced into quitting. After reading the controversial reviews about the company, I wanted to see for myself what working at the establishment was really like. From my experience, I can attest to the company’s exploitation of its workers through a hostile work environment that takes advantage of students on campus.
It often felt like Vector Marketing cared more about saving money and resources than spending time on preparing me for my job. I expected to gain experience in sales but ended up just feeling overwhelmed and didn’t learn anything substantial about marketing. This system is so deeply intertwined within the operations of Vector Marketing that prospective employees need not submit an application, but just sign up for a group interview with as many as 20 individuals who joined without even saying a single word to their employer. At a subsequent three-day mandatory training session, the company attempts to sell its employees on the dream of earning thousands of dollars with ease and $1,000 within three days without much focus on marketing strategies.
The truth is, Vector Marketing’s impressive claim of a $25 an hour wage is misleading. One of the only conditions in which Vector Marketing is required to pay its employees is when they earn commission from a sale – which starts at a base rate of 10 percent per sale – or for every hour when employees physically demonstrate the quality of their products, like CutCo knives, during a formal appointment. But the regional manager clarified none of these facts during the interview. In 1992, Wisconsin consumer protection investigators found that Vector Marketing employees made an average of less than $3 a day. Nearly half of all the company’s employees in Wisconsin either earn zero weekly pay or lose money because of costs for supplies, according to the investigators.
Unfeasible and stress-inducing sales deadlines made me feel like I was set up for failure. The company expects six sales of roughly $600 each within the first week. Additionally, staff expect employees to find 10 more leads for potential clients after each successful sale. Missing these deadlines could mean termination from the company, harassment from supervisors or even being forced to make up the difference, according to some former employees’ personal experiences. Unreliable pay is particularly insidious with a workforce made of college students who are particularly vulnerable to job and wealth insecurity. At a time when college debt is at an all-time high and many inexperienced young adults struggle to make ends meet, they need a stable source of support and income. But all Vector Marketing provides is a false promise of riches, and all they demand in return is an immense amount of time and effort.
Vector Marketing thrives on the concept of riding the thin line between legal and illegal business practices – namely the many lawsuits against them for refusing to compensate employees for time spent in training. From its intrusive advertising practices on campus to the exploitation of its employees, Vector Marketing is a predator organization at its heart. Students should spread awareness to fight back against the immoral business practices of the company. A quick Google search of “Vector Marketing” results in several articles exposing the business as a scam and barely legal. Don’t let them obfuscate the truth behind layers of false legitimacy and aggressive student advertising. Tear down the posters, erase the ads and always make sure that you fully understand exactly what kind of business you are getting into, instead of letting your future be sold to you in an interview.
Ryan O’Leary, a freshman studying English, is an opinions writer.