Report: #222416

Complaint Review: The Cobra Group - Internet

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  • Reported By: Hampton Park Other
  • The Cobra Group

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I've read some of the experiences of those who had dealt with Cobra, so I thought that I might as well add my own seeing as reading other's experiences was a factor in my decision to leave the company. My experience wasn't horrible, and in my short time there I learned a lot of lessons and believe that I have become more resilient as a person. This, however, does not excuse The Cobra Group's deception and lack of decency. My experience was also unique because I came at a time when they launched a new partnership, but more on that later.

Cobra is a huge marketing company which deals with 'human commercials'. When I say huge, I mean huge! According to their website, they created $5 billion in revenue for their clients. They're obviously very good at what they do. They have offices in 20 countries worldwide, and my experience comes from an office in Australia.

Despite the fact that they are a huge company, Cobra officially employs very very few people. Most of their workers are actually independent contracters. In the case of Cobra, this means that they waive all responsibility for their workers, so if anything happens while their doing the job, they're on their own. Cobra is also quite unique in that individuals can open their own offices, but more about that later, here's how I would best describe Cobra's layout for a typical worker:
COBRA > Individual Office > Independent Contractor.

The individual office can be named anything, and I mean anything! HDC group, ROK corp, Lizard Queen group... you name it! (These aren't real by the way, not to my knowledge.)

Cobra Group offices rarely ever use Cobra Group in their ads, and instead use their individual office name, which I find strange at least because for such a huge company, you'd think that they'd want to affiliate themselves with their 'mother'. They are also targetted at those who have little experience in sales, little managerial skills, do not hold uni degrees and so forth. Basically it's a very attractive ad, which sounds almost too good to be true, so naturally you apply for it because you're looking to do something different and think to yourself 'What have I got to lose?'

So I applied for the job before I went to bed, which would have been around 5.00AM. At 9.00AM I received a call on my mobile from a number I didn't recognise. I was way too tired so I switched it on silent. I didn't have a great day, so when I received a call from the same number I couldn't be bothered answering the phone. The next morning I received yet another call, so I picked it up mostly out of curiosity. The lady was pleasant enough, and after a few vague questions about my past experience, told me that they were very excited about meeting me (Really? A guy who'd been unemployed for the last 3 months, has worked only in hospitality and warehouses would get you THIS excited?), so I thought that was a little strange, but whatever. I arranged an interview with them for the next day. That did set off some alarm bells, but it actually made me very curious about the company.

Well I arrived nice and early for the interview and filled out the usual forms you do when you go for one. The office was actually really nice, and for the first time, I was not nervous for an interview. At this point, I should mention that one of the other people going for an interview was dressed in a crummy t-shirt and tracksuit pants and shoes that were beyond disrepair. You'll see why later. Well anyway, my turn for an interview came up, but it was a double interview.

The interviewer, lets call him Jason, was a really pleasant bloke and did most of the talking. The questions asked were basically the same ones asked on the phone. So I was really surprised that I got invited to an Observation Day, the next day no less. In fact, both me and the other girl got it, but she smartly never showed up. I however, did.

The next day I came back to do an Observation Day. Basically what this means is that I follow around one of the more successful people and watch the workings of the job. As I later discovered, this basically allows people to run away and never return, but those who don't returned are said to have been let go because of their bad attitude. The guy who would become my team leader, lets call him Scotty, showed me what looked to be like a fun day, even though to get to the field (Oh yea, it was door knocking) it took nearly an hour by car.

What they did when they got onto the field was to split their turf up and then start the door knocking. The weather was a bit chilly but nothing to complain about. Scotty was a really bubbly, bright and was very enthusiastic. At this point he told me that at 19, he was making $800-$1,200 per week on average. The gross GDP for each Australian is around $32,000 a year.. so earning $52,000 a year was a lot for a 19 year old. I do have my reasons now for thinking that he's full of it.

In any case, on the way back to the office, he asked me what I thought of doing 6 hours of work and earning possibly $200 a day. Obviously it sounded great. So when it came down to second interview time, I was made to wait. This time the owner of the office, lets call him Max, was the interviewer. Again, a few vague descriptions of what the job encompasses, and then he told me I got the job. I was pretty ecstatic I have to say. He then proceeded to tell me that I was one of two who got hired that day, which made me feel even better.

The day I accepted the job was also the last day that Cobra were doing their campaign with a certain telecommunications company. So I would be working with the new campaign at the same time everyone else was. It put us all on a level playing field and this made me feel good. However, for the launch of the new partnership, Cobra required us to attend a 3 day seminar in the city. It was a 9 - 5 thing, that some of us were re-imbursed $100 for.

Remember the guy I mentioned earlier in the tracksuit pants and raggedy tee? He also got the job. Again, I ignored the alarm bells, and besides, it was none of my business who this company chose to employ, but like any normal person, it did strike me as odd. Getting down to business, my first day on the field was a little crazy. We'd just finished the last day of the seminar which ran from 9 to noon. Then we had to go back to the office and then go out onto the field, which we reached around the time of sunset, at 6 I believe. Basically I was partnered up with another guy who was there for only 2 weeks, but he seemed to know what he was doing. I made my first pitch too, through a bloody intercom. Needless to say I didn't make any sales, but the guy they buddied me up with didn't make any sales either.

When you start, Cobra give you the impression that you're only working 6 hours in a day, and that you don't have to do weekends. That's what I was told. Reality was, I was in the office each day at 11, and I left the office around 10 every night. That's 11 hours each day, 6 days a week and if my math is any good that's 66 hours per week.

The first part of each day consisted of practising your pitches, attitudes, cheering those on who had made good sales on the previous days and basically trying to get everyone hyped up. One of the earliest phrases I learned was JUICE! [J]oin [U]s [I]n [C]reating [E]xcitement! I did tell my friends that this part was odd after my first day, and I felt almost like I was in a cult.

Then everyone gets a map of their turf and we split off into groups. The drive to each area could take as little as 10 minutes to as long as 80 minutes. On my second day I decided to jump in the deep end and go for it. I had a great time, had a few laughs, made no sales. On our way back to the office the 'high-rollers' were teaching me a few techniques, what to say, what not to say and such. By this time I felt like I was very close to these guys, even though I'd only met them on Monday, and it was by now Thursday...

Back at the office, more encouragement, targets for the next day and I went home.

The next day was much the same, except this time when I got back to the office they were doing their traditional gong and bell thing. Basically, everyone stands in a massive circle and people who reached target sales of $120 would ring the bell, and those who did $200 would smash the gong. It was kind of cheesy but it worked, everyone got really excited.

They asked me if I wanted to work the Saturday, and initially I said no because it was 'optional' and I wanted a break over the weekend. Then they put the 'guilt' trip into me and told me that 'if you don't put the hours in you'll never make it anywhere'. A sort of intimidation technique, so I reluctantly said yes.

I also became close to one of the girls at work, and we'll call her Sarah. Another girl who I became close with was Sonia.. well that's what I'm calling her.

That Saturday I went to work and made no sales. So basically in my first week (including the seminar hours), I did six days, 62 hours and came home with nothing. I wasn't actually annoyed either. The people there were awesome and quickly became like a family to me... so I couldn't wait for Monday to roll around.

On Tuesday I made my first sale. When I came back to the office, I was given a hero's welcome. That night, I rang the bell because I had made my very first sale, and it felt great. I began to notice by this point that Scotty never rung the bell meaning he was making less than $120 a day, a far cry from the $200 average he claimed. This was later confirmed by Sarah who didn't take to him too well.

So I went home feeling like I was king of the world, despite the fact that I had just worked 11 hours for $90. I didn't see it that way though, I saw it was 6 hours of fun and $90 as a bonus.

The next two days we actually were told to get into the office by 9, and by the time we left the office, because our turf was far far away, it was nearly 11. Effectively 14 hours of work. I didn't make a sale on Wednesday and Thursday, and came home feeling a little down. A talk with Sarah made me feel a lot better, and I resolved to make Friday a big one.

On Friday, I made 3 sales, and $165 dollars, and because I had made 5 sales in the week, an incentive from the company was to give a bonus $100 to anyone who could make 5 sales by the end of the week. I made it so I was even more happy. $355 was what I earned that week, and at this point I was so sure that I could earn even more next week. Even reach my personal target of $150 average per day! I even told my friends so that night when I was having drinks with them.

I was then surprised that they wanted me to work on Saturday. I declined, Monday and Tuesday were public holidays, but I was told I can come in on Monday instead. It didn't sound like I had a choice, so I came in on Monday.

On Saturday Max rang up and hassled me about not coming in, but again said Monday was fine, he's not fussed. I thought that was a little odd, but whatever. Back to bed. I woke up in afternoon, and decided to research the company a little bit. I found this site and at first was in denial. 'These people don't know what they're talking about!' I thought.

I kept reading, and reading and suddenly realised that everything that was being detailed was what I was going through. It actually frightened me. Then I started going through everything they had told me and all of a sudden everything fell into place. I had to quit before it was too late. Less than 12 hours ago I envisioned myself making $150 a day the next week.

Later that day I found something else out that would change my life, but I'm not going to say it in here.

On Monday I slept in, because I really didn't want to go in, but when Max called up, I really couldn't say no. His attitude shocked me actually, he used language that could only be described as abusive. Basically I was bullied into work. I had things on my mind so I didn't perform that day at all. I visited very few houses, and with quitting on my mind as well as the other personal issue, I could not continue working.

I confided in one of the other guys and he seemed to really understand, I also confided in Sarah, so I got back to the office that night hoping to see Max and tell him that I can't keep working. Instead I talked to Scotty. Although it didn't seem like it at the time, his message to me was clear, 'You're a loser if you quit'. Max wasn't in so I got home and decided I needed to leave a message on the answering machine, I didn't have anymore time to waste. I left a message on the answering machine, and I did expect a call from him on Wednesday morning, but I was totally shocked at the events that were to unfold.

Okay, I so I slept in again and didn't hear my house phone ring. My mum actually picked up the call and spoke to Max. What my mother told me was actually quite shocking.

Max had called up to speak to me, and my mother has never been one to take s**t from anyone, so she told him to calm down and told him to mind his manners when he was speaking to her. He then started abusing her, telling her that she was stupid to have such a lazy son (I'd rather be lazy than working 66 hours per week and making $400), and that I was stupid and that I had no future without the company. What I woke up to was my mother screaming over the phone. She barged into my room and told me what had happened. Oh, and he also told her because of the contract I had signed on my first day, I would have the give him $1,000 because that's what I owed him... okay, I'll explain this part later.

I didn't know what to say my mother was obviously outraged, and I felt like s**t after that. In my mind I plotted revenge. I actually thought I was going to go over that morning and stab him, obviously I did not.

To clear my mind, I went out and just chilled with a few friends.

**I OWE HIM $1,000?**
Well basically this is how it works with cobra companies. From your first payments, they retain part of your payment up to the value of $1,000. This is the bond money and it's basically their security blanket. If a customer I had signed up decides to cancel within the next three months, then they take it out of my bond money. I had earned around $400 that last week I worked. According to my contract, the boss can actually ask for the $1,000 legally and withhold it for 3 months. My mother was told that unless I gave him $1,000 I would be taken to court (which i haven't, thus far).

I quit in November, so to get what's rightfully my money, I need to ring them up again in February.

Well this was my last real contact with the company, I rang up expecting to speak to Max, but instead the office admin answered the call, thankfully. She was really pleasant about the situation, of course I don't think she knows about Max's verbal tirade, but that didn't matter to me. She told me that instead of me paying them $600 now and receiving $1000 later, it'll just be a lot easier if they retained my $400 til February. Fair enough. Then I went to drop off my things and that's the last I've heard of Cobra since.

Sonia was also fired on Wednesday, and I had a heart to heart with her. She realised the same thing I did. For most of the workers, all this company does is build up your hopes and dreams. To get to the upper levels you have to take advantage of those below you. To make good money you must rip off those below you. To get to ownership you must manipulate those that work for you. In the end, to me at least, I couldn't live with myself if I was forcing 20 people to work for me for 60 hours a week each and giving them $500 each on average.

Well I do have to say I was a little shattered. From the moment you walk into the office, everything is a farce, they outright lie to you. What they teach you to market to the consumer also appies to the job. The 5 impulses: Greed, Indifference, Fear of Loss, The Jones' Theory and Sense of Urgency.

Greed: They tell you that you can make $1200 for working as little as 30 hours a week.
Indifference: They don't care if you take the job, if you don't want it someone else will take it.
Fear of Loss: If you don't take this opportunity someone else will, and by then it'll be too late for you to change your mind.
The Jones' Theory: I like this one, the majority of us that work make $30,000 to $40,000 a year. This company offers us the chane to make an uncapped amount. So in essence we're not just keeping up with the Jones's, we're surpassing them.
Sense of Urgency: The quicker you start the quicker you an start making money for yourself.

They do what they do very well.

Like I said, right up until the end I would say that my experience was rather good. I met some really great people, and I do feel more confident now. I express myself more clearly and now know where I want to go. All this in 2 weeks? Is it possible? For my, yes.

Oh I should also mention that going to and from work actually sent me broke. In the two weeks that I made $400, I spend roughly $10 a day on lunch, and per week, $60 on petrol.

So what am I doing now? I've just began working again. Basically I'm an office all rounder. The job pays $35,000 per year plus incentives. I also make a few sales here and there and the comission is added onto what my base salary is, which in itself is nothing to complain about. The best part is that it takes me 10 minutes to get to work. My advice to you if you're in COBRA, RUN! Get out while you can. If you're currently owner or leader, just think about what you're doing to the lives of other people.

Hampton Park

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 11/27/2006 12:38 PM and is a permanent record located here: The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year. Ripoff Report has an exclusive license to this report. It may not be copied without the written permission of Ripoff Report. READ: Foreign websites steal our content

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#1 UPDATE EX-employee responds

My experience wasn't that bad at all, but it wasn't a success story either.

AUTHOR: Jaffle - ()

I worked for Cobra Group for just over 2 months.

Obviously it wasn't THAT great because I wasn't there long :) However the owner of my chapter was an awesome human being and not the least bit the monsters described here. I made ok money at first, then pretty good money for about a month or so - pretty close to what they were promising.

But it was exhausting work and the hours were awkward (not that long, usually 2pm-10pm. But the late start and late finish didn't really work in well with me having a kid). After making good for a few weeks I think it was home life stress among other factors that caused my sales to pretty well flatline for nearly 2 weeks, so I quit at that point and the boss was very understanding.

I timed it well too, I got flown over with a small group to their annual conference in Sydney. The boss paid for the trip! It's funny, sales for myself and a lot of others slumped straight after that conference, I think it had the opposite to the indended effect seeing the few who were making millions out of the company.

I would actually recommend this job if you are keen to get out of your comfort zone, break social barriers, become more social, and learn how to sell yourself. Not other stuff, yourself. To sell stuff you gotta sell your own charisma.

BUT you gotta walk in with your eyes open:

- make sure you're making a decent amount per sale. Making sales at $30 a pop is hard work! I was making $60 per sale, the other campaign in the office was making $200 per sale. That meant I could make only 3 sales in a day and come out smiling.

- make sure you're selling a product that people are going to buy at the door. Do some research if you need to before you say yes. Sometimes I think they do a sales job on themselves about how sellable the product is ;) judge for yourself, don't blindly let them assure you it's an easy sell.

- make sure you check out the deal with the bond etc. Mine was only $400 and as I said my boss was really good about it.

- make sure you're ready to give 100%. It's very much a get out what you put in kind of thing.

- make sure the boss is a good sort, not manipulative - and by extension, everyone else, since everything going on in the office is an indication of the way the boss is. Listen - make sure they aren't ringing any alarm bells for you. 

- make sure you can choose the days you work. It's a get out what you put in thing, so you should be able to pick and choose the days you do it as I did.
- don't be in there too long! Be ready to move up or get out after a couple months tops. In my office out of a couple dozen people there there were a couple making really good money for many months, but if you're like me and you start flatlining, don't waste your time. 

Remember that Cobra is a big group with lots of little "owners". It's going to be down to who the owner is you work with how pleasant your experience is going to be.

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#2 UPDATE EX-employee responds

UK Experience

AUTHOR: squizzie - (Australia)

I used to work for a branch of this organisation in the Peterborough area of the UK. Basically my experiences were very similar, with the exception of the bond which would come straight out of the amount of each sale made (in the form of 30%). This bond would then be later returned minus the cancellations.

The owner of the business expected everybody's lives to revolve around it, even to the point of having most of the staff living in his house (which later resulted in one of them making an unsubstatiated claim about misconduct of bond money) and people were being told what they could and couldn't do in the evenings after they (eventually) finished work.

Contractors were told that they were building their own business and that this takes time and effort, so whenever any costs were incurred or queries were raised about the way of operating they were reminded of this, or when the business owner wanted someone to surrender a sale to another member of the team to 'motivate' them, they were told this, but business hours and days of work were dictated by the owner, who also took a vast proportion of the sales money.

On retrospect, I am horrifed at the amount of manipulation I was subjected to even to the point of me manipulating others without even realising it. I got friends into the business (which also horrifies me) and they would pitch in their sleep it would get so deep into their brains (as it did mine).

It got to a point where we ran out of territory and were using another site's, we ended up a good two hours drive away and as the driver this meant an extra four hours on my day. At this point I should also mention that this was during winter, as well, which in the UK is not a lot of fun if you're exposed to the elements for a good eight hours a day.

By the time I was home it wasn't until after 11, I was exhausted from a day of running (literally) from door to door to door (you are strongly encouraged to see 100 people per day), driving and convincing people to sign up for a product that had some bad connotations attached and I ended up getting lesions all over my mouth and being generally weak due to malnutrition as a result (severe enough that even water stung a LOT).

During my time of being bed ridden, I woke up a little, and realised what was happening to a very minor extent, yet despite this the decision to leave was still not easy, I had my own place and no job to go to, I really enjoyed the company of a lot of the people I was working with and had learnt a lot. I went back to work when I was (mostly) better and struggled acutely to last the day, both mentally and physically. Some part of me had made the decision to get out and I did so, which, to date is still the best decision I have ever made.

Cobra group is, for all intents and purposes a pyramid scheme and it only gets around the laws preventing these through loopholes. It can teach very valuable skills, but it is certainly not the only way for people to succeed, irrespective of their qualifactions. The descriptions of feeling like the individual is in a cult are widely shared and, logically, not far from the truth (except in this case the deity worshipped is currency).

For interest, since getting out of Cobra, I have moved inter-hemisphere, worked my way up to a management role (through helping people rather than manipulating them), begun a bachelor degree and taken out a mortgage. Part of me thinks that the skills I got from Cobra laid the foundations for some of this, but more of me thinks that Cobra did a lot more damage than it did good (I still have the occasional nightmare about the place and get occasional flashbacks as well as other symptoms, not inconsistent with post traumatic stress disorder).

In short, if you're in there, GET OUT; if you have any legal or political clout, this is definitely something you should be looking into and if you're looking at getting into it, don't, or make sure you keep a very very very close eye on yourself as it's far too easy to get drawn in without even realising.

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#3 UPDATE EX-employee responds

The Cobra Group's mental game.

AUTHOR: Hosli - (New Zealand)

That all is so bloody true, i have been with Cobra Group New Zealand Charity division for over a month and i quit recently.

i will write my story later but i really want to warn the newbies at this business.. company policy, YOU DONT EVEN GET PAID for your sales in the first while untill you pass the test (two weeks for me), so in case you decide to pull out soon they keep your money!

If you dont do well for a while you'll get the bad vibes from the owner so when you quit they get to keep your money. i have never been paid for the 5 sales i made during my time in there, even though i passed the test already. i was being ignored when asking for it and never been given the payslip either.

Had a great time with the people there, improved my communication skills, but didnt want to get myself more involved in it as i sensed that people start to mentally change and also start to lie and cover up after a short time being there.

Cobra Group.. what kinda company name is that anyways! had the doupts myself when i first heard of it, no wonder why they dont mention it in the newspaper ads haha!
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#4 UPDATE EX-employee responds

To a "T"

AUTHOR: Bullboy - (Australia)

I worked for the Cobra group from an office in St. Kilda. Everything in the report is correct, also the sites that you work at have different grades. What i mean by this is if its a grade A site then that site is going to do far better than a B or C grade site, your not told this when you first start because they always put you at A grade sites so your more likely to do well and make more money for the Owner.

They take advantage of young people by dangling all these hopes and dreams in front of your face, making you work long hours for terrible pay. Something should be done.
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