I saw the AskMarsVenus job listing on Flexjobs.com. My first red-flag should have been that they did not ask for any credentials or experience -- only wanted to hear your voice to apply to be one of their dating/relationship coaches. It was a great fit for me professionally and something I had been wanting to do. I had done personal and corporate professional development coaching, and from my graduate studies at the PhD level in social psychology, I realized how vital, yet under-served in any credible way, serious relationship coaching really is. (I hadn't seen these rip-off reports on them at that point, but, of course, was generally aware of John Grey's work and believed it to be credible). I left a message, thinking they must be asking for more information later.
Nope! Jeff Owens called, saying they hadn't actually posted the job listing on Flex Jobs, and was surprised to find my message on his voicemail. He hired me without asking anything about my credentials or experience - just based on my voice and "personality." He stated there would be training, that it would be unpaid, (ah! Red Flag!) and he said, "other people pay thousands of dollars with other organizations for this training" (which I didn't get? Does he mean for receiving coaching, or for training to be a coach?) When I asked for specifics to plan around, and how long, to determine if I wanted to go there, he said since they actually hadn't planned to hire at this time, he knew they planned to start the training November 26th, which was just a week away, but said he didn't have any other particulars. Then he was saying things like, "If you need more than $1,000/mo, don't do this" and "if you're in it for the money, you shouldn't do it," saying the focus should be on helping the callers. I told someone when I got off the phone with him that he made me feel uncomfortable with his approach -- there was all this touchy-feely talk, rather than professional or business-like, and even flirty. But I decided to go forward, thinking I should hear soon the particulars about the training. He sent me to the "application" on their site.
I hit another Red Flag -- the Independent Contractor Agreement was asking for an I-9 instead of a W-9. I again wondered about their professionalism. I have my own business, and do contract work for which I provide a W-9. An I-9 is for employees only. It also stated that not only could I not use the training ever in any other capacity, that I was forbidden from telling anyone that I was an AskMarsVenus coach. And it wasn't really an application, and again, it didn't ask for a resume, any kind of credentials or experience -- just said vague stuff like "if you have this personality and you like this... then this is a fit for you." There was a vague description of the training, then a sample schedule of the 1st week only. I assumed, when it said over several weeks, that it referred to on-the-job training with a mentor, (which made it seem like they were providing comprehensive training ongoing -- never dreamed they expected you to spend 80+ hours in intensive training over several weeks - unpaid!) and that it was only the 1st week that would require a set training schedule, and I assumed that was the unpaid part. I then had to take four tests. Once I passed those, I received an email from their trainer, Debbie, stating the unpaid training would be "four weeks" of "intensive training, requiring 20+ hours per week." I responded that it would have been nice to state this in the beginning. It just went downhill from there.
I kept trying to rationalize, but my gut finally won out and I had to step off. They are charging callers $1.99/minute -- that's $119.+ per hour. Of that, they are paying coaches $18/hr (talk time only, of course). They are making over $100/hr on their coaches, and telling them they shouldn't be in it to make money and they are lucky they don't charge them thousands of dollars for the training they need so they can make AskMarsVenus that $100+/hr! In my 20+ years of contract coaching, where I do have to train for each particular corporate contract, I've never encountered a business suggesting I invest that time without being paid. I've had to take training, certifications and licensing that would have cost tens of thousands of dollars had I done it on my own -- but the companies that stood to gain profit through my efforts certainly never expected me to do them unpaid, and certainly wouldn't think of telling me I'm lucky they don't charge me to do them! Unbelievable! I know I dodged a bullet when I fired this company! I only wish my desire to provide relationship training hadn't caused me to rationalize for as long as I did! While I'm not certain if this is illegal (it may very well may be -- maybe a lawyer can interject here), it most certainly is unethical!