Long story I am going to make short! NOT!
We had a young lady from a foreign Eastern Block country knock on our door trying to sell us educational books and also looking for a place to live. Now I have been in the business of coordinating high school exchange students for over a decade, so when this gal came to my door with her very broken English my heart went out to her.
When she began her sales pitch--broken English attempting to sell me American text books--I had to make her stop...it was painful to listen to. I knew immediately that she had really no idea what she had gotten herself into. So I began to explain that in America, our public school students received their books free from the schools---she had no idea about this...I asked her if people in HER country liked door-to-door sales people, and she said--"NO NO, BUT THE RECRUITERS TOLD ME THAT AMERICANS WERE DIFFERENT AND DIDN'T MIND THIS TYPE OF SALES." I asked her if she thought that was true...I must have hit a nerve because she let it all out! She told me about the lies she had been fed by the recruiter as well as the 6 day cult like MLM training she had received with hundreds of other foreign students in Nashville.
She told me about the schedule that these kids were told they MUST adhere to. Wake up at exactly 5:59, take a ONE MINUTE COLD SHOWER, out the door and sell until 9:00 pm. EVERY day except Sundays. On Sundays they were all told by their student managers that they must go to a meeting, which was held at a different location every week. At these meetings they performed what was called execs. These are cult like chants---running in circles, rhythmic hand clapping...below is an excerpt taken from this site (http://www.gatorpressure.com/David/archives/000308.html) which details this bizarre activity: "Executive Exercises.
In the morning, we will do execs at our breakfast spots out in the parking lot or in a nearby open area. We will do them in front of roads or highways, we will do them in front of the restaurant's patrons, and on Sundays when we are at a hotel we will do them in the hotel parking lot.
What are these 'execs?'
Well, they start with someone mentioning execs. That person will usually then raise his hand up in the air shout "ohhhhhhh...hhhhh... Ohhhhhh...!" indefinately while running around in a large circle. Everyone else follows this person doing the same exact thing until everyone is present in the circle.
At that point we will start skipping and singing a song. The song goes --
It's a great day to be a bookman.
It's a great day I know.
It's a great day to be a bookman everywhere I go.
Goodbye no-nevers, goodbye doubts and fears
It's a great day to be a bookman -- be of good cheer.
I feel happy. I feel terrific. I feel GREAT!
Then someone will yell out loud "UH-OH!" and we all will chime in "Book Time!" We all sing/chant this in unison four times while doing a very specific rythmic clap that took me a few tries to get down. (I still mess it up on the really sleepy mornings.) After chanting that four to five times someone makes the conductor's sign for stop and everyone goes silent.
After about three beats another iniative-taking (sic) individual will jump or dance into the center of the circle and yell/scream out, "Now let me see that funky chicken!" at the top of his voice, and everyone else will yell something like, "What's that you said!?!"
This happens three times with slight variations each time based on the whims of the person in the center of the circle. At the end He will say "I said unh..." and everyone in unison will sing "Oooo, ah ah ah oooo; ah ah ah oooo; ah ah ah oooo; one more time now!! Oooo, ah ah ah oooo; ah ah ah oooo; ah ah ah oooo." Or whatever other chant, saying, or sounds that go along with the particular thing that the initiator wanted to "see."
The variations on this are numerous and growing. We come up with new stuff from time to time. I come up with new stuff all the time, because I enjoy execs and I come up with stuff that I think will be fun all the time. Most of the time the stuff I come up with doesn't really pan out, but that is fine because every once and again I'll come up with something really fun and even "classic."
After doing that there are several other execs that we do. Some we only do in a large group on Sundays, but most of the other ones are just thrown in as people remember them. If no one remembers a particular exec it's fine -- it doesn't get done.
At the end of execs we do this thing where we all gather in a circle and get fired up and then we all run off acting like birds, ostriches, video game charaters or bookmen..."
THIS IS A CULT PEOPLE!
So, after hearing this and taking the time to go over the money this gal has made --$400.00 GROSS, she gets 40% of this...she worked 80 hours a week for 4 weeks...YOU DO THE MATH! However, the worst part of this, for the unfortunate foreign students is they get here about $3000+ in debt! They pay for their own way here (round trip), they pay about $600+ for visas and then they pay for the 6 day hotel stay in Nashville to undergo an intensive brainwashing seminar...then they are made to pay for a plane ticket to go to what ever city the company decided to send them to. In this girls case it was half way across the country. She had $26.00 in her pocket when she came to live with us!
I had a mission to look this company up on the internet. So many horrible experiences... But it was just amazing to see how many people write about their wonderful experience selling with this company! This type of Brainwashing, results in an unbelievable, long term psychoses. These people actually believe that coercing individuals to by books, using very persuasive, scripted sales tactics builds character and has helped them for their future. In my book, this is really learning the art of lying, deceiving and and making a buck on nice people who buy items they really don't need out of pity for the sales person or getting totally bamboozled by a slick salesman! Every one of the items the girl who came to my door had in her book bag were available online at a fraction of what she was selling them for! 'MAKE THE SALE IN 20 MINUTES OR LEAVE! As I read through their scripted sales "BIBLE" manual I was just disgusted at the different scripted sales PITCHES these young people were told to memorize! When this gal came to my door, her words were verbatim from page 45 of the sales manual...well at least those that I could understand in her broken English!
To make matters worse, the Southwestern company tells these foreign kids that it doesn't matter if you can speak English well, "ALL THAT MATTERS IS YOUR ATTITUDE!" GIVE ME A BREAK! And through their 6 day, intensive brainwashing seminar, they actually cause these kids to believe this lie!
Then there is the matter of housing. Some of these foreign kids have families who have worked for the SW company host them. But this is very, VERY FEW! The girl who came to my house was asked to leave by the older man who agreed to house her and another girl. When I went to pick up her things from this man, it was a very CREEPY situation. I can't put my finger on it, but when I left his house I had terrible uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach!
Shortly after this girl came to live with us, we found her another job...even though student managers and people from SW made it very difficult for her...people who she thought were her friends were now her enemies. Within 2 days, 4 other students found their way to my house and asked for help to get out of this company and help to to secure housing and jobs.
It was hard to believe the type of life these foreign kids were living...but when I heard the EXACT SAME STORY FROM ALL FIVE, it became appalling! Oh and did I mention the white bracelets they HAD to wear, showing their commitment to this company! All of them had these white bracelets...when you took this bracelet off you were no longer a part of this company!
The kicker to all of this is that the Southwestern company makes them sign a contract--which most do not understand---that states several places that they are NOT employees or agents of this company....NOT EMPLOYEES OR AGENTS! And that they can run their company as independent owners as they see fit. But still, they have been brainwashed into a way of thinking that to be successful in this company they must adhere to the schedule! Yes the unwritten schedule! These kids are told how to micro manage their lives on a minute by minute schedule. This is pounded into their brains by the managers. All 5 of these kids have talked about "KEEPING TO THE SCHEDULE....KEEP TO THE SCHEDULE!" This schedule starts at 5:59 and doesn't stop until they get home and are schedule to contact their managers to report on the number of doors they went to, number of demos they showed (should be 30 a day) how many sales they made--$-- and what their plans are for the next day. This schedule, as precise as it is, is NOT written down by ANY manager and given to these kids. WHY? Because that would be a paper trail showing that this company controls these student's every move even though the contract they signed explicitly states that they are NOT EMPLOYEES and are free to sell these materials anyway they choose!
CULT CULT CULT!
I am getting sick and tired of reading all the canned spam.... about how this job is not for everyone....builds character, long hard hours.... Best experience of my life....And I made lots of money taking advantage of people by selling them materials that were obviously over priced and they didn't really need! Here (http://www.youbyte.com/images/SWC_price.jpg) is a price breakdown for books taken directly from the j1 visa agreement on the Southwestern Q&A page (http://www.southwestern.com/site/international/FAQ.aspx).
ANYONE with access to the internet can see that they are getting ripped off, buying over priced books! Then there is the letter of Endorsement that this company makes these students parents or friend or relative sign. This guarantees that if these kids don't send in the money they receive for books, the signers of this letter of credit will pay this money for them! My group of 5 student has had to spend this money to live as they were averaging less than $1.50 a hour working 80 hours a week---EVEN FOLLOWING THE SCHEDULE! Attitude is everything, who cares if you can barely speak English! I FEEL GREAT, I FEEL AWESOME, I FEEL TERRIFIC! Right? And the people who signed these contracts can not even speak or READ English, but are convinced by their students that this is such a great opportunity for them to come to America and make HUGE amounts of money...remember Americans are different, we just love to buy things from door-to-door sales people!!!!
Ok folks, I really have to wonder with the motivation is behind this company. Really? Why does this company recruit these kids from Eastern block countries...students that barely speak the English language? What is the point? What is the agenda? I understand that the students that came here previously make money on the ones that they recruit to come again, but what is the big picture? I am beginning to believe that it is a conspiracy to see just how far you can warp someone's mind to make them believe an idea and to cause them (normal people) to do things they would never consider doing....like EXECS! This psychoses carries on in some for years after they have worked for this company. Look on line...it is like a mission...recruit, recruit, recruit.... When I asked these kids why they actually took one minute COLD SHOWERS, they all replied, "Because they told us to!"
I sincerely hope that if one of these young foreign students comes to YOUR door, you will do everything in your power to help them escape!
Oh, and I forgot to mention one thing...the company that sponsors the j1 visa for these kids is totally OWNED by the Southwestern company! It is NOT an independent j1 visa sponsor who helps foreign students come to America to work for the summer at any j1 visa appropriate job....it is a company owned by The Southwestern created specifically to bring these foreign students to America to sell door-to-door. Can you say conflict of interest!
"IT WILL BE THE BEST EXPERIENCE OF YOUR LIFE!"....as long as you don't get raped, mugged, murdered, or commit suicide because you're scared, lonely...so far from home, in a foreign country, can't speak the language...deeply in debt, with no money!
Important financial information for ANY FOREIGN STUDENT TO KNOW BEFORE WORKING FOR SOUTHWESTERN!
According to the company, in 2006 the average first-time sales program
participant made a gross (before expenses) profit of $7944 over a
four month summer. Site (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southwestern_Company)
80 hours a week, plus Sundays=88 hrs. wk
15 weeks of summer
1,320 work hours
Gross profit of $7,944.00
Net Profit $40%=$3,177.60
Minus $100 week living expensive=$1,677.60
Your take home is $1,677.60
Do not come to America and spend $3000+ dollars getting here only to be an indentured servant(SLAVE) to the SouthWestern Company!
The numbers above are for average English speaking students. Imagine how little you will make when you can't speak the language!
Post Script: As of the posting of the original text above on my personal website, several more foreign students have contacted me regarding the horrible experience they suffered with the Southwestern company.