Direct sales offices mentioned in this interview:
- Duco Global Limited (Birmingham, UK), FKA Praetorian Marketing Limited (Birmingham, UK)
- Transform Outsource Limited (Coventry, UK)
- Citipeak Promotions Limited (Birmingham, UK), AKA Citipeak Events Limited (London UK), AKA Citipeak Events & Promotions Limited (London, UK)
- City & Co (London, UK), FKA Citipeak Promotions Limited, although the office is still officially registered as Citipeak Promotions Limited on Companies House
Our next interview is with Jane, a former Credico Sales Assistant from Birmingham who was transferred between sales offices as they were abandoned by their owners.
She shared with us her daily routine as a sales rep, how her team was affected by road trips, her experiences with selling in shopping centres, and how her financial situation forced her to have to live in shared accommodation with her co-workers.
HOW DID YOU APPLY FOR YOUR INITIAL ROLE WITH DUCO GLOBAL LIMITED?
I found the job listed in indeed and sent my CV over. It was described as a customer service/marketing role paying £300 a week with commission.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR INTERVIEW EXPERIENCE? HOW DID IT COMPARE TO OTHER INTERVIEWS YOU’VE HAD?
My first interview was with the owner in a run down looking office block in Birmingham town centre. He described his company as ‘new and growing rapidly’.
He explained the role would be mostly a Travelling Sales Assistant, moving onto being a Team Leader. He said he had moved from a London office to start his own office, and that the parent company was in London. It all sounded quite exciting to me. He didn’t ask me about anything from my CV, instead he hyped up the role and the earning potential once you became a Team Leader. He was very smartly dressed, and came across professional and enthusiastic about expanding from the parent company he had been working for. He described the training here as equivalent to a top university degree, and that I would get paid for it.
The next day I received an email telling me that I was in the top 8 from 60 people interviewed!
Embarrassingly, I excitedly told my housemates how fantastic my interview skills must be to be narrowed down from that many. I had been invited back for a second interview and this one would be conducted by my potential Team Leader who would explain the business to me more. I was a bit confused as to why I needed to come back again to have the business explained to me, but I eagerly went back.
I came back and was shown into a small office, which was furnished like the interview room in a police station if you’ve ever been to one. A tatty looking carpet and a cheap table with 4 chairs, nothing else. The Team Leader asked me some questions about myself and previous jobs, then explained that I was to shadow her for the day, making notes and seeing what I could learn. We were going to go to their stand in a local shopping centre.
I was expecting an interview, not a day out, so I was a bit miffed to find out on the day at 9am that I would be out until 5pm (when the shopping centre closed). We walked to the bus stop, and I wasn’t happy to find out that we were not going to a shopping centre in Birmingham, but instead one that was a 45 min bus ride away.
On the bus she used a notepad to explain the company to me with some very wild earning figures and several confusing triangular diagrams. When we got to the shopping centre I took some notes and felt quite bored until we eventually returned to Birmingham.
A few days later I received a call to say I had the job.
WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF YOUR TEAM LEADER?
She was chatty, well dressed, and friendly. I remember she had a large Louis Vuitton handbag, and a sharp suit which settled my doubts about them not explaining the salary.
DO YOU FEEL THAT YOUR ROLE DIFFERED AT ALL TO HOW IT WAS PITCHED TO YOU IN YOUR INTERVIEW?
Very much so. It was not made clear that there was no salary. That plus the distance required to travel, the hours, the road trips, none of which were mentioned. I was under the impression they had concession stands in shopping centres around Birmingham. The owner actually decided shopping centres weren’t working, and everyone was now selling door-to-door.
WHAT WAS YOUR DAILY ROUTINE DURING YOUR TIME WITH DUCO GLOBAL LIMITED?
In one word: exhausting.
Up at 6am, and into atmosphere for 7:30. If you arrived later than 7.45 (which was the official start time) you were told you weren’t dedicated enough. Atmosphere consisted of strong coffee and loud music, like being in a club but with caffeine and lies instead of cocktails and fun. We practised scripts, product knowledge, and sales techniques, and each day a different leader (or the owner) would do a short motivational speech. Sometimes we had conference calls with other offices too. There were no chairs, you were made to stand. Which really added to the weird club atmosphere.
We left the office around 8:30am – 9am depending on how far away the territory was.
No one had a car. I asked why, and it was explained to me that the office was in central Birmingham and impossible to park by. Telling me this was certainly better than being truthful and explaining that no one could afford a car.
We got buses or trains, certain people would ignore the ticketing systems on public transport too. I was told we could claim back for travel expenses every 3 months from the government, another lie.
We’d get to the territory and spend the majority of the day going door-to-door and taking lunch in cafes or chip shops. I started in January. It was incredibly cold, and dark by 4pm, but we had to keep working until 8pm if we hadn’t hit target. We went door-to-door with company Ipads trying to sell Lovefilm subscriptions, and because it was so cold the batteries would die and we would try to find cafes with plug sockets to charge them.
After selling you had to return to the office for afternoon atmosphere. On returning you had your day broken down by your team leader; what you felt went well, what you needed to work on, etc. This lasted for about an hour before you could finally go home. If I left the field at 8pm it would sometimes result in me not getting home until nearly midnight, and it was horrible running on deprived sleep. In the week I had no time for friends, family or hobbies.
Little remains of Duco Global Limited online, apart from an abandoned Twitter account, an empty LinkedIn account, and a number of press releases created to make the office appear more legitimate to potential recruits.
WHAT WERE THE CONSEQUENCES OF DOCU GLOBAL LIMITED’S OWNER LEAVING?
The owner just disappeared one day.
There was no warning and he hadn’t paid our commissions for the month. He appeared to have pocketed the money and ran off. I found out by coming into work to find everyone outside, the codes had been changed to the doors so we couldn’t get in. We were all out of a job.
After chatting with a colleague and discussing our options we realised we wouldn’t be able to claim benefits, we’d been working and not paying tax. We’d been led to believe the company covered our tax, and that we could claim back certain things such as clothing and travel expenses.
This was the reason behind the sharp suits many reps wore, as well as why we had no hesitation to spend so much on public transport, we genuinely believed we would get the money back. We decided that because we hadn’t paid tax or NI we would likely be refused any benefits, or they would look into why we hadn’t paid tax.
One of the team leaders announced to the group (still standing outside the office at this point) that the owner had left, and that we could be transferred to a new Coventry office. The Coventry office was 40 miles away from me, but I was going to be a month behind on rent and had no wages so I transferred. The new owner also promised to pay the difference in train fare to travel from Birmingham to Coventry.
WHAT WERE THE HIGHLIGHTS/LOWLIGHTS OF YOUR TIME IN COVENTRY WITH TRANSFORM OUTSOURCE LIMITED?
One highlight was a road trip to Wales we went on, mostly because with no atmosphere meetings I managed to sleep properly for the first time in months. I also genuinely liked the people I was on the road trip with.
The lowlight was getting even less sleep, because I was now commuting 80 miles a day on trains plus more transport from the office to the field. I got in some of the sleep I missed on all the long train rides. I was so tired I would leave the house with wet hair and let it dry on the train so I could get a bit longer in bed.
There was no escape as there was no rest time to find another job. I still didn’t earn enough money to buy myself anything to feel better about the dire situation, I had started to skip bus and train fare because I couldn’t afford that either.
Having read about other cults I wonder if we were deliberately kept in a sleep deprived state to break down the mind into a stage of irrational thinking, where you believe the lies and have no energy to escape.
WHAT STORIES DO YOU HAVE FROM BUSINESS TRIPS YOU TOOK WITH YOUR OFFICE IN COVENTRY?
I went on a road trip to Wales with my team. We went by coach and stayed in a cheap hotel apparently paid for by the owner. There were 5 of us and the room slept 4, so we snuck one person in after checking in.
Without atmosphere meetings, I actually enjoyed getting proper sleep for the first few days. There was headspace for doubt to be voiced about the company, and a new starter who was with us decided it was a con and just got in a taxi and left. There was a falling out while we were there too.
It then got worse because the team leader had covered all of the expenses for 5 people, with the owner telling him he would be taking the expenses from the team’s commissions. The owner had originally told the team he was paying for everything himself.
This left my team leader 1k out of pocket, and I had nothing to pay him back with. He was never going to get his money back from the new starter either.
My team leader quit over the weekend and didn’t return.
The week after we came back the owner just disappeared too. A team leader called to tell me the office was locked up with no one there, and that no one was answering the phone
It was an extremely low moment knowing I had been ripped off and lied to for the second time. I now owed money for the roadtrip to someone I genuinely saw as a friend and had no way of paying back.
I knew that my old leader lived with his parents, and despite the financial knock would not end up homeless like I could, down a month’s wages and now owing him with no job.
I explained my home financial situation and that I would have to pay him back after I’d found a new job. He hung up.
We were transferred to Citipeak Promotions after one of the leaders spread the word there was a new office in Birmingham and that we could transfer there.
HOW DID CITIPEAK PROMOTIONS DIFFER FROM THE OTHER OFFICES YOU HAD WORKED WITH?
Citipeak came with more promises, and again a more confident leader. The team that had moved up from London seemed to have genuine faith in their leader, and they actually looked healthy and happy to be there. Not the sleep deprived, depressed zombie reps I had become used to.
WERE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT WORKING WITH A NEW OWNER?
A little. By this point I was happy to be in Birmingham because it meant I would be paid in 2 weeks. With less commute time I would also have time to find a different job.
Jameel the new owner also openly spoke about the actions of my previous two owners. He said he wished he could help, and that he would put me on the best turf to make the most commission to help me out of the situation. He paired me up with a really nice team leader as he said I’d enjoy working with her. He appeared to care about my wellbeing which was very reassuring, and different too.
Citi & Co, FKA Citipeak Events Limited/Citipeak Promotions Limited, have tried their best to hide any proof of their rebrand that might remain online. Those applying to join City & Co will also struggle to find information regarding the office’s corporate history, as it is still officially registered as Citipeak Promotions Limited in the UK government’s business registry. Citi & Co‘s description on its Glassdoor page however remains unchanged, and in it the office still refers to itself as Citipeak Events Limited.
WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH SELLING PRODUCTS/SERVICES IN SHOPPING CENTRES?
Shopping centres were much better than door-to-door, but no easier in terms of how many sales you made. We had stands in walkways and we approached passers by, which worked well initially. We were working on the Talk Talk broadband campaign.
Within a month I think we had begun to annoy the general public. The regular shoppers recognised us and swerved, especially in the smaller shopping centres. In Halesowen, a new starter was showing off and kicked a football through a shop window which got us thrown out. Another centre got so fed up with shoppers being hounded that they wouldn’t allow us to return.
HOW WERE YOU APPROACHED ABOUT MOVING INTO SHARED ACCOMMODATION WITH YOUR COWORKERS? WHAT WERE THE LIVING CONDITIONS LIKE FOR YOU AND YOUR COWORKERS?
I got to a point where I was making very few sales and was unable to cover my rent. I was meant to be paying extra to cover the months I’d missed due to 2 offices closing down, but I just couldn’t keep up. Jameel and my team leader offered me a room in their rented house so I moved in. I’d never been there before, however from the well kept appearance of the owner and the others living there I assumed it would be fine.
When I got there with my possessions the house turned out to be disgusting.
It looked like no one had ever hoovered the floor or cleaned the toilet. It was absolutely vile.
There was also no room for me, so they had lied. I slept on the sofa, and kept my clothes in the cupboard under the stairs.
There was also no rest in this house. When Jameel and his team returned they would be on conference calls until the early hours talking loudly and going to and from the kitchen while I tried to sleep on the sofa they kept walking past.
HOW CONFIDENT WERE YOU ABOUT YOUR PROSPECTS WITHIN ‘THE BUSINESS’ AFTER THE MOVE?
Jameel, the owner in the sharp suit who was apparently taking home 4K a week despite only having his office open for a few months, couldn’t seem to afford a car, a TV, or a nice home. That spoke volumes; being able to see the person I was meant to look up to living in filth and apparent poverty.
This was the first point I’d considered telling my family the truth. Sleeping on my parents’ sofa with no job was surely better than living in this filth with no light at the end of the tunnel.
I’d been telling everyone I was working hard to start up my own promotions business and had moved to be closer to work.
HOW DID LIVING WITH YOUR COWORKERS AFFECT YOUR PERSONAL LIFE?
There was no privacy. The pressure to stay for the maximum amount of time in the office was higher now that the owner could see everything I was doing. So I was starting earlier and finishing later, there was no time in the week for a personal life.
At weekends I no longer saw my friends. I had no money and I’d regurgitated the lie about my job so much I felt a lying fool to see my friends.
On Sundays I’d visit family then come home and jump on conference calls with other team leaders and owners.
Two of the team smoked a lot of weed and I began smoking with them too. I was a pretty girl and persuasive when I wanted to be, so I never paid for sharing their stash. We’d hotbox the smallest bedroom and they’d giggle and tell stories about what they were going to do when they were millionaires. I wanted to be high to calm my head and relax, not to talk or discuss fantasies that were never going to come true.
LOOKING BACK, WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU FACED DURING YOUR TIME IN ‘THE BUSINESS’?
Getting out was the biggest challenge. You begin believing a dream, you tell all your friends and family about it, and then realise it’s a complete nightmare.
To get out of the business I had to accept that I had put myself through eviction, losing touch with friends and family, and living in squalid conditions all for nothing.
WHY DID YOU ULTIMATELY LEAVE ‘THE BUSINESS’ ALTOGETHER?
Me and my team leader went on a roadtrip to a new office in Manchester. There I met a really bright young girl, full of enthusiasm and eager to learn. She should’ve been at university building her life. She was excited that she’d earned £150 in a week, positively ecstatic. I sat down and realised that worked out to £1.90 an hour by the time I calculated how many hours were spent travelling, in atmosphere, on the phone, and in the field.
I decided when we got back I was going to leave.
DID ANY OF YOUR COWORKERS CONTACT YOU AFTER YOU HAD LEFT?
About a year after I left one of the lads I’d lived with texted me asking for money towards their electric bill. It turned out they’d never paid a single bill apart from the rent. They were being threatened with court for unpaid electric, gas, council tax and water.
I just ignored the text.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY TO PEOPLE THAT FEEL TRAPPED IN ‘THE BUSINESS’?
Don’t be ashamed to leave, don’t allow yourself to be pressured or bullied into staying.
You are not silly, you have been sucked in by a global company built by experienced liars and manipulators. It is a dangerous cult, and escaping it is refreshing. It feels incredible to have your life back.
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