I applied for a few Customer Service roles on employment websites. Many of these jobs involve applying to a recruitment company, who I guess must then pass on your details to the company. I do usually tailor my CV and cover letter when applying for jobs. But so many of these jobs don’t say much in the description, so you just apply as best you can. After being unemployed for a while, you’ll pretty much apply for anything you can.
Anyway, I received a phone call from 0121 622 5722. I missed the call. I Googled the number. It came up with MAS Marketing. Their website doesn’t go into great detail about what they do for their clients, or what their job opportunities involve. They have a “Business Development Programme”. They state that they undertake campaigns on behalf of The Appco Group. They had feedback from companies such as “Leading Children’s Charity” and “Leading UK Banking Institution”. But let’s face it, we can all make a new website and put feedback on there. So I Googled The Appco Group.
Straight away it came up with The Cobra Group. Instantly I remembered Cobra from a personal experience with them years ago. I was a bit bored of my job and wanted something different so had been applying for new jobs. I had a phone call from WIT Organisation. I was invited for an interview with them. Here is what happened……..
I arrived at their office on Broad Street in Birmingham for the interview. (I don’t know if they have an office there anymore.) I went upstairs and sat in a reception area. I was handed an application form to fill in and had to do a maths test. There were a few other people doing the same thing too. All of them were young, like me, except for a middle aged woman, who I never saw again. She either wasn’t selected or saw sense much quicker than I did. After the form filling, I was called into the interview room.
The person interviewing me was the manager. She was lovely. Very smiley and complimentary. She was impressed that I’d trained staff at such a young age. But in hindsight, she was probably just picking up on whatever she could in order to make me feel good about myself. It wasn’t much of an interview from what I remember. It was more of her talking about the company. But the details seemed vague. I thought that I was just trying to take in a lot of information all at once. From what she was saying, I thought that I would be selling energy (for a well known provider) inside a shopping centre or somewhere similar. Like they do with TV subscriptions. Everything looked so positive and promising. From what I remember, I think that I received a phone call from them later on to join their team.
I arrived at the office again. I lasted about 3 weeks with them. A typical day would be like this;
- Arrive at the office at 11am. But I was always being pressurised to go in earlier.
- Attend group meetings with;
~Other new people
~The manager of WIT Organisation
~The manager of the other company that shared the same building. They were working for charities door to door, whilst we were selling energy door to door. They may have gone by the Cobra name or it may have been another name, I’m not sure. But I do remember seeing or hearing the Cobra name in general.
- In the meetings, we were taught sales techniques, such as:
~The law of averages: Keep going no matter how many times doors get slammed in your face. The more doors you knock on, the more chance you have of getting a sale.
~SMILE: Something to do with body language and eye- contact.
- After meetings, we had to practice our sales pitches with our team leaders. The team leader would be looking at our body language, making sure we were smiling, and making sure we were sticking to our sales pitch word for word.
- Some meetings would involve rewarding people who had made lots of sales, acknowledging who had been promoted, or generally about how much money the company was making for the energy supplier. I learned, via a phone call that was on loudspeaker for the entire group, that the manager had earned £12,000 the previous week. Yeah right. If this was true, was it because she was exploiting our free labour, perhaps?
- Some meetings would involve star jumps and blasting music. Seriously. We would be jumping up and down doing star jumps in a suit. The music was so loud passer-bys would look up at the windows as if to say “what the hell?”.
- In the afternoon, at about 1-2pm, we would go “out on the field”. We would grab something quick for lunch whilst on the move. This usually entailed us getting a sandwich or a baked potato from a potato stand. I had the choice of eating a sandwich on a packed bus or waiting & eating it later on at a bus stop on my own. I have social anxiety so eating in public is difficult for me. But so is doing a sales job and on an empty stomach too.
- On the first day, I was assigned to someone & I had to shadow him for the day. He was extremely charming and charismatic.
- After meetings, we would get to our destination for the day. The team leader would hand us a booklet each with addresses in. It was addresses of people who weren’t customers of the energy supplier that we were working for. It also contained a map.
- We would go off on our own, and begin knocking on people’s doors. They’d open the door and we start spouting our sales drivel. We weren’t supposed to take no for an answer straight away. Most of the time they’d just shut the door in our faces. Very disheartening but I kept going.
- I had to write in the booklet whether they’d answered or not, if it was a definite no, if I should do a callback later. Some women would say that their husband dealt with all the bills so I’d promise to go back in the evening, which I would.
- I had to keep knocking on doors until about 7pm.
- This was winter time. So I was often very cold, wet, and feeling unsafe in areas I didn’t know. And I was attempting to look professional in smart attire whilst probably looking like a drowned rat. If I was lucky enough to make a sale, I’d get invited in so that I could fill in some paperwork with the new customers (i.e. strangers). Sounds safe, huh?
- At about 7pm, I would meet up with the other staff and our team leader. We’d get a little pep talk to try and raise our spirits again. Then we’d begin our callbacks and finish knocking any doors on our lists that we hadn’t got round to yet. Oh the joys.
- I would usually just get more doors slammed and more people saying no. And some people were so suspicious. On a couple of occasions in particular, I was interrogated as though I was committing a heinous crime! They spoke to me like utter dirt. I was just trying to make a living so that I could pay my bills. Heaven forbid I might actually want to make a career for myself too! I certainly wasn’t committing a crime though. I was just getting them cheaper gas and electricity. Saying that though, how did I not know that their current energy supplier wasn’t cheaper? I didn’t. But still not a crime, nonetheless.
- A LOT of people would be in the middle of putting their children in the bath or to bed. They’d look at us in utter disbelief that we were knocking on their doors at such a time! And believe me, I shared in their disgruntlement. I was pretty stunned at the whole charade too.
- At 9pm, we’d finish on the field and I’d breathe a sigh of relief that I could finally go home and be warm. But no, wait, we had to get back to the City Centre to the office! So we’d meet back up again, and get on the bus.
- At the office, we had to complete the paperwork of the customers we’d managed to get to sign up. If we’d made any errors on the paperwork, we’d have to bin it and wouldn’t get paid for it. That was because it had the customer’s signature on it so we couldn’t simply fill in another form. Then eventually I could leave, walking back through town alone at night.
- I’d get home for about 11.30pm. Then sleep, ready for a brand new day.
And what did I get paid for this you wonder? Zilch.
It was a COMMISSION ONLY job!!! It was £30 a sale. But if you made no sales that day, you got paid NOTHING for that day. So you do 11am- 9pm plus office time for nothing?? Why did I accept it? Because I believed all their brainwashing crap. How I would easily make sales; how I would easily become a team leader if I worked hard; how I would then make up my own team and earn more; how I would eventually be a manager of my own company one day.
I left without telling them and was lucky enough to have my old employer take me back. The grass is not greener on the other side. I went back to a job with low pay, but PAY all the same. And WARMTH. And SAFETY. I know that I am a hard worker. I believed that it was my personality that had caused me to fail. I wasn’t happy and confident enough. But after reading about other people’s experiences on the internet, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
During my time with WIT Organisation, I was told that the manager and team that I was working with had moved to Birmingham from Manchester. From the sound of it, they were all living together in the same house. What kind of company does that? From today’s Googling of them, they seem to be back in Manchester.
But if all of what I’ve described appeals to you, apply to one of their companies.
Random days with them:
- My map-reading abilities are virtually non-existant. So I was always getting lost.
- One time, I’d been lost for so long I felt like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. I was so hungry and saw the Golden Arches ahead of me. I’m not exactly a fan, but I was so hungry and cold! Upon attempting to cross a very dangerous road to get there, I was almost hit by an artic lorry! I don’t think I’ll have forget the sound of that horn.
- I was soaked right through. I had new boots on, but somehow had puddles in them because I’d been out that long.
- My paperwork was stuck together because it had gotten so wet. I could no longer use it.
- Another time, I was so soaked that I knocked on the door of someone I knew. It was heaven being in their area! They invited me in & tumble dried my coat.
- I had my head down because of the rain. A car pulled out of an alley way and almost hit me!
- I was with a team leader. He knocked on the door. A woman turn on the light but wouldn’t answer the door. I could see through the glass that she was waxing or bleaching her moustache! I was trying to tell the team leader to leave her in peace, but he was oblivious and carried on pestering her through the door. She was clearly pleading with us to go away…
And that was my time with WIT Organisation! Something to tell the Grandkids I guess!
So anyway, back to my recent phone call and email from MAS Marketing. When I started Googling them, and also the companies linked with them, I kept coming across websites where other people have had the same or similar experiences as me. This is happening across the world, seriously. Google for yourselves. It seems that people start off at entry level, get promoted to team leader, and so on. They eventually form their own company with its own name, but all of the companies are under the same umbrella.
Names that they seem to have/ be linked with:
The Appco Group
The Cobra Group
Innovation Marketing Company
The Smart Circle
People associated with them:
Chris Niarchos, the Chairman and Founder of the Cobra Group of Companies
Please comment if you have any more information. Or comment with your own experiences.
These people make money from paying people commission only. Desperate jobseekers are brainwashed into this cult-like job. People need to be made aware. How is it even legal what they are doing?