Consumerist's Job Interview With IDT Energy's Scammy Marketing Firm

115 West 30th Street is the unassuming address for an unmemorable building that serves as the headquarters of Midtown Promotions, a “marketing solutions” company that solves markets for IDT. We interviewed with them as part of Consumerist’s continuing efforts to expose IDT’s deceptive practices.

Their headquarters aren’t impressive. The security desk is unmanned. The elevator to the fifth floor opens onto an unkept hallway with a yellow door labeled 500 and 500a, next to a sign reading “Figueroa Marketing.” The reception area was staffed by two women. We announced ourselves. We said we were there for an interview after reading an ad in the paper. They gave us a form to complete. It asked for the usual.

Everything, save the lies, was the truth…


Interestingly, they didn’t ask about our education. We returned the form.

We sat on their faux-leather couch and watched two or three people walk through the corridor off from the reception area. They seemed to be walking too fast, darting into nearby rooms. We were convinced they were checking Consumerist.com. Like the old ladies watching Chris Rock, we dialed 9-1, and were just waiting for something to happen. Instead, they summoned us.

http://d2dd8htjemm1n.cloudfront.net/assets/resources/2007/02/midtowndeskofawesome-thumb.jpg

We were introduced to Christopher Polke, CEO. About 6’2″, Chris had a pockmarked face that wasn’t helped by his black suit and tie-less white collar shirt. He led us into his office, down a hallway covered with cheesy motivational posters. Attitude, quality, and a nice print of the Brooklyn Bridge at the end. Chris’ large office was much more respectable than his wardrobe. Two leather chairs faced a wood desk sporting a flat panel monitor and a voice recorder. Behind the desk, past Chris’ chair was a bulletin board with a piece of paper reading “Department of Labor.”

The interview was short and to the point. He asked about our work experience. We told him we sold electronics for Radio Shack while in school. We emphasized the person-to-person nature of the job and stressed that we enjoyed working with people in a collaborative environment. He asked if we knew what deregulation was. We said no. It turns out deregulation affects utilities!

Until a few years ago (cue ominous music,) ConEd generated AND transported electricity. “Like a monopoly,” we offered. But thanks to d-e-r-e-g-u-l-a-t-i-o-n, consumers now have a choice. Midtown Promotions (didn’t the door say Figueroa Marketing?) works on behalf of IDT to offer consumers that choice. ConEd still delivers the energy, but consumers can now choose to have it generated by IDT. It’s not like Radio Shack, where the consumers would come to us – we go to them, but after that, it’s the same person-to-person sales we knew and loved.

We asked about career paths, since we’re in this for the long-term. Within three to four weeks, we can build a team of our own, and if we work hard, within nine months we could be upper-level management. Chris asked if we like working as part of a team. Hardball question, but we thought “yes” was the right answer. It turned out teams are important. They’re not just looking for people who can sell, they’re looking for people who can lead, people who work well with others. But they can’t really see what we can do in a three to five minute interview. Oh no, that would be rash. Instead, they (might) bring us back to work with one of Chris’ associates for a day of evaluation, or day of observation. We’d spend one day, one-on-one, learning the ropes and seeing what we’re capable of.

We told Chris this all sounded great. But Chris wasn’t sold. The competition is pretty fierce. He couldn’t guarantee that we would get the job, but said he’d be in touch later in the evening. We await with baited breath…

Next: The second interview…

Previous IDT Energy posts

Comments

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  1. homerjay says:

    Is it just me or does this have a distinct ‘pyramid scheme’ smell to it?

  2. Coder4Life says:

    Wow, that is halarious. you guys are great!!!
    Cant wait to follow up on this one.

  3. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Did they metion anything about salary, or hours?

  4. heypal says:

    any video? or are you holding back on that until this thing has played itself out?

  5. Wally East says:

    @homerjay,

    This absolutely smells like a pyramid scheme. My wife, before we got married, went to an interview for a “marketing” position. The language they used in the interview was exactly as is being described above. She spent a day on the streets of Bridgeport selling perfume, as step towards getting her own team.

  6. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Also, did you notice any of that “upper-level management” other than this guy in question? Any offices for such?

  7. kerry says:

    rnkoneil -
    My cousin nearly got roped into a similar scam, only selling calendars. A friend of hers got roped first, and warned everyone else to stay away. These companies will troll resume sites and contact people looking for jobs in marketing, then get them to spend the day selling stuff door-to-door with promise of higher level stuff in the very near future. I’m not surprised IDT works the same way.

  8. Trai_Dep says:

    Did you ask them how they managed to mask the stench of sulfur which (surely) must pervade the hallways?

    Question to ask for your 2nd interview: do you tape your forked tail, or did you have it surgically removed?

  9. ElizabethD says:

    Ahh, memories of Amway….”a global leader in multilevel marketing.” Multilevel = pyramid?

    Go get ‘em, Consumerist.

  10. Some of you are confusing “pyramid scheme” with “multi-level marketing.” Pyramid are illegal. Multi-Level Marketing isn’t, but that’s just a superficial difference. They’re really very different, and a skilled salesperson can make a great deal of money in MLM if they’re motivated.

    Most people think of Amway when they think of MLM, but probably one of the most successful is Mary Kay.

  11. timbnyc says:

    Someone trying to get us hooked up with IDT came to my apartment and what was funny was that even though I wanted the service, he kept lying to me and telling me that the forms I was filling out were only expressions of interest and that someone would follow up, even though the form clearly stated that it was meant to switch my service from Con Ed. I thought the whole thing was pretty hilarious. He was just a kid, and obviously a kid who didn’t care if he was getting customers for IDT through fraud. I wonder how many people they had to switch back to Con Ed.

  12. rachmanut says:

    this reminds me of an interview i had with a Cutco manager back in high school.

  13. yetiwisdom says:

    Waaay back just after college I had a brief encounter with MLM Equinox and this sounds just like that … except instead of electricity they wanted me to peddle dietary supplements and water filters.

    When they called me and demanded $3000 to get my business “started” then tried the good cop / bad cop I demurred and instead chose a life of relative obscurity working for blue-chip companies with legit revenues in the billions.

  14. thereviewer says:

    We are confused by We. I noticed you all picked it up a while ago, and are talking about the entity of The Consumerist. However it is kind of escapist and not really transparent. As a consumer group, I think that you should at least say The Intern, or Slave to Ben or something like this. It does 2 things, drives me crazy, and it just sounds weird, because not all of you went in. Make up a name for the intern or something, I don’t know. It sounds so 1984, WE ALL AGREE WE DO THE SAME THING WE ARE ONE!

  15. acambras says:

    @rachmanut

    At least Cutco makes a good product. My cousin sold Cutco knives when he was in college (he’s in his 40’s now). Everyone in my family has some Cutcos now. Great knives.

  16. muddgirl says:

    My friend was a Cutco marketer for awhile. They’re good knives, but the price is rather inflated. Also, once you sell them to your friends and family, there’s really not very many other people who would buy them.

    However, I hear they make a decent pair of kitchen shears.

  17. RPG-Advocate says:

    This sounds EXACTLY like how DS Max/Cydcor/Granton Marketing do business. Once a distributor gets high enough up in the pyramid, he can open up his own office.

    In order to distance himself from DS Max’s horrible reputation, the distributor will choose an unassuming name for his “business”. Prospects won’t know they’re dealing with a DS Max company unless the internet watchdogs have caught up with that affiliate and the prospect has bothered to do the research.

    Once stablished, they scavenge resumes on sites like Monster for prospects. The prospects are then offered an interview for a “management” position. Whether the prospect has education and/or experience that would make him a good manager is of no importance.

    Descriptions of “interviews” for these business mirror yours exactly. The phrase “day of observation” tipped me off. DS Max uses that as part of their “official nomenclature” (it’s called a “day of O” for short).

    If this is DS Max, then this thing with IDT is just the tip of the iceberg. I’d love to see DS Max blown wide open and brought down.

    Further reading: http://wolfram.org/scam/ds_max/index.html

  18. snowferret says:

    I did one of thies, only it was in Ontario and it was Direct Energy and the marketing company? Well Im glad i don’t remember them. I worked for a couple weeks, got paid a comision that came out to minimum wage for hard hours of work and left.

  19. homerjay says:

    You’re right, SuperRob. MLM is different from a pyramid scheme. But we don’t like these guys, so we’ll just call it a pyramid scheme. :)

  20. r81984 says:

    MLM = Pyramid schemesinister marketing

    They know most people will not accomplish anything beyond guilting their friends and family to buy the shitty products. Its cheap marketing for these low quality companies, but in the end its just a pyramid scheme so the people at the top keep making money and do not actually have to sell anything.

    The only companies that use MLM are those that have such a shitty product that the only way they can sell their products is through guilt of friends and family for the poor sales person who cannot get a real job.

  21. JT says:

    This sounds like some job I got once selling speakers out of the back of an unmarked van with out of state plates.

  22. shoegazer says:

    Any job which promises an “upper-level management” position in nine months (when totally respectable, high powered careers take years to build) is in the business of selling male bovine feces.

    Please. Even baristas have to go through a month or two of training.

  23. Bob says:

    Wow. Entry-level to Upper-level Management in 9 months. I’m in the wrong job.

  24. orielbean says:

    Kirby vacuums work the same way. My buddy answered an ad in the paper and came over my house to work out his home demo spiel.

    So he comes over and tries to “scare” me with talk about the dust mites in my mattress and how my old vacuum can’t pick up the dust that the Kirby can.

    Great pitch, solid delivery. If I was a housefrau who worried about dust mites and poor performance from my appliances, I would have been scared shitless.

    Then to sell one, he can’t just quote you a price. He had to call his sales manager to get authorization. And so we travel up one level of the scheme…

    When it was all said and done, the sales manager quoted me 1500.00 for the kirby. The machine works great. I bought one new on ebay for 250. My friend didn’t even do one other demo after that.

  25. edgesmash says:

    With regard to Cutco, their knives are very expensive, but my parents bought two from my friend (who did Cutco sales for a summer and made a boatload of cash), and 10 years later those two knives are the only knives they haven’t replaced.

    Also, Cutco knives are made in the same factory as Marine K-bar knives, so you know they’re good.

    That doesn’t make the MLM aspect of the company ok. But at least the product is pretty awesome.

    Most importantly, this Consumerist special is awesome. I can’t wait to read the rest of it.

  26. John Stracke says:

    Wow. Entry-level to Upper-level Management in 9 months. I’m in the wrong job.

    Yeah, “upper” here clearly means higher up in the pyramid, with more suckers feeding you their piece of the action.

  27. John Stracke says:

    Pyramid are illegal. Multi-Level Marketing isn’t, but that’s just a superficial difference. They’re really very different, and a skilled salesperson can make a great deal of money in MLM if they’re motivated.

    The problem is that, sometimes, an MLM company really is a pyramid scheme. If they charge new recruits to join, and especially if the charge is so high that participants’ income is primarily dependent upon bringing in new recruits, then they can attract legal attention. Most will try to disguise this, of course; for example, they’ll charge you for the “sales kit”, or for training.

    Back in the 80s, I once fell for such a network, selling encyclopedias. The kit was $40, and included a vinyl bag containing one volume of the encyclopedia, various brochures or something, and sales paperwork. In retrospect, $40 was probably an excessive charge, giving the upstream participant about $20 profit. If that was the main source of her income, then it may have qualified as a pyramid scheme. (She certainly didn’t get any other money through me; I didn’t make one sale. I don’t think I ever even got in the door.)

    What makes this extra complicated is that you can have some parts of the heirarchy that are focusing legitimate sales, and others that have devolved into fleecing recruits, meaning that the same company both is and is not a pyramid scheme.

  28. LeopardSeal says:

    Multi-Level Marketing is always a bad thing for the comsumer. The end purchaser always ends up paying not only for the product, but also to pad the pocket of every person up the triangle (Seriously, it’s not a pyramid, it just looks like one) all the way to the top.

  29. godai says:

    I got pulled into a cutco cattlecall interview once a few years ago.

    Crowded waiting room. Followed by a group presentation. Then a 2 minute 1 on 1.

    And it had a similar feel. But again as people above have said. They do make good knifes. Just lousy job interviews.

  30. yordad says:

    Audition? Ok, obviously you censor what you put on here. Funny how you consider yourself a journalist, and then present a complete one sided OPINION as fact. I don’t know if you know this, but my friend has IDT supplying gas for his Coned account, and he noticed they were way cheaper. There is a site called http://www.powertochooseny.com. You should look at it. Seems it would have been easier just to check it out on a NYS regulated site rather than try to be a spy. If you check this site you will notice they are drastically lower in some areas of NYS in compared to local utility companies. This is just a smear campaign, and has very little fact, and all negatively worded opinion. And. To further your one-sided view, I highly doubt you will post this.