The companies scamming desperate graduates into false marketing jobs, and how you can avoid them

Back in December, I received the email that every graduate floating through the void of COVID unemployment wants, I got an interview. A marketing agency advertising £24,000-£28,000, with a two-year training scheme which would see me gradually progress to being a manager. Amazing. I searched the company on Glassdoor to read interview reviews and hopefully get some hints of what they might ask me. Not only were there no interview reviews, there wasn’t a single employee or customer review of Mega Marketing anywhere. I’d never come across that before, and assumed it must be a relatively new or small company.

However, in the zoom call, I discovered they’d opened six new offices since the first lockdown in march, while most other businesses were struggling to stay open, and their recent contracts were signed with huge clients like BT and Shell. The manager on the call spoke about their team awards nights and flashed photos of fancy venues, and mentioned that he had similar zoom calls for the rest of the day as their applications have quadrupled (there were 15 other candidates on my call alone).

It was only at the end of my second interview that the manager revealed that the job was Monday to Saturday. 10am-8pm five days a week, and 9–5 every Saturday. Then, he slipped in quickly and casually that their pay system is based entirely on commission and there is no base salary. I was confused, what did that mean my actual wage on contract would be? The advert had stated it was paid a minimum 24k annual pay, not OTE (on target earnings). Also, not only were the Saturday shifts never mentioned beforehand, they were ‘training and evaluation’ so if I’m not selling, that means I’d be coming in for 8 hours every Saturday, unpaid. I pushed for specifics, what’s the average amount of sales per week, how much do you earn from each sale?

Eventually, I managed to get a best and worst scenario out of him. He explained that you’d get around £50 commission per sale, the people who ‘don’t try’, could do badly, making 1–3 sales a week. The best they’ve ever had, managed to make 15 sales in one week. I was pissed off. Firstly, I can’t work Saturdays. So instead of just putting the schedule in the original job description so that they can save both of our time and only interview serious candidates, I’d wasted three days of preparation and interviews. Secondly, they’d flat out lied about the wage.

I was amazed that he thought he could convince me that this was a good opportunity. If I was one of the ‘bad’ salespeople, I would be working a 58-hour week for £50. How was that even legal? If I was achieving the same as the best they’ve ever had, I could be making £12.90 an hour. It also became apparent this wasn’t the kind of marketing role the job ad had described, but purely a door-to-door sales job. Lastly, I bought up the fact that I couldn’t find them on Glassdoor. Jakub said that the owner, Lee Nguyen, has a few different businesses under different names so that’s probably why, which didn’t even answer the question.

When I got off the call, I did some digging on Lee. His Linkedin account only named Mega Marketing which was strange because I knew he had other businesses. I went full stalker, finding his Facebook, twitter, 2015 uni work, I was even listening to his house playlist on Youtube and looking at his tattoo ideas folder on Pinterest. His social media content had erased any evidence of existence of any companies other than Mega Marketing.

I found a job posting connected to the CEO for a company called ‘Colour Campaigns’. Their website offered outsourced marketing campaigns and events, ie the exact same thing that Mega Marketing does. However, this company had some Glassdoor reviews; besides from the obvious fake reviews, the rest were ‘avoid like the plague’ and other similar titles. Through these reviews I found a warning that this company was the same as Bread and Butter outsourcing, and to read those to see what the company really is. The chain continued further and through each Glassdoor page I found a review exposing the company’s previous name that it was trying to distance from, Tide Global, Excite Outsourcing, Tiger marketing, Impact outsourcing, you get the picture.

Some ex-employees had even stated they’d not only not made money working there, but actually lost money because they didn’t even make enough to cover their travel expenses.

-‘They tell new recruits that the bad Glassdoor reviews are a different company with the same name’

-‘You can work a FULL-day busting your back off and get paid NOTHING’

-‘They’re criminals. Avoid at all costs’

-‘They basically want to lure smart graduates to go out on streets and sell their products without paying them anything at all’

-‘Be transparent that you have no intentions to pay your employees ever. Basically, what you are doing is illegal’

- ‘I left after a week after being £100 down’

Every company has a few terrible reviews from angry ex-employees, but these ones uncovered exactly what the fishy smell that I’d been picking up on. Essentially, the company mislead the job description so candidates don’t realise that the entire shifts are door to door sales, they lie about the wage so that people don’t realise they are in fact often losing money working there, and they change the name of the company every so often so that applicants don’t find their reviews and run for the hills. They get away with this by pressuring desperate graduates to quickly sign employment contracts which classify them as self-employed. This way, not only do they not have to pay sick pay or holiday pay, they don’t have to pay them at all. Minimum wage is not mandatory for the self-employed, and supposedly they are then not allowed to determine your hours. But they do, and the hours are long.

So, I declined my final interview, shocked at what I almost fell into, and went back to the drawing board and endless scrolling and applying to jobs on Indeed. With my newfound suspicion, I started to notice job descriptions which had the same red flags I was previously naïve to. I researched a little into one in particular, and got de ja vu. Daniel March, CEO of Konnect outsourcing, who I connected to multiple identical outsourcing marketing companies with different names through a Linkedin recommendation, despite him removing all other traces of their existence.

As I began to do some research on this type of scam, I realised how common it is. Now that I look back, there were so many red flags, but when you’re new to job boards and the millions of job descriptions in them, they’re easily hidden. Student forums online are full of the same story with different companies, graduates eager to get into the competitive marketing sector losing hundreds of pounds working long shifts six days a week before realising they’re hardly getting paid, or not at all.

If you haven’t come across this type of job before, the first thing to look out for is vague job descriptions with lots of exciting but empty words, if the role sounds great but you can’t actually tell the exact day to day tasks you’ll be doing, there’s probably a reason. The same applies if they’re missing out important pieces of information like salary and schedule. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, most of the jobs promote quick promotional ladders, where you’ll be managing your own team within two years, and they’re keen to interview you pretty much as soon as you apply along with lots of other people since they hire as many people as they can on a rolling basis.

Doing a quick bit of research will expose most of them fairly quickly, despite how massive the company is presented as, there will likely be few Glassdoor reviews for each one, and they’ll either be one-star reviews or blatantly fake five star reviews like one that I read for Mega Marketing describing the company as a ‘heaven’ with no cons. What job in the world doesn’t have a single negative feature? Once you uncover related companies, you’ll see they use the same photos, boast about the same clients, and do the exact same thing, ie they are the same company.

Luckily, I didn’t get as far as working for the WIN agency, but from the unfortunate souls who did, it seems common to ridicule people who quit or who work normal 9–5 jobs as lazy and unsuccessful. The narrative is constantly reinforced that it is this hard work that will see you eventually be an admirable executive making big money. The job is this huge opportunity for greatness and if you’re not making money, that’s your fault for not working hard enough. Since you’re spending most of your day there six days a week surrounded by people do the same thing, wishful thinking causes hundreds of people to think they could eventually be part of the tiny percentage of people in the company who make it to that point.

As One interviewee found out after only being told that there was no base salary until the trial shift:

-‘Then he lets slip the job is commission only. I’m not really up for that as I tentatively let him know and the way he responded was ‘Why are you scared of hard work then?’ ‘What you just want to be a robot instead of your own boss’.

The irony of these company owners is that they see themselves as heroic businessmen, Daniel’s Linkedin header is a quote of himself ‘Make your own path-Daniel’, and Lee describes himself as a philanthropist and mentor. I’m not sure which notable philanthropist gave generously by stringing people along and exploiting desperation…

This experience happened after about 6 months of soul-destroying job searching during the pandemic. Within 3 weeks afterwards, I landed a job where I’m earning real money and couldn’t be happier. If your feeling hopeless, don’t give up, you’ll get there eventually.

(The names of people and companies in this article have been changed, I may be working now but I still can’t afford to be taken to court for defamation…)




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Matilda Adkinson

Matilda Adkinson

Big thoughts in small blog posts

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