Tuesday, August 1

The square outside my office building is a rather busy one, as it feeds into two high-rise towers, one subway station, a shopping centre, and a huge movie theatre. Across the street are other highly-populated offices, and, to further reveal the scope of the traffic in the area, there are three Starbucks all within a half-block radius.

I like working in a busy-businessy neighbourhood. The flow of people rushing to work in the morning is actually quite refreshing (though the after-work trudge home is less appealing) but it also means that there is always something happing at lunch time.

Usually my office square is surrounded by my former colleagues—the promotional samplers and street-level marketing kiddies, that is. I love getting free things on my way to lunch, and then getting even more free things on my way back.

(Let’s be honest: Every sampler I know doesn’t care if the same people get a dozen free products, as long as each is given out one-at-a-time. Samplers just want to get rid of their swag quota so their well-paid break-time can begin!)

However, more recently our office square has been occupied by the lowest-level of solicitors: the pyramid scheme employee. It’s a blanket term I use to describe any job where the person who does the hiring is vague about work conditions but positive about making “up to $1000 a week!” and the standard uniform is a foggy ID-tag and worn-out clipboard. Think: spa “discount” packages sold on street corners, door-to-door knife sales, or any other job that pays almost 100% through commission and has a Tony Robbins-clone as the CEO.

Anyways. My favourite pyramid-schemer of late is the girl who signs people up for credit cards. Truthfully, it took me over a week of watching her “work” before I knew what exactly she was doing. She wears the same black mini-skirt, decorated tank-top, high-heel sandals, and brown leather purse every day, and generally spends her time sitting on the edge of a planter, chain-smoking cigarettes. But every once and a while she will approach someone on the street, clipboard in hand, and ask if they would like to sign up for a free credit card. And generally, everyone says no.

I don’t blame them—there is no way, NO WAY, I would give my personal information to a girl on a street corner with no ID who looks like she is walk-of-shaming home from the bar. And this sentiment has been further embedded after spending an hour watching credit-girl’s work ethic in action:

After sitting on the planter for twenty minutes and occasionally chasing groups of men through the square while begging them to sign up, she finally got a poor sap (probably hoping he could ask her on a date) to fill out the form. Out comes his drivers license, SIN number, and most likely the numbers for one of his current credit cards.

Once poor sap leaves, credit-girl greets another fellow on the street—a high-schoolish age kid in oversized “urban” clothing, complete with jeans tucked into socks. They hug and then sit down on the planter to chat. After a few minutes credit-girl gets up to go bum her friend a cigarette from an office worker. She leaves her clipboard with thug boy, and he starts flipping through the filled-out information. My how secure the privacy measures are for pyramid scheme jobs-- hello Identity Theft! Eventually credit-girl comes back to her friend (and clipboard) but she is done working for the time being: they stay seated on the planter until my lunch ends.

I was recruited for a credit-card application job a few years ago, and while I didn’t even consider it, the pay further threw me off: $6:50 an hour plus $0.07 commission on each application filled out and approved. I don’t blame her for being lazy, but how can she afford all those cigarettes, let alone make a living?