Group goes against business practice

By Nick Zombolas

Most college students get jobs to try to make some money – but one group says they were cheated by the business they worked for.

Students Against Vector Exploitation is a group of students who worked for Vector Marketing and say they felt scammed by the company’s procedures.

SAVE is centered at Yahoo.com, and a majority its of members are former Vector employees – although anyone can join. It was created in June 2003 and now has more than 200 members.

“Vector Marketing is a company that targets students nationwide to sell Cutco kitchen knife sets priced between $200 and $2,000 with in-home demonstrations,” said Chad Hasselius, public relations spokesman for SAVE and former Vector worker.

David Reeves, public relations spokesman for Cutco, said Cutco began working with college students in the late 1970s.

A report supplied by Reeves stated, “(Students) were also able to generate sales during the summer, a time when productivity in direct sales traditionally lags.”

Hasselius said the goal of SAVE is to make their opinions and negative experiences with Vector known.

“A few goals I can think of are to get the word out so more people don’t lose their time to (Vector’s) misleading advertising,” he said.

Hasselius said one of the group’s problems with Vector comes from their advertisement promising that their employees do “no door-to-door (soliciting) or telemarketing.”

“I believe telemarketing is when you get on the phone and solicit something,” Hasselius said. “And with Vector, in order to get your appointments (to do demonstrations), you must solicit your appointments over the phone.”

Workers are hired as independent contractors. This prevents them from receiving benefits or rights such as minimum wage or unemployment, Hasselius said.

He also said he is upset with Vector because the recruit training period was unpaid and misleading.

“The interviews have been known to include misleading information. Also, they give often fraudulent information to their recruits in training,” he said.

Reeves said the training sessions provided by Vector are very productive, saying they help build rapport with customers, improve time management, team building, communication skills and self-confidence.

“Tens of thousands of college students have benefited from our training program,” said Al DiLeonardo, CEO of sales, in a Vector report.

Recruits put down a deposit of about $145 for a knife set to do demonstrations with and are then encouraged to sell to their friends and family.

“(Students) are pretty successful in the beginning, since it’s easy to sell to people that care about you and feel obligated to help out,” he said. “But after that, (workers) must rely on referrals, which can be difficult since not too many people want to let strangers into their house to get a sales pitch on knife sets that typically cost several hundred dollars.”

Mohammed Esmail, sophomore in business, worked for Vector Marketing last winter.

“They had a really high turnover, so I can understand if they really don’t tell you much right up front,” he said. “But they’re pretty up-front once you actually go.”

Esmail said he enjoyed his time with the company.

“It was pretty fun for a while and I did well with them, so I don’t feel like it’s a scam like some people might say,” he said. “What I’ve found is that the people who don’t like it just weren’t good at it.”

Overall, Hasselius said he and other members of SAVE want other people to be aware of the situation.

“I and other SAVE members would just be happy if they’d stop misrepresenting themselves and their products,” he said.