The Most Misleading Job Offer I've Ever Received

Not sure what this sign is warning about
I'm currently house sitting for a friend in Studio City (Los Angeles). It's a lovely apartment with a small, friendly community and recently, I ran into one of the neighbours, Mel*. She was interested to know what I was doing in town and I explained that I had recently arrived from Australia and had yet to find employment.

"I run my own business," Mel had informed me. "We're looking for some help. Are you interested in part time work?"
"Yes, absolutely."
"Well, why don't you drop by tomorrow? It's at the Craftsman Lodge* down the road. Do you know it?"
"I think I've bicycled past it a few times." (Yup, that's how I roll. Pun intended.)
"I'm usually there from seven to ten. Stop in and we'll talk."
"Great, I will. Thanks!"

I had no idea what the job was, but I was excited at the opportunity to discuss some potential sideline work. A few hours later, my phone rang. It was Mel.

"I wanted to let you know that I just had a chance to talk to (something something) our VP," she spoke too quickly for me to understand. "And he said you can absolutely come in tomorrow. Just be there by 6:45, dress business casual and bring a notepad and pen."
Locking in a dress code before I knew the type of employment seemed premature. But the window to ask, 'what is the job?' was closing fast.
"Got it. Dress business casual, bring a notepad and pen. Mel, what exactly-"
"Actually, why don't we carpool? I leave around that time. We can just go together."
"....Alright. Saves me biking in the morning. But-"
"No. 6:30 at night. Not the morning."
"Oh, okay, I-"
"Got to go," Mel said. "See you tomorrow!"
The window of time to ask, 'what is the job?' had closed.

I immediately googled 'Craftsman Lodge'. It turned out to be a hotel/ restaurant/ shopping/ events venue. Basically, Mel could be running any business type whatsoever. Did she own the hotel? Did she manage the restaurant? Was she an event coordinator? Did she run a clothing store? Did she manage a group of call girls that could be hired by fancy businessman who were staying at the Lodge? Perhaps. Clues, for and against this last possibility, were fairly balanced:

Dress is Business Casual? Probably a regular job
Work is at night? Possibly a call girl
Notepad and Pen? Probably a regular job
Immediate start, vague details and not a single question about my work history? Possibly a call girl
Workplace is an upmarket hotel/lounge? Could go either way

I concluded that there was a remote, but genuine possibility that I was about to begin work in the sex trade. But I'm a relaxed person. I decided that I would dress as required, show up and let the night take me where it would.

24 hours later, everything made much more sense. It was foolish of me not to see it coming.

The first red flag appeared upon arrival at the Craftsman Lodge, when I, along with other confused, business-casual attired people, was asked to sign in as a 'guest' on a random sheet of paper with pen-drawn columns on it. The second was when I was given a name tag. And I was certain something was awry when we were ushered into a conference room, discovered brochures on our seats, and a young up-and-comer in a pin-striped suit introduced us, with manic enthusiasm, to the 'multimillionaire guest of honour and regional VP of LegalArmour*'. The alleged millionaire had one of those interchangeable first and last names, like Adam David or Michael Sean.

It was clear that I had been played, my friends. This was a pyramid scheme recruitment. For those who have never heard of a pyramid scheme, you'll find a detailed explanation on wikipedia here. But basically, it's a type of business that recruits salespeople who are also required to be paying customers and whose only objective is to recruit other salespeople-customers.

My opinion of pyramid schemes is that they are not dissimilar to cults. They mislead you in the first meeting, work overtime to convince you that they understand you better than anyone else does, and when you try to leave you discover that you can't. The existence of these types of businesses saddens me because they prey on people who are in tight financial circumstances. People who learn, after signing a contract, that the promised 'easy way to make money' is in fact an 'easy way to spend money on a product that you don't need and an incredibly difficult way to make money'. I don't know much about anything, but of this I'm certain: there is no 'easy way' to make money. All of the ways require effort.

But there I was, trapped in a presentation that went on for 3 hours. 3 hours listening to how I can make money by making money and convincing other people to make money. I endured painful wordplays, delivered as if they were pure gold nuggets of wisdom, such as, 'He had sight. But he lacked vision'. And at one point, when Peter Andrew compared himself to Bill Gates, I sincerely wished it had turned out that I'd been starting work as a call girl. I stayed because I was awkwardly seated in the front row and I knew I could blog about it later.

It took several firm refusals to escape that situation without being roped into the clan. But not every 'guest' had my stubborn will. Many were lost in the brightly lit conference room that night, under the watchful gaze of Chad Steven and his slicked-back hair. May the ability to change their minds within 10 days prove an existent clause in their signed contracts. If not, perhaps their recent purchase of a LegalArmour package can help.

When Mel and I reached home, after an awkward, tense carpool return ride, I noticed she was limping slightly. Clutching at conversation straws, I asked her what had happened. She told me that she'd been in a car accident a few years ago and had suffered severe mental and physical trauma, including a brain injury. She then announced that she felt we'd gotten to know each other sufficiently over the course of the evening, grabbed my hand and had me feel the scar on her head and the pipe that now runs under her skin between her skull and heart.

It was a fitting end to an already shockingly uncomfortable evening.


*names changed, of course!

Comments

  1. OMG! Candice! That is a chapter in a book.... but I enjoyed reading it on your blog :) you are now on my top 5 daily blog checks. Very excited to read more. x LL~

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