It's spring and college students are starting the annual hunt for summer jobs. Many will respond to Vector Marketing's help-wanted ads boasting great pay, flexible hours, no experience necessary and extensive training available.
However, a group of students say these claims are false, and are trying to file a class-action suit against Vector. Students Against Vector Exploitation, or SAVE, was formed last June.
Lauren Katz, co-founder of SAVE, recently won a case with the Department of Labor in New York against Vector, which was ordered to send her a check for work she did during unpaid training.
It's not the only decision Vector has lost. The Arizona attorney general sued in 1990, and in 1994 the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Agency ordered Vector officials to stop deceiving recruits. In 1999 Vector admitted to misleading recruits in Australia after the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission sued the company for fraud.
SAVE alleges Vector officials hide the fact that they are not offering steady employment but rather a contract to sell Cutco kitchen knives with in-home demonstrations. The company hires employees as "independent contractors" in order to avoid paying for training and benefits, the group says.
According to Vector's marketing plan, the contractors are expected to either buy or put down a deposit for a set of knives for giving demonstrations, which costs at least $145 plus shipping and handling. They must follow strict rules regarding whom they are allowed to sell to and how to give presentations.
Cutco representatives start by selling to their family and friends and get referrals through them. If they do not follow strict regulations set by the company or are not able to sell the product, they do not get paid.
Many advertisements for these positions claim they are "a customer service/sales job with no telemarketing or door-to-door sales." However, the work requires going door-to-door after making appointments over the phone, which meets the Federal Trade Commission's definition of door-to-door sales, SAVE alleges.
SAVE also alleges that Vector presents misleading information when interviewing recruits. Officials tell applicants that Vector is a Fortune 500 company. Vector was purchased from a Fortune 500 company 20 years ago. Officials also say Vector has been in business more than 50 years. Cutco, the knife company, not Vector, has been around that long.
"In order to sell knives at such inflated prices, Cutco is resorting to unethical and illegal business practices and taking advantage of the relationships young reps have with friends and family," Kay Bible, a former employee of Vector Marketing, states on her Web site.
Vector Marketing says its recruitment tactics are not misleading and it stands by its business practices.