I was held hostage and insulted at a group interview of 45 people

A reader writes:

I saw a job posting for an HR assistant and sent in my resume. I got a call from the HR director, telling me they wanted me to come in for an interview. I didn’t think there was anything suspicious about it because the company was real and everything and gave me a physical address. The salary was average for the industry, and there were none of the usual red flags.

So I take the day off work to go to this interview. I show up early, and the receptionist gives me a paper to fill out. Then, despite being led to believe that I was interviewing with my future boss, I’m informed that they’ve gotten so many applications that they’re going to do a “group” interview and then whittle it down from there. I’m thinking that there will be 10 people in there, max, and am not really worried.

Well, when I got to the other room, there are 45 people in there and there was a “team” of employees with a detailed speech and PowerPoint ready to go. I realized then that they’d had this all prepared before, and never had any intention of having a normal interview. I’m thinking I want to leave, but since they took my ID to make a copy of it (this was before I saw the group of people), they said I would have to wait until after the presentation because the receptionist had gone to lunch and left the IDs locked in her office. Yeah.

So I listen to this presentation, and it’s basically a sales job for life insurance for union members. The “Regional Agent Manager” got up and started talking about how college degrees “give you arrogance” and how people with them think they’re too good for honest work. He continued, telling us that unlike the rest of the chumps with degrees, he didn’t end up “digging wells in Africa” (don’t people usually do that for free in the Peace Corps or for charities?) or “living in a box” and he had made good by taking advantage of this “exciting business opportunity!” As you can probably imagine, it only got worse from here.

He proceeded to say that if anybody “did him wrong,” they “would never do business in this town again” (I’m serious) because he was very well connected and drove an Audi. Then another guy came and talked about how he went from making $30,000 a year at the “first step” of the program to making $150,000 after 18 months (!), and how anyone can do that if they have the right work ethic. He described the product we’d be selling, and to be honest, I didn’t believe a word of it – the cost of this was allegedly $500 a year for the customer, but it claimed to be constantly giving them money for various things. Where was all that money coming from? Not the premiums.

And they were heavily targeting this toward working class people who didn’t know much about insurance – they actually *said* this. The whole thing had an air of snake oil – they were all “we’re here for the working man!” but it was so sleazy. He also made a big deal about how they never, ever advertise and are barely known because of how “great” they are. Personally, I think it’s because if they were more widely known, they’d be visible and someone might get onto whatever it is they’re doing.

Mr. Audi comes back, telling us about how he “doesn’t even really need to hire anyone” but that “if anyone here is good enough and has the right stuff,” he might be able to work with them. He said that if you gave 100%, he could work with you, but if you gave 99%, he would have to “show you the door” because you were just wasting Warren Buffett’s time (Warren Buffett is – allegedly – the principal investor in this company). He then says that we’ll have to buy some dubious-sounding license for $500 (shocking, I know) and went on and on about how honest and straightforward the company is.

They finally let us go at like 1:30 (I had arrived at 10:00), and it turned out they didn’t even have any HR jobs open, nor any of the other jobs they had posted for.

Why do companies do this? Wouldn’t it be better to advertise for insurance salesmen and say that experience isn’t necessary? What is the point of all these lies? Do they really get anything out of it? Surely they could make more than the $500 licensing fees if they actually just hired insurance people!

I’d be interested to see what would happen if someone tried to bring a fraud suit against one of these companies. They certainly deserve it.

As for the whole “we can’t give you your ID back because the receptionist has gone to lunch” BS,   that’s the kind of thing that deserves an immediate “I’ll leave now and stop by later today to pick it up.”

For what it’s worth, I’m not sure I’d recommend staying for any group interview, even a smaller one, particularly if you weren’t warned in advance that that’s what they were planning. I just don’t think good hiring results from that, and I think it’s indicative of a company that doesn’t have its act together. (Of course, this wasn’t even an interview at all; it was a sales pitch to a captive audience.)

Anyway, as for how companies that do this kind of thing possibly find value in it, I’m assuming some people must fall for it — people who are desperate or naive or inexperienced, the same people who respond to other scams. It’s particularly repugnant that they’re targeting job seekers, people who are more likely to feel desperate and more likely to not be able to lose the $500 they’re scamming them out of it.

I hope that you’ll report them to whatever outlet you saw their ad in — you might be able to do some good if you can get them kicked out of reputable job banks, at least.

{ 328 comments… read them below }

    1. CanadianWriter*

      Yes, they do! OP, if you want to out them, there’s a writer at Gawker that loves this kind of stuff. hamilton (at) gawker (dot) com.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I was JUST thinking this has Hamilton Nolan written all over it! :)

        These guys are sleaze. This sounds like a pyramid scheme. I vote for outing them. I wonder if Warren Buffet knows they’re dropping his name, too?

        1. James M*

          This is not the only sleazy operation to drop Warren Buffet’s name on prospective hires. A particular door-to-door vacuum sales org also does this. The kicker is that the local hub of the org is legally independent (they contract for license and product) and often privately owned (and not by Warren Buffet).

          Snake oil unicorn polish, that’s what they’re selling to the applicants at $500 a pop. I bet they were offering OP just commission and no paycheck at all.

          1. Clever Name*

            OMG! The Kirby vacuum guy totally name-dropped WB’s name. The sales pitch he gave was so cheesy, and he told several racist jokes. I was completely insulted.

            Oh, and they sell Kirby’s for $3000, so don’t even waste your time on the pitch just to see how much they cost.

            1. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

              What is with the racism? Perhaps they think that’s what “working class” means.

            2. Kai*

              I let a Kirby salesperson into my home as a naive college student and I still cringe thinking about that painful hour of sales pitching from a girl my age. I had no sense of how to shut the whole thing down back then.

              1. Valar M.*

                I let a saleswoman into my house once, ever. And it was because 13 year cicadas were swarming and she was begging me. People think I’m weird for not opening the door when people knock – if I didn’t invite you over, and you are the meter man, I do not open the door for you!

                1. Snargulfuss*

                  Me too. As a single woman I most definitely am not opening the door. We live in an age when practically everyone and their mother has a smartphone. If you’re at my door, text me.

                2. manybellsdown*

                  Seriously. I don’t even care if they can see me through the front window. I’m not obligated to open my door to you, Mr. Clipboard-of-magazine-subscriptions.

                3. mlamb*

                  I totally agree, Valar M. I also do not give out any info over the PHONE. I consider the phone call the same thing as knocking/ringing at my door to my home. I don’t allow entry until they answer ALL my questions to my satisfaction…..like your name, rank, serial number, company, street address and physical location of the business, phone number, CEO’s name and contact information, purpose of their call, how did they get my number, their SS#, date of birth, etc. IF the caller stays on the line, I just continue asking questions until they tire. One caller stayed on longer than I could stand so I simply said “I’m sorry. This number has been disconnected.” and I hang up.

      1. BOMA*

        My first thought was Bankers Life and Casualty, but it could definitely be Primerica too. I think a lot of insurance companies operate this way.

        1. Meg*

          Oh geez. I went in for that thing with Bankers Life and Casualty. I thought it was them at first thought, until someone said Primerica.

    2. Arrogant Degree-Holder*

      It turns out that the SEC has already investigated this company. See my response below.

      1. Puddin*

        This post is a treasure trove of username bliss!
        Well Digger
        Livin in a Box
        Mr Audi
        Chump with a degree
        Doing you wrong
        I got connections
        and a little long but it needs to be mentioned — Can’t do business in this town any more

          1. Cucumber*

            It has its own theme song, too – from the ’80s. Remember? “Am I livin’ in a box… Am I livin’ in a cardboard box?”

        1. Stephanie*

          I’m tempted by Mr. Audi if more Stephanies start posting here regularly.

          I’ll also throw in:
          Doesn’t really need to hire anyone
          Wasting Warren Buffet’s Time
          ID Kidnapper

        2. nyxalinth*

          You know I’ve played too much World to Warcraft when I start wondering “Are those names taken? I want to start a guild called Livin in a Box or I Got Conections.”

        3. Evilduck*

          Also all good band names. Tonight’s headliner is I Got Connections with openers Doin’ You Wrong and Chump With a Degree!

    3. Jen*

      I’ve been to this “interview.” In fact, I almost went twice, because they slime around and hide under different names/subsidiaries/whatevers. My group wasn’t as outright vile as the one described here, more slick and polished, but same deal. Though no one copied, much less locked up my ID. At BEST, they lie. I was invited, twice to interview for the kind of work *I* do. Specifically. They don’t have a job that YOU do, or YOU want, no matter what they lure you in with, they want you to sell insurance. Your car, your gasoline, your mileage, your cell phone, your minutes, your expenses. Oh yes, you’ll make GOBS of profit, but while you’re getting there? Every dime is on you. Vile.

      1. Cactus*

        I have been there also, with one of the companies someone mentioned above. “My” group wasn’t as large as this one, they didn’t hold my ID hostage, and I had some idea of what I was going into before I went.
        The presentation was still weird. We were given a personality questionnaire to fill out. I answered as honestly as possible. There was a lot of “what would people say about you?”-type questions. There was also another form to fill out, and on the last question we were asked if we were interested in a second, one-on-one interview. I didn’t know we were supposed to wait until the end of the presentation to mark this, so I checked “yes.”
        Anyway, the presenter comes in and he’s telling us about his life story, which involves being in the military post-college graduation. And he had really nothing good to say about his time there. Which was so weird. I’ve certainly met people who were down on the military before, but not in such an upbeat “now I’m going to tell you about a REAL JOB!” kind of way. In fact, his major gripe with the military seemed to be that he was paid, regardless of whether he “did anything” or not. (Could he have avoided “doing things,” really? Without severe discipline? Come on.)
        Overall, he had issues with the entire wage/salary system, and seemed to look down on anyone who wanted to know what they would be paid; who wanted to have something to count on. Aside from that, there was a lot of what the OP talks about: grandiose ideas about how much one could be paid, company retreats in exotic locales, etc.
        I didn’t have a great feeling about things after that, but I felt awkward crossing out my “yes,” and the fact that I could apparently make great money was enticing. So I went to the one-on-one to find out more, and see if my qualms would be quashed.
        They were not, mostly because the first thing that happened was that I got to find out the results of my personality test. Which said exactly what I was expecting: that I was a totally introverted loner non-people person. The rest of the interview involved this same guy going over why my personality traits were far from ideal for this job (which involved lots of basic cold-calling, driving to strangers’ houses, selling them insurance, and, in the beginning, one-on-one training from this dude and fellow Weird Insurance Dudes, in cars)…and then proceeding to sell me on why I should still want to do it.
        That was basically the end, the point where I went, “noooope” once and for all and became convinced there was something he was not telling me, if he was trying to goad a non-ideal candidate into it.

  1. Adam*

    This sounds like a Monte Python sketch…a REALLY uncomfortable one. I don’t know if I’d do any follow up for any reason on this people. Just avoid them like the plague and direct everyone I knew away from this circus.

    1. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

      Oh, I was really angry at losing the money for the half-day of work I lost (I’m hourly) so I investigated further – and man oh man. Crooks, crooks, crooks. I’m going to do an update for Allison where I explain it all, and hopefully she’ll have the space to post it.

      1. Adam*

        Is this the same kind of organization that advertises their jobs as an “excellent culture” with “unlimited growth” in all sorts of fields, but when you get right down to it their recruiting for people to just do fruitless sales jobs? I’ve seen these kind of job ads and it saddens me how they rope people in.

        1. Ann*

          At my interview, it was all about how “your dreams will come true.” They were very big on dreams and wish-granting.

          1. Adam*

            Yeah. If any interview sounds like you could just add music and it could be sung by a Disney Princess you should probably smile politely and then start running as soon as their front door closes behind you.

            1. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

              Their music of choice was top 40 hits blaring from speakers, I shit you not.

  2. rory*

    Wow! o.O

    Is it just me (I haven’t had that many in-person interviews in my life compared to others) or is “asking for the ID and then not *immediately* giving it back” a huge red flag? I’ve never been asked to show ID at an interview, and if I were, I’d assume they just want to check that I’m that person and would give it back. The fact that they’d take it and keep it, wow.

    1. LBK*

      Yeah, what the hell would they possibly need a copy of your ID for? Especially at the very first interview?

      1. Zahra*

        Depending on the ID, they may have enough information to commit ID theft. Another thing to worry about. :(

        1. Relosa*

          This is my first thought. ID should only be necessary at the “actual hiring and first-day paperwork” part.

      2. Vanilla*

        I interviewed awhile back at a large healthcare company. They made a copy of the ID for security reasons and to make a visitor badge. This particular company (which was totally legit btw) was big on security precautions because of the HIPAA/privacy info that they handled. So all that to say, I wouldn’t be too shocked if a company asked for my driver’s license or ID. But if they kept it? Umm…yeah – that’s really odd.

        1. rory*

          That makes sense. When I was doing volunteer stuff at a hospital, I had to check in with the police every morning and give them my ID in exchange for a badge; at the end of the day, we’d swap back. At the time, I had both a driver’s license and a state ID, and I’d give them the state ID, so if I ever forgot to go back at the end of the day or if anything happened, I still have my driver’s license.

        2. AnonAnalyst*

          Yeah, I’ve had this happen as well, in both technology and financial services companies as well as healthcare (I work in consulting). However, in those cases they’ve given it back once they’ve finished signing me in/making a visitor badge. Having to give an ID wouldn’t be a red flag for me, but having them take it away from the front desk for any reason would.

          1. PucksMuse*

            Not returning the IDs is a huge red flag. And I would be seriously concerned about any personal information I gave these people like a social security number.

            OP, did ANYONE say, “Yeah, this is for me. sign me up!”

            1. Windchime*

              Yeah, not returning the ID is how they keep you there. It’s the same thing that the sleazy car dealership does when they take your keys to your current car and keep them while the salesman is “talking to the manager”.

              1. Jessa*

                Yeh, that would end up in me explaining that they have 1 minute to give the keys back before I call the cops on them. I can understand holding my keys while I test drive a vehicle off their premises without one of their people in the car, because you can’t hold my ID, I need it if I’m driving. It’s not legal for me to drive without it. But I don’t put up with that kind of “keep me on the premises stuff.” There’s a reason I have the non emergency police number in my phone.

                Honestly in the case of the interview thing, I’d be “okay I’ll wait at the reception desk til the receptionist comes back. Thank you. And I’d still leave the room and the annoying “presentation.”

        3. Sabrina*

          Yep I had an interview recently with an insurance company and they needed my DL. Gave it right back though. The only time I’ve had people hold on to my DL was when I was checking out some sort of equipment and they wanted to make sure it got returned. But obviously that wasn’t for an interview!

          1. Jessa*

            Yeh but that’s different, you have an option – trade the ID for something of value, and return the something and get it back. OR if you don’t feel safe, not to do business with them. Loads of places do that for loaner items, security badges etc. This was a direct attempt to keep the OP on the premises. I don’t buy for one minute the “nobody has access to the ID’s right now.”

            1. Jazzy Red*

              Yeah, that’s a total lie, and it’s too bad everyone didn’t immediately demand their IDs back.

        4. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

          They said they kept it because the receptionist had gone to lunch and taken the key with her. Otherwise, I would have gotten it back.

          1. Anonymouse*

            I think I’d have pulled out my cell and said “Give me my license back right now or I’m calling the police.” Bet that would have got a response.

                1. Vera*

                  A lot of areas have gotten rid of non-emergency phone numbers because people were using them when they didn’t feel it was an “emergency” but it actually was. Instead they let the 911 operators triage. 911 isn’t just for extreme car accidents, building fires, or medical emergencies.

                  In this case if your intent is to get an officer there, 911 would be perfectly acceptable.

      3. Stephanie*

        Eh, that I don’t this is that uncommon. My dad’s office required a copy of a government ID for visitors since they did security clearance defense work. What is strange is that they didn’t immediately give it back.

    2. TrainerGirl*

      Yes, absolutely a red flag. When this happened to me, I just made a stink and when others got up to leave with me, they gave me my stuff back in a hurry and I was out of there.

      I was in my 20’s, and went on an interview for a customer service that turned out to be one of these sales pitch meetings. This was a well known company that has been in the news recently over their stock volatility issues. They actually “forcefully encouraged” the attendees to try their product and then attempted to recruit everyone to be a sales team member. I was young and green, but I left after 20 minutes, because after temping in college and being sent out on a few jobs that claimed to be customer service but turned out to be telemarketing, I knew it was above board.

      1. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

        Yeah, I’m also in my twenties, but I’m very, very cynical and highly attuned to attempts at manipulations. Perks of having manipulative family members, I guess. : )

    3. Chriama*

      The ID thing worries me too. OP, is there any way to go back and request that they destroy your information? I’m just worried that a company this disreputable might not keep your information that safe — or may even sell to companies that gather contact information for mailing lists. Keep any eye on your credit card statements for the next couple months and maybe consider getting a free copy of your credit report in 3 months or so, just to make sure they don’t have “other” lines of business…

      1. fposte*

        Unfortunately, if they’re that disreputable, they’re not going to care what the OP asks them to do with her information, so I don’t think it’s worth it.

      2. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

        Yeah, like they would do it even if I asked. They’re probably using it to obtain Fingerhut credit cards as we speak.

          1. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

            That’s the terror of MLM. They’d just pop up again somewhere else. Possibly selling fire insurance.

            1. Chriama*

              Haha true! But at least they wouldn’t be able to apply for any more mafia loans with your identity

    4. some1*

      I’ve been asked for it when meeting with temp agencies. BUT I was told to bring it (along with a voided check) so if/when I got an assignment I wouldn’t need to return to the office with it, AND I got it back immediately.

      But I’ve never been asked when interviewing to be a direct hire at a company.

    5. KC*

      I’ve had to show my ID before at security desks to prove I was who I claimed, that I was on the guest list for the day, and so they could print me a visitor badge. But they always IMMEDIATELY returned it. Otherwise, yeah–never my ID until my hiring paperwork stuff.

      1. Rachel*

        That’s been my experience too. Plus when applying at temp agencies I had to fill out the I-9 form and give a copy of my ID – as the poster above said, so it’s all taken care of before they send me on an assignment. But they’ve always given my ID back right away. The not giving it back is a big red flag. How convenient that the receptionist “went to lunch” right when the presentation was going to start.

        Not to mention, at every company where I’ve worked, somebody always had to cover the reception desk while the receptionist was at lunch. Sometimes it was one person’s job, sometimes different people took turns, but there was always someone there.

        1. mlamb*

          Yeah, how advantageous for them that their receptionist had complete and total access to the IDs of 45 people held in captivity for however long they chose to make the presentation/group interview last. Who knows if she even really DID go “OUT ” to lunch…maybe she just went to the copy machine…or contacted a buyer for the info on the 45 IDs. There had to be an extra key somewhere….what if she lost the original….or never returned from “lunch”, etc. None of it makes sense. Red flags dancing all around this event.

  3. Poohbear McGriddles*

    If business is so great, why does Mr. Audi claim he doesn’t really need to hire anyone right now? Sounds like somebody’s giving Mr. Buffett a little less than 100%!

    For some reason I’m picturing his Audi as a 1989 model with a driver’s side door that is a different color from the rest of the car.

    1. Mike C.*

      Those things are a giant pain to maintain as well. You get to pay the “oh, I’m an expensive German car!” tax on parts, and something is always going out.

      1. Stephanie*

        For some reason I’m picturing his Audi as a 1989 model with a driver’s side door that is a different color from the rest of the car.

        Bwahahaha. My college friend had an older Audi and haaaaaated that thing. I think she’s just waiting for the day it finally dies or can be sold for scrap.

        1. Sabrina*

          LOL my brother’s first car was a 1987 Audi POS. It was loaded with features. Most of which didn’t work.

        2. Puddin*

          Mr Puddin received an old 85 Audi as a gift from a customer (long story short he was an auto repair service adviser at the time, rich customer, not worth the money to fix it). He had no car at the time, so he really appreciated that mustard yellow Audi. And man, we loved it! It handled the cold WI winters and icy conditions well as the 4 wheel drive still worked. No matter how many times you drifted into a snow bank, there was no body damage. That thing was a tank. Neither the air nor the windows worked, there were other needed repairs, and it got about 3 inches to the gallon, but it was a tough car and the best he could afford at the time.

        1. Asstar McButtNugget*

          psst… if you’ve got to tell people to read your jokes Audially, you’re doing it wrong.

    2. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

      “…Audi as a 1989 model with a driver’s side door that is a different color from the rest of the car.”

      OK, this made me laugh.

  4. Lurker*

    Please report them! For the rest of us. To the place where they found your information and also to local authorities. This is awful.

  5. LBK*

    Wow…this is ALMOST worst than the “cooking dinner for 40 people” interview. At least then it was a real non-profit that does real, not-possibly-illegal work.

    1. Rebecca Too*

      I kinda think it makes it worse that it was a real non-profit. I mean you expect a scam to be sleazy, but a non-profit pulling that crap? Ugh. (Though, I suppose they did at least have real jobs they were hiring for)

    2. Stephanie*

      I think Operation Smile wins out as it’s a legitimate nonprofit, they were hiring for actual positions and taking advantage of the desperation/naivete of new grads. I’ve gotten calls for these insurance scams before and would kind of expect this. Operation Smile was worse because it was just so abusive for no reason (aside from that they could be).

  6. De Minimis*

    Got hung up with one of these back in the 90s, they are often some kind of “network marketing” type deal. Thankfully I knew during the presentation that it didn’t pass the smell test so I was able to just leave.

    The ID thing is BS, I guess that’s how they keep people from just walking out the way I did.

    1. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

      Yeah, I went to a Vector presentation when I was in undergrad 2 years ago, and I knew that was bullshit, too. I should not have to pay you to work for you…

        1. nyxalinth*

          Vector and its ilk constantly advertise under customer service, claiming they’re looking for customer service people. I think I’d rather get yelled at all day. At least then I know I’m getting paid.

  7. MaryMary*

    I’m not usually a big fan of anonymous reviews, but in this case, OP, I’d recommend doing a Glassdoor (or similar site) review too. I saw a job add a couple years ago for a retirement consultant that turned out to be convincing retirees to invest their savings in this company’s financial scheme. I applied for the job when I thought it was actual consulting and got an interview, but didn’t go to it after a quick online search revealed it was a scam.

    As for why the company you interviewed with doesn’t hire actual insurance sales people, it’s because they’re unethical and greedy. In my state, you need a license to sell insurance (life and health or property and casualty). You cannot just purchase a license, in addition to a fee you need 40 hours of accredited training and to pass an exam before you can get your license. You are also required to take continuing education classes to renew your license. Most other states have similar requirements. Most insurance agents or brokers make money on commission from selling insurance policies. Selling life policies to union members is not going to bring in much, and I’d imagine this company takes a cut. Maybe some people desperate enough to take this kind of sales job, but most people who’ve invested the time and money into a license would be better off on their own than trying to join up with this company.

    1. MaryMary*

      Actually, OP, if you Google [Your State] Department of Insurance, you should be able to find the licensure requirements pretty easily. If they don’t match what you were told at this interview, you can report the company to the state. The state would likely want to shut this down as much as you do.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        The “license” is probably a self-certification, as in, the company prints out a piece of paper saying you have met their rigorous requirements…of paying them $500.

        But you’re right, if they called it “insurance”, most states regulate that VERY stringently.

      2. littlemoose*

        Excellent suggestion. This sounds shady as hell and I definitely think the state insurance board would be interested, if not the state AG.

      3. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

        No, the license they were telling us to get turned out to be real. The scam part was just that once you got it, you’d end up at the bottom of a pyramid, selling insurance that isn’t competitive in the market and working 60 hours a week for zero pay. Over 80% of people involved in MLMs end up with a net loss, no matter how long they’re in the company. The only way to profit is to get in early, before the pyramid is eight “levels” deep. Once it passes that point, it is mathematically impossible to profit.

        1. Meg*

          I worked for Bankers Life and Casualty as a naive 19-year-old who needed a job. I actually went to the insurance class and the licensing exam and got the insurance license as well. I didn’t do *TOO* bad, but still scammy.

  8. Jamie*

    If the ID is a driver’s license she couldn’t have left – but I personally wouldn’t have walked away from the person copying it until she was done and handed it back.

    I got tricked by one of these interview things ages ago – they are very good at making it look legit. I walked out, but if she had my id I’d have made a big stink until I got it back.

        1. Jessa*

          Yeh best thing ever, put the non emergency PD numbers for the towns around you in your phone list.

      1. Anonsie*

        Right. “I am going to leave, I want my ID back and if I don’t get it I’m going to have the police get it for me.”

        Then again I’m picturing the timeshare sales pitch from South Park where they call the police and the cops that show up turn out to be in on it and continue the pitch themselves.

      2. Valar M.*

        Yep. Explain the situation to them, and ask what to do. That way if you had to leave without it, you have a record of a phone call if you would get pulled over.

      3. Jeanne*

        This is what I was thinking. I would not leave and say I’ll get it back later. I would call the police and get it before leaving. They have essentially stolen it by refusing to give it back.

      4. zecrefru*

        Had the OP threatened to call the Police, she “would never do business in this town again”.

      5. ella*

        My dad had to threaten to call the police once at a car dealership. They had taken the keys to his car as collateral (in addition to photocopying his license) when he took a car on a test drive and refused to return them when he declined to buy a car. Fun times!

        1. Windchime*

          I’ve had this happen, too. They had me cooling my heels for 45 minutes. I finally had to loudly insist that they return my keys because my son had an appointment that we had to get to.

      6. Verde*

        Totally. I would have stood in the middle of the room and dialed 911 in front of everyone and reported that my ID was stolen and I was being held against my will. Total BS.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I’d like to think that I would have stood up after realizing it was a sales pitch, and just loudly started demanding my ID back until they gave it to me, and inviting others to join me in protesting.

      In actuality I am far too non-confrontational and would probably just sit there getting more and more weirded out…

    2. PEBCAK*

      Depends on the state. Many don’t require you to actually have the license physically on you.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        When my niece’s husband stole her purse and wouldn’t give it back, I asked the responding officer what would happen if she was pulled over for something, and didn’t have her license with her. He told me all they would do is check the computer to make sure she has a license, and to see if she has any outstanding warrants. She didn’t need to physically have the license with her. I never knew that.

      2. mlamb*

        Doesn’t matter whether it’s a state requirement or not. They have something that legally belongs to you and are holding you AND your license captive with the ‘ransom’ being that you sign up for their business….or at least listen to the entire presentation.

        People have called 911 for the stupidest reasons (no ketchup with their carry out order of fries, etc.). If I didn’t have the local police department number in my phone, I’d call 911. Up in front of the group, out loud. Even if you didn’t get your message reported 911 would call you back. They also have an audio record of all calls.

        This is just so infuriating…..makes me want to chew up horseshoes and spit out tacks…..

  9. steve g*

    Well thank god sites like glassdoor and yelp or whatever exist so you can spread this story aaaalllll over the place.

  10. Natalie*

    This sounds pretty damn shady, probably tipping towards the “actually a pyramid scheme” side of the MLM/pyramid scheme line. I’d at least file are report with the relevant agencies (State Attorney General and possibly FTC).

  11. Ann*

    I’m pretty sure I got roped into doing an interview with these people too (although they didn’t pull the ID trick on me, and they told me it was a marketing job rather than an HR job). The “$150K after 18 months” and “we supporting the working man” spiel is exactly the same. Is there more than one MLM-type company out there doing group interviews for selling life insurance to union members?

    1. AC*

      There’s more than one. If it’s the company I’m thinking of, it’s actually a three-fold company that does insurance, sales, and…I can’t quite remember the third branch. I briefly worked for them.

    2. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

      Yes, there are multiple companies, all under the banner of a bigger company called “Torchmark.”

      1. Ann*

        I was still getting e-mails for “job openings” from Torchmark months later, even after unsubscribing. They finally stopped after a while.

      2. Stephanie*

        Oh God. My friend’s an attorney for them in the general counsel office at HQ (and travels to the corporate offices of the subsidiary you interviewed at, OP). She had like a two-year job search (she got her JD right when things were tanking in the legal field) and landed this job. I thought the company sounded a little shady, but I was happy she finally landed something. Maybe she can get some good work experience there and then get the hell out…

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      God, I am so tempted to find one of these ads, go to the interview, cause a huge stink, and post video of it here. Or at least a transcript.

      1. Kerry Scott*

        That’s exactly my thinking. I would record the whole thing, post it on YouTube, and make a (tiny) fortune off the ads while outing these people for their suckitude. That’s win-win, and they totally have it coming.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Y’all, I don’t know how this will make you feel about me, but I used to do this kind of thing professionally. In my early 20s, I worked on advocacy campaigns, which often included disruptive scenes in public. I disrupted speeches, unfurled huge banners where they didn’t belong, and oh so much else. I have the skills for this.

        1. LBK*

          I did not even know that was a possible profession…what was your actual position? Interruption Specialist?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Calliope basically got it right, but the title was campaign coordinator. Traveled around the country causing commotion (or organized others to do so), in order to draw attention to a cause.

            1. LBK*

              Awesome. I seriously had no idea you could get hired and paid to do that. I always assumed it was just volunteers/independent protesters who did it of their own accord.

        2. Camellia*

          My teen years were in the 70’s and you just took me back to protests, bra burnings, etc. Now I’m going to have to dig out my old music and crank it up…

          “And the sign says “Long-haired freaky people need not apply”
          So I put my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
          He said you look like a fine outstanding young man, I think you’ll do
          So I took off my hat, I said “Imagine that, huh, me working for you”…

              1. Katie in Ed*

                I’d be really curious to know how you managed the transition from professional shit starter to, well, the opposite. I imagine this career path might keep you out of some industries? Or am I wrong?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Well, my whole career has been in nonprofits, where I think this kind of thing goes over differently — people get that it’s a specific type of media generation work, as opposed to just rabble-rousing for the sake of rabble-rousing. And it’s long enough ago and I’ve done enough credibility-building stuff since then that the people outside nonprofits who might normally see it as discrediting rabble-rousing are just confused by it and have cognitive dissonance and seem to let it go. It’s pretty interesting, actually.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  (I should probably be saying advocacy/campaigns there rather than nonprofits. The nonprofit sector is huge and varied.)

                  Also, the fact that I did this was so upsetting to my dad! He would be thrilled beyond belief to see how it all turned out.

              2. Anon for this*

                Back in the 80s my mom used to travel around the country getting arrested (as a volunteer) protesting for a particular cause. My parents actually started dating because my dad paid my mom’s rent one time when she was in jail so that it wouldn’t be late. She used to use all kinds of stories to talk her way into the places she was protesting to talk to the people inside and explain why this place was bad. (Intentional vagueness to avoid giving away details.) She was once kicked out of a well-known organization’s national convention for going to the microphone during a public comment period and pointing out that the organization’s support of the thing she was opposing was actually harmful to the organization’s main position.

                My dad asked her to stop getting arrested when she got pregnant with me and she agreed. However, my parents still decided to move out of the city they lived in to a small town outside of it just before I was born because they were getting death threats for my mom’s vocal public support of her cause. (She actually had eggs and tomatoes thrown at her while giving a speech at the local university!) We did move back to the city, but our number was never in the phone book under my mom’s name to avoid further trouble. The city prided itself on tolerance, but the reality was anything but!

        3. S*

          …that’s amazing. I love it. (I used to be involved in an environment group, and one of the leaders had fantastic stories about getting arrested at protests, sneaking onto construction cranes to hang banners opposing environmentally destructive construction techniques, bird-dogging political candidates, etc.)

      3. James M*

        Absolutely! I would suggest bringing an accomplice to wield the camera, just in case things get heated.

      4. JoAnna*

        I would pay money to see that. (Hey, there’s a legit marketing opportunity for your site!)

          1. Natalie*

            I think you did, actually. There was some kind of dust up in the comments that I remember.

      5. mlamb*

        DO IT!! For your country! For the world! For all those enslaved with MLM’s everywhere! Start a revolution!

  12. Erin*

    When I was in college I went to an interview at a spa/salon that I had applied to via craigslist. When I got there I realized that it would be a group interview, which didn’t worry me too much until more and more people started showing up. Groups and groups of people kept arriving, I lost count around 80 people. They shuffled us into small rooms in groups of ten and we were asked questions, but could only give short answers due to how fast they needed to get through the multitude of people waiting after us. Keep in mind this was for a receptionist position and they were only hiring one person. Needless to say I didn’t get the job, and probably wouldn’t have taken it if offered due to managements utter lack of awareness of how to hire!

    1. LBK*

      80 people!? Could they seriously not come up with ANY criteria to weed out applicants prior to interviews?

    2. Mouse of Evil*

      Once upon a time, an Internet service provider that was known for sending out CDs by the bushel to potential subscribers opened up a call center down the street from my house. They had what they described as a “job fair.” It was actually hundreds of people sitting in a huge space that used to be the anchor store of a dead mall, listening to a spiel about how much fun it was to work there (which, to be fair, I think it probably was, at least compared to most other call centers in the mid-90s).

      We had all put our resumes on a table when we went in. Then we sat. And sat. And sat. Eventually, some of us got called in to interview in a space that had–no kidding–cardboard cubicles with folding chairs. I was there for four hours before I got my interview. And then I found out that instead of the job I had applied for (I don’t remember what it was, but I was actually qualified on paper) I was being interviewed for an entry-level phone support job. Which I might not have minded, except that it paid so much less than the job I had (which didn’t pay particularly well) that I never would have applied for it. And I hadn’t!

      I never heard from them, but I did know several people who hired on–after they were established, and had presumably ditched the cardboard cubicles and folding chairs and added a few phones and computers–and they liked working there. But that experience annoyed me so much that I canceled my service with them (I had been a subscriber since the days when they sent out their product on floppy disks) and never applied for another job there again.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      There were at least 100 people at an interview I was asked to attend for a dental office. A DENTAL OFFICE. An admin/receptionist position in a dental office. It was held at this big meeting auditorium at a hotel near my house.

      I went in and sat down with a form on a clipboard, and the whole thing squicked me out so much, I got up and left. I gave them back the clipboard and said I didn’t think the job was for me, thank you very much, goodbye. They didn’t make a copy of my ID, though–I would have refused and left at that point if they had. After reading this post, however, I’m kind of sorry I didn’t stay and just take notes for a blog post of my own!

    4. Erica*

      “As you can see, we often have large numbers of angry people passing through our lobby. As the receptionist, how would you approach crowd control?”

  13. SerfinUSA*

    I would call the cops, report the ID theft and explain being held against your will (or at least unable to leave without getting your ID back). And probably raise a ruckus by asking loudly if anyone else wanted to leave but was unable to due to their ID being withheld. I imagine the ID’s would be returned on the quick.

    1. anon*

      I probably wouldn’t have called the police, but would have raised a bit of a ruckus. First, asking if anyone else wants to leave. And also insisting they call the receptionist back or get someone to open the door. The even would not have proceeded until they did that. I wouldn’t have allowed it to – I’d have kept telling the speakers to call the receptionist or someone else who could get the ID, or leave to solve the problem.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have never worked anywhere that the receptionist had the ONLY key to anything. “There’s a second key somewhere. Find it!”

        1. Cari*

          The caretakers always had spares where I worked, and me and my colleagues (IT Support, any room with equipment in for us to fix/maintain). The only time there wasn’t a spare key with someone who should have had one, was when a staff member had bypassed Estates and put a padlock on the door themselves.

  14. Nanc*

    Oh OP, I’m so sorry you had to go through this. For future reference if the “receptionist has gone to lunch” I would give them 2 minutes to find the key and then notify the police that your ID had been stolen. It’s the same bullshit tactic that sleazy car dealerships (for the record, my brother works for a nice car dealership–I’m not accusing all of them) use by taking your keys so the mechanic can look at your car and get a value estimate on the trade in.

    I’m with the other folks who suggest reporting it, although I’m not sure to whom? Your state employment board? Post something on their Facebook page?

    1. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

      I’m going to write a follow-up email to Allison talking about the reporting structure for things like this. It’s mind-boggling.

      1. S*

        I just want to say how glad I am that you’re serious about reporting things like this, and that it sounds like this “company” won’t get away with this. Companies are allowed to get away with shady (and straight-out illegal) things all the time because people let them get away with it. Unfortunately, as is often pointed out here on AAM, the average person doesn’t usually have the luxury of reporting companies to the proper authorities or otherwise taking action, because it will ruin their professional reputation or burn a bridge they can’t afford to burn. It’s totally understandable but frustrating to read about, and I’m so glad that that’s not the case here.

  15. Nina*

    Did anyone else think of the South Park episode “Asspen,” when the parents were held hostage in the lodge until they went in on a timeshare?

    I’ve experienced something like this before when I interviewed with an insurance company. My interview lasted 10 minutes, but then they herded us in a conference room for a group interview, which detailed the history of the company and lasted over an hour. We weren’t held hostage or anything (still had all my stuff!) but I do remember hearing “We don’t advertise because we’re so great at what we do”, and “You can leave if you don’t want to contribute 100%.” I was only interviewing for a receptionist position, but they definitely laid it on thick that you could truly excel and make money by selling insurance. I wonder if this is how insurance agencies interview potential employees.

    1. Jennifer*

      Yes, I was just watching that the other day. The last time my mom went to a “free timeshare” thing, I refused to go. They sent a car for me, drove us out to the middle of nowhere, and literally WOULD NOT LET US LEAVE UNTIL SHE PAID FOR SOMETHING.
      Sure, the South Park episode involved cops and holding guns to people’s heads, but it wasn’t that much of an exaggeration from the real thing.

  16. Adam V*

    I’d have called the police non-emergency line and said “this company took my driver’s license, and I’m trying to leave and they’re telling me they ‘can’t give it back right now’ because someone went to lunch”.

    And maybe this is wrong of me, but since when did receptionists have their own office to lock? Aren’t they always right in front of the doors to greet everyone who came in?

    1. Bobotron*

      This was my first thought. I would have told them to get my ID or I was calling the police. This whole incident is infuriating!

    2. Jamie*

      That’s what I would have done if standing there and adamantly demanding it back didn’t work – non-emergency police would have been my next step and I wouldn’t have stepped out in the hall to do it.

      I find scenes abhorrent – but this would have made me flip my …yeah – I would not have gotten belligerent – but would been quiet about that, either.

      1. Adam V*

        > non-emergency police would have been my next step and I wouldn’t have stepped out in the hall to do it

        Yes, exactly. Just watch how fast they can “find” the key when you take out your phone in the middle of the room and say loudly “hello, is this the POLICE NON-EMERGENCY LINE? Yes, my DRIVER’S LICENSE IS BEING KEPT FROM ME and I’d like it back, so I can leave this JOKE OF A ‘JOB INTERVIEW’ and not waste any more of my time.”

        You’d probably also embolden a few more people to follow you out the doors.

    3. Jennifer*

      I’m also wondering what time “lunch” was if this started at 10 a.m. Was the receptionist skipping out from 11-1?

  17. JMegan*

    My eyes just kept getting bigger and bigger as I read this, until they popped right out of my head when I got to the mention of Warren Buffett. Unreal.

    I’m sorry you went through this, OP, and I hope everyone else in the room with you recognized the scam as well. I agree that it’s worth reporting to at least the place that posted the job ad, so other people don’t get sucked in too.

    1. Traveler*

      Why do so many of these MLMs and scams cite Warren Buffet? If you know anything about that man, you’ll know even in his old age, he is not an idiot and wouldn’t support nonsense like this.

      1. Natalie*

        The people that fall for that really don’t know that, though. The transparency of a lot of scams actually works in the scammers favor – fewer people fall for it, but the people that do are much easier to get a lot of cash out of.

      2. VintageLydia USA*

        Because he’s a billionaire known for being sympathetic to the struggles of lower income folk, so a lot of people know his name for that reason. So someone who isn’t otherwise educated on business hears that Warren Buffet, Certified Not An Ass to Poor People, supports this product or service, well of COURSE it’s legit. It doesn’t work on everyone, or even most people, but these interviews are designed to weed out critical thinkers.

      3. Anonymous*

        Warren Buffett has invested in a number of mlm companies, including Primerica, a company that engages in precisely this level of scumbaggery. He’s a brilliant guy, but he’s not a saint.

  18. Greg*

    I don’t know what the OP is so upset about. She got the opportunity to meet Ben Affleck!


    All joking aside, I think I can answer the OP’s question about why companies do stuff like this. It’s the same reason those Nigerian scam emails are so ridiculously poorly written. It’s basically a Darwinian strategy of filtering out people with any modicum of intelligence and ensuring they’re left with the easiest marks. The vast majority of people they bring in will be like the OP, instantly recognize that it’s a scam, and be glad to get out of there with their IDs. But the ones who stick around are people they can shake down for a $500 fee, and possibly more money down the road.

    1. JMegan*

      Oh, interesting – I’ve wondered about that, but didn’t realize it was so strategic.

    2. Stephanie*

      A similar principle is used for those goofy late-night lawyer ads: Spanish-speaking squirrels and bad CGI make the lawyers seem more approachable and draw in the (usually) less sophisticated clientele they’re looking for.

  19. btdubbs*

    I’ve had the “kidnapped at a job interview” happen thing to me too. I was a graduating senior in college responding to a “direct marketing” job in a nearby city. For my second interview (the first was a 15 min one-on-one with the director), they said I was going to be coming in to follow their team around on client visits.

    I was assigned to an interviewer who drove me and some coworkers an hour away from my interview site to sell coupons door-to-door. In the rain. In my interview suit. They told me they weren’t returning until they hit their quotas, which turn out to be around 8 p.m. (I showed up for the interview in the morning).

    When they returned me to the interview site, I was supposed to come in to take a quiz on the structure of their pyramid scheme. The second the car stopped, I got out and ran to the nearest subway. I tell it as a funny story now, but it was pretty terrifying in the moment to realize I was trapped in a town I didn’t know, with an interviewer who thought he invented the “that’s what she said” joke. Just awful.

    1. newbie in Canada*

      Oh that’s the worst!

      And then a quiz at the end of the interview from hell. Sheesh.

    2. CollegeRuled*

      I had a similar experience after college. Same scenario, but when we stopped for lunch, I asked to be taken back to the office. They seemed pissed! But I went home a little wiser about this type of situation. It was a complete waste of time and energy.

    3. Rachel*

      Oh yes, the DS-MAX/Cydcor/Smart Circle scam. I answered an ad for an “Advertising/Public Relations” position from one of those companies and went through the Day of O (that’s what they call the all-day interview). When I told them that door-to-door sales wasn’t what I was looking for, they assured me that I’d only do it for a couple weeks at the beginning, to “understand what the salespeople do,” then I’d be in the office. I actually took the job. (What can I say, I was 22 and much more gullible) They wanted me to start right away, but I wanted to give two weeks notice to the part-time job I was working, so I only worked there 3 days a week for the first couple weeks. Week 3 rolled around and nobody had said anything to me about getting out of the field. I went up to one of the guys who’d been there a while and asked about it at the end of the day one day. He looked at me as if I was crazy and told me that EVERYBODY did door-to-door sales except the owner and receptionist, and they were the only two who worked in the office. I quit the next day. It’s still the only job I’ve ever walked out on.

      A few months later, I was interviewing for a job in the classified advertising department of a local newspaper. The supervisor was explaining the duties and mentioned that people sometimes tried to place scam ads. Oh boy, did I ever know of a scam ad to tell them about! I got the job. : )

    4. Chloe Silverado*

      My best friend and I both fell into this same trap right after college graduation. We had both graduated with degrees in marketing, so we were essentially applying to the same jobs. We both saw a glamorous sounding job – “Spa and Hospitality Marketing Assistant,” but being slightly competitive neither of us told the other (I didn’t want her applying to this awesome job and getting it over me, and she felt the same way). You can imagine how stupid we felt when we showed up for our in-person group interview, saw each other, and then discovered that the glamorous dream job we were so competitive to about was actually selling spa packages door-to-door in office parks. Since we had strength in numbers, we felt confident enough to walk out the second the director explained that we would be doing a day of “on the job training,” but if I had been on my own I probably would’ve stayed!

    5. MaryMary*

      You all make me feel better. As a senior in college, I drove two hours (one way) to an interview for a marketing/public relations specialist that turned out to be for selling coupon books door to door. I sat through the introductory spiel but bailed before anyone tried to take me to a second location.

      However, I did get a speeding ticket on the way home, making it the most expensive job interview I’ve ever been on.

    6. Sydney Bristow*

      This happened to me too! Except they were selling merchandise that probably fell off the back of a truck. I was stuck all day with them in a small town 45 minutes away where they drove me. They offered me the job when we got back and out of the car and I turned them down so quick and took off for my own car.

    7. Anon55*

      This happened to me right after I graduated too! They took me about 40 miles away from their office under the guise of meeting clients, i.e. selling coupon books door-to-door. Luckily it was only 25 miles from my dad’s work so he came and picked me up from a takeout restaurant I had fled to. The guy who was my trainer kept telling me to leave my purse (with my car keys and cell in it) in his truck but I’m a suspicious person in general so I thankfully took them with me. BOSS was the name of the company and they were located in north Oakland County, Michigan if anyone gets called by them and they’re still operating under that name.

      My ‘trainer’ actually tried to bully me into staying with him by claiming I’d never get another job like this (not really a threat), he made tons of money and blah blah blah. We were in the middle of suburbia and I just left on foot, well really I left on heels, found a takeout restaurant that let me park at a table by purchasing an appetizer and called my dad to come save me.

  20. Katie the Fed*

    “If I don’t have my ID back in the next five minutes, I’ll be calling the police and reporting theft. Do you understand?”

    what a shady bunch of characters.

  21. JoAnna*

    Something similar happened to me, sans the ID-taking. I applied for a job that was described as an admin assistant position for a property manager. It turned out to be a group interview where a bunch of shiny hyper people tried to persuade us that we really, really wanted to sell “all-natural, organic” cleaning products to the masses. Typical MLM scheme BS, complete with peppy music and lots of fake enthusiasm. I was disgusted, primarily because I’d had to ride a bus 1.5 hours just to get there, and I never would have wasted my time like that for anything less than an authentic interview. I wish I had stood up and walked out the minute I realized what was going on, but there were actually people standing at the door trying to intercept people and persuade them to stay, so I waited until the pitch was over and then dashed out of there like the devil was on my heels. I wish I had reported them to the BBB or something.

    1. Laura Treider*

      I experienced something close to that when I was in my early 20s. I applied for a receptionist job and it turned out to be some knockoff perfume sales scheme. They had barely any furniture in the strip mall space they had rented to use as their office, which should have been a red flag.

      1. Katriona*

        Sounds like an interview I went on when I was just out of college and desperate to leave retail. I was interviewed at the same time as another applicant and he kept pushing both of us toward a “management position” that I later found out (when I finally wised up and consulted Google) involved selling knockoff perfume from the trunk of your car.

    2. MR*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these companies paid the BBB to take care of these types of reports. It’s amazing the kinds of problems that just magically go away when companies pay the BBB…

  22. Sabrina*

    This sort of happened to me too. I applied to a job at a job fair. They were very vague about what the company did and what the job entailed. But I was 19 or 20 and didn’t know that this was a red flag. I show up for the “interview” and it’s a big presentation like the OP described. They didn’t take my ID though. The main guy had just flown in and how lucky were we all that he was there speaking to us. At one point he even said “Now this might look like a pyramid scheme, but let me ask you, where on the pyramid are you now?” I was in the middle of the room and we were shoehorned in so I really couldn’t get up to leave and I think a lot of people just didn’t want to be rude. But when they finally let us have a break, me and several others made a run for it. There was a lot of looks given in the parking lot that said “I can’t believe I fell for that BS.” I don’t know the name of the company as this was quite awhile ago, but they sold some kind of air recirculators or cleaners, not life insurance.

    Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffet’s company, does own insurance companies, but near as I can tell none of them sell life insurance direct to consumers.

      1. Angry bird*

        Burkshire Hathaway owns the Scott Fetzer company in Cleveland. Scott Fetzer manufactures Kirby.

  23. Ash (the other one!)*

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned that OP also took leave to go to this “interview” under false pretenses. That’s leave she (or he) needs to go to legit interviews. I’d be more pissed about that — when I was interviewing every hour of leave was carefully calculated and I waste that much time on a scam? PISSED.

    1. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

      Yes! And I’m hourly right now (an intern) and I lost like $70 for that day!

  24. TheExchequer*

    I’m laughing a little right now because when I was just out of college, I went to an interview just like this for an energy solar company. It was supposed to be an Admin job, and it was already very far away so I went with a lot of reservations. Turns out it was a sales job (the stories I could tell about job ads that lied to me about admin jobs . . . ) and they had no problem with dropping people by themselves in high crime areas to knock on doors. The minute they gave me my ID back (which they had, supposedly to get my W-4 stuff “out of the way”), I high-tailed it out of there so fast, I think I left tread marks. I don’t remember the name of it off hand, but this story reminded me of it.

    1. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

      “hich they had, supposedly to get my W-4 stuff “out of the way””

      That’s what they told me!

  25. AndersonDarling*

    I’d call the local news station. They LOVE stories like this. “Local sales company is preying on the unemployed trying to find a job…” *insert dramatic news music*
    They may even put someone in undercover with a camera.

    If it was me, I’d report it to your state’s attorney general’s office and the BBB. If there are any laws being broken, the attorney general can sue.

    1. Mints*

      I like this a lot. I can totally imagine the local corporation-fight-reporter going to town on this

      (7 On Your Side, anyone?)

  26. BOMA*

    Full disclosure: I’ve actually been roped in on one of these quasi-scams. I was 22, EXTREMELY inexperienced, and didn’t know the right questions to ask or the right red flags to work for. I ended up working for an insurance company selling health and life insurance door-to-door for six months, spent hundreds of dollars on licensing fees and other assorted administrative/operating costs (I had to drive my car to every appointment, buy all my own supplies, use my own cell phone, etc), and ended up in a significant amount of debt since the position was commission only and people, unsurprisingly, did not take well to strangers knocking on their door trying to sell overpriced insurance. At the time, it was a monumentally stressful period in my life, although luckily I recovered and now just look back at it with mild embarrassment at being so naive.

    Long story short, Alison’s advice is perfect. You did the right thing by walking away and I don’t think anyone would blame you if you reported them to the BBB.

    1. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

      You’re not alone. Apparently, thousands of other people are also roped into these kinds of scams. : (

      1. BOMA*

        The company I worked for preyed on people in vulnerable positions. Recent college grads, people laid off in the past few months, immigrants trying to settle down and find a job here (for some reason that always struck me as the most despicable). These companies are technically legitimate in that they’re not a Ponzi scheme (usually), but a lot of their tactics are juuuuust barely on this side of legal. Stuff like this is why I love sites like AAM so much – they provide free, practical, and honest advice on how to find a job and can be a lifesaver for someone who might not otherwise know better. I certainly wouldn’t have gotten this advise from my college career center. Nearly everything I learned about finding and keeping a job, I learned from Alison.

        1. Anx*

          I think, also, that sometimes I think people are pretty skeptical about these things, but are pretty desperate.

          I admit I was pretty close to doing something like this once, because I felt like I couldn’t complain about not being able to find anything if I was being picky. I felt guilty seeing these ads and not applying to them when I was on UI, almost fraudulent.

    2. Artemesia*

      The business model of lots of these companies is to get young people to sell crappy insurance product to all their friends and relatives and then when they have fished out the pond and can’t sell more they leave; this as you can imagine then leaves lots of po’ed relatives and is great for family reunion happiness.

  27. Cari*

    Mr. Audi sounds like my ex lol :|
    Sorry you had to endure all that OP, companies shouldn’t be allowed to get away with wasting people’s time like that. Good luck with your HR job search!

  28. Alex*

    OMG! I interviewed with the same people!!! Same set up!

    It was about 10 years ago in Massachusetts and it was the same union based life insurance. I was NOT told it would be group interview and when I kindly asked about the setup they made it sound like it was a general intro to the company for everybody.

    I tried to give the presentation a good shot but the presenter said something along the line of “we are all union members here”. I though it was odd and I asked how can you have all the staff be in a union when you need management representation also. He was dismissive and wouldn’t answer my question so I then knew it was a scam.

    I discreetly tried to leave after an hour but he singled me out to the group. Said something like “well she will never work for us ever again!” and I just responded with a very sweet and kind ” I wasn’t planning on it but thank you”. And I just left.

    It was a such a waste of my day

    1. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

      Was the company “American Income Life”? That’s what my company was called.

      1. fposte*

        Aha! That’s the company that owns National Income Life, that I posted a link about below.

        It’s astonishing how little of the truth is really evident in Glassdoor, etc., reviews about these places.

      2. Ann*

        Yes, that’s the one I interviewed with! Except on the phone, they told me that I’d be interviewing with “The XXX Group.” (I can’t remember what XXX was, but I remember that it was the last name of the person who showed us the PowerPoint presentation.) They didn’t mention anything about the company later introduced to me as American Income Life (presumably so I couldn’t Google them). I know I should have been suspicious when I couldn’t find any online mention of The XXX Group in any part of the city, but it was really close to my house, so I figured I’d go anyway. At least they let me walk out immediately after the presentation.

  29. Stephanie*

    I did a group interview a couple of weeks ago, but it was only three people. It was supposed to be seven people, but four didn’t show. I don’t really get what those accomplish either. I suppose you can see how you interact with other people, but it just ended up being kind of awkward.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I had a legitimate one also, and it WAS very awkward. I ended up getting a second, one-on-one interview, but after attending that as well, I had pretty much soured on the job. Besides, it was a front desk thing, and I ended up getting off that finally so yay.

    2. manybellsdown*

      I had a group interview that made sense – it was for a drama teacher position and they had us doing improv with each other. So it was a lot of fun for drama geeks. But yeah, it probably doesn’t make much sense for most positions.

  30. soitgoes*

    I once worked as a recruiter for a company like this. We would get stacks of resumes from places like Monster.com and call people up, basically promising them whatever job they said they were looking for. The gray area is that you can eventually become your own “manager” at these places…if you start from the bottom in sales. If you stay there long enough, you get to recruit your own sales underlings and manage them. 99.9% of people don’t stay there that long. I think that’s how they get away with inviting people in to interview for positions that aren’t just sales.

    Anyway, I wanted to address the OP’s sense of incredulity. This is actually very normal in the insurance industry. They butter people up over the phone, drag them into these group interviews, and a few chumps buy into the fancy talk and decide to take the job. After paying $300-ish for the sales license.

    1. soitgoes*

      Yep, I had the phone job at American Income.

      One of my coworkers had her car broken into and vandalized by someone who was called in for one of these interviews. That’s how angry people are about getting roped into these scams.

    2. Ann*

      It turned out that each person in the group interview that I went to for one of these places was promised a different job. Marketing for me, admin for someone else, HR for another, “benefits administrator” for another, and so on.

      1. soitgoes*

        Yeah, that’s what we had to do.

        Honestly though, working as a recruiter gave me a lot of insight into how men vs. women approach the job-seeking process.

          1. soitgoes*

            Men would say things like, “I was a manager in my last job so I can’t start back at the bottom now. I need to have other people reporting to ME,” while women would say, “I’m looking for a job that isn’t super-stressful and would afford me enough free time to be with my family and pursue my interests.” It made me feel pretty sure that the idea of “Let’s get more women in positions of authority at work = let’s instruct them to act like men” is missing the point. Do we really want more people to have gross senses of entitlement? If I have to act and speak to others like that to get ahead, I’ll pass.

  31. HR Manager*

    I used to work for a large international financial services firm that also sold insurance – we were absolutely not deceptive like this.

  32. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

    Actually, once I did more digging on the company, it turns out they’ve already been investigated a few times by regulatory agencies, but because they have a product that they’re “selling,” it isn’t technically a pyramid scheme. Google “the Amway decision” to read some more about why these companies are allowed to continue operating. You have no idea how deep the rabbit hole goes. Some of these CEOs of MLMs have actually become the heads of the regulatory agencies designed to investigate them!

    1. Elizabeth West*

      That is INSANE. It’s like the whole mandatory binding arbitration thing, and the arbitrators are picked and paid for by the company. Should be illegal–it’s a total conflict of interest.

  33. Stephanie*

    Also, is anyone else confused by the product? Admittedly, I’ve mostly worked in right-to-work states. The one time I was unionized, it was in a right-to-work state, so the union was pretty toothless. Anyway, I thought union leadership negotiated benefits? (At least that was how the aforementioned toothless one worked.) So wouldn’t the union have already negotiated an insurance plan with HR? Is this company just selling supplemental insurance? Even my not great, high-deductible, this-keeps-me-from-declaring-bankruptcy-if-I-get-in-a-car-accident insurance is still like $1500/year (and I’m in my 20s and healthy!), so God knows what this company is selling for $500/year.

    1. James M*

      It could be alien-abduction insurance. Given everything the OP reported hearing in the “interview”, I wouldn’t take any statement from that company at face value.

      1. Stephanie*

        Haha. Rereading the post I see that it’s life insurance, which is even worse! Every job I’ve had, life insurance was pretty cheap if you were just trying to get 1x or 2x your annual salary. I think it did get pricier (and you had to undergo a physical) if you wanted several times your salary or a similarly large payout. I’d imagine this union probably negotiated a decent life insurance policy (or had resources for non-shady supplemental policies).

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Group life is pretty cheap. They average their costs out over the group and there is usually enough of differences in individual members to drive down the level of risk for the insurance company.
          That is what it’s all about the level of risk.

          The only draw back is that if you leave the job there goes the life insurance.

    2. Ann*

      Yes, we candidates were told it was supplemental insurance, but a type that was “critical” for union members.

  34. some1*

    Two thoughts:

    1) I used to work a Union job and was offered more than reasonable life insurance through my employer. Assuming I wanted to buy more, is there really a dearth of affordable life insurance out there?

    2) This is not only horrible for people who get sucked into it through naiveté or desperation, but someone who *knows* it’s a scam and is receiving UI is technically not supposed to turn down any work.

    1. fposte*

      Though you may not technically be an employee in something like this, any more that you’re legally an employee if you sell Mary Kay. That would at least give people an out on the employment front if so.

      1. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

        This is part of how MLMs stay out of the courts. All employees are “independent contractors” who have no employee rights. Which makes the whole “we’re all in a union” thing even more confusing.

    2. H. Rawr*

      I knew someone who got around that by just choosing not to answer the phone after two “interviews” and a clearer picture of the situation. Also, in my state, UI has an exception for jobs significantly under the pay rate you had previously, and I’d say that work with a base pay of $0.00 probably qualifies!

      1. De Minimis*

        I wouldn’t even bother to report a contact with something like this, since it is not a legitimate job.

  35. Peep!*

    I got one of these chump “insurance” companies calling me too — they told me they had seen my resume (but couldn’t tell me anything I had written on it, hmm, clearly you read it!), and wanted me to come in to learn more about “management opportunities”.

    My favorite part was when I asked for their website so I could possibly apply directly (ha) and asked what the URL was. I said “Is it XYZcompany.com? Or .net? Or…” The person was like “ummmm….. ummm…. um…. I guess you could google XYZ Company…”

    lol. Nope.

    1. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

      Yes, it was very difficult to find any information about this company. I only found the MLM stuff by searching MLM and seeing the company on the list.

      1. Peep!*

        I was able to find a good amount of stuff on yelp and other sites just by googling, thankfully, but luckily it sounded shady enough (yay?) that I didn’t give in over the phone. I mean, really — hahah — if I’ve been job hunting for over 6 months, there’s absolutely no way someone is just going to flutter down from the sky and hand me a job like that.

    2. soitgoes*

      They gather resumes according to zip code on Monster and CareerBuilder. The callers are given lists of names and phone numbers taken from those resumes.

      1. Stephanie*

        That’s how I got contacted by one of those places. They said they found my resume on Monster or CareerBuilder and had a vague-sounding job title (like “analyst” or something). Something trigged my job scam spidey-sense, so I declined the interview.

          1. Peep!*

            It really pisses me off that (as far as I can tell) the only time I’ve posted my résumé anytime in the last 5 years, is on my state’s job board that you have to sign up for and verify you signed up for, in order to get unemployment benefits. (It’s actually a nice site, I’m impressed!) But the fact that they go after people already on unemployment is just cruel. :(

        1. soitgoes*

          The whole process is really messed up and sets everyone up to fail. As a recruiter, I was held to quotas for getting people to come into these interviews. We were reprimanded when we turned in our call sheets with “no answer” or “disconnected” written next to too many names. I was assigned an area that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy about a month after it happened. Obviously a lot of phones were out of service.

    3. azvlr*

      OMG! I just realized that I have received a slew of these exact offers. I have zero interest in insurance or sales (is it possible to have negative interest?), so I deleted or ignored them. But it’s scary to know that I could just as easily have been sucked in.

    1. Arrogant Degree-Holder (OP)*

      Why am I not surprised by this? Wait until you guys read the update. I had no idea there was so much corruption in US business.

  36. The girl that knocked on your door...*

    I have worked in various sales positions over the years. Why? Because when I’ve been desperate for a job, it’s one you can always get. I’ve done 2 different door-to-door ones and one telesales.

    This way of recruiting and interviewing is typical I think. About a year ago I decided to never do this kind of sales work again. I have been ‘headhunted’ a few times by companies that I often work out are this kind of job and therefore ignore them.

    I actually once fell for one of these even after I’d worked 2 of the door-to-door jobs before! They made like I needed to take the train with this person to ‘another office’ but the train just went to a residential area where I was expected to go knocking with her. Of course I was not dressed properly for door knocking, eg. appropriate footwear etc (it was also winter).

    The first one I did, I was ‘interviewed’ in a room of around 20 people. We each had to stand up and say clearly “Hello, my name is [name] and I’m here on behalf of [company name]”. Only 3 people were rejected as they mumbled or whatever. That was the whole interview.

    They often advertise themselves as something different. I’ve noticed a lot saying they need ‘sport minded people’ (because of all the walking involved in door to door). “Business minded people” is also common.

    Another one I see a lot is sales jobs of this kind being advertised as “graduate jobs” or “now seeking graduates” etc.

    I worked in KFC for 2 years following my 2nd door to door job. Whenever I had a bad day, I said to myself “At least it’s not door to door”.

    In door to door, it’s either commission based in a way that makes it almost impossible to ‘sell’ enough to make any reasonable living, or it’s hourly paid with very high and often unreasonable goals.

    How high is turnover? Well, the office I worked for used to hire 20 people every other Tuesday.

    1. The girl that knocked on your door...*

      In addition, there is a reason WHY they recruit in this way…

      They have a high turnover because so few people can actually make a living this way because it’s so hard to meet sales goals. Therefore they always need to recruit.

      If they advertised themselves for what they really are, very few people would apply.

      So they pretend to be something else. Their thinking is (and they’re often right) that once they get the people there and make them a job offer, very few unemployed people would actually turn the job down. They may not have applied for the position but now they’re there with it being offered – they will usually take it.

  37. Malissa*

    Oh the memories of bad “interviews” this brings up. Salad Master, Knock-off perfume (“they can only copyright the box, not the scent!”), and the best one was some sort of cleaning goods and air purifiers. After going to a “interview, ” which involved sitting in a room for an hour listening to crap one of the guys involved in the company actually followed/ran into me at a bar afterwards. At least I got a free drink out of that. I think I may have even had my own run-in with a Torchmark kind of company.
    I will say that I did have a legit interview with an insurance/personal financial planning company that was legit. They offered 8 weeks of paid schooling. At the end I would have all the certifications necessary and it wouldn’t cost me a thing. Then it was onto salary + commission.

    1. De Minimis*

      The one I went to was the knock off perfume.

      There was another one after that but I knew it was the same type of thing so I didn’t bother showing up for the “management interview.”

  38. BadPlanning*

    Looking for a summer job, I foolishly went to a “higher than the going minimum wage/super vague description” interview. It was for selling knives. Doh. It wasn’t too horrible — standard MLM sales stuff. I relearned the “too good to be true” lesson. I recognized a couple of my HS classmates, so we were all naive together!

    The time I was pissed was when I wanted to buy some Mary Kay product locally and picked someone via the website (I had a friend selling and then quit). I thought I’d be an awesome customer — call them up and order my stuff, no fuss. Well, I was invited to pick up my product and it turns out they were having a MK party and wanted me to do the makeover and fill out forms and be in the meeting and get sucked into sales, etc, etc. I was heading to my hair appointment so had an easy “excuse” (not that I needed one, but it was handy) — they actually told me to call her and reschedule so I could stay for my beauty treatment and “hang out.” Puke. I realize having underlings is probably better than having sales…but really, I just wanted to buy some stuff on a regular basis. Total fail on their part.

    1. Anonsie*

      That’s the thing that’s so obnoxious about these. I might actually buy Mary Kay and Avon if I could just flipping buy it from someone, but I know I can’t ever give one of their people my contact information or I’ll be hearing about it forever.

      1. Jen RO*

        I was always lucky to have coworkers who sold Avon on the side. They just brought the catalog and we left them a list of things to buy.

    2. soitgoes*

      I think Pampered Chef is more laid-back. My mom sold their stuff for awhile, basically because she liked what they sold. She was also, at the time, in a mode where she was really into having dinner parties. I think she and her friends bought everything they wanted and then called it quits.

      Sensaria was another good one. Lotions and shampoos that smelled AMAZING. Of course, they’re not around anymore.

      1. JoAnna*

        I had a Pampered Chef wedding shower. My flower girl’s mother was a consultant and threw it for me, but I was technically the hostess and got all the benefits that came along with that. I ended up getting everything on my list and them some. I’ve been married 13 years next month and I still have almost all of it. It’s really great cookware.

      2. Callie*

        When I was a teacher, the librarian sold PC as her “other job”. She was constantly using the school email to send invitations to her PC parties and the administration never stopped her. I used to be in charge of the bake sale at our fall festival fundraiser. I LOVED making sugar cookies shaped like leaves and pumpkins and decorating them and they would always sell out in ten minutes. She decided to “help” run the bake sale and tried to sell me PC things for baking (no thanks, I already have way more stuff than I need) and then, when she made stuff for the bake sale, she attached her “business card” to every package! When people would compliment her cookies or cakes she’d whip out a PC catalog and plug all the products she used!! It pissed me off so much. If she was donating the profits from PC sales at the bake sale to the school I could tolerate it but she wasn’t! UGH.

  39. Clerica*

    because he was very well connected and drove an Audi.

    Battery or wind-up?

    I feel like there’s a rap song in this.

    Uh. Uh. All those haters done me wrong
    But yo college take too long
    I be sellin’ them insurance
    While they testin’ they endurance
    9 to 5, but that ain’t me
    Drive my Audi up the street
    All the hos they kiss my feet
    Got connections I gotta meet
    Um…oh. Bitch.

  40. ixiu*

    I had a similar sales pitch interview (scam seminar) while looking for a part time job as a recently high school graduate. They called themselves Cutco/Vector, and wanted us to sell Knives to friend and relatives at a premium, they wanted a deposit for a knife set that you would bring with you to do sales pitch. I ended up sitting through a whole day of lecture because I was young, clueless, and did not feel comfortable speaking out or getting up to leave. Just last week (~10 years later), I was at a art and wine festival and I saw they had a tent set up there! I guess they are still alive and making a living out of desperate job hunters.

    It would be nice if AAM can do a post for native high school/college graduates or desperate job seekers on what to look for to avoid these scammers. And of course it would be way more interesting to watch a Youtube video of you going to one of these things with a camera.

    1. De Minimis*

      One thing I noticed from them is that they always made some kind of reference to “being your own boss” or “running your own business.”

      The perfume place had a lot of people who “started work last week, now they’re already managers.”

      1. Kelly L.*

        Really flaunting the expensive stuff their people supposedly buy is another sign. “This job bought me a Lexus! And a Rolex! And a yacht! And…” Regular jobs don’t do that.

        Rushing your decision. If you have to decide OMGRIGHTNOW whether you want to work there, red flag. They want you to not think about it too hard.

        Bashing other types of employment. “J.O.B. means just over broke” is one they say a lot. Acting like anyone who works another type of job is a loser. Or a looser, as bad spelling seems to be endemic.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Rushing your decision. If you have to decide OMGRIGHTNOW whether you want to work there, red flag. They want you to not think about it too hard.

          SO much this. About any decision, really. Employment, sales…heck, even relationships. When someone uses blackmail or a lot of pressure, it’s likely because they would never get anywhere with a reasoned debate or presentation of the facts.

    2. Anonsie*

      Haha, I remember Cutco. Shortly out of high school one of my friends started selling Cutco, which was very much in line with her personality. My school district banned the sale of foods and drinks with too much sugar or fat, so she and her boyfriend had started a business selling candy bars and cans of soda out of a duffle bag during lunch. They bought in bulk and sold for cheap but still made a killing hustling junk food. I seem to also remember them trying to make bio diesel but I don’t think that ever panned out.

      She asked my mom to buy a set and I vividly remember my mom sighing deeply and saying “So Cutco’s still around?” She bought a set anyway (I suppose the “I’ll help a friend out” angle is exactly what Cutco is going for) and we found they’re actually pretty decent quality knives. We were pretty surprised.

      1. Wren*

        It’s true that the knives perform surprisingly well. But they’re ugly. And the circumstances of their purchase often makes them even less palatable to use.

        Also thinking about the Simpsons parody of Cutco, where the company is called Slashco.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, the “I’ll help a friend out” thing is part of how I talked myself out of doing any MLM stuff when I was unemployed. Even knowing they’re sleazy, I seriously thought about it for a few minutes, and then I remembered nobody’d buy the stuff but my mom. And my mom would loan me the money anyway if it came to that, and she’d just as soon not have the junk cluttering her house in the process.

  41. Wren*

    The one time I did a group interview 10 years ago, it was to staff a visiting exhibit at a museum I really admired. I later heard from insiders that hiring on that exhibit was a gong show and none of the interviewees were hired: it ended up being staffed entirely internally. I was just recovering from depression at the time and had really dug deep. I was my most brilliant self and shone in both group and individual tasks, I felt, so I was really crushed that they didn’t even follow through on the promise for individual responses and feedback. I have never been able to bring myself to go to that museum again, even though I was really interested in that exhibit, even when it came through again a few years ago. (In more recent years, the museum seems to have suffered from lack of financial support and strayed from its mandate.)

    Anyway, this is just an anecdote to reinforce Alison’s assertion that people who do group interviews don’t know how to hire.

  42. nyxalinth*

    Oh god, OP, how awful! I didn’t have something quite this bad happen, but there’s a company here in the Denver area (IIRC they’re called Liberty National) that always advertises the position as customer service. I applied to them about a year and a half ago, only to learn that is was outside commission only insurance sales. I said “Your ad said it’s a customer service position.” “Oh, well that’s because sometimes you’ll be taking calls for questions or concerns from your clients.”

    I said, “That’s like a fancy restaurant advertising for a sous chef, but the position is really to be a server, and saying “Well, you go into the kitchen every day and pick up the food.” I was NOT at all happy, and I let them know it. I take glee in reporting it every time I see their ad on Craigslist, which runs constantly. I wonder why?

    Here’s the ad. The first paragraph has been unchanged since early last year, and while the pay isn’t listed this time, I’ve seen it bounce up and down between 35k to 55k.

    Looking to fill a few open positions in our Customer Support. We have expanded into a new office space due to recent growth. The ideal candidate should be career minded, and looking for advancement. Applicants should be comfortable in front office organization, customer service, and phone work. Also, it is very important to be comfortable in dealing with people on a constant basis. Life and Health benefits are provided to those looking for these offerings.

    We need someone who is driven, self-motivated, and enjoys interacting with new people on a daily basis for our new office. I want someone with a strong work ethic, integrity, and drive. I require, and a strong desire to serve the client. We are looking to fill these positions as soon as possible, please email your resume/cover letter to the provided link above.

    – Weekly and monthly bonuses
    – Benefits, including Health, Life, and Retirement

    Requirements for consideration:
    – Reliable form of transportation
    – Able to pass state required background check
    – Currently live in Colorado

    When I first sent my resume in, there was nothing about needing transportation, and that’s always a red flag to me regarding supposed phone based customer care. I would never have called them to begin with if they’d had that. This lie is obviously not working for them, but they seem too stupid to drop it.

  43. arjumand*

    I don’t live in the USA (or the UK) but this kind of scam has its tentacles everywhere, even in the sleepy corner of the Mediterranean, where I live. I’d like to start by apologizing (to . . . the universe, I guess) for the summer I spent shilling timeshare in the late 80s (think the Asspen South Park episode) – we preyed on tourists from the UK, and one time a couple did come back to me to complain that what I’d told them was not true. But what could I have done? I was 16, it was my first job (no McD or BK in my home in the 80s) and I’d believed what the “training” meetings had told us.
    Anyway, this is about an MLM scheme, which I was nearly pulled into by my cousin (my own freaking cousin! I can hardly believe it). My mum gets this mysterious phone call saying that she wants to talk to us about something, so we say, sure, no problem. This was summer, so my mum even prepares a huge ice-cream for her (my ibs hadn’t been properly treated , so this was the summer of cold water and juice for me), and along she comes, with a “business opportunity”. Oh boy. I think it was Herbalife, but the company didn’t matter – the structure was the familiar one of selling to strangers, recruiting teams, building teams who recruit more teams, etc etc. The booklet she proudly showed us didn’t even say what the products were, and she wasn’t allowed to tell us (WTF).
    As a final piece of bait to hook us in, there was a photo of the top sales manager with THE CAR. You know, the fancy car which you will buy with all your profits. At the time I didn’t drive yet, so she takes one look at me and says, “In your case, I guess you’ll be saving for your pension,” the little squirt. I managed to restrain myself from punching her in the face, and pointing out that I already have a pension plan in place, thanks very much (plus where I live, we will all have a state pension).
    I managed to decline politely enough, not pointing out that asking me to do door-to-door sales and/or annoy my colleagues and friends to join into this “opportunity” shows that she doesn’t know me at ALL (no, I couldn’t say it outright, because family). Later on I googled some key phrases I remembered from her brochure (which she couldn’t leave with us, either – all above board, d’you say?) and was introduced to the wonderful world of MLM companies.
    The thing is, Avon never really took off in my country, but my mum is German, and she, my gran, and my aunt all used to do the “Avon calling”! thing in the 60s, and they never felt exploited or used. In fact, while my mum and I share some character traits, and she wasn’t that good at it, my gran was a top seller. They used to be rewarded with jewellery, and my mum still has a ring and a pin my gran got for her sales prowess.
    So what happened? I’ve read a lot of the Mary Kay horror stories, and I wonder if Avon is that bad nowadays, too.

  44. Erika*


    It was a few years ago, outside DC and I applied for an EA position. Then I found out that it was a group presentation (much smaller though, about twelve people) with the same dubious crap. Then they broke us down into one-on-one “interviews” and I essentially told the person interviewing me to shove it and that I thought what they were up to was shady. They actually kept calling and asking me to get involved after that, for weeks. It was nuts.

    Good on you for seeing what was up.

  45. azvlr*

    When I first read the post, I thought it was so unusual. Then so many others chimed in with similar experiences, I have to wonder if there should be a separate section for Scams or something to that effect. It sounds like if word got around this would hopefully happen to fewer people.

  46. mlamb*

    If I had been there and was told the girl had gone to lunch, etc. I’d have raised holy hell. Demanded they contact her immediately and unlock that office and give me back my ID RIGHT NOW…or I’m calling 911 and the police because I’m being held hostage. I’d bet that ‘the girl’ would immediately return from lunch, or had forgotten to ‘lock her office’ or someone else had an extra ‘key’. It’d be fun to watch them scurry around like the cockroaches they are…when the light is turned on.

  47. Willow Sunstar*

    When I was younger, I had a similar experience. I don’t remember the name of the company anymore. However, I most certainly did not go to any more interviews at that company. You could find this company’s ads on Monster or similar web sites and try posting negative reviews warning other job seekers of their behavior.

  48. Amy*

    It isn’t just “sketchy” companies that do this sort of thing. When I was in college, I applied for an IT internship at Aflac and was called into an interview. Lo and behold, that interview was a group interview for B2B sales positions.

    They didn’t take my ID or anything, but I was too timid to just walk out and kept hoping it was all a big mistake and that my real interview would start soon.

    I will never, ever associate with Aflac again, as a customer or otherwise, that’s for sure.

  49. Andrea*

    I know this thread is old by now but I’d just like to say that I fell for the Vector trap one summer in high school and called to set up an interview (for the very next day) but after some Googling I bailed before taking the interview. I was still getting calls every four or five months well into my college years, until I finally told them to take me off their list (something I hadn’t thought necessary until them because I told them every time they’d called before that I had found a new position. And changed states.)

  50. Rae*

    I fell for the AIL interview too. I wish I’d walked out of the sales pitch – instead I just texted vigorously, told the manager when she called me back into her office that I was not at all interested, and left having wasted time I could have spent literally any other way and it would have been more productive.

  51. Hillary*

    Oh, man. I’m pretty sure I went through the exact same interview–the speakers were a little nicer, but the group interview for an insurance agency for union members? That was all the same. It just felt so sleazy.

    1. Hillary*

      I replied kinda quickly, so I forgot to add that for the follow-up interview, they told me to invite my husband to it. (Is this a thing?) I was newly engaged, needing a job, and unfamiliar with some of the processes so I did go to the interview, which was a 1:1 (er, 1:2). I’m glad he was there though because he confirmed that it was weird as all get-out. I was way more comfortable with my then-fiance there because the guy felt kind of slimy. I was offered a job on the spot and was given two days to accept. I turned it down, of course, because I couldn’t stand the idea of working 80+ hours per week on a job that didn’t guarantee anything, while paying for all of my gas/travel/etc. on my own dime.

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