Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - CAREER -

Laura Duncan may be an Avon lady but she wants you to throw what you you know about the tra­di­tional doorto-door cos­met­ics sales­per­son out the door (-to-door). – and ap­prox­i­mately 1 200 rep­re­sen­ta­tives as well.

‘I put in many hours at night when the kids are in bed, and spend a lot of time on social me­dia, but I don’t look at it as work. It’s a hobby to me. I’m work­ing from the couch, and what I do is up to me. I can spend the day watch­ing movies if I want to and work later at night. Gone are the days of doorto-door – you have an on­line store and a mo­bile app so you can sell dig­i­tally, and cus­tomers can have di­rect de­liv­ery or have a rep drop off their pur­chase.

‘The best bit is build­ing friend­ships across the coun­try. Plus, I can take hol­i­days when­ever I like. The in­cen­tives get you work­ing hard: I’ve taken seven free over­seas hol­i­days so far cour­tesy of Avon, and got count­less gifts.

‘I left school at 15 – so it goes to show you don’t need to go to univer­sity. You can do what­ever you want in life; you just have to have the pas­sion and com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion. I’m liv­ing the dream!’ I stud­ied in­ves­tiga­tive ser­vices be­fore ap­ply­ing for a pro­ba­tion­ary li­cence. Once you get your full li­cence, you can work in­de­pen­dently.

‘When start­ing a case, I get in­struc­tions from the prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tors on the sub­ject, a de­scrip­tion of the sub­ject, their name and, if I’m lucky, a pic­ture and a phys­i­cal ad­dress. Most peo­ple we’re as­signed are in­volved in cases like in­sur­ance jobs, civil li­a­bil­ity, work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion, cheat­ing on part­ners and cus­tody is­sues. Peo­ple have dif­fer­ent rea­sons for want­ing a job done, but they all want in­for­ma­tion on what the other per­son’s story is.

‘We have to be dis­creet: the na­ture of the job means we’re pas­sive ob­servers and must avoid peo­ple see­ing us. I haven’t been caught but I’ve come close. It’s eas­ier to get caught if you’re do­ing sur­veil­lance on some­one who’s been fol­lowed be­fore and has a high aware­ness: they’re para­noid, look­ing around – and if you tail them for too long, they’re not afraid to con­front you. The adren­a­line rush is ex­cit­ing but also dan­ger­ous – you don’t know what the sub­ject is plan­ning or what might hap­pen next.

‘We have a rule that if you don’t see a sub­ject for five hours, you cut the ob­ser­va­tion and try later. We work in­de­pen­dently and in pairs. Even in pairs, we po­si­tion our­selves in dif­fer­ent places, so we have a bet­ter chance of fol­low­ing some­one. It’s also handy to have a col­league close by if there is a safety risk.

‘Like with any in­dus­try, there are quiet pe­ri­ods. Low sea­son is around tax-re­turn time (when com­pa­nies are busy fi ling) and over the Christ­mas hol­i­day pe­riod (when peo­ple are happy).

‘The best thing about my job is the flex­i­bil­ity of time ar­range­ments and what you do. It’s not a desk job. You have to drive, walk, run. You do in­voic­ing and col­late in­for­ma­tion, but you go to dif­fer­ent places ev­ery day – and that’s what I like.’

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