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Trolling4Dollars's Journal: The Great American Pastime: The Scam 4

Journal by Trolling4Dollars
Inspired by Gortbusters.org's latest JE.

I've been wanting to write something about my post college job hunt experiences back in 1994 for some time now. And who better to share it with than my /. Friends, Fans and Freaks.

MASS APPEAL

When I graduated from college in 1994, I was looking for work for about six months before I found something. It didn't matter that I had a good degree and a decent amount of realworld experience in my field, most places wanted me to start BELOW the bottom. I ran into SO MANY of these scams when looking for jobs in the newspaper and through your generic temporary placement agencies. There are so many of them and they prey on the unintelligent, uneducated, lower income, greedy and desperate segments of our society.

At the time, I was desperate. I'd been out of college and wasn't having any luch with the job hunt. At one point I went to a supposed job placement program for people who wanted to get sales experience. I figured that since sales seems to be where all the "successful" middle class people in this country make their fortunes, it was the right place to start. This "job placement" program was a room full of people from various walks of life but who were all apparently desperate for a job. There were about 50-60 of us. The first thing that happened was that we got seated in this room full of folding chairs and were handed a pencil and a "job application". We were instructed to fill in the job app and then we would be given our introduction to the world of sales. About ten minutes later, the presenter came out and told us that "sales" is actually a very easy job. He said, it doesn't take skill to sell a product, but it takes a product with "mass appeal". He illustrated his point with some props and pulled out a Cabbage Patch doll and a Rubik's cube (keep in mind it's 1994). He said that the Cabbage Patch doll and the Rubik's cube are perfect examples of mass appeal and to succeed in sales, it's as easy as making sure you have something like this to sell. Wow! What could be easier than that?

Soon he proceeded to tell us that this company has some products for us to sell that also had guaranteed mass appeal. He assured us that we really wouldn't need to actually sell the products as people would just automatically want them in insane volumes. The products he spoke of were; a set of poorly produced sports blooper videos and cheaply framed Disney posters. The presenter kept telling us that all we needed to do was buy $150 worth of this merchandise from them and they would give us "sales region" lists and we'd be on the road to wealth. We were supposed to take the merchandise to these "sales regions" and use the following pitch:

"I'm not here to sell anything. I just want to drop off a few of these sports blooper videos and these Disney posters with you. I'm also going to leave an order sheet and I'll be back at the end of the week to collect orders from anyone interested".

He assured us that this would work and that no one could kick us off of their property because we weren't actually selling anything. Riiight...

After his presentation, he then used the typical tactic of trying to massage our slightly battered egos: "Those of you out there today who are destined for success know when to jump at an opportunity at the right time. And I know that you people are intelligent enough to know that NOW is one of those times". He told us that we all had a chance at this one time opportunity for success selling a product with mass appeal. Then we were all instructed to stand in line (remember there were a good 50-60 of us) for an "interview" with him. There was no option to leave as the in door was blocked and the out door was where the line was formed. So I stood in line knowing that this was a waste of my time. Here's about how my "interview" went:

Mr. Mass Appeal: Well, I'm glad to meet you and it looks like you've got some great qualifications here. We don't get a lot of college grads so I'm sure you'll be really successful in this business. All you have to do is invest $150 and some time to be on the path to success. Are you prepared to take that first step in creating wealth?

T4D: $150 is a lot of money for me considering that I'm unemployed right now. I need to make money, not spend it. Is there any other way?

Mr. Mass Appeal: Another opportunity like this may never come up in your life again. You're young and the time to make this kind of decision is NOW! So can I count on you?

T4D: It sounds great, but I really don't have the money for it. I'm just looking to try and get a start in sales.

Mr. Mass Appeal: Maybe you can ask your parents or friends for the money. Surely they'll understand if they care about you. After all, your parents probably spent thousands on college for you, they can certainly spend a couple hundred for the start of your career? So can I count you "in"?

T4D: I need to think about it. If you give me your card, I'll call you back after I discuss it with a few people.

Mr. Mass Appeal: I wish I could, but did you see that line of people out there? I've only got a limited number of positions so you really need to make a decision now. Are you on board with that?

T4D: I think I'm going to have to pass unless you can give me some time to think about it.

Mr. Mass Appeal: Well... I'll give you my card, but I need to hear from you within the next four hours, otherwise I can't guarantee you a spot in this growing enterprise. Remember that. Four hours.

He gave me his card and I walked out. I thought it over for about five minutes, chucked the card in a McDonald's trash bin and went home. Another morning wasted on another fruitless job hunt. However, there's a little more to this story a year or so later. I happened to be in the local discount store (kind of like a local version of Family Dollar) and I noticed something on a shelf at the end of one of the aisles. There were a handful of sports blooper videos and cheaply framed Disney posters being sold for $.50 each. These were the identical products that Mr. Mass Appeal tried to get me to distribute. The prices he said we were supposed to be selling them for were $32 for four sports blooper videos and $15 per Disney framed poster. For each sale, we were guaranteed a %25 commission. And here I was in this discount store seeing these same items at drastically lower prices. Which led me to wonder. Did some other sucker buy his $150 worth of product and fail to sell them. Only to be desperate enough to try and pawn them off on this discount store and get a pittance? Or... did Mr. Mass Appeal buy his "stock" from some discount store somewhere else?

PURE WATER

Still on the warpath to try and gain "sales" experience, thinking that it was the only way to succeed, I happened upon another "no experience necessary/free sales training" presentation. What really surprised me about this one was it's totally transparent and desperate nature. It was a supposed job for door-to-door water purifier sales. I think I actually came into the middle of yet another sales scam that was in it's death throes.

It wasn't advertised in the paper as water purifier sales, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered. Instead they claimed, "sales experience for that 'go getter' personality! No experience neccesary! We Train"! Being the inexperienced and just out of college interviewee, I fell for it and went to the initial meeting. I imagine that normally a place like that would probably have five to ten "candidates", 75% of whom are plants. But this one was different. I wasn't aware of how these things work at the time, but I walked in and saw one other person besides the "employer". She turned out to really be just another kindred job seeker and not a plant.

We were taken into a room with about twenty folding chairs, a TV/VCR on a cart and some posters and product samples. The presenter was a woman in her mid-forties. She also seemed oddly uncomfortable and nervous. But after a few minutes of breaking the ice, she jumped into her speech and seemed a little more confident. She told us how she had been a housewife who was out of the working world for the past decade but needed some extra money. Then she met "him". The man that revolutionarily changed the world for her and millions like her.

I don't remember his name, but we'll call him "Jim Seaside". She said, that although she didn't have enough good things to say about him, it would be better if she just showed us a video. She hit the play button and the video flickered on. It was a fast action, jump cut affair with upbeat music and scenes of the trappings of success. Tropical beaches, expensive cars, yachts, and lots of cash in being fanned by ordinary looking people. It was supposed to illustrate the "lives of people like you and me" (tm) who were transformed from dead end jobs, unemployment, divorce, early childrearing duties, etc... into people pulling down six figures or even millionaires. And they all achieved this because of Jim Seaside.

The video explained how many people are actually psychologically blind and this prevents them from seeing the path to wealth. This psychological blindness is caused by the naysayers and skeptics in our society who want to keep us from succeeding. But, (here's that ego massage again) if the viewer is intelligent enough, they can overcome this negative programming and open their eyes. After that, all you have to do is walk down the path to wealth.

They featured a couple who had fallen on financial hard times and had a failing marriage. But after watching Jim Seaside's videos and going to his seminars, their lives changed. They now owned the home of their dreams, and had five sports cars in their garage. They only work about four hours a week and most of that four hours is just opening up the paychecks that come in the mail. Or there is the story about the 30-something woman who had come out of a bad marriage and worked at a K-Mart. She was having a rough time financially, until she found Jim Seaside. Once she went to a few of his seminars, she was unblinded to wealth and now makes as mush as $15,000 in a month with only a few hours of her time. When the video ended, our presenter asked us if we had any questions. We didn't.

The time had now come to explain how these people made their fortunes. She pulled one of the water purifying systems up from behind the podium and started telling us how this is a very popular unit and sells very well. Then she showed us all this "data" regarding the ills of unpurified water vs. the water purified by their filter. Somehow, I felt sad for her because it seemed like she was failing and probably hadn't been successfully unblinded to wealth. After a few minutes of demoing the water purifier, she moved onto their other products. Mostly vitamin supplements, and skin cream. But the most bizarre part of the demo was yet to come...

She pulled out a translucent plastic bottle of some clear fluid in it. She explained that this fluid was indispensible and that someday everyone in the world would want it. It was kind of an all-purpose antything liquid. She used it to clean silver and glass. She also pointed out that it was good for you and said that she uses it in her Orange Juice every morning to keep looking young. Her scientific "proof" was that it combats free radicals and this is where the demo got kind of strange. She pulled out yet another demo prop. It was a wooden board with a lightbulb on it and a few wires. Another board had two nails on it with a wire wrapped around each nail. Then there was a beaker. She filled the beaker with water and dipped the board mounted nails into the water. (We're talking 110 volts/60 Hz AC here) The lightbulb began to glow dimly. Bringing up the fact that the human body is eighty percent water and uses electricity for it's nervous system , she said that tap water just isn't that good of a conductor of electricity. Then she poured in a little bit of the all-purpose fluid and the light began to glow brightly. She said, that this fluid is one of the reasons that so many people involved in her company are so successful. So... unblinding + the magical all-purpose fluid = wealth with little or no effort.

Finally, the last bit of her presentation was the part that many of these scams get to. The multilevel marketing lie. She said that in order to succeed in this business we wouldn't have to sell the products forever. All we needed to do was get four to sixteen people that we knew to sell them for us. Then we could become local or regional vice-managers and then the money would start rolling in. And if our four to sixteen people beneath us got four to sixteen people beneath them, we would get promoted to multiregional co-president once we hit 256 people beneath our vice-managers. Once you do this enough, your wealth would increase exponentially and you no longer need to work other than open those paychecks.

To close, she asked all two of us if we were ready to sign on and pay $500 to start our water purification system empires. We both declined and she started getting nervous again. She told us about how great and empowering it was to go to a Jim Seaside session. Her composure was failing. It was actually painful to watch. She REALLY wanted to be successful. Maybe she hadn't had enough of her morning Koolaid.

TEN YEARS LATER

Here I am ten years later and a little wiser. Through that period of time I learned:

1. Successful salesmen are born, not made. I wasn't born with the sales gene.
2. Job offerings in the newspaper are almost all scams these days.
3. The multilevel marketing scammers have achieved legitimacy, warranted or not, by having college classes and trade journals.

I'll use their ego massaging against them... If you're intelligent and know a good opportunity when you see it, then you'll know that multilevel marketing is a scam and a lie. It's a tool used by un-intelligent, un-creative and un-original but cunning folks to take money from people in desperate situations. The multilevel marketers are the botton of the barrel in people who ruin what the capitalist system could be. These people are the equivalent of the nomadic scam artists of the old U.S.S.R. And yet again... it is a sign that capitalism is falling victim to the same sorts of people that communism did. Capitalism isn't any better than communism or vice-versa. The problem is human greed. Kill off the greed, and either system works very well.

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The Great American Pastime: The Scam

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  • Nice story, nice conclusions.

    I lived with two friends who briefly fell for a fairly well-known multi-level marketing firm's propaganda, which essentially encouraged you to sell and recruit friends and family. My take on it was they would quickly lose their friends and make either enemies or suckers of their family. The whole thing stinks.

    Any idea how to get rid of the greed in people? Or was this a rhetorical proposition!

    • Any idea how to get rid of the greed in people? Or was this a rhetorical proposition!

      It's good that you bring that up. I've thought about it at great length myself. Every human being is greedy which implies that it's an inherent trait in us. Some of us work hard at countering that trait and meet with some success, but there are areas where we all fail. However, in thinking about greed, I've come to the conclusion that greed has a strong basis in fear. The people who appear to be the most greedy also

      • I suppose it helps to define greed [princeton.edu]:

        The noun "greed" has 2 senses in WordNet.

        1. greed -- (excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves)


        The key words to me are excessive, more ... than one needs or deserves.

        I don't think the credit for humanity's development can be attributed to greed under this definition.

        (Actually I don't feel comfortable talking about "humanity's development" as such a thing does not exist; I'd rather talk about advances in
  • Under communism, man exploits man.

    Under capitalism, it's the other way around.

"We are on the verge: Today our program proved Fermat's next-to-last theorem." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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