by Brian Ponte and Sasha Ray
(First-person reporting by Brian Ponte)
I had only been sitting for a few minutes. The walls of the waiting area in the White Plains office were tastefully decorated as classic indie rock songs played gently from a Bluetooth speaker. Somewhere between The Strokes and Arcade Fire. Bryan Scudiere, the White Plains district manager for Vector Marketing, summoned me into his office for the first part of my interview for a job with Vector.
By now many students have noticed Vector’s advertisements on campus, even if they don’t realize Vector is behind them. The promise of employment in the form of creative-typeface posters, and advertisements written on dry-erase boards has been scattered around campus, promising money-hungry Purchase students a chance for a generous “$18 base/appt. [base per appointment]” employment opportunity. The accompanying URLs including “studentwork914.com” lead directly to an application form for employment at Scudiere’s White Plains branch of Vector Marketing.
The job offered by the advertisements is a sales position. Vector employees are loaned a set of CutCo knives that they then use during sales pitches and demonstrations. The unusual wage description was one of the first things I asked Scudiere about as we sat in his office. I was, as many students were, under the impression that that the position paid $18 an hour—an assumption that Scudiere quickly corrected.
“It’s base per appointment, it’s not per hour; it’s not an hourly rate,” Scudiere said. “Our representatives are guaranteed $18 per appointment.”
Simply put, it means that if an employee fails to make any sales during an appointment with a prospective buyer (usually a friend or family member), Vector will pay them $18 for their efforts. The unclear nature of the advertisements has led to widespread mistrust and even disdain from the student body.
The ads themselves may not be entirely compliant with Purchase policy regarding employers recruiting students. Samantha Robbins, a student assistant at the Career Development Center, explained that employers are encouraged to use Purchase Jobscore. When confronted with this information, Scudiere said he would request that the ads be removed if they violate campus policy.
Vector’s recruitment attempts on campus have drawn the ire of students who have made their discontent for the company known, labeling it a “scam” and “pyramid scheme.” On the Open Forum, Vector has drawn comparisons to multi-level marketing schemes where employees are rewarded for hiring other recruits to work under them.
Having come close to working with the company before, Purchase student Chris Michaels called the company’s business practices “shady” and “untrustworthy.” After doing a group interview with Vector Michaels said he walked out and never looked back.
“I never got to work with them, I never made it to that point,” said Michaels. “I just walked out after the first interview.”
Juliette Pollack, a Purchase student who worked for Vector for some time while in high school, at a different branch, claims that the branch where she worked outright refused to pay her after she had sold over five knife kits.
“I believe saying Vector is a scam is an understatement. I feel like what they have done to me is illegal, and I’m still a bit flabbergasted with the situation,” Pollack said. “They are a scam, misleading, probably illegal."
While Scudiere could not speak for the actions of another branch, he did defend Vector against claims of being a scam by pointing to high turnover throughout the sales industry.
“As with any sales organization, whether it’s DirecTV or Verizon Fios, or any sort of sales organization, you’re going to have turnover because the job is not for everyone,” Scudiere said. “It is a program that needs to be learned; it is a skill set, and because it’s a skill set, representatives don’t always get the most amazing results right out of the gate.”
Scudiere also argued that Vector was decidedly different from a pyramid scheme.
“Nobody gets paid for recruiting, nobody has to purchase anything to work with us,” Scudiere explained. “Nobody gets paid for what anyone else sells.”
However, he did speak about possible rewards for employees introducing him to potential new hires during my interview. Scudiere later defended this offer as an opportunity to grow his team, not an initiative from Vector higher-ups.
“We’re not a multi-level marketing company, so we don’t pay our students to recruit people, but I’m not dumb and I know this is an incentive-based economy, so I’ll usually throw somebody a finders’ fee of like 25 bucks,” Scudiere said when I asked him if I would be rewarded for recruiting other people. “We do a contest during the summer when I’m really recruiting, where it’s like, ‘hey, if you get three of your friends to work here, I’ll buy you a pair of Ray Bans.’ That comes out of my pocket, it’s something I choose to do. Most offices don’t do that, Vector is very against that, actually.”
Alexa Maizes, a Purchase student, who Scudiere describes as his “top seller,” recently defended Vector from criticisms levied at the company by her classmates.
“I’ve been working here since May and my experience has been great,” Maizes said in response to a post on the Open Forum. “In any organization, especially customer sales and service, you’re going to have a variety of people try things out and get different experiences. I don’t believe working here is for everyone, not by a long shot, but that doesn’t make it a scam. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I have nothing to hide.”