Late September marked the first quarter of in-person and hybrid classes at Bellevue College since the pandemic. For a lot of people, this meant the first time that they had classes on campus rather than online. Isn’t it cool to finally see what a college’s campus is like after having already gone there for a year? The classrooms, the buildings, the student union, and all of those flyers posted around campus give people a sense of normalcy. But among the posters for classes, clubs and other activities lies an innocuous little flyer that simply says “WORK FROM HOME POSITIONS: Part-Time or Full-Time Positions Available.” The poster then goes on to promise pay above the minimum wage (which is $13.50 in Bellevue) flexible schedules and travel and scholarship opportunities. It all seems like a great thing for a college student, especially one who needs money for tuition or to get back on their feet after the pandemic. It seems too good to be true.
When the QR code on the flyer is scanned, it takes the user to a website called “Work For Students,” which promises that students can start working within the week they apply and that no experience is necessary. However, after a closer look at the fine print, the website appears to be run by Vector Marketing, which uses multi-level marketing to sell Cutco knives and other kitchen products. So, what is a multi-level marketing company? To put it simply, a multi-level marketing company is a type of company that relies on sales representatives to sell the company’s products to their family, friends, or acquaintances. At the same time, recruiting new people to act as sales representatives for the company so that those who recruited them can get a percentage of whatever sales commissions they make. Those new sales representatives then buy or loan products from the company in order to start selling, and the cycle continues anew. That means that the people at the top of the pyramid make the most money, while those at the lowest part of the pyramid rarely see anything that could be considered an income. Well-known examples of companies that use this strategy are Amway, Herbalife, doTerra, and LuLaRoe, the latter of which has been described as a “leggings scam.” It is worth noting that a documentary on the company called “LuLaRich” is available on Amazon, which takes a deep dive into how former members’ experiences with deceptive and predatory practices by the company.
On the Work for Students website, there is a link that sends visitors to the Better Business Bureau, where a few red flags start to appear. Vector Marketing has a 2.3-out-of-5 star rating based on customer reviews, but even though the reviews are said to be from customers, a large portion of the reviews seem to be from former distributors. Those reviews allege that Vector Marketing had them give a list of contacts that they could sell Cutco products to or recruit as new distributors. Some complaints even accused Vector of continuing to use their name to contact people on their contact lists even after they left Vector Marketing. But most troubling of all, some reviews have alleged that they did not get paid while they were trained or had trouble getting paid in general. Unsurprisingly, there were numerous complaints claiming predatory recruiting practices targeting high school and college students. While all of those complaints have been resolved, a clear pattern of behavior has started to emerge. But complaints to the Better Business Bureau are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to questionable employment practices.
Vector Marketing was sued by distributors who were not paid for three five-hour days as part of an in-person training program, which violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. Vector Marketing argued that they didn’t have to pay those employees because they were not employees, and therefore not entitled to wages, much less minimum wage or overtime. The case was settled for 6.75 million dollars and Vector Marketing did not admit to any liability. At the same time, other college newspapers have warned about Vector Marketing exploiting college students and using predatory recruiting practices, showing that Vector Marketing is at the very best predatory and at worst a scam.
But besides the questionable labor practices, it is worth discussing that the flyers posted around the main campus didn’t have Vector Marketing listed as the employer, despite most other employment flyers clearly listing the organization that was recruiting new employees. At the same time, the posters used a similar style and color scheme as actual job resource posters put up by the college, along with many other approved posters in the school. It might just be a coincidence, with it being a possibility that everyone decided to use the same design style from Canva. But the theory that someone saw a similarly colored and designed poster and decided to create a flyer that looked similar to actual approved flyers cannot be disproven. The problem that arises from that is students who see those posters believe that Bellevue College believes that Vector Marketing is a good employment opportunity for students. All of this shows that the tactics used by Vector Marketing are at the very least predatory, and showcase questionable ethics.
At the end of the day, everyone reading this is going to need to go into the workforce and earn money, and even if it isn’t with Vector Marketing, there are still good rules of thumb to follow when looking for a job. Two of them include the idea that if you need to pay money for a job, it’s not a job, and if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. It’s best to keep that in mind the next time a random flyer promises well-paying jobs for college students with everything a college student could possibly want. After all, the last thing anyone wants is to get scammed.