Consumerist Undercover At IDT Energy: The Meeting

Before the morning meeting started, I left my man-purse on a set of boxes right by the blackboard, with the microphone discreetly poking out of the pocket.

It ended up being three feet from the mouth of Johnny, a trainer with a big round head and a thick accent. He was a young Asian guy, maybe in his early thirties, with spiky hair and the manner of both a computer geek who became a Wall Street broker. He was driven but goofy.

“Today, I’m going to talk to you about a place you all know. Some of you may have worked there. It’s called My-Donald’s,” he said. On the board, he wrote, “McDonald’s.” Snickering here and there came from the circle.

But before he got into whatever the hell McDonald’s had to do with anything, he moved into a discussion of the day before, obviously having gotten ahead of himself. “Honorable Mention. Honorable Mentions are for people that did seventy-two dollars to ninety-nine dollars. And we mention your name, give you round of applause, say good job.”

Seventy bucks before taxes is barely survival dollars in New York City…

This is part 5 of our undercover report into IDT Energy, an energy reseller in the New York area…


“Now… High Rollers is for hundred dollars ‘n above. And we asked you what worked for you. So you get to give a little speech,” said Johnny.

Online reports about DS-MAX had mentioned meetings being conducted in much the same fashion as what I’m describing to you here. They also used the same specific terminology.

The Honorable Mentions were called out. The dollar amounts were 84, 72, 78, 97, 75. Then the High Rollers: Vladimir, 118. “Vladimir, what worked for you yesterday?” asked the trainer.

In a strong Eastern European accent, Vladimir answered: “What worked for me—yesterday—”

“YESTERDAY,” answered the chorus.

Vladimir continued, referencing a subheading of the first of the five steps: “What work for me was Keep it Simple.” “Keep it Short and Simple,” the trainer corrected. Then, as all the High Rollers would, he recited a piece of the Midtown sales mantra, “Today, we are going to, uh, work-a hard. And-a have-a fun.”

For this, he received enthusiastic applause from the trainer, and tepid but polite applause from the others. “Have fun!” the trainer emphasized, though it seemed to bounce off people’s heads, which were hanging further than normal.

The trainer moved on to the big guns. Jose brought in $130. “Jose, what worked for you yesterday?” asked the trainer.

He started, “Yesterday—”

“Yesterday,” said the group, not as loudly as before.

Jose continued, “I used a lot of Short Story, that worked for me. And my goals…”

“GOALS,” said the circle.

“Twenty-one,” said Jose.

Then there was Remmington, one of the top sellers, a quiet but large teddy bear of a man from, I think, the Caribbean who was obviously very pleased to be there, but kept cool. He pulled in $140. “Ah, what I learned yesterday—” (“YESTERDAY”) “—was keep a good attitude, having fun. What I had to do.”

“Do what you have to do, very good,” said Johnny.

Then there was Alexi, a friend of Remmington’s, who had done $150. “Juice by you,” said Johnny to that.

“Have good attitude and having fun. And my goals… keep building my team,” said Alexi. Lots of applause came from the group. You could tell everyone wanted to be around the big shot, adapt his ideas, pick up on his mannerisms, and mimic his charm.

Johnny went back to the board. He said, “For those of you who are new, you hear ‘juice by you,’ you know, ‘juice’ that action or ‘juice’ that person, you’re wondering what the heck is ‘juice?’ Join Us In Creating Excitement.”

I stared as he began writing the words, thunderstruck by their banality. Reports had mentioned “Juice” as a phrase among DS-MAX type offices, but it was still stupefying to see it played out in real life before my eyes, and being taken so seriously.

When I came to, Johnny was back to our favorite fast food joint “What kind of business is McDonald’s in?” he asked. “What’s their main business?”
“Franchise?” someone offered.
“Franchise? No,” said Johnny.
“French fries?” came another response, to general chuckles.
Johnny continued, “When we think of McDonald’s, we think of burgers, right? Cheeseburgers. Big Mac. But anyway, it’s burgers. But I think a huge part of McDonald’s business is actually… realty. Why? They own a lot [of real estate], what else? They’re everywhere… but every location, you look around, every [intersection], you look around, you know there must be a McDonald’s around here.”

He turned back to the group. “Now… for those of you who worked there… how long did it take you to learn the stations there? They have a fry station, a register… drink station. How long was the training for you guys? Twenty minutes?”

Three or four people nodded their heads.

His point was that, no matter what aspect of the McDonald’s restaurant operation you wanted to learn, you could get it down in about fifteen, twenty minutes.

“Simplicity. Simplicity, that’s a key here.” Eventually, he got down to explain what was taking a week to get across, in the most indirect fashion imaginable: McDonald’s is successful because it’s simple. “Simplicity is the word I’m trying to get to you guys. Sim… pli… ci— am I doing this right?”

I told him he was spelling it correctly.

“Now, our company is really simple when it comes to getting to the point. All you have to do… stick to the system. Look at it as a tunnel.” He described a tunnel as having no side entrance, no way to maneuver except to keep going toward the end to get out. “You enter this side, you get out this side.” To illustrate, he drew a tunnel.

“All it takes: determination, persistence. Simple as that. All you have to do is stick with the system, beginning to the end. Take the thing, put the fries in, and wait for the beep. And take it out. Right? And let’s go out today and make it happen, guys!”

Juice to that! I set out for the field, not knowing that it was to be my last day pumping doorbells for Midtown Promotions. — BRIAN FAIRBANKS

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Day One
2. The Job Interview
3. The Day Of O
4. Let’s Get Juiced
5. The Meeting
6. The Meltdown
7. The Confession

Note: No definitive ties have been established between Midtown Promotions and DS-MAX/Innovage.

Comments

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  1. notlazyjustdontcare says:

    You’ve left Vladimir’s real name pretty easy to figure out. Might want to correct that if you’re going to bother changing the names.

  2. acambras says:

    I set out for the field, not knowing that it was to be my last day pumping doorbells for Midtown Promotions.

    A little cliffhanger at the end! Oh, will tomorrow’s installment never come?!?

  3. SNLT203 says:

    My Pizza delivery boy once tried to get me into a DS-Max type thing. He was telling me about how much money he was making over there and how the pizza thing really was just a hobby… You know to keep him from the temptation of counting all his money.

    I’m glad my parents only dropped me on my head three or four times otherwise who knows…

    He spoke to me about it on 3 separate occasions and I humored him… Recruiting people you are delivering pizza to may not be the best way to find marks for your get rich quick sceme.

  4. I am thoroughly enjoying this series.

  5. rodeobob says:

    These guys must be ironically referencing “Requiem for a Dream” with the “Juice” stuff. It’s straight from the film. (though there it was “Join Us In Creating Excellence“, but it’s a minor point)

    Someone high in the organization has to be laughing over this. Either that or they horribly, terribly missed the point…

  6. wreckingcru says:

    @rodeobob: Excellent point – when I first read the “Juice” statement, that’s what I was thinking.

    What a disservice to a brilliant movie.

  7. Trai_Dep says:

    Bet a dollar that black-bra’d Mrs. Robinson from yesterday scoops up our intrepid reporter in her withered, clutching arms and refuses to let go. Swaying her mammories over our Lil’ Bernstein’s face, she whispers, “Juice these!”

  8. c26nyc says:

    Juice by Tappy! Juice by Tappy!
    Juice by Tappy!
    ohhh, Tappy’s got juice!
    Tappy’s got juice!

  9. Wormfather says:

    JUICE by you Brian, juice by you.

    I’m so sucked in man, you know what I enjoyed about yesterday’s article?

    YESTERDAY!

  10. MostNutsEver says:

    I’m loving this series of articles, this is why I read the Consumerist.

  11. nffcnnr says:

    This is great stuff. If there was a Pulitzer awarded for investigative journalism on the internet, what would it be called?

  12. Shenanigans Was Taken says:

    I just do not want “tomorrow” to be his last day on the job. I feel as though they have barely scratched the surface.

    Yes, I know “tomorrow” has already happened.

  13. msg007 says:

    I’m really liking this.

    Can’t wait for tomorrow.

  14. exkon says:

    I love this series.

  15. Black Bellamy says:

    The Goreitzer?

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

    I was wondering if Brian felt like others viewed him as out of place amongst the other sales people.

  17. anatak says:

    “NEXT: THE MELTDOWN”

    Meltdown!? Does Brian get busted? This is great stuff.

  18. RandomHookup says:

    I’m guessing that tomorrow’s episode is a two parter and we will have to watch the Sopranos finale on Sunday to make sense of it.

  19. rmz says:

    @rodeobob: According to the article posted yesterday, organizations like this have been using the word “juice” for over 10 years now, so it’s probably not influenced by the movie.

    Maybe the movie took it from them? Eh? Eh? :P

  20. Chaosium says:

    @rodeobob:

    I had hoped so as well, but if you google “join us in creating excitement”, art imitates life. You’ll see all sorts of MLM crap there. My favorite link of those was “my first interview was a kidnapping”

  21. Flynn says:

    Yeah, re: juice…even though my first thought was also Requiem, I don’t think these guys aped it from the movie. More likely is that Aronofsky heard about it/experienced it and used it as an influence. Pi and Requiem are both set in NYC. Requiem for a Dream is literally showing how dreams die, and if MLM isn’t a factory for crushed dreams, I dunno what is.

  22. Kung Fu Cantona says:

    Maybe its just me, but this series has been a little anti-climatic. Sure it’s a really shitty job that you couldn’t pay me enough money to do, but I haven’t seen a whole lot of nefarious activity that’s left me shocked and appalled. Hopefully things will get a bit more interesting “tomorrow”.

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

    @Seymour Scagnetti:

    I gotta agree with you. It is interesting, but it just seems like a crap company targeting people who know little or no English.

    I’m interested in how much Brian clears at the end of all his hard work.

  24. Hawkeye1659 says:

    This has been a great series, thanks to the Consumerist. I used to sell Cutco knives for that Vector Marketing company and a lot of this is very similar. The only saving grace for me is/was that the product is actually extremely high quality. That and it gave me a great start for a professional sales career. Keep them coming. Can’t wait to see what “The Meltown” actually is.

  25. smallestmills says:

    A guy I work with has been suckered into a similar marketing scam like this. He’s always reading those crappy management books such as “Who Stole My Cheese?” and “The Ice Cream Maker”. He’s nineteen and naive and I can’t wait for him to get suckered out of all his money on these “tools for success”.

  26. Wormfather says:

    “Who stole my cheese” is a very good book. Anyone working in a corporate enviorment would enjoy it.

    Now Dianetics is a whole ‘notha ball game.

  27. Chaosium says:

    @Hawkeye1659:

    “I used to sell Cutco knives for that Vector Marketing company and a lot of this is very similar. The only saving grace for me is/was that the product is actually extremely high quality.”

    It has to be much easier with a good (if GREATLY overpriced) product.

    @Wormfather:

    Sadly, the COS already has their own sleazy “business training” called WISE.

  28. ingridc says:

    In several Asian languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, and Taiwanese that I’m aware of so far), McDonald’s is actually pronounced “My-Don-Oh”. If the trainer was Asian, I suspect that’s the reason for his snicker-inducing pronunciation.

    Aside from that, I’m enjoying the series. Can’t wait to hear about the meltdown… muhahaha.

  29. WhatsMyNameAgain says:

    Be!
    Excited!
    Be! Be!
    Excited!
    Be!
    Excited!
    Be! Be!
    Excited!

    Oh my God! I just realized that I had a friend try to pyramid scheme me once into this! I thought he was really cute though (and although he had a girlfriend, no doubt gay). I did a conference call and EVERYTHING for him, and didn’t even get any play out of it…

    Blue balls… Just another reason this is obviously whack.

  30. Marsupial says:

    That’s the thing about MLM — you’re never actually ‘selling’ anything, according to management; you’re Building a Team, Creating Excitement, Setting Goals, Accomplishing Dreams, etc., and of course, earning money while others do the work. Primerica is a great example of this. At some point, SOMEONE has to sell SOMETHING, or it’s not even MLM — just a big ponzi scheme.

  31. Khazun says:

    Well, I ran across this on Google and its a great series, I used to be one of the top selling Aussie Guys in Clearance, and figured right from the start that the practices were rather dodgy, but hung around until I found new work.

    Anyway, onto my point, the funny thing is, I have heard that Mcdonalds story before. Infact, it seems that most of these training stories are pre-written and sent down from Head Office, as I’ve spoken to people working on the business over a year ago who heard the same comments!

  32. IC18 says:

    pretty juicy stuff, keep it coming!!

  33. machotaco says:

    I worked for a juicy company for about 3 months. Somehow or another they made me believe that that selling stuffed animals and books was going to make me a millionaire. I’m so enjoying reading this, but I’m also glad he’s ending it. Even a reporter shouldn’t have to deal with that *stuff*.

  34. devilspie says:

    Okay, I absolutely have to ask…can anyone tell me the name of the guy sitting in the photo with the burgandy/purplish type shirt on.

    If you know his name, but don’t want to put it out their on the web, can you at least give me his initials. This looks like someone I knew who was working for a DS Max company and he literally disapeared. Last I heard, he was working in Queens, so this really could be him.