I read the AHFS (American Home Fire Safety) ad offering a high hourly rate to educate families on fire safety, and went to an interview at 7:00 PM. I suspected that it was probably a wild goose chase, but I was willing to hear them out. I arrived at their office and was taken to a conference room with several other candidates.
There commenced a several hour-long presentation, starting with two videos about fire safety and the devastating effects of a home fire. The videos were extremely effective, and I made a mental note to check my smoke detectors when I got home. At that point, I was sold on the idea that educating people about the danger was a worthy cause, and I was warming to the idea of being paid to do it.
Then the hard sell started. I have been subjected to high-pressure sales tactics before, and I recognized at once that I was being sold.
First, AHFS made a point about being a member in good standing of the Better Business Bureau. Now the BBB may be a wonderful organization, but my experience is that every shady company I ever dealt with uses it to convince you about how reputable they are and put you off your guard. Strike One.
Second, God is mentioned frequently in this interview. The company is dedicated to God first, then family, then doing this good work of educating people about fires. Now I don't know about you, but I think it's inappropriate to bring God into a job interview. As with the BBB, it is an attempt to convince you about how honest and sincere they are. Strike Two.
Third, everything was presented as an exciting opportunity, not a job. Granted, this could be a legitimate pitch, but it was becoming apparent that this job involved selling AHFS's own fire safety products to people in their homes. At some point I would be able to open my own franchise of AHFS. Much was made of the success of the company founder, Mitch Landau. He has a Jaguar, and a Ferrari, and fabulous multi-million dollar homes all over the world, and a two-million dollar corporate yacht. In keeping with my baseball analogy, call this one a foul tip.
By this time, I had pretty much sized this up as a door-to-door sales operation. I wasn't interested, but I had already invested about an hour and a half, so I decided to stick around because I was curious about one detail, namely where did all these families who had been pre-contacted and were waiting for your visit come from? I had looked at the AHFS website before coming to the meeting, and I hadn't see anywhere to sign up for an in-home interview. The question had been raised several times by my fellow interviewees. Where did the leads come from? The answer was that AHFS had developed a copyrighted method of obtaining leads, and if they made you an offer you would have to sign a non-disclosure agreement so that you wouldn't use the method at some other company. Intriguing.
The presenter proceeded to explain that if he made an offer to one or more of us, we would be trained as a certified (by AHFS) home fire safety consultant. Not as an employee, exactly, but as an independent contractor. There were many, many advantages to this. You could, for example, write-off your mileage as a tax deduction. According to the Constitution, taxes were voluntary anyway. What? Taxes voluntary? O.K., if that wasn't Strike Three, I don't know what was.
We would be paid for our classroom training. We would also be paid to make practice presentations. We would also get commissions on any fire safety products we sold. Now we were getting down to the nitty-gritty of the pitch. In order to weed out the people who weren't serious, we would have to pay $497.50 at the start of training. (Why $497.50? Why not $495, or $500?) This $497.50 would be paid back at the end of practice sessions as a training completion bonus.
We would have to complete 80 practice sessions. We would have to give 20 sessions to our friends and family (Who wouldn't want to give this life-saving advice to everyone he knows?) and 60 to be supplied by the copyrighted method of obtaining leads. At the end of all 80, we would be paid for the sessions and receive the training completion bonus.
At this point, my baseball analogy breaks down, because there are only three strikes in baseball. I don't know about you, but I have a policy of not paying people who bring me to an interview about jobs.
I could just see myself, calling people from my address book, begging them to have me come to their houses and giving this story. I'm just not going to do that. Looking at the blackboard where he had written the 20 + 60 = 80, it suddenly dawned on me how the whole thing worked. I convince twenty of my friends to listen to this, and then I have to get them to call up three or four of their friends to hear it too. That's the copyrighted method of obtaining leads. That's where the pre-contacted and waiting for your visit people come from. I'm getting my own leads from my own friends.
What a perfect deal for AHFS. You're not told this until you sign the non-disclosure agreement, and you don't sign the agreement until after you've forked over $497.50. If you don't complete all 80 practice sessions, you don't get paid anything. If, by chance, you do have a thick enough skin to be a success at this, so much the better. AHFS then makes money on product. AHFS would make an offer to a chimpanzee if the poor little thing had $497.50. No wonder Mitch Landau had a Jaguar and a yacht and all those grand homes.
Now I'm not saying you can't make a go of this. After all, the guy who was pitching it to me was. And I'm not saying that putting smoke detectors and extinguishers in homes isn't a worthy cause. What I am saying is that any good that comes from this company is at the expense of many unfortunate people who go into it with very little idea of how hard and demeaning it will be to succeed, and that there is only one reason for its existence to extract as much money from as many people as possible.