In mid September, I received a five percent raise on my commissions. I was elated. It took the edge off my decision to take money out of my 401k. Nearly a month after the raise, I’d been given all commissionable work the agency offered. Unfortunately, even with the extra money, I was still well short of my budget.
“That’s when it dawned on me. No good company deliberately screws over it’s employees”
I asked Rob how he managed to earn a living. It wasn’t that long ago he’d told me I’d be fine. Yet, I was still struggling even after my raise. Rob admitted that until the previous month, the company let agents fold in highly commisionable items that weren’t part of normal travel packages. The agent then charged an inflated price for the package. Kind of like if you paid ten dollars instead of five for a Happy Meal, but the happy meal came with a side of cocaine. “Wow, the Happy Meals seems kind of expensive, but, hey, cocaine. Here’s my ten dollars.” The agency stopped the practice when a few clients discovered the deception, and threatened legal action. Soon after Rob’s confession, things really turned to shit.
I got ill in October, and called out for the day. When I got my paycheck later that week, the sick pay wasn’t there. I went to my supervisor, and inquired about the missing pay. She asked if I’d submitted a time off request when I returned. My initial thought was, “who requests time off after they took time off?” It made no sense. She told me the employee handbook contained the information. I was instructed to talk to human resources, and see what they could do.
“Are you fucking kidding?” I thought. Even if it was in the handbook, how could they enforce such a ludicrous policy? Especially given my stellar track record. I was always early to work. Never loafing on the job. So dedicated I may be the only person in the world who’s worked in a cubicle, and never surfed the internet. Not once in 7 months. Admit it. That’s impressive. It didn’t matter. HR bent over backwards defending the policy. It fell on me to know it. No exceptions.
As the HR rep mentally contorted herself denying me sick pay, it hit me what was really going on. This wasn’t about some footnote in an employee handbook nobody reads. The company could have easily paid me. They just wanted to save 88 dollars. Yes, 88 dollars is what they owed me, and fought so hard to retain. That’s when it dawned on me. “No good company deliberately screws over it’s employees. Oh my God, I’m fucked. I bet on the wrong horse.” With that epiphany, I stopped fighting for the money.
I left HR angry. The company had treated me unfairly without a second thought. Also, Rob’s confession put the ethics of the organization in question. Little did I know just how corrupt the agency was. If you ever wondered how free trip giveaways were honored, wonder no more. You’re about to find out how one company did it.
My primary job was calling clients who registered for the free trips (Most were three day trips to Honolulu) they received for listening to a timeshare pitch. There were restrictions on the waiver, but they were spelled out pretty clearly. The way it worked specifically was clients would deposit a certain amount for taxes: usually 100 dollars. Then they’d pick two dates for their excursion within the parameters of the restrictions.
When I started, I was told the company paid well below cost for the trips. This was arranged through partnerships that gave the agency limited inventory of unsold airline tickets and hotel rooms. That limited inventory allowed them to meet the trips economically, and I didn’t question it. I saw they had exclusive deals with suppliers for hotel/air packages when I upgraded trips.
I called clients, and let them know their selected dates were unavailable due to lack of inventory. They would then give me two more dates. It took many declined dates before a client received their trip. Nearly two years. Most eventually gave up and requested a refund, which they got in full.
I was excellent at my job. I knew how to calm angry clients tired of waiting to be confirmed. If they were really frustrated with the declines, I could offer them alternatives to the excursion they signed up for. Think Lake Tahoe and hotel only, instead of free air/hotel for Honolulu. As you can guess, most rejected that deal.
In November, management had an all hands meeting. They gave me information the other staff already had. There were no suppliers unloading unsold inventory. Ever. That was fiction. The job I was excellent at: telling people their trips were temporarily declined due to limited inventory, was a huge crock of shit. It was all a lie. A scam.
The meeting’s purpose was to give each agent a list of clients who’d been confirmed for their trip. We had to call, unconfirm them, and reschedule the trip for later that year, when it would probably be rescheduled again. And then rescheduled again. That process would continue until the client either died or gave up. I’m only slightly joking. By the way, imagine having to call people who waited two years to get a trip, then two weeks before that trip, give them the news they weren’t going anywhere. As the Swiss say……it …..sucked ass.
The trips had to be unconfirmed because the owner was unhappy with the recent profit margins. Maybe his new Mercedes needed a better grill. Nice fucking guy, the owner. Speaking of which, here’s how the company turned a profit. The agency sold the free trips to timeshare companies for about 1,200 dollars a trip. The timeshare turned around and gave them away to lure people in to hearing their presentations. The person with the free trip would then register, and pay their hundred dollar tax deposit.
These deposits were put in an interest bearing account, and would sit there earning interest until the client, tired of waiting, asked for a refund. Occasionally, the trips would be redeemed, but that was due to clients threatening to sue. Between the worthless pieces of paper the timeshares bought, and the interest bearing account containing the 100 dollar deposits, the owner had a nice quasi-legal racket going.
Now armed with the knowledge I’d been lying to clients since I started, and would be lying to them going forward, I had to dig deep into my soul. I pride myself on my integrity. I don’t mind screwing a company. Most deserve it, but not the customers. I felt anxious and nauseous. Like I do after eating a Chipoltle burrito. I wanted to quit, but I couldn’t afford to. I was stuck. I was now a professional liar.
The turnaround from paradise to shitstorm was amazing in its quickness. Only a month or so prior, the agency was the perfect workplace. Now it was devouring my sense of self. Every time I dialed a client I had to prep myself to get into lying mode. By the third week of December I couldn’t take it anymore. There were days I stared at the computer for hours and did no work. I was getting stress headaches daily. I knew I had to quit. I had no prospects for another job, but I didn’t care. If I had to take more money from my 401k again, so be it. Better than spending any more time rotting from the inside.
I gave them no hint I was unhappy. I wanted to leave quietly. There was no point in burning bridges, and slamming the agency for their terrible pay and criminal business practices. They knew their company was a sham. I did take advantage of the three paid sick days I had. Knowing the policy, I happily called in, using them within a week and a half. I got paid for all three.
I wanted to make it through the end of December, and take advantage of the holiday pay coming up. I made it to Christmas. I came in the following Monday, and an hour in to my shift, told my supervisor we needed to talk. “I’m leaving. I can’t afford to work here anymore. I need to find a job that will pay me enough to live, and this isn’t it,” I told her calmly. She teared up, and shook her head she understood.
My supervisor asked me to reconsider. They really liked me there. She said she’d try to get me enough money to stay. I told her not to bother. I didn’t want to barely make my budget. I let her know I was going back to my desk, would write a resignation letter, gather my things, and quietly leave. She could tell the employees whatever she wanted. I didn’t care. I just needed to leave. And I did. That was it. I walked out in front of the other agents, and only my supervisor knew I wasn’t coming back.
It’s a shame about the agency. They got a lot right. The environment was positive, and they treated employees like adults. There was a real work/life balance to the schedule. People were encouraged to be themselves. That was refreshing. However, the agency’s foundation of business was built on fraud and obfuscation. That kind of wipes all the good stuff away.
Friends asked me why people stayed after discovering their business model. After years of underemployment, I have a pretty good guess: they stay because they think it’s the best they can do. Because they knew how hard it is to find another job. Any job. Despite the work itself being distasteful and borderline criminal, they preferred that to the unknown of “what’s next” if they left this cushy, but terrible job.
I look back on it now, and recognize how despite any rationalizations, I compromised my values, ethics and personal integrity. And why? For what? I think I was so invested in this job being “the one,” I was willing to overlook the poor pay, and absence of opportunities for promotion. It was this complete letdown that lead to me creating this site. I can’t go back to working those kinds of jobs. I won’t let it happen. I hope.