I applied for a job at Simple Marketing Solutions, assuming that it was a small, yet legitimate marketing firm in Waltham, Massachusetts. Shortly after I submitted my resume, I received both a phone call and an email from their HR Director telling me that she was impressed with me and my resume. She congratulated me for being selected for an interview, told me that they were just finishing up the interview process and wanted to know if I could come in the next day for a fifteen to thirty minute interview. It seems like awfully short notice, but I agreed to come in the following afternoon. I visited the company's website and while it seemed a little 'GeoCities circa 1999', I didn't think much of it and I prepared myself for the interview.
Joblessness and desperation most assuredly played a part in my desire to turn a blind eye to what now seem like glaringly obvious indications of sketchiness. First of all, for such a large office building there were very few cars in the parking lot when I arrived for my interview. The office itself was quite bare and sparsely decorated, almost like a low-budget movie set. Everything seemed like it had been hastily thrown together to create the illusion that it was a legitimate office. The HR Director greeted me immediately, handed me some paperwork to fill out and told me she'd return with one of the managers - what his actual title is, I do not recall.
After I finished the paperwork and waited several minutes, I was greeted by a gentleman who seemed to be about my age - meaning, he seemed rather young to be in such a 'prestigious' position but then again I look young for my age as well so I did not want to judge him based on his disconcertingly youthful appearance. I was asked a series of very basic questions, many of which had absolutely nothing to do with the position at hand. I was also told about something the office had called "˜Team Night' where, once a week, all of the employees would get together after work for fun, non-work related activities like bowling or karaoke. I was struck by the emptiness of the man's office but it didn't really register until after the interview was over - which did not take long, by the way. I realize now that he most likely tailored his description of the job to fit what I'd like to hear - that I'd be pitching advertising ideas and strategies to Fortune 500 companies. As a recent college graduate anxious to get involved in marketing or advertising, I'd have been a fool to turn down such an opportunity. He shook my hand and told me that they would be in touch that evening between the hours of 4:00 and 5:00 PM to let me know if I'd made it to the second round of interviews where I'd spend the following Monday 'shadowing' another employee. He then led me out into the 'training area', which looked more like a 'big empty space' to me. In the far corner of the room there were a few empty cubicles. It struck me as odd that there were literally no other employees in the entire suite besides the HR Director and the man I was speaking to - suddenly "˜Team Night' seemed like it would be an awfully lonely affair - but I tried to put it out of my mind. It's amazing what you'll let yourself believe when you're desperate for work.
I left the office feeling pretty pleased with myself, thinking that maybe my days of job hunting were behind me and I was very happy when I received a phone call from the HR Director asking me to return on Monday morning for the second round of interviews. She mentioned that I should 'wear comfortable shoes' which seemed strange but I rationalized it by thinking that she meant 'wear appropriately professional shoes'. As I write this, I can see that this is exactly what they wanted me to do - I hadn't even been to the second interview yet and I was already attempting to justify the little flashes of weirdness that all the handshakes and smooth talk couldn't hide.
Of course, when I got home and researched the company further, those little flashes of weirdness became big slaps in the face of weirdness. I learned that Simple Marketing Solutions was part of a larger company called Cydcor which apparently has a long and illustrious history of scamming unsuspecting job hunters. More than that, the job that was described to me was not at all what I would be doing - instead of pitching creative marketing strategies to big companies, I'd be hoofing it around Boston as a door-to-door salesgirl. No wonder why the HR Director had insisted on comfortable shoes. I was stunned by the massive discrepancy between the job they'd described and what the job actually entailed, not to mention their dubious methods of compensation which other victims have detailed quite plainly in their condemnations of this company. To put it simply, it's a multi-level marketing scam. The entire aim of Simple Marketing Solutions and other companies like it is to quickly turn their new employees into managers so those managers can recruit more employees who will then become managers, and so on. Those at the top reap all of the benefits, and those at the bottom receive little in return for their efforts, aside from vague, jargon-laden promises that one day, if they work hard enough, they too can be at the top. Predictably, there is only so much room at the top and most people do not make it that far, therefore those at the bottom end up losing more than they have gained from their tireless attempts at success. If you're thinking that this sounds quite a bit like pyramid scheme… I wouldn't argue with you.
Needless to say, I wrote to the HR Director and told her I would not be able to make it to the interview, explaining firmly yet politely that I'd been doing a bit of research online and the job that had been described to me was rather dissimilar (to say the least) from the actual job. She said she was sorry to hear that and asked if I wanted her to clarify the information I'd been given during my preliminary interview. I did not respond back. As brainwashed as she might be, deep down she knows the job is a scam. I know the job is a scam. Telling her this wasn't going to change anything.
The massive scale at which these companies misrepresent themselves is reprehensible. Just today, I've read about dozens and dozens of experiences just like mine - the eerily empty offices, the brainwashed managers describing a too-good-to-be-true job opportunity to a wide-eyed and desperate applicant, the phone calls between 4 and 5 PM, the comfortable shoes... I have to wonder how this company is allowed to carry on duping people again and again. I'm disappointed in myself because I fell for what now seems like such an obvious scam, but more than that I am amazed that there doesn't seem to be an end to these scams. This website alone features numerous companies just like Simple Marketing Solutions that prey on unsuspecting people who are desperate for work. No legitimate company should have any reason to hide or conceal what exactly its employees do, and that's exactly what Simple Marketing Solutions did to me and will do to others.
I suppose if one wants to buy into what essentially amounts to a pyramid scheme, one can look no further than one of these Cydcor clone companies that seem to spring up like weeds all over the country. But if one is looking for a legitimate job that compensates its workers fairly and represents itself honestly, Simple Marketing Solutions is not the place. Seek employment elsewhere.