So at the start of this year I got suckered into working for the fakest of fake companies that dare try to pass as a company. It was a Devil Corp. If you want to know more about them and have some context for what this post is about, then I recommend reading about my experience working there here.
But for now I think I’ll move onto admitting that, all this time later, it still bothers me that I was in that type of company. Though I’m not sure if I’m more bothered by the fact I was naïve/exploitable enough to have been pulled in by their tactics. Sometimes I think what sort of sorry state I must have been in not to have seen the red flags and got out sooner, in spite of the fact I got out pretty early compared to many horror stories I’ve seen and read online. Sometimes I think that I did see the red flags but just not in time. Sometimes I think that I saw them and ignored them.
To some extent I suppose all of the above are true. I was fooled. The company and its story seemed legit to me at the time. I was in a bit of a sorry state. Desperate for a job. A lot of inconsistencies I saw with the company came in hindsight, like why one could draw a perfect pyramid around the the company’s promotional structure. And I certainly ignored a few red flags. Big ones. Like the fact I was interviewed for a customer service role and put on door to door sales.
Sometimes I have to remind myself why I wrote my original post on Devil Corps in the first place. These are malicious companies that knowingly exploit people in positions such as the one I was in. I became malicious too after I left, leaving a very sour Glassdoor review. I checked their Google Maps reviews and saw pretty much all the five star reviews were transparently from staff I had known, or former staff from before me all amping up the company. Ironically, the only review on Google Maps to receive any thumbs up at all (a whopping 24) was one talking about how damn awful their time working there had been. That was posted a few years ago, so their gig has been going for some time.
I used to question whether the owners of the place knew they were enormous assholes or whether they were blindly indoctrinated into it, since indoctrination is a key part of how these company’s operate. But then I figured that there’s no way they don’t know. They knowingly lie and coerce about the scale and importance of what they’re doing; knocking on doors. Saving the world, they’d have you believe.
In real life things aren’t black and white though. I found the owner’s Facebook pages and was annoyed to see they are relatively normal people and not overtly evil death star constructors that are easy to rally against. They are normal. Normal people running a severely abnormal company, to the benefit of themselves and at the expense of others.
I guess it weighs on me how much of myself I threw into it. I needed a job and so, when I got one, I got myself committed. I have pages upon pages of notes from days upon days of listening to and writing down the same sales tactics and indoctrination messages over and over again. I’d always whisper to myself under my breath that I didn’t buy into it in all the morning meetings. I’d try to trip up the owners when I could:
“I can sell this product to anyone, no matter what they say, and so can you,” the owner would say, looking around at each of our half convinced faces. “Alex, imagine I’ve just knocked on your door and told you nothing but my name and who I work for. Give me a reason you can’t talk to me, and I guarantee I’ll turn it into a sale.”
I hated being put on the spot. Ever since I was a kid I was reluctant to put my hand up in class, played with my sleeves during every presentation I gave at uni and still have a terribly obvious nervous laugh whenever I’m discussing something I’m not 99% comfortable with. And I know this guy IS going to sell to me no matter what I say. If I say I’ve got to go out, he’ll make it brief. If I say I’m not interested, he’ll cut to how it benefits me. And, despite the fact this is a demonstration that I’ll nod along to after my initial refusal of his hypothetical sale, he’ll celebrate the fact he managed to fake sell me something, after putting me on the spot in front of our colleagues, as though this is at all applicable out in the world and that sceptical customers will all just passively nod along to all our words. I was quiet around the office. He knew why he picked me. So did I.
But he was a snarky prick. And I didn’t like him.
So, when he asked me to give him a hypothetical reason why he hypothetically couldn’t sell his product to me, I said “I’m going into labour.” It came out a bit more Terry Jones doing a woman’s voice than I’d have liked though.
The one and only time I saw true emotion from that man – instead of the sleazy pretend businessman act he normally paraded (the dude was Saul Goodman IRL) – was for less than half of a second after I said those words. I saw in him disdain. I got a quiet laugh from the other lads there. Y’know, the type where they’ll chuckle as to acknowledge the weirdness of the awkward situation I’d created for the boss, but not to the extent where they could be perceived as encouraging of my dubious behaviour.
As a way to counter my childish nonsense, the owner went on to say he’d ring the ambulance up while giving me the pitch and ride along in the back to collect my details. He did a fake laugh. A fake smile. Then moved on to put someone else on the spot with the exact same question posed the exact same way, with the added condition that they needed a REAL reason they thought he couldn’t pitch a product to them. Ironic for a man not running a real company.
That’s probably the best thing I did in my time there. If only because I got to see a glimpse of who the owner was under the guise of his showmanship. Hell, I’d say I’m even proud of it.
He never did like me very much and I don’t think his wife, the co-owner, did either. On a Friday night there’d be a company pizza night. Sounds good right? Getting in the office a 8am sharp, walking 20,000+ steps a day until 6pm, not getting back to the office until 6:30 if you were selling local, or past 7pm if you were in another city. On a normal day you’d be lucky to be home for 8pm to shower, have dinner and sleep. But if you were in another city you wouldn’t be in be home until 9pm to do all those things and be in bed so you can repeat the process less than twelve hours later. And then these fun-sucking, wish-they-were-young-again bozos have the audacity to suggest I sit down with them for another hour or two before going home so I can eat pizza with people I don’t know? No thank you.
The first company pizza night happened to align with the first day I went out selling on my own. And the boss said, earlier that morning, that whoever got the most leads that day would have £50 from his wallet. Guess who got that money? That’s right, and I didn’t even stick around for pizza after getting it.
The owner didn’t even exchange words with me. In fact he looked pretty peeved. At first I thought he lost a bet or something but, after having now read and seen so much about what owners go through, I’m guessing he was sort of broke and not wanting to stick to his word. Alas, his wife was big on the positivity and congratulations and was sure to make sure I got my £50. The dude handed me £75, which I didn’t even notice! I almost robbed him until his wife eyed me up and took some of it back from my hands. I jokingly played it off by telling the owner he could owe me the rest. This just made him look more peeved – not that I had meant to vex him, mind you – and this time when his wife tried to alleviate the mood around the holy table of pizza and happiness, even she sounded sour at what I had said.
She then asked me if I wanted pizza. Everyone else was sat there with some. Silent now the owners were speaking with me. I declined and said I had arranged to order my own pizza with my girlfriend that night. She then offered me some again. “Go on, just a slice“. I declined again. And again. And again. But the more she offered, the more I looked at the pizza and realised just how much uneaten pizza there was compared to the amount of people sat around the table with it in front of them. Only she and Peter Peever over there were eating. I also declined to sit and stay an additional 4-5 times. I think that’s what made her not like me. I refused her holy pizza night in favour of my own pizza night. They probably spent a lot of money on all that pizza, and I just walked out with an additional £50 pulled from their wallets now tucked away in mine.
Every now and again I look at the company’s sales. They gave me access to a Google Doc where they record leads and the status of those leads, which I still have access too because despite me being removed from their company group chat, I can still read everything up until the point I was kicked and use the links that are not password protected. They seriously need some security on those things, because I could write up a whole bunch of false sales and mess up their records at a moments notice. Any past employee who happens to have the link or access to the chat can, regardless of if they’re still in it or have been kicked.
Anyway, I look at it. And I feel satisfied. They seem to be in somewhat of a tough spot and, after the ringer they put me through, it’s just so pleasant to see. After the huge exodus of employees that left when I did, it seemed at least two more mass exodus’ of two new fresh batches also occurred. And now all the sales are being made by one man: the owner. That was up until a little while ago when I noticed maintenance guys who check houses qualify for the cavity walls being sold, using power tools and electronics, started making sales and had either volunteered to help or been roped in.
Part of me feels a tiny bit bad. As I said, these are otherwise normal people. The maintenance guys especially, they’re not in on this brainwash scenario. That’s just the owners. But even so, this is their livelihood. And it’s going to shit. An utter failure. Cost of living in the UK is going up, gas prices are raising too and this husband and wife are fighting tooth and nail to keep their company afloat. I don’t want these guys to be on the streets. I’m not that cruel.
But the thought of that scummy company collapsing does put a smile on my face. All I have to do is remember how betrayed I felt – how betrayed my friends felt – after learning what we did about the true nature of how it operates, and I lose a lot of that sympathy for their situation. It was existential. Waking up one day and “oh, your highly unethical job is exploiting your vulnerable situation with cultish indoctrination tactics for near free labour, and is run in such a way that the only reason it can’t officially be a Pyramid Scheme is on a tiny technicality.” It flips you upside down. Damages your trust in people. In work. In legitimate, safe and honest employers in honest companies.
All this to say that I was having a hard time moving on. I tend to fixate on things. A bad habbit of mine is specifically doing so on bad things like this Devil Corp fiasco. I began writing this as something I thought was going to be, I don’t know… Sad? Moving? Self-pitying? Therapeutic? But instead, I feel triumphant.
Because yeah, I did take that guys money, decline the pizza he also payed for me to have and leave the pizza night he organised. And yeah, I broke his façade by saying I was going into labour during a serious morning meeting. And yeah, I left a really negative Glassdoor review. I am the ultimate disgruntled ex-employee. And I think that, after months of my brain refusing to let go of my time there, I am finally capable of moving on from it.