‘Sucked in’ to job
Bullying and unethical behaviour affects staff of a controversial vacuum cleaner company as well as its customers, says a disgruntled former employee.
Kapi-Mana News reported in June that an elderly Ranui woman was subjected to a three-hour sales pitch and felt pressured into buying a $3050 vacuum cleaner.
Now a Lower Hutt man who sold the vacuum cleaners has come forward with claims he felt pressured to accept commission sales work rather than being paid a retainer, and was given alcohol at work despite being under the legal drinking age.
Lower Hutt cleaner Greg Ioane, 17, worked for Living Longer NZ for a week in June but left the job after making no money on sales and feeling uncomfortable about pressuring people into sales.
Sales staff can elect to be paid $300 for each sale made or through a weekly retainer of about $690, Mr Ioane says. But management at Living Longer NZ pressured him into opting for commission, he says.
‘‘They always try to suck you into commission. That’s the way I got sucked into it.’’
After four days’ training he began giving vacuum cleaner demonstrations in Lower Hutt, targeting four houses a day for the six days he worked for the company.
He made no sales and ended up out of pocket as the company does not pay staff for petrol.
‘‘You don’t make money out of there. I didn’t even last a week,’’ Mr Ioane says.
‘‘I knew I was going to struggle to make money and I knew it was a waste of time.’’
The aggressive sales tactics he was taught made Mr Ioane feel uncomfortable.
‘‘I don’t like going into someone’s home and forcing them to buy vacuum cleaners,’’ he says. ‘‘I wouldn’t recommend anybody to sell those machines. They try to suck them in to buying a machine that’s not worth three grand.’’
He also felt uneasy about the company giving staff free beer on Wednesday evenings, which was drunk on the job, he says. ‘‘I’m 17 and they’re giving me free alcohol.’’ When staff make a sale they are rewarded with free beer and pizza, Mr Ioane says.
Mr Ioane was able to give insights into the way Living Longer targets its victims. Sales managers cold call their targets under the guise of conducting a survey, asking whether the target smokes or is an asthmatic, he said.
The next day the target is told they have won a prize that needs to be delivered personally, which is how they enter people’s homes for a sales demonstration.
Targets have no idea they are going to be sold a vacuum cleaner until the salesman is in their home.
The prizes Mr Ioane distributed included a chopping board, containers and a photo frame, all from $2 shops. Another way of contacting targets is to leave a sticker on their door saying they missed a parcel delivery, and asking them to call Living Longer.
There are around 10 sales staff targeting Lower Hutt and up to 15 targeting Porirua, Mr Ioane says.
Kapi-Mana News has been told Porirua staff are currently targeting homes in Titahi Bay.
There is at least one person profiting out of the vacuum sales scheme, Mr Ioane says: Living Longer owner David Lord.
‘‘He was a wealthy man, drives a nice Jaguar. He’s making a lot of money out of that.’’
David Lord denied Mr Iaone’s claims when questioned by Kapi-Mana News.
Living Longer sales staff are independent contractors, not employees, and are offered a ‘‘per demonstration’’ wage or a percentage from each sale made.
‘‘The company offers both option[s] and the independent contractor gets to make a choice.’’ He denies minors are given alcohol. ‘‘Under age contractors are 100 per cent not given alcohol in any way at all.’’