Sunday, 16 December 2007

prcrastination for the nation.

So. here we are. after finding out that I'd been conned by the whole Laray Carr Scam I had to leave the world of freelance writing, at least temporarily, and look for a proper job.

Unfortunately, what happened for me was that out of sheer desperation, I ended up working for Platinum Force Promotions. Unfortunately that name is one synonymous with the rather notorious Cobra Group.

oh, wait, thats their rather nice looking official page. try this one instead:

Cobra Group Wikipedia Page

Or Better yet, this one:

Cobra Group Ripoff Report.

Much as I hate to say it, the stuff in the Ripoff Report is almost exactly the same as what happened to me, 200 miles away in Liverpool. I have to admit, I honestly bought into what they were telling me for about a week. then I came to my sense and spent the next three weeks looking for a way out before I finally quit and found a new job.

I have nothing against working door to door. I'm still doing it in fact. but working door to door for 60+ hours a week with no guaranteed wage? Not a chance. never again.

in the time I worked for a cobra office, I made £460. in the time I was there, I put in approximately 246 hours. in four weeks.

that works out at approximately 53p per hour. now, bear in mind that the only time I made a decent paycheck was in my first week, where I was on the "High Rate" (£40 for a duel gas/electric Direct Debit, £20 for cash-quarterly.)

for the next three weeks after that, I made £25 for a duel-fuel direct debit, and 13 for cash quarterly.

after my 30% security bond (in case people cancelled or pulled out) I never made more than a hundred quid in a single week. after three weeks of wearing an expensive suit that I reserved for special occasions. I did no writing for the entirety of that month - at the end of my 10-12 hour day, all I wanted to do was collapse into bed and sleep. sometimes I didn't even have the energy to eat. I was completely miserable. My relationship with my fiance, thankfully, actually became much improved by the situation. although we were seeing each other less, she stood beside me and kept me going. You cant have a relationship come under that kind of pressure and not come out stronger.

see, what they don't tell you is that Cobra takes over your entire Life. this "Self-Employment Opportunity" - the company makes you register as being self-employed in order to avoid paying tax - will leave you with no time to do anything you'd like to do with your life. in the time I was there, I knew of only two people in the entire office who were in relationships - Me and one of the other guys named Gary, who was married. everyone else spent the entirety of their spare time trying to score with the opposite sex. My crew Leader, Bryan, actually set a target for the two people he was going out with from his team (Yes, they literally spent ALL their time together) on how many girls they were going to finger that night in Warrington.

so anyways, after I was kept out knocking fresh doors until 21:20 on my second Monday, I finally lost any liking for the job. Here's a typical rundown of a typical day for me whilst I was working in Cobra:

9:00am: wake up, go for a shower. Get dressed. having to wear a suit every day really just doesn't work for me, especially when I'm walking round the rougher parts of Warrington and Liverpool. I might as well have painted a big "ROB ME" sign on my chest.

10-10:30am: Set off for work. I have to be at the office by 11.

11am-approx 1:00pm: the morning consists of pitch practice with other members of the team. no-one is really allowed to talk production, although the figures are given in "pieces" at the start of the crew meeting - a piece being either gas or electric. this makes it all seem like very high amounts. in my first week I scored 22 pieces. which all sounds well and good until you realise that means I only actually sold to around ten or so people, realistically. During this time, Bryan would normally do a "Sales Impact." where he would try and drum us into doing well for the day. the scary thing is, most of us actually bought into it.

Approx 1:00 pm: Muhammed or "Uzzy", the office owner, comes in and does the morning "meeting." This really consists of him trying to sell the idea of working in these conditions to people. the room has a cult-like atmosphere, and the crew leaders would respond to the random questions he'd throw in.

1-3pm. time to grab a quick lunch and then off to terrirtory for a hard days selling.

3pm-anywhere between 8:30 and 9:30pm: On the doors, working for nothing. on some days I did a single cash quarterly, which meant I made £6 for the entire day. Legally, we are meant to stop knocking fresh doors at 8pm, and then do callbacks. not once, in my entire time at cobra did I stop knocking fresh doors at 8pm. on some occasions, I knocked until past 9pm. it is only legal for salesmen to knock until 8 - charities can knock until 9pm.

9:30pm - 10:30pm: travelling back to the office to do my paperwork. I then had to hand around for the idiotic ritual known as Bells. literally: people who had done a certain amount of sales performed a certain action: 2 sales for a promoters bell, 3 sales for a leaders bell, 4 sales to blow on a hooter and 5+ or a personal best to bang a gong.

10:30 - 11:30pm: I leave the office and catch the bus home. I arrive anywhere between 11pm and midnight. exhausted, I barely taste dinner and collapse into bed, ready to get up at 9am again he next day.

so for that 12+ hours of work, I may be getting as little as £6. sometimes I earned nothing. so thats, lets see, 0-50p and hour. entirely on commission. given that the legal minimum wage in the UK for employees is £5.50, you can see why the company makes you register as being self employed. there were approximately 60 people working out of Uzzy's office. so...

60 X 12 = 720 hours worked.

720 X 5.50 = £3960.

thats one days wages, on minimum wage, for the entire office of field reps. this is before renting the building, paying the administrators and bills, etc. given how Uzzy used to brag that his paycheck was £1000 a day, and he took 100% of the office profits, it shows just how manipulative this system is.

Moving on, to offer comparison:

I'm now employed by Home Fundraising. I'm still doing door-to-door work, trying to get charity sign-ups for worthy causes. It should be noted that Cobra also runs charity campaigns, but on the same commission basis.

At home fundraising, my day consists of the following:

10-11am: wake up at my own pace. usually I receive a text telling me where I need to meet my team at around 11-12. my work uniform consists of Jeans, battered boots and a t-shirt.

1:30pm - 2:30pm. sometime around this I set off to meet my team. the earliest I've ever started for home fundraising, training days aside, was 2:00pm. on those times, I got paid an extra hour for the travel time to distant territories.

3-3:30pm: arrive at territory. usually we have our long break now, at the nearest pub, where we relax and get our gear together for the day.

4-4:15pm: we set out for work.

4:15-9pm. we knock doors. usually there are a couple of quick breaks during the nights knocking. unless the area has been particularly bad, usually everyone is in high spirits - unlike cobra, where no-one is allowed to talk about how many they sell, at HF we actively talk about getting signups, as there is a team-score as well as a individual score. If we get a two-average (Two signups per team member) sometimes we are allowed to leave early, thus giving an active incentive to do well on the night. Unless this happens, at 9pm we stop knocking, as it is ILLEGAL to knock after this time.

9pm: we head for the bus/train and head to either the pub or home. since I dont have to be up early the next day, I can relax and have a nice pint. since my fiance works here too, first one back buys the drinks. everyone is laughing and joking, and no-one has to go if they don't want to - unlike the cobra atmosphere where you are "Encouraged" to stay late.

and thats my day. not counting inner-city travel in Liverpool, I work approximately 5 hours per day, from 4pm to 9pm. I get paid a basic wage of £7.00 an hour to do this. should I get promoted to team leader - unlike cobra's meaningless promotions - I will receive £11 an hour. I have made genuine friends at home fundraising, and NO-ONE eyes up the local schoolgirls. if I get eight signups in a week, I receive a £50 bonus. for every signup after that I receive £30 in bonus.

I didnt mean for this blog entry to turn into an extended rant about cobra and I will say that I have nothing against commission pay - when I was freelancing, it was my bread and butter - but it has to be based upon reasonable working conditions. the Cobra group preys on people who are in desperate need of a job, like I was, to make them money at the expense of the people working for them. In 2005, Chris Niarchos, the head of the Cobra Group, made £359,000. Thats approximately £7000 a week, and his profits have at least doubled since then. I, on the other, was making an average of £70 a week to live on. on those wages, it would have taken me three weeks to make enough to pay my rent.

these days, I make a MINIMUM of £150 a week, after tax (yes, I pay tax now! I never thought I'd be glad to!) with a genuine chance of unlimited earning the better I do. and just as importantly, I am able to spend time with my fiance, play video games, and write again. I'm even getting the chance to finish off a piece of freelance work I started ages ago - and I'm going to send this link to the person who hired me by way of explanation for why the work is so late, since they've been incredibly understanding.

I know no-one really reads this blog, but if you see an advert in the paper worded like this:

Stuck in a rut? Fed up with a boring 9-5, minimum wage and no business progression?
Come and join the team at this friendly Liverpool City Centre based office where the key words are fun, money and success.
As a sales and marketing company we represent national clients and offer fast track progression, a great future and an excellent incentive structure for the more ambitious.
For immediate interview contact Michelle on ********** lines open till late.
Or apply online today!

Don't pick up the phone. just ignore it. only a miserable time awaits you.