Summer of 2009, I had just graduated college. I found a job ad in the newspaper. The job was at a promotional event company. At the time I was looking to get into Public Relations and though it read like a perfect fit. Their website was phenomenal but it wasn’t pathetic so I applied. I received a call and was asked in for an interview. I was stoked. I drove about 45 minutes from home for the interview. I pulled into a “business park”. I found the office quickly because they had a nice sign up over their door. I walked in and was greeted by a secretary. I waited a couple of minutes and was ushered into an office. The office was bleak – no family photos, no papers, no….computer. A big guy walked in, interviewed me (he was nice from what I can remember) and explained that he’d love for me to come in for a second interview.
The job? I was going to be running “promotional events” (in quotes for a reason). These “events” were to help promote and fundraise for the very well-known D.A.R.E. program. I thought that was pretty neat.
I pictured this: the company locks down locations (parks, schools, centers of malls etc.) and sets up a day event. Moms, kids, nosy teens stop buy and we educate them about the program, maybe there is a clown or a face painter and then maybe they’ll want to help support a good cause/educational program by donating. They can donate by: 1. giving money 2. Buying a D.A.R.E. product or 3. Buying a D.A.R.E. product and then donating it back (typically the products were coloring books, picture books, water bottles) that would be handed out at schools or something (who knows, I don’t really).
Ok great – I go out to my car and I call my Dad to tell him how it went. But as I’m sitting there talking to him I’ve got this odd feeling, something isn’t right. I say to my Dad, “I got the second interview, I just don’t know if I want to go back”. This prompts a long drawn out lecture about never giving up. Finally I chime in, “Fine I’ll go but I still don’t know….the room I interviewed in…it didn’t even have a computer.” He goes on to tell me that not having a computer could mean so many different things (this coming from an everything technology junkie does not settle well with me); how I’m lucky to have gotten an interview in this failed economy (yep, 2009 college graduate a.k.a year of the twenty-something shattered dreams), how I can’t pass up the second interview because how would I live with the “what-ifs” and then a list of “what-ifs” are rattled off. Now some people may find “what-ifs” and easy thing to shrug off – I am not one of those people. The “what-ifs” eat me a live. If someone says, “Jenna, I’ve got to tell you something….” And then follows up that statement with a “never mind” I go crazy inside, like knowing what that something is the only thing that can keep me alive. I digress…
The morning of the second interview I woke up early and made the 45 minute drive, again. I walk into the office but this time I don’t just see the secretary. There’s a wall that faces her desk, it’s lined with chairs, in these chairs? A dozen business-casual dressed (some a little too formal) kids my age. I was kind of amped by this, I thrive off scholarly competition. I check in and sit down next to a girl. She asks me where I found this job, blah blah. I remember thinking she was dumb and that her major had nothing to do with the sort of position I believed I was getting myself in to. All of a sudden, from behind the wall we had our backs to, comes this chanting, actually it was more like cheering. It sounded like a team morale kind of thing, sort of cheesy but I’ve always wanted a work environment that promoted some sort of comradery. That’s when they shut the lights, directed our attention towards a TV in the corner and started a “movie”.
The video explains how the job is awesome, the different avenues of promotion and then an employee trip to Cancun? It was all very passive-aggressive. The anxiety I carried over from the first interview is now heightened. All I can think is “what the hell did I get myself into?” After the movie is over the same man that interviewed me announces to the group that we are going to be splitting up. Each person will go with two “Event Executives” to a scheduled event. You will learn how to work the events and at the end the two “Event Executives” will gauge your performance. If they find that you performed well than they will ask you back and voila! You’re a member of the team and congratulations.
Before I go on let me explain something – it’s the beginning of June. We’re in New York but regardless it’s still hot. I’m wearing black dress pants, a yellow tank top, and over the tank top I have a short sleeved blazer. I am wearing 3 ½-4 inch heels. Not only are my clothes uncomfortable but it’s not an ideal summer outfit either.
My name is called from the list. The man says “Jenna, you’re going to be shadowing with Herpina & Derpina.” I was kind of bummed. I know it was a “job interview” but I’d much rather shadow a guy. Why? Well there’s always the possibility that he’s hot. If the job sucked at least I’d have someone to flirt with. Or better yet maybe he’d think I was hot and make my chances of getting the job even better. Herpina and Derpina come over and introduce themselves to me. They are wearing denim skirts, stare-at-my-cleavage tank tops and Old Navy flip-flops. My inner monologue was judging them so harshly. Funnily enough – I wasn’t thinking “Oh wow if I knew I could dress so casually”…No, I was scoffing at them on the inside, “well neither of you have any grasp of business casual”. In retrospect I should have been having a meltdown. They say let’s go, and I follow them out of the office doors.
We get into the parking lot. I’m confused. Herpina wanders off to her car and Derpina is running to hers going, “Let’s go! Hop in!” Hop in? I ask if I should drive, she says, “That’s silly!” and I take her word for it. At this point my initial anxiety, mixed with the anxiety that the brainwashing WORKHEREWORKHERE video added I’m closing in on my maximum. Full blown panic is just waiting for its turn to surface. I get in the car –all I’m thinking about is how I am in the car of a strange girl and I don’t know where she’s taking me. Right off the bat I can tell I don’t like her and she’s one of those people who won’t like me either. She is overtly arrogant, scantily dressed and talks like a baby. Before pulling out of the parking lot she tells me where we’re going. We’re going to a CVS in I’MNOTTELLINGYOUWHATTOWN. WHATTOWN, is about ten minutes from where I live. I’m confused as to how an event can be held at a CVS but I don’t have time to think about it because we merge onto the expressway and I am clinging to the armrest out of fear. My Mom used to tell me when I was younger not to get into cars with strangers. As a kid I assumed it was because they would drive me to a field and chop me up into pieces. As an adult of course it means what I previously stated, but it also means that you should not get into a strangers car because their driving could kill you just as easily. I don’t remember anything she said to me in that car because I was concentrating too hard on not screaming and attempting to induce my hidden telepathic powers in order push the cars in front of us out of the way.
We get to CVS. (If you’re confused a CVS is a pharmacy/convenient store, think RiteAid) I’m standing there shifting in my polyester pants watching this chick pull a folding table out of her trunk. (Of course I’m not going to help…) She sets it up at the CVS entrance. WHAT!? She lays water bottles, Frisbees and picture books on the table in no particular fashion. It looked like someone threw up bootleg D.A.R.E. products all over a folding table. Bootleg? Yeah, I’m not an idiot, the D.A.R.E. colors are red, white and black – I know this because I’m a satirical bastard. Occasionally in college I would done a D.A.R.E. t-shirt and people would laugh. Now I don’t know for sure that they are ripping off the D.A.R.E. Foundation but regardless, it’s at that exact moment that my predicament became clear…..
These chicks are going to make me stand in front of CVS and harass unsuspecting CVS patrons. I should also mention that the “second interview/ “training shift” was something like 10 am – 6 pm, I wasn’t getting paid, it is the beginning of June, the high for the day was 96 degrees and I’m wearing a polyester suit-esque outfit, and rocking a pair heels. I didn’t think I owed anything to these girls so I kind of stood in the background and watched. I looked like an idiot – two girls using their tits to lure men into “donating” to their cause while I stand there looking like their sans-sunglasses-not-so-strong bodyguard?
It gets blurry from here but I remember a distinct disdain towards Derpina.. When she went inside of CVS I tried to interrogate Herpina about how much money she makes, what she thought of the job, what she thought of Derpina but it she wouldn’t budge. Apparently all the questions I asked they were ordered specifically not to answer. Oh Really!? Eventually I got her to open up about salary, not in numbers but how the pay scale etc. worked. It was very brief and extremely vague but I pulled something out of it, a switch flipped on in my brain – a conclusion, PYRAMID SCHEME. Big fat exasperated, “Fabulous, No wonder why this sucks so bad….idiot”. The very business model I scoffed at (and most people will) had ‘got me’. Dammit, I thought.
It was obvious to me that Herpina was intimdated by Derpina, so much that she wouldn’t open up to me in confidence. Granted we had just met but her job is to stand in front of convenient stores and annoy people – so really what was she afraid to lose? I told her, “Be honest, there’s no way you can enjoy this!?” She shrugged and said the schedule was awesome. Derpina was behind me wasn’t she? Yes she was.
I believe it was about 1 pm when I decided that unprofessional (really don’t know why I cared) or not I was smoking a cigarette. One drag and my mind cleared (pathetic, ah the life of an addict) I am not standing here and participating in this bullshit job for one more minute. I am done. One little snag – I don’t have my car. I call my Dad. He answered enthusiastically something along the lines of “How’s it going!?!” His tone implied he was waiting for me to start rambling off about all of the lovely responsibilities I was given and the cool things I was doing. Instead I couldn’t say anything. The only thing that came out was, “Daddy” in that crackling, ugh-do-I-really-sound-like-that, crying voice. I was so frustrated/angry/pissed off at the day that I lost it. Of course he freaks (if you’re 21 year old daughter calls you up crying you best believe it’s for a reason) and I finally compose myself to explain what the hell is going on. His response? Hysterical laughter. What the hell? He apologizes and explains to me that he would love to pick me up but he’s not even on Long Island. My heart sinks. I am ten minutes from my home, 35 minutes from my car; my parents are not on the island I am stuck, thighs chaffing agaisnt my suit pants, heckling CVS patrons.
I run through a list of my friends in my head; it’s the middle of the work day, no one is around-I’m still stuck. Great. A Pepsi truck rolls up and the delivery man gets out. He is repulsive; his facial hair is unkempt, his supposed to be blue hat is black, his uniform is wearing him instead of the other way around and he is beyond sweaty. Derpina runs up to him and does her little spiel about crack babies and sad stuff. He doesn’t buy it. Then she shakes her boobs in his face and says, “Would a hug change your mind?” Well, yes, yes it would…Who knew!? That was the last straw. About an hour had gone by since I called my Dad –
Gratefully I have a wonderful best friend, I called him just to complain but by the graces of the job gods he had gotten out of work earlier than expected. I explained what I was dealing with and instead of laughing at me he was so appalled that before I could ask for a ride, he was offering one. I decide I’m not telling Herpina and Derpina that I’m out and that they can suck it until he shows up. I kept my distance from them. I’m not very good at keeping what I’m feeling from showing up on my face. Derpina caught on. She kept pushing, “What’s the matter”, “Are you ok?” and then I snapped. I laughed in her face (not rudely, just a snicker) and I told her my ride was on its way. She looked in the eye with a sneer and said, “Yeah I figured, you didn’t seem up for it – some people just aren’t meant for this job”. She said it with such arrogance that it took every fiber of being not to go off on her. Not cut out for the job? Anybody could do this job, but who the fuck would want to?
Best friend showed up, I hopped into the car thanking him. His window was down and Derpina threw half of her body through the open window. Her head, D-Cups and arms were basically sitting on best friend’s lap. The verbal exchange has escaped me but I do remember that she was obnoxious and persistent. How do I remember she was persistent? Somehow in order to get her out of the car she convinced that I would just have to “donate”. I wound up purchasing a water bottle. I handed her three dollars and she walked to go get my item. We drove away instead, as we were leaving the parking lot she’s screaming about we forgot the water bottle I just purchased, best friend is screaming obscenities at her and I screaming “keep it”.
He had to drive me ½ hour in the opposite direction of our houses so I could get my car. Then I had to drive another 45 minutes back. Thankfully by the time I got home I was already looking back and laughing.
A couple of months later I received an e-mail from the same company. They had said they had found my interview on careerbuilder.com or monster.com and wanted me to come in for an interview. I wrote them a very long response explaining this very story to them. It wasn’t very nice. I’ve been searching through my e-mail for the correspondence but I’ve had no luck so far. If I find it, I am definitely posting it.
I guess the point of writing this is; if you feel like something is weird, it’s probably weird. If it’s a job offer/interview that seems off, it’s probably off (Pyramid scheme, Vector Marketing)
TL;DR Landed an interview with a “promotional event company”. After the first interview I was really uneasy about the company, the job…something just didn’t feel right. I convinced myself to go to the second interview/to “shadow” current employees in order to avoid a “what if I had…” inner-conflict. I was completely duped (company is, in a nutshell, a pyramid scheme) and wound up harassing people to buy crap they don’t need to help promote the D.A.R.E. program (I’m still convinced there is no affiliation between D.A.R.E. and whatever the heck I was doing) in front of a CVS while wearing a suit on one of the hottest days of summer. No matter how desperate you are, always trust your instincts.