In still-sluggish labor market, think twice about these jobs

Last week, WalletPop asked our Facebook community: Have you ever experienced a scam while job hunting? The response was overwhelming, and the discussion sparked our interest. Currently, many businesses are not hiring, wages are unattractive, and competition for the few available jobs is intense.

Some names and stories popped up repeatedly in our discussion. These reader experiences are not exactly scams, but the work might make you uncomfortable if you aren't prepared going in.
  • Cutco - Our Facebook friend Marla shared her story with this company.
"I applied for a part-time job selling knives. It turned out I would be going to people's homes (strangers) and selling knives in the evening. No thanks. I think that's setting yourself up to be murdered." -- Marla

Olean, NY-based Cutco lures job hunters promising a great opportunity selling its top-line knives. The company and others like it who employ mostly college students earned a positive write-up in USA Today. Selling Cutco knives through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Vector Marketing, may look to a job-seeker like a great opportunity to handle sales between major retailers and Cutco. But that's not how it works. Instead Cutco will add you to its sales force and you'll go door to door selling knives at your own expense. Upon orientation, you'll have to purchase a set for demonstrations, which can run about $100. At least one student newspaper has questioned Vector's sales and recruiting tactics.

On the other hand, assuming you can buy products at a wholesale price, this is one way retail sales works. If you have a solid plan, and know a target market that will use these products, starting a business may be a good option. However, beware of pyramid schemes, which are illegal and involve heavy selling and recruiting that can exceed the duties of actually running a business. One red flag for a pyramid scheme is if there is no product to actually sell. Another rule of thumb while looking for a job: Never pay a fee up front.
  • Receptionist, or telemarketer?
If a job ad says one thing, and you find yourself doing something very different, that's a sign to leave. You should also report the company to your local Chamber of Commerce and Better Business Bureau. Our Facebook friend Nicole fell victim to a deceiving ad:

"An ad in the paper said they were looking for a receptionist. On my first day, what am I doing? Being a telemarketer - making annoying calls to people bothering them! I was so livid, because I was lied to! I quit the next day." -- Nicole
  • Northwestern Mutual
This is a reputable firm, with a highly-rated internship program. However, some people have complained it uses sales tactics that make them uncomfortable, similar to Cutco -- specifically, selling to family members. Northwestern hires college students to pitch insurance products. After starting out selling to family, interns then travel to visit other clients and get paid on commission, with a travel stipend. If you want experience with the harsh world of sales -- at Northwestern, if you don't sell much, you're demoted to a very low base pay -- you may get something out of a job there. However, you might also want to think about joining a company with a list of clients available for contact -- such as a stockbroker, who calls up investors from a list of interested individuals prepared by the company.
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