Thursday, March 19, 2009

This may very well be the original Endangered Coffee post, even though it was written years before I had heard of this thing called a "Web log"

So here it is, a little something I wrote back about a decade ago, which I have misplaced on numerous occasions, but which my best friend has kindly kept in his e-mail file for nearly 10 years. I don't think Winner's Advertising is around any more, but there I think there are still a lot of similar "promotional" companies out there ...

I should have known.

I should have known right from the get-go that interviewing with a company that schedules anyone who can ready the Sunday paper and dial the phone was a bad idea.
But what the hell, it was a slow Sunday, the future Mrs. EC was working, the football game was on but Bledsoe was doing his best Tony Eason impression, hitting Bills defenders between the numbers when he was getting decapitated by slow-footed linemen, and the help-wanted section of the Globe was sitting in front of me. Why not circle some adds, make some calls and see what happens?

So I get an interview scheduled with Winners Advertising. Winners Advertising. Another sign. I should have known that any company that has to call itself Winners Advertising has some sort of serious corporate esteem problem. Kind of like if I started my own newspaper and called it the Really Excellent Gazette. Who the hell would I be fooling?
Mass interviews. I should have known. One o’clock? Fill out this form and sit with the other half-dozen prospective employees also scheduled for a one-o’clock interview. Christ, I think, this is going to be one of those standing in the mall, holding a clipboard, asking people what they think about Pepsi commercials jobs.
But hey, the actual “pre-interview” went well and helped shoved the initial warning signs to the back of my addled mind.
“You’ll get trained in all aspects of the business- sales, marketing, public relations and management,” I’m told. I’ll be creative, I’ll have people working under me. If I get the job, I’ll be handling accounts and could be moved up to an entry-level management position inside of six months.
Not bad. A job where I can pick up some skills to complement what I’ve learned in my five years as a reporter. Make myself marketable down the line for a wide-range of business and public relations positions.
I get the callback for a second interview later that night. All the warning signs -the mass interviews, the desperately placed phone number in the help wanted section, the cattle call interviews -are a distant memory.

I drop my suit off at the cleaners, I put in for a personal day off from work, I get a haircut, shine my shoes, pick out the best tie to go with my charcoal-striped suit coat. I am ready. I have an extensive eight-hour interview planned so I can view the inner workings of a growing advertising company and have them judge my worthiness for employment.
I am prepared.

Yet still.

I should have known.
Friday morning, 11 a.m. Time has come for my all day interview with Winners Advertising. Still excited, thinking I have a real chance to get somewhere with this company. It’s all due to a positive attitude. See, I tell myself, you really don’t need to carry that protective layering of cynicism around with you.
From this point on, the warning come rumbling back and erupt into a full-fledged code-red, nuclear panic. Within an hour, I’m weighing the possible injuries associated with ditching out of a moving car in Cambridge with the benefits, namely, getting away with everyone and everything that has to do with Winners Advertising.

Within the span of this first hour is when I first realized my guide into the world of Winners Advertising for the day, Todd, was not taking me to meet with high powered business clients about their latest corporate campaingns. Oh no, I was heading to Cambridge to knock on people’s doors to ask them if they were interested in buying coupons good toward free meals at some new restaurant in Kendall Square.
When Todd handed my the little coupon books and made perfectly clear what the day would consist of is when I knew I wouldn’t take a job with Winners Advertising even if I was offered my own Winners automobile and a Winners mansion with a panoramic view of Lake Winner.
And the warning signs before I got to the streets of Cambridge with Todd intent on selling coupon books to all the domestic help and trusting old ladies who happened to be home and open the doors of some very exclusive Cambridge addresses?

Yeah, they were there. Perhaps I’m to blame. Perhaps I had more than enough warning to get back in my Hyundai and putter out of the parking lot before becoming a promotional foot soldier for an afternoon.
Perhaps the fact that Todd looked younger than the student representative on the School Committee I cover. Most likely the fact that when Todd asked when I could start working, giving a two-week notice at my current job didn’t seem like a good enough answer.
“We’re looking for people who can start immediately,” he told me.
Of course. All the best companies are looking for help who can drop their current job at a moment’s notice. If you want to work for a winner, I guess it helps to be unemployed or a transient who can jump right into the high-profile advertising world.
In the car, the warning signs came so fast I quickly advanced from slightly puzzled to dazed to angered to total lack of interest in anything winner-like.

This is all happening while I’m stuck in a car with Todd heading toward Cambridge. Todd quizzes me about my business knowledge in a vaguely condescending way that makes me want to vaguely put my well-polished shoe up his ass. Later, I’ll figure out that this is most likely part of the expert training he has received and that I shouldn’t take his artificial and condescending manner too personally. He was probably scarred with it as part of his Winner training. When I ask him questions, he sees like a reasonably pleasant kid who graduated from URI with a general business degree last spring and started working in the world of winners in August.
Which of course brings up further troubling questions, such as if Todd has only been with the company for three months, hell, if he’s only had a job in the real world for three months, and he’s already far enough up the company ladder to interview prospective new employees, should I worry about how long this company holds onto workers?
At some point shortly after this, I’m suitably unimpressed with the story of how a Winners Advertising saved the New York Yankees for George Steinbrenner by handing out free tickets to 100 home games in 1996.
“Do you know what was going on baseball in 1995 and why baseball attendance might have been down?” Todd asks me in the condescending advertising voice.
Umm, war, strife, disease… a baseball strike perhaps?
Long story short, Winners Advertising saves the day by somehow reaching out to 99% of the people in the New York area and Yankees attendance increases by a huge percentage. Silly me, all this time I thought it was because the Yankees started to put together a killer team in 1996 and won the first of three championships in four years. But, as Paul Harvey would say, now I know the rest of the story.

And on my day to follow one of these saviors of the corporate world around, we are going to establish a new Italian restaurant in Cambridge as the next Olives. By knocking on every goddamn door in Cambridge. During my pre-interview, I was told that Winners Advertising doesn’t do telemarketing. Nope. They go the extra mile in pissing people off by actually knocking on people’s doors in the middle of the day. Why give people the opportunity to hang up on you when you can actually draw them away from whatever their doing in the privacy of their own homes and make them answer the door.

Before leaving the advertising office in Woburn, when I still think I might be applying for a legitimate job I might be qualified for, some exceedingly cheerful manager named Liz tells me to ask lots of questions and gather as much information about the business as possible. Once I’m on the street with Todd, one of the first important lessons I learn from Todd is that Jehovah’s Wintesses usually travel in pairs and are usually well-dressed young man. To combat the negative connotations of being sterotyped as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Todd has me take off my suit jacket and put on a fleece. He also tells me that Jehovah’s Witnesses also stand side by side when they knock on doors, so I’m instructed to hang back a little when we go to houses. Apparently, it’s better to look like a shifty-eyed criminal who is casing a building for a break-in than to look like a religious fanatic. Granted, that probably is a toss-up, but I digress.

By the time I’m wearing Todd’s fleece and being instructed on how to avoid acting like a Jehovah’s Witness, I’ve decided there is no way in hell I’ll ever do this job. I start looking around for any T stations in the area I can make a break for if only I hadn’t left my suit jacket in Todd’s car. I also definitely piss away any chance I might have at getting this job by launching into a rambling monologue about how I like it when Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door because it gives me someone to talk to about my Pembroke Welsh Corgis. I think I also offhandedly use a profanity during the telling of this story, shit, I think. Because I certainly don’t give a shit how I get evaluated by Todd

..and I never did get the job. Todd had to break the news to me that I would not be a winner. Along the way, prior to crushing my winning dreams, Todd tries to sell the coupon books to a grieving family preparing for a funeral, as well as to many housekeepers at some of Cambridge's finer addresses. I am also let into the secrets of selling, which as far as I could figure at the time, consisted of nodding your head up and down in a yes-like fashion whenever you were asking someone if they wanted to buy something.

Oh yeah, we didn't unload one damn coupon book, either.


Blogger A.J.C. said...

My thoughts through reading this were leaning towards Jehovah’s Witnesses, but you actually explained it! LOL!

Funny how we always notice the signs, but ignore them.

I'd like to see where Todd is now... probably with Speedy Delivery...

1:19 PM  
Blogger Suldog said...

Funny FUNNY stuff, EC. I am reminded of my (very) short stint doing boiler room cold-calling to sell subscriptions to the Globe.


2:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I know this post is from years ago, but I'm dying because I actually worked there for a while. Young, stupid, and looking for a real job to get out of bartending. One of the worst experiences of my life. Not only is it all a scam it's a friggin' cult and it's all over the country! Once I got out of there I moved to LA and I remember kids coming in to peddle the same sort of stuff out there... so so scary.

Did you ever get to the weird Juice by You stuff???

5:42 PM  

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