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

The office was decidedly busier on our callback. [Editor’s note: this material was written prior to today.] One person was being interviewed while another waited next to us on the sofa. More at ease, we enjoyed our second look at the office. The waiting room walls were covered with pictures of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. “Bigger. Better.” or something like that. The receptionist had a giant stack of papers on her desk and was busy on the phone as pop music blared in the background….

Chris Polke, CEO, quickly emerged. We went back to his office as he complained about the freezing weather. A second interview was needed for several reasons: to talk up the company, walk us through their procedures, and authorize a background check.

As he talked, we took another opportunity to look around. Adorning his shelf were three binders marked “AT&T,” “Verizon,” and “Ad Book,” next to more binders marked “Figueroa Marketing.” Above were several rhinoceros models. There was also a picture of Chris holding what appeared to be one of his offspring.

We were once again given the intro spiel about deregulation, and how Chris has been working to offer consumers a choice. Rather than sell his business, Chris seemed to be going out of his way to prove that he wasn’t evil. He stressed that his fourteen years in business were earned by forming a bond with his customers, and that Midtown Promotions had in place extensive quality control measures. “What would happen,” he asked rhetorically, “if someone had a bad experience? Would they let me sell to them again?” Keeping the customer happy is important. Midtown doesn’t deceive their customers – quite the opposite. They carry badges proclaiming they are IDT representatives and placards declaring they are not from the utility company. More importantly, one of Chris’ rules is “no surprises.” That means the first bill the customer gets has to meet their expectations. Chris didn’t elaborate how he, CEO of Midtown Promotions, ensured that the first bill would meet expectations, but did stress that customers could call anyone – IDT, their salesmen, or him to cancel anytime. If the customer is happy, Midtown gets business from the referrals that the happy customer generates.

…Which doesn’t jive with the reports we’ve heard. People complain about shady salesmen claiming to be from ConEd. Not IDT representatives with placards declaring they’re not from ConEd.

According to Chris, his customers can expect to save up to 7% off their current energy bill. Of course, that’s not the average, but it can be up to 7%! ConEd even wants us to switch – why else would they offer us tax incentives for switching?

Chris explained that IDT’s own procedures ensured that customers were switching out of desire, not pressure. He showed me a form that declared in big letters “Switch & Save.” Customers had to sign the form, which declared all the sorts of thing you’d want a customer to declare: that they know they’re talking to IDT, not their utility company; that they have three business days to cancel (requirement of state law); that the price of energy fluctuates and some bills might be higher than others; that they have not been pressured or coerced and all that good stuff.

The most common question is: “will I be leaving ConEd?” Somehow, the answer is no. See, you’re not leaving your local utility; ConEd still transports your energy. You’re switching suppliers. Chris wasn’t sure why the form said “Switch & Save.” ConEd transports the energy IDT supplies. On top of that, according to Chris, IDT is able to generate savings by buying energy when it’s cheap and storing it for later.

A customer signing up for IDT through Midtown doesn’t just sign a form. That would be too easy. Each switcher has to sign the “Switch & Save” confirmation form; that form lists the customers contact information, which is used by Chris’ “quality control unit.” Each customer gets a call from the “quality control unit” to ensure that they actually want to switch, and to answer any questions that might remain. Once they’re confirmed, they get a welcome letter from IDT and a goodbye note from ConEd.

Great, so we don’t really scam people. We’re honest salespeople trying to make a living. But before we could be hired and sent out to observe, Midtown needed to make sure they weren’t being scammed. They needed to check our background. Once we were verified as clean, they would bring us back for formal training. We asked if there was anything we could review in the meantime – policies or sales materials to study? Everything in the training, it turns out, is on the Public Services Commission website. They weren’t sure when they could have us back. 90% of their representatives work on the IDT account, and for some reason, IDT has ordered them to freeze all hiring. Chris thought it was because they were coming close to hitting their ceiling, which isn’t, he stressed, a sales quota.

We took the background check form and went back to the waiting room to fill it out. We handed the form to the receptionist and noticed that the stack of papers on her desk were forms marked “Switch & Save.” We thanked the quality control unit and left…

We never did get a call back… let’s just say we made a mistake on the application… We’ll get it right next time though…

Your Questions About Our Interview With IDT Energy’s Scammy Marketing Firm Answered
Consumerist’s Job Interview With IDT Energy’s Scammy Marketing Firm