Beware Free Pizza and $40,000

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    By Laurie J. Frost

    I disagree with T. S. Eliot. I think February, not April, is the cruelest month. Aside from Valentine’s/Singles Awareness Day, February is the month when the pyramid marketing people come out to recruit for summer sales programs.

    Summer sales reps are an interesting breed. They all dress alike in polo shirts. They move in packs. They only come out at night, and only in pizza joints. They make extravagant monetary promises (such as, “You can make a billion dollars in one summer!”) and can smell gullibility a mile away.

    You may be saying, “But surely you exaggerate! Summer sales are a way to get rich quick and have life-changing experiences!”

    You may be right. I may be grossly exaggerating on both accounts. (Okay, I admit it. I’m grossly exaggerating. Happy now?) But, just for fun, let’s look at these two arguments:

    1. Summer sales are a way to get rich quick. This is true for some people. The problem is, those “You could make $40,000 in one summer” lines the sales reps feed you only represent a very small percentage of their numbers. (I personally think the ones who make this kind of money are the ones who would sell their grandmothers.) As such, I propose they should change that line to, “You could make $40,000 in one summer … but you probably won’t.”

    2. Summer sales give you life-changing experiences. I would definitely agree on this point. My brother, for example, had a life-changing experience selling satellite dishes one summer. He only made $800. (See point #1, “grandmothers” section.) He also came home with a hard-bought pearl of wisdom, which he shared with me often: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

    Pest control, alarm systems, satellite dishes, it’s all the same. These companies harness thousands of college kids every summer by feeding them engorged numbers with every slice of pizza until they leave with heavy bellies, light wallets and dollar signs in their eyes.

    I mean, can you really believe in the product you’re selling? Since we’re on a multi-level marketing kick, what if it’s Tahitian Noni? I freely admit my prejudice here: I was poisoned against Noni the summer I worked as a tour guide at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii. Throughout the park hung the smell of warm noni fruit – the most rank, offensive stench I’ve ever smelled in my short life. The noni fruit sat, pulsatingly yellow and squishy, in display dishes around the park and filled the air with the odor of a block of bleu cheese tenderly wrapped in an old gym sock. Is this stuff truly meant to be ingested? (Maybe it’s kind of like oatmeal – not good, but good for you.)

    I’m not saying no one truly believes in Noni’s healing properties. I just wonder why people are selling Noni to an unsuspecting public. It’s probably for the same reason they’re selling “Living Scripture” videos – peddling yet another mediocre, ridiculously overpriced product that, when you buy it in bulk, costs approximately a million dollars. I can just see the sales pitch now:

    Salesman: Are you interested in buying our boxed set of “Living Scripture” videos, Mr. Jones?

    Mr. Jones: I don’t have that kind of money right now.

    Salesman: How much do you think you could afford to pay per month, Mr. Jones?

    Mr. Jones: How about $20 a month?

    Salesman: Hmmm…that means you would have this glossy boxed set paid off in only about 4,000 years! How about it?

    [Mr. Jones dies of shock. Salesman pockets Mr. Jones’s wallet.]

    Salesman: Pleasure doing business with you.

    In short, don’t be fooled by the, “You could make $40,000 in one summer!” line. Make smart decisions for your summer, and don’t base them solely on those castles in the air. Instead, ask yourself this question: “Do I like any one of these people well enough to buy them a car?” If the answer is no, you’d probably better back out, because they’ll be driving around on your paycheck.

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