The year was 1994. The Internet was barely a thing and jobs openings were listed in newspapers, not on websites. I was young, just out of college and looking for my first “real” job. Thanks to my eagerness and naiveté, I fell into the trap set by pyramid marketers. Twice. This is the story of my second—and, easily, the most absurd—experience with the pyramid marketers. The first experience was just depressing. The second one? Odd. Just, odd.
Long story short, I agreed to an interview, strapped on the blue suit and tie and made my way to their office. Upon informing the receptionist I was there for my interview, she directed me to a seat, “with the others.” I turned to find about five other similarly-dressed people who looked forlorn, suckered and annoyed. That’s when I knew what was happening, but was too dumb to just walk out the door. At least we were all dressed up nice, so there’s that.
We were ushered into a conference room, where we sat silently at first and kept our gazes on the floor or the wall. After about a minute, a young-ish female in our group broke the silence. “Is this a pyramid scheme?” she blurted. With that, a collective exhale gave way to nods and more commentary. “Sure feels that way,” someone else said. For at least three or four of us, it was clearly not our first time down this rabbit hole. And all we wanted was to get out of there NOW. As we all were ready to revolt, in walks a peppy manager who was guiding us into a larger room, where we’d learn about this exciting “business opportunity” and our earning potential blah-blah-blah…who cares!
As we were marching to the presentation, the youngish female from earlier was having none of it. “I don’t think this is for me,” she said to the peppy woman before crossing the threshold. Ms. Peppy tried to lasso her to no avail. The youngish woman gave her the slip and headed for the exit. For the rest of us, it was like watching a successful prison break; only we were still inside the prison.
Dejected I took a seat in the back row and studied the room. It was like the Island of Misfit Toys, teeming with all sorts of weird people who, at first glance, seemed mostly normal but each had some distinguishing feature that made you think, “there’s something not quite right about you.”
Strange clothes, strange hair, strange jewelry and an intoxicating amount of cologne in the air. I was also struck by what felt like WAY too much anticipation from this audience of weirdos for what we were about to witness. I didn’t give a shit. I just wanted to leave, but felt trapped. I assumed this must be what it feels like to be the one cow in the slaughterhouse who knows something’s amiss and we’re all doomed. I was that cow. The rest? Happy wanderers just waiting to be slaughtered.
So, there I was, in my back-row seat. further studying this collection of Midwestern oddballs. I locked onto a woman in the front row, engrossed in conversation with another person. She wore glasses and had short, blonde, spiky hair. It was about 15 years too young for her and just seemed out of place on her head. She was wearing a gold-and-black ensemble that looked like something out of the Buck Rodgers wardrobe department. Was it a dress? Was it a jumpsuit? I don’t know, but that wasn’t even the weird part. She had these bandages randomly placed all over her face and head. One across the bridge of her nose, one on her chin, and the tops and lobes of her both ears were bandaged up. I don’t mean like gauze bandages. I’m talking Band-Aid™ bandages, as though she hastily patched herself up in a dark room before arriving here. What the hell happened to you, lady?! Did your pet capuchin monkey turn on you and try to gnaw her face off?
As hard as I tried (okay, I didn’t try that hard) I couldn’t stop staring. I know she caught me, but I didn’t care. I was transfixed on this monkey-bitten woman because I knew it would be a shit ton more interesting than whatever bullshit presentation was about to occur. And sure enough, I was right. A pyramid marketing sales pitch ensued with the usual suspects of infomercial wannabes, excitedly informing all of us that we could be millionaires selling…water purifiers. The best part of all was when they rolled out their big closer: a VHS presentation of their national spokesman, Kenny Loggins. I’m not making that up. Kenny freakin’ Loggins.
And that’s when I realized, “Oh, Kevin. How are have you fallen? Here you sit, listening to a sales pitch from Kenny freakin’ Loggins.” And really, who am I to judge? At least Kenny got paid for his part in this absurdity. That’s a fat lot more than I could say for my involvement.
I escaped as soon as I could, but not before being cornered by an all-too-eager recruiter who thought she had me on the hook. She was pulling out every play she had in her book. Of course, her playbook had pretty much three plays: 1) Will you accept this bullshit offer? 2) No? Please? 3) Still a no? PRETTY PLEASE???
I wasn’t buying what she was selling. The moment she realized she was on a fool’s errand—even though I felt like the real fool—her mood went from peppy to surly in about two seconds. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to say no,” I said.
“Well…” she said, with a pause. In terse, halting tone, she deadpanned, “That’s…just…great.” I got up and ran out the door, mad at myself for wasting two hours of my time on this shit show.; mad that I didn’t say, “she’s my ride!” when the one woman left before the presentation.
That was more than 20 years ago, if you can believe that. It was the last time I ever put myself through that sort of nonsense.
It would be a few more months before I landed my first “real” post-college job. And I got it the old-fashioned way: My brother got me hired where he worked.
To this day, I only have one constant thought about this entire episode: Seriously, lady. What the hell happened to your face?