I feel a little guilty for having done this, but
October 28, 2007 1:13 AM   Subscribe

I’ve ratted out my company to a prospective client.

This all started about three months ago, when I was sitting at home, with nothing better to do. My former manager, who quit the company that I’d left (or rather was asked to leave, since I had a hard time selling people stuff which I knew to be valueless), called me up and offered me a job at a new company that was starting up. I was excited, to say the least, especially since he had remembered me from a couple of months ago, and had my number with him, so when he offered me the chance to work with him, I jumped at it (in part because I felt obligated). Also, he told me that the job consisted of making appointments, something which I felt would be a welcome relief, after the soul crushing work of Telecalling.

But, as I later discovered, the appointments that I had to make were reminiscent of Telemarketing—I’d have to call up people, and convince them to give me some of their financial information (their House Market Value; their Mortgage; their Combined Annual Income)—and pitch to them how our company would offer them “Guaranteed Rental Income” on their Rental Properties, which we would arrange for them to buy (investment free—I’m still not sure how that works). Now, this sounded fishy to me, but the management was adamant that it worked, and had us memorize a script which declared as much.

So, my job entailed, calling up people, and setting up appointments with them and one of our senior consultants, who would go and meet them, face-to-face, to explain to them the details of how the proposal would work. To make matters more enticing—they also had us tell the customers how we would take care of everything—finding the tenants, making sure they paid in time, taking care of any damages made to the property… etc, etc. My only problem was, I still felt a little iffy about the whole thing, and so did my customers—who would usually say—“Nothing’s free in this world, mate” or, “If it sounds too good to be true—it is”, which is something that I couldn’t disagree with. So, after about a month of going through the torture of continuous “Not interested”, “Piss off” and the occasional “fuck you”, I finally had a call with someone who works in the Investment industry, and I thought this was my chance to get to the bottom of this. I explained to him my predicament, and he was very understanding about it, and said that it did sound too good to be true, and that if they’re guaranteeing the income, why do they need all the financial information?

So he took down the company’s name, and said he’d do a little bit of digging around. (I’ve made a note of his number, and plan to call him up in a day or two.) Until this point, I felt great—like I was doing the “right” thing, but as soon as I hung up the call, I felt like shit. I know I shouldn’t, that if it’s something that’s not legitimate that I’m involved in—that I have every right to know. But the company did hire me, and I am working for them.

So my question to you is—should I feel guilty for this? Have anyone of you heard anything about Guaranteed Rental Income? Does it work? And, if you were in my shoes, how long would you wait before you made a decision to quit?
posted by hadjiboy to Work & Money (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, to make matters worse, this is the fourth job that I’ll be running out on. The first one was good, but since it dealt with credit cards, I just couldn’t help think of all those people who’re in debt, and how I might’ve been adding to the cycle in some way (which I now realize was not the case, since I was a customer service rep, and nothing more—but it still freaked me out back then). My second job was for a Semi-technical process, and I told them that I’m not very technically astute, but they said I’d be fine (based on my communication skills I’m assuming), and when it was time to hit the floor and start taking calls—I got cold feet, and just couldn’t bring myself to answer peoples’ queries with what scant knowledge that I knew. The third job, was the telemarketing job, which promised people the chance of being employed if they bought a package which would increase their chances of employment by blasting their resumes across the world, but did no such thing, or at least nowhere near to the degree they were promising, since most of the customers would call back and demand a refund. So, that’s a bit of backstory that you need to keep in mind before you answer my questions: I have a habit of doing this sort of thing, and I’m not sure if I may be the best judge of my character.
posted by hadjiboy at 1:20 AM on October 28, 2007

If you're helping rip off innocent people, then you should probably feel guilty.

If you don't know what the hell's going on, but have a suspicion that your company is ripping off innocent people, then you have an ethical obligation to figure out what's going on, if only to rule out the "I'm bilking pensioners out of their retirement funds" possibility.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:21 AM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I wasn’t talking about feeling guilty for having ripped people off, since I’ve only made three appointments since I’ve started working here, and I made sure that the guys who were getting into it knew what they were talking about. They had invested in property before, and they seemed genuinely curious to know what this consultant had to say, if for no other reason than to prove him wrong. I usually hung up on the pensioners, the old folks and the house wives. (What I did want to know was, if I should feel guilty for going behind the company’s back, and asking someone to find out what he could about the company?)
posted by hadjiboy at 1:35 AM on October 28, 2007

Well, if they are up to no good, they're not going to tell you flat out, are they? I think you'd have to go behind the company's back to find out what's going on.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:47 AM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you are just not made for cold sales. You should sit down with a career consultant and start really evaluating why you decided to go into sales in the first place and whether it fits with the rest of your life. There are lots of options, perhaps you could go work in a marketing position that requires none of the cold-selling and calling that you obviously do not enjoy.
posted by parmanparman at 1:54 AM on October 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

Have anyone of you heard anything about Guaranteed Rental Income?

Google has.

From the last hit on that page:

"Be very careful about "guaranteed rental income of x amount of euros for x amount of years".

This is a marketing term only and for the most part is a scam used by developers to reel in buyers. Example, an apartment has a sales value of €60,000. The developer guarantees 8% return for two years, the return therefore is €9,600euros for the two years. The developer then adds this figure to the original sales price to get the sales price you are going to have to pay for the apartment(In this case the apartment is marketed at €69,500). So the cost of the guaranteed rental to the developer is already included in the sales price. It is a bonus for the developer if he does get a rental on the property but in most cases they might be lucky to get a return of 2-3% but closer to none is often the case.

The prospective buyer is hooked by the fact that the developer looks like he is putting his money where his mouth is. Unfortunately, it's the extra money(€9,500) you overpaid initially for the apartment is the guaranteed rental you receive back in the subsequent years without a tenant ever setting foot in your apartment."
posted by prophetsearcher at 2:13 AM on October 28, 2007

"Have anyone of you heard anything about Guaranteed Rental Income? Does it work?"

I have seen these in the UK before and have researched the topic.

Does your employer use an insurance company to vet tenants at all? There are policies that estate agents / management companies can get which will cover costs to evict a sitting tenant, should they not perform in accordance with their obligations.

In terms of covering rent, some management companies will guarantee rent for five years or so, but I've found out all they are doing is contracting with a local council who is desparately in need of space for tenants. Multi nationals housing employees are another source of tenants.

The management company takes a spread, and in my case I was quoted higher rental rates by approaching the local authority directly.

If you put the two pieces together, its easy to see how rental income could be guaranteed during some arbitrary period.

I've been looking at renting out my flat (Zone 2, Central London), and have noticed to get full management with rental income guaranteed I'd look to pay about 15% to 20% costs to the management company.

So there definitely are niches where rental income is guaranteed, but it's not clear from your question if your employer was / is operating in one.
posted by Mutant at 2:39 AM on October 28, 2007

No, you did nothing morally or ethically wrong. You shouldn't/wouldn't feel bad about seeking a second opinion if you thought you weren't getting the best advice from your doctor or lawyer. You wouldn't think there was anything wrong with shopping around for the best price/service for any given product or service. You wouldn't feel strange if you were a customer who thought your bank/doctor/lawyer was behaving unethically and spoke to the authorities for reassurance. So if you think you are being mislead into helping a scam-operation you shouldn't feel bad about seeking the advice of someone who will address your concerns impartially.

That said, doing it on the company's time and phone, particularly if all calls are recorded, probably wasn't the wisest way to go about it.

It sounds like you are just not made for cold sales. There are lots of options, perhaps you could go work in a marketing position that requires none of the cold-selling and calling that you obviously do not enjoy.

If the call-centre environment is one you're comfortable in, apart from the actual calling, you can approach more ethical operations with your c.v. stating you have experience calling and are looking for a different position (team-leader, call/quality verification, etc). If you're comfortable on the phone, there are call-centres that make/take calls you would be more comfortable with (ie inbound customer service calls) that would like to hear from someone
a> with call-centre experience
b> a pro-customer-serice-attitude
posted by Martin E. at 2:57 AM on October 28, 2007

If you're memorizing a script and you're not an actor, then something is fishy. Don't feel guilty.
posted by mpls2 at 3:47 AM on October 28, 2007

Response by poster: prophetsearcher: The thing is they say that “there’s no need to put ANY MONEY DOWN’, “it’s completely INVESTMENT FREE” and “you’re guaranteed rent, every single week, 52 weeks of the year, for upto 15 years.” Is that even possible?

Martin: thankfully, our calls aren’t recorded, so there’s nothing to worry about.

Mutant, I guess I’ll know a little bit more about how the company operates once I call that guy again.
posted by hadjiboy at 4:19 AM on October 28, 2007

It would seem you actually care about people...

Find an industry where people actually give a damn, my poor sweet Possum. :)

So doing things that go against your moral code aren't your thing... :) that's ok.

You shouldn't worry about changing jobs and any silver tongue you've mastered will come in handy down the track. Such a thing always does.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 4:59 AM on October 28, 2007

You should feel guilty about going behind the company's back while on their time. You should definitely check them out on your time.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:14 AM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Whether you should feel guilty is not the important question. Your emotions are usually involuntary responses so talking about whether they are right or wrong generally isn't helpful. The question is: should you be making these phone calls.

First, making sales on cold-calls (which is what you're doing) is very difficult. It's so rare to find someone who can do this well that companies just hire huge roomfuls of people and let survival of the fittest take care of it. Almost everyone doesn't last long in this type of job. So there's nothing wrong with bailing out -- just don't go back to another one.

Next, there's the question of the product your company is selling. The "no investment" part is the red flag for me. Why are you calling these people? If the company doesn't need the prospects' money then why don't they just do whatever it is they do without involving the prospects? If you don't know what it is that your company cannot do without the help of the people you're calling, that's a very bad sign. It's not that you don't understand the company's product -- it's that they haven't told you even the most basic part of what the product actually is.
posted by winston at 6:28 AM on October 28, 2007

IMO, it's fine to check out your company if you feel they're doing something unethical or illegal. But it sounds like sales might not be for you. It's OK, it's not for everyong. Or, you might be a fine salesperson as long as you believe in the product. Nothing wrong with that either; in fact, it's refreshing to see an honest salesperson.

I suggest finding some products and companies you believe in and figuring out how to work for them. Step 1 of that plan would be to get the hell out of telemarketing. Legitimate companies generally don't rely on telemarketing to sell their good and services.

And of course "appointment setting" is code for telemarketing. That euphemism has been around as long almost as telemarketing has. I'm amazed that you didn't know that, having come from a telemarketing background already. People who haven't even done telemarketing know that.
posted by boomchicka at 6:44 AM on October 28, 2007

When I found myself working for a shitty employer, I'd quit. I don't think it's particularily wise to be doubting a company yet continue to work for them. Also-- it sounds like the company didn't bother to explain to you the full deal of whatever it is they are selling and have compartmentalized your duties. You might not be seeing the big picture on the whole thing--might be shady, might not, but since you haven't been clued in on how it all works, you can't say. My brother pays 17% in rental commission to rent out his house during the summer. He doesn't pay anything up front and the company takes care of everything including tenant screening and cleaning between rentals. Your company might be offering something in that vein of property management. Anyway, if the little hairs on the back of your neck are standing up and you feel queasy trying to peddle their product, it is time to quit. You will definately alienate that manager who reached out to offer you a job if it is found out you are bad-mouthing the product you are getting paid to promote. Quit! Turnover in phone sales/appt. selling jobs is very high and nobody is going to hold it against you if you quit, but you will do yourself in by staying and saying bad things.
posted by 45moore45 at 6:55 AM on October 28, 2007

This is a little off topic, but upon reading your additional post, have you considered a job in an academic environment? Admissions or working in a financial aid office require phone skills, but you are "selling" something valuable to prospective students. It seems you don't mind phone work and your experience with the credit card counseling job seems to point to a desire to genuinely want to help the people you are talking to-- apply those skills to a non-profit environment where you aren't feeling ethically compromised every day and I think you would find yourself in a much happier employment environment. Check out any school carefully-- you don't want to end up at a proprietary ("for-profit") school where the phone work would be very much like what you are doing now--roping in people and selling them student loans and programs that aren't in their best interest--stick to state, private non-profit or community colleges. Good luck!
posted by 45moore45 at 7:08 AM on October 28, 2007

You shouldn't feel guilty for "going behind the company's back" but you took a significant risk doing it on company time, with a company phone, to a company contact. Are your sales calls recorded?

As to the larger issue, you're a salesperson who doesn't believe in the product you're selling. (With good reason to be skeptical, I might add). You should quit. And look for a different kind of job, one that doesn't involve selling things you think are a bad idea.
posted by Nelson at 8:03 AM on October 28, 2007

I just reread your post and realized that you did this while talking to a customer who you called to sell your product. Yeah - while I still maintain that it's fine to check out any company you work for, you definitely shouldn't have done it that way. It would not surprise me if this got back to your boss and got you fired. If you don't like this job or company, that might not matter to you, but if you ever want to investigate a company you'd like to continue working for, you'll want to use a little more discretion.
posted by boomchicka at 8:50 AM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

The thing is they say that “there’s no need to put ANY MONEY DOWN’, “it’s completely INVESTMENT FREE” and “you’re guaranteed rent, every single week, 52 weeks of the year, for up to 15 years.” Is that even possible?

It's not possible, they have to be using something from buyers (people you call) otherwise, why involve regular folks at all? Maybe the company buys and manages rental property using regular joes for their credit and in their name, so it's technically "no investment" but it's a huge financial risk all the same.

With anything of this nature I often ask myself if the claims are 100% true and they have figured out a way to make X money from Y, why would you ever tell anyone else about it? If it really worked, wouldn't you just keep the secret to yourself and make boatloads of money?
posted by mathowie at 9:57 AM on October 28, 2007

Ask if you can be trained as one of the experts that visit the home.

You'd learn a lot more about it that way.
posted by Pants! at 12:58 PM on October 28, 2007

I really suggest asking the admins to make this anonymous.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 3:45 PM on October 28, 2007

Get a different job. Nobody will think less of you for bailing on a telemarketing job. Nobody will think less of you for bailing on four telemarketing jobs. Outside of telemarketing firms, everybody is pretty much in agreement that those jobs suck.

Do polls/surveys instead. Work for the Red Cross setting up appointments with blood donors. Work for a charity getting monetary donations. Work for a university admissions office as suggested above. There are loads of phone-based jobs that won't make you feel as though you're taking advantage of people.
posted by joannemerriam at 6:13 PM on October 28, 2007

I work in a call center for a non-profit. There are fulfilling jobs that involve call centers. Telemarketing isn't one of them.
posted by fructose at 6:24 PM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Let us know what you find out. Either way, though, you should start looking for a new job.
posted by Locative at 10:55 PM on October 28, 2007

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