DS-MAX Was A "Sales Cult," Says Former Employee

steve-o: OH MAN! IDT is DS/MAX?! I worked for them! Worst 4 days of my life. Thank god I got out before they made me buy my own product.They told me it was B2B marketing, when in reality we were driving around from strip mall to strip mall trying to sell Disney books, umbrellas that looked like a duck, and other assorted crap
steve-o: it works exactly like a cult, complete with the nonsensical chanting
benpopken: you were in product clearance
benpopken: IDT isn’t ds-max
steve-o: Midtown Promotions is
steve-o: and they send out the IDT ppl
benpopken: IDT contracted out to Midtown, which is assoc with DSmax
benpopken: apparently now DS-Max is called “Innovage”
steve-o: well if you ever wondered how they’re structured, all you have to do is look up the signs of a cult
steve-o: because they hit all the requirements
benpopken: tell me about your adventures
steve-o: My first day there was an ‘interview’ in what was essentially a warehouse…

steve-o: i was looking for a summer job and wanted to get into marketing, i was answering a classified ad
benpopken: where was this? and what year?
steve-o: in Maryland, 2003 or 4
steve-o: These guys were a subsidiary of DS/Max, I forget the name they used
steve-o: the beauty of it, they said, is that you could really work your way up in the organization
steve-o: So I interviewed there, then they let me know that they don’t accept many people but I had succeeded and should come in the next day
steve-o: on my way out I saw the chanting but didn’t think much of it
benpopken: what were they chanting?
steve-o: I wish I remembered the exact phrasing. They said it was Latin, it wasn’t
steve-o: it was just complete nonsense
steve-o: it was a call and response, I learned it on my third day but I forgot pretty quickly
steve-o: It did, however, succeed in getting you psyched up for the day
steve-o: So anyway I come in the next day and it looked like pretty much everyone that had interviewed the day before was there
steve-o: I went with my ‘trainer’ Nick, who would be showing me the ropes while I earned little over minimum wage until I bought my own inventory. He told me I wasn’t supposed to sell while training, but we all know we want what we can’t have, so I told him I was sure I could do it well, and started selling his product for him
steve-o: We were going to corner stores and parking lots in the poorer areas around Silver Spring. We would approach people and tell them about the amazing products that we had
steve-o: Steak knives and some toy were my first products, great combination there
steve-o: it dawned on me pretty quickly that this wasn’t marketing but being a sleazy salesman, but I was too excited to really let that sink in
benpopken: Were they Cutco knives?
steve-o: ha – no they weren’t, although i did have friends that were selling cutco
steve-o: thats leaching off friends and family
steve-o: this was going to complete strangers
steve-o: End of day, went back, they made a big show about who had sold the most inventory, then they chanted some more. I tried to follow along
steve-o: So I go home, but before I do Nick tells me everyone is going out for pizza later, would i like to come along.
steve-o: about half an hour after i get home Nick comes by to pick me up (as per our agreement)
steve-o: and we all spent the next few hours shooting the shit at a pizza parlor. I would have had beer but I was under 21 at the time
steve-o: so they tried to keep you around all the DSMax people so you wouldnt realize you arent doing anything else
steve-o: So my third day (second on the job) was more of the same stuff. Most people really didn’t appreciate us essentially door to door selling, without the doors
steve-o: went to different poor areas and tried to sell more schlock, I found I was pretty good at convincing people to buy crap
steve-o: they had a 5-step selling process, let me see if i can remember it
steve-o: Introduction is your name
steve-o: Short Story, where you’re from, what you’re doing there
steve-o: Presentation, you show them the product and tell them how great it is. It was key to get it in the customer’s hands
steve-o: once it was in their hands, people consider it closer to theirs.
steve-o: Close, you get the money
steve-o: and then Rehash, you offer the NEXT product
steve-o: the most important thing to do was close first, and THEN rehash, don’t offer another product before you have the money from the first
steve-o: otherwise people could change their minds
benpopken: so when did it start losing its luster?
steve-o: once i realized I wasn’t seeing any of my friends, and was wandering around trying to sell crap to people who didn’t really want it or could barely afford it
steve-o: Anytime someone said “Hey Guys!” you were supposed to respond with a loud “Hey What?!” kind of like a camp cheer
steve-o: so I talked about my job with my dad who wasn’t too keen on it either, it was inconvenient, and i never got to see my friends. I ended up taking a job as a Host at the Dave and Buster’s restaurant.
steve-o: wow, memories
steve-o: there were four impulse factors
steve-o: FIGS – Fear of Loss, Indifference, Greed and Sense of Urgency
steve-o: We’re offering a great deal, but we won’t be there in 10 minutes, you don’t want to lose out on it.
benpopken: So you were to try to instill FIGS in your prospects?
steve-o: exactly
steve-o: through the five steps
steve-o: I got quizzed on these at my interview btw. they gave me a sheet and had me learn it for an hour before I even spoke to anyone
steve-o: so that’s DS/Max. We passed by people selling deals for AT&T that worked for the same company, same rules, etc
steve-o: im sure whoever’s selling IDT et al are using the same “time tested techniques”
benpopken: Did you ever see any of those people say that they worked for those clients directly, instead of identifying themselves as working for another company?
steve-o: I only passed by them, we stopped and had a quick chat because my manager/supervisor guy knew one of the women that was selling to the businesses
steve-o: They’re salesmen over there (that was 90% of their work force) – they know how to sell you on the concept of a special team that you’re joining
steve-o: and you sign up and follow because they make it exciting and fun.
benpopken: Did they tell you anything about benefits for signing up more employees?
steve-o: it was so long ago, there might have been.
benpopken: What happened when you went to quit?
steve-o: i called in to quit
steve-o: they laid the biggest guilt trip on me
steve-o: talked about how much promise I’d showed, and that they had thought I was better than this
benpopken: I think everyone with an interest in sales ends up working for places like that once in their life.
benpopken: But then they slowly peel back the onion and you realize its rotten.
steve-o: except for the people that completely buy into it
steve-o: the guys that i met there were the epitome of salesmen
steve-o: the ‘regional managers’ and essential owners of the company were 26, 27
steve-o: worked their way up the pyramid to have their own mini-pyramid beneath
steve-o: HA! On completing the reading of the Job Interview saga from Brian, that line is exactly what they gave me!
steve-o: about the slots, only two being left, i seemed like a great guy, etc
benpopken: Yeah, it’s weird how they all have the same strategies
steve-o: because its all from the same manual
benpopken: Each office spawns more offices
benpopken: because up and coming managers who build teams are encouraged to start their own office
benpopken: and they run them the same way as they were trained
benpopken: (is what I’ve read)
steve-o: honestly, I read a book called “Coercion” by Douglas Rushkoff, and it discussed cults at one point. Point for point it was exactly the same as my experience with “B2B marketing.”


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

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