Students question company’s business practices

by Bella Ross, Staff Writer

Website can be seen on poster boards across San Diego State advertising $18 an hour pay, no need for experience and flexible scheduling.

This website is connected to Vector Marketing, a national company whose goal is to sell Cutco knives.

Accounts from past employees show mixed opinions on the legitimacy of the business, many claiming Vector Marketing is a pyramid scheme.

“I would say it probably is a pyramid scheme, that’s what it looks like,” kinesiology junior Haig Yeghiayan said. “You have to be smart enough to siphon through the information they’re telling you.”

However, SDSU Real Estate lecturer Mark Goldman said he does not believe this is the case.

“A pyramid scheme is when there’s no actual product or wealth created,” Goldman said. “You build a pyramid where the people at the bottom pay-in and that money goes to someone higher up in the pyramid than you are so they can make money.”

Cutco sales professional and 2012 SDSU alumnus Eric Gillman disagrees with critics.

“It’s not a pyramid scheme,” Gillman said. “It’s a direct sales company with a spectacular product. The negative stigma comes from a lack of understanding because it’s not a typical job.”

Gillman said the company chose to work with college students due to their ability to learn from the position.

“The reason we work with college students and young people is because the flexibility of the scheduling and because the training is really top-notch for an 18-year-old to get the type of sales and professional training that we offer,” Gillman said.

He said Vector Marketing must recruit a large number of students because the demographic can be unreliable. Many students drop the job quickly after they are hired, Gillman said.

Recruiting members is something previous Vector Marketing employee and doctoral student Charles Marks said seems to be key to the Vector Marketing business model.

“You make more money recruiting new people than you do selling the knives,” Marks said. “They’re incentivized to hire more people because, the more people who join, the more people who buy knives.”

Marks said he purchased a $180 knife demo kit in order to work for the company.

“You have to pay to start working, then there’s not actually a guarantee that you’re going to make money,” Marks said.

Marks said oftentimes he would not get paid even when he made a sale.

“You can give things away for free (in order to help you make a sale), but it cuts out of your commission,” Marks said. “The company makes money because I sold it, but I didn’t make any money because, in order to sell it, I gave away a bunch of stuff for free. (The company) always makes the same amount of profit while the employee loses the amount of money they make.”

Yeghiayan said he did not have any start-up costs, but was not paid for three mandatory training sessions.

Marks said he was called for a group interview 20 minutes after applying. He said the employers hired him with minimal information.

“You get there and there are 20 other people in the room also thinking it’s an interview,” Marks said. “Genuinely, I think everybody (at the interview) really wanted a job. But, there’s no point where they ask, ‘Do you want to work here?’.”

Yeghiayan said, although he was confident Vector Marketing had questionable business practices while he was employed by the company, he made the job work for himself.

“I could get $20 per an appointment, no matter whether I made a sale,” Yeghiayan said. “So, I just made as many appointments as possible.”

The ability to profit off of making appointments is one of the main reasons Goldman said Vector Marketing is not a pyramid scheme.

“They’re recruiting sales people and it seems to me that somebody is going to get paid per appointment that they set,” Goldman said. “If they’re good at setting appointments, then they’re going to make money.”

Goldman said he does not think sales is a job for everybody, and this may be the reason so many students have questioned the Vector Marketing business model.

“Not everybody is a sales person, and it’s a sales job,” Goldman said. “The job isn’t for most people. Most people don’t like to do sales.”

Yeghiayan said, despite his relative success working for the company, Vector Marketing does not make it easy for employees to succeed.

“You need to be very smart with it because they’re only going to tell you what you want to hear,” Yeghiayan said. “They leave a lot of important details out.”

Marks said the pay system was more difficult than the company made it sound.

“It’s a combination (of commission and hourly pay), but it requires you to log your hours in a way that’s really difficult,” Marks said. “I don’t think it’s fair for them to state an amount you’ll make, because there’s no real guarantee you’ll make money.”

Gillman said people should try to avoid letting accounts from their friends or others on the internet keep them from considering Vector Marketing as a future employer.

“Before you make any decision, take some time to actually look into it instead of looking at what your friend might have said, what one person might have had a poor experience with, or something you might have read on the internet,” Gillman said.

Gillman said he stands by Vector Marketing and their ability to provide unique opportunities for young people.

“There aren’t even two sides to it,” Gillman said. “If you just look at opportunity as it is, you’ll come around to see a 70-year-old company that gives millions of dollars out in commissions and hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships and has done some really incredible things.”