The entry-level marketing scam targeting students


Door-to-door sales companies are targeting young people and students with false advertising and problematic recruitment techniques.

With rent due and bills looming overhead, the summer holidays can easily turn into one long job hunt for many students. Endlessly scrolling through job sites and being confronted with ‘experience required’ or receiving the latest ‘Sorry, your hours just weren’t flexible enough’ email can be very disheartening for many students who are just trying to make ends meet.

It is no surprise, then, when students and graduates see a job advert that reads something along the lines of ‘FRESH TALENT NEEDED: CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE // IMMEDIATE START // NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED’, their interest is piqued. Continue reading and the ad may promise a graduate scheme, management training program and a salary way above normal for a first job.

An example of the type of job advertisement that entry-level marketing companies use (Image: Epigram/Tom Taylor)

This is the bait. Juicy and tantalising for young people strapped for cash. Bite and you enter the dark world of outsourced door-to-door pyramid selling.

Thousands of these ads pop up on popular job sites across the UK. Chances are, you’ve probably scrolled past one.

Filled with hope, job seekers click apply and are taken to the company’s website. You can spend an hour staring at one of these sites and still be none the wiser as to what the company actually does. They’re a hotchpotch of business jargon, inspirational quotes and empty promises. You’ll leave the site feeling more confused than when you arrived. This is deliberate.

But it looks professional and you need the money so you send off your CV. Within days, the company will call you up and congratulate you on being invited to interview. For young people, with a string of rejections behind them, this might seem like a dream come true.

The job, in reality, is door-to-door pressure selling

The interview consists of the ‘business owner’ explaining how you can become a manager within 9 months through hard-work and determination. Everyone who applied to the job is invited to interview and everyone interviewed will be given the job.

The government has a list of all the official companies in the UK, available online at If the company you’re applying for isn’t on this list, alarm bells should be ringing. These companies frequently change names and locations.

The graduate scheme, the outrageous salary and the fast-track management course never materialise. The job, in reality, is door-to-door pressure selling often targeting vulnerable people. Working long hours outside, there is no salary instead workers are being paid commission on each sale they make.

Each worker, technically self-employed for legal purposes, has a sales quota to reach before they see any money and therefore employees often work into the night to reach this magic number.

Essentially you have been employed by company D who claims to be a Business-to-Business or Business-to-Client Marketing company. They pay you commission on each door-to-door sale you make as long as you sell above your quota. However, company D doesn’t really exist - its a shell owned by company C who earn their own commission on company D’s sales.

Entry-Level Marketing scams work like pyramid schemes (Image: Epigram/Tom Taylor)

In turn, B earns a commission on C’s sales and eventually the vast majority of money ends up in the hands of a select few at company A.

What you actually sell to people will vary but it will usually be charity donation contracts or telephone/broadband contracts. Big, recognisable companies employ company A to sell their contracts because door-to-door selling is very efficient. Due to the commission pyramid, it is in everyone’s interest that as many sales are made as possible so workers will often be trained in pressure selling.

Who would work 70+ hours a week at a rate of around 80p per hour? The truth is, not many people. Workers will usually work around one or two weeks before deciding its not worth it and quit. The employers don’t mind because they never technically employed you and so have nothing to pay out. They’ve earned commission on the work you’ve done without properly paying you and they know you can easily be replaced.

this scam is taking place in most major cities in the UK

Some, however, do stick at it. They drink the corporate kool-aid drip fed by the managers on social media and team-building excursions. I found the Facebook profile of one of the managers of such a company and it is an endless stream of fast cars, expensive holidays and pictures of Richard Branson next to meaningless quotes. They are selling workers the idea that one day, in the not too distant future, they too will be able to live the Wolf of Wall Street dream.

Each year companies D, C and B will attend an awards evening or convention held by company A and be told how well they’ve done.

Some workers will occasionally be promoted a level or two up the pyramid to keep them interested but most will remain at the bottom.

It sounds like a Netflix documentary. Something that happens in America. But this scam is taking place in most major cities in the UK and each day young people are being hooked in. Have a quick search of ‘Entry-Level Marketing Scams’ or next time you see a job ad that seems to good to be true, have a look at a few company reviews.

Once you start to pull the thread, things start to unravel.

Featured image: Unsplash/Pau Casals

Have you had experience of such a scam? Let us know...

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Tom Taylor

ex-Digital Editor | Twitter: @tomtay10r | Portfolio: