One marketing company’s presence on Loyola’s campus has some students skeptical.
Vector Marketing, founded in 1981, sells knives from CUTCO Cutlery by employing independent contractors. The company actively recruits people, and 85 percent of its sales representatives are students. The independent contractors set up one-on-one meetings with potential customers and are given a base pay for each appointment as well as commission for sales.
Vector recruits at Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus and did so at a table in the Damen Student Center earlier this month. Kathryn Jackson, the director of Loyola’s Career Development Center, said the university’s relationship with Vector goes back more than eight years.
The company has been subject to controversy over its methods for training sales representatives and has faced lawsuits for requiring unpaid training of its independent sales contractors. In a 2014 lawsuit, a group alleged that this requirement violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, which establishes minimum wage, overtime pay eligibility, recordkeeping and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in federal, state and local governments, according to the Office of Financial Management’s website.
Multiple online forums, such as indeed.com, have described Vector as a “scam” and a “pyramid scheme.”
Sai Cheekireddy, a fifth-year biology and bioinformatics double major, worked for Vector for five months in 2014. He said he thought Vector was a scam because, during training, Vector asked him to provide contacts of people he knew. Those people were then recruited.
“There was an app, which I don’t have downloaded now, obviously, it’s a Vector app … Once you sign up, it uploads all your contacts to their server and every summer they call all my contacts and say [I] recommended you for this job,” said Cheekireddy, 23.
Mary Ann McGrath, the interim department chair of marketing at Loyola, explained that with a pyramid scheme, salespeople are responsible for recruiting new employees and earn additional profits based off of their recruits’ sales.
Joel Koncinsky, a public relations manager for Vector, described Vector Marketing as a single-tiered direct selling company.
“We offer commission to sales reps for the selling of products – not for the recruitment of their friends.” Koncinsky said.
Sai Cheekireddy, a fifth-year biology and bioinformatics double major, worked for Vector for five months in 2014. He said he thought Vector was a scam because he felt that Vector’s claim that students could make $17 per hour was misleading.
“You only make $17 an hour if you signed up for Vector when the company first started and nobody else heard of Vector knives,” said Cheekireddy.
Koncinsky made it clear that the $17 hourly sales rate is inaccurate.
“We’re not sure how the rumor started that we pay an hourly rate because we’ve never offered to pay an hourly wage since 1981,” said Koncinsky. “Our reps earn a commission for sales made and we also offer a guaranteed base pay per qualified appointment.”
The base pay for an appointment in Chicago is $17, according to Koncinsky.
Loyola student Melissa Aristoza, a junior social work major, went through training with Vector and decided not to work for the company. She said that when she called to inform Vector of her decision, the company was persistent in trying to make her change her mind.
“It seemed to me like they were making excuses to try to make me stay, to the point where they were badgering me and being belligerent and disrespectful towards me, and at that point, I was getting very frustrated and I hung up,” said Aristoza, 20.
Loyola’s Jackson explained that Vector is a multi-level-marketing company (MLM). An MLM pays its salespeople commission from the sales of people it recruited, according to Investopedia, an online resource for finance. These types of businesses sometimes face criticism, according to Jackson.
“There’s controversy surrounding most MLMs,” said Jackson. “I’m not surprised at that at all. What they say about Vector is what they say about Avon, Mary Kay, Juice Plus [and] Rodan and Fields. MLMs aren’t for everyone.”
Jackson explained that sales positions also might not be a good fit for everyone.
“A lot of sales jobs get a bad rap because it takes a really specific kind of personality to enjoy sales, and if you don’t enjoy sales, it’s not usually a pleasant experience,” said Jackson.
The Career Development Center (CDC) is attentive to student feedback, according to Jackson. Any complaints about employers will be looked into, and action will be taken if there is a pattern. There has been only one reported complaint about Vector Marketing in the past eight years, Jackson said.