February 11, 2012

Week's Pay For A Hard Day's Work

No, this is not me.  I had a better laptop than he had.

I don't think I've ever told this story to too many people before.  Not because it's not interesting or funny, but because it's time has passed.  It just wasn't relevant anymore after the news broke a story on this employer and their scheme.  After that, I don't see how this company could stay in business and continue to do what they were doing.  And before you say anything, no, I wasn't a callboy manwhore on Harry Hines Blvd (a notorious street in Dallas for hookers).  I was merely a young lad looking for a job who had just stepped out into the huge metropolis that is Dallas, Texas.

Arriving in Dallas for me was like stepping foot into Tamriel (the location for the Elder Scrolls video games like Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim) for the very first time.  These game worlds are huge, with thousands of locations, cities, monuments, shops, caves, and barrows to explore.  In Skyrim, you step off of the cart before a brief fray with a dragon, and you're released into this vast world of the unknown, with no first mission or set quest to accomplish.  You are alone on this journey for now, but know that you'll eventually get wrapped up in the city and it's treasures.

Then comes the job hunt.

You have to find your place in this city, and the first place I looked was the newspaper and on Craigslist.  Sure, I probably could have done better on Career Builder or Monster.com, but with the limited resources I had at the time (no laptop or internet connection), the paper was the best thing I had.

Since I had just come from a data/voice network technician, tasked with pulling cables in ceilings, dropping them down walls, and installing the network jacks to go with them, I started there, hoping to find something along the same lines.  Previously I had to travel for this type of work, as there really aren't too many jobs that can support a full-time position at one cabling location for very long.  They are usually a week here, couple of days there type of thing.

Then I heard about doing audio/video speaker installs, and I thought this might be the next logical step.  Surely there are enough people in Dallas who want high-end surround sound speakers and television setups.  I immediately perked up once I saw all of the ads for jobs with 3-5 years cabling experience needed to apply.  I immediately found one in the paper and talked to a guy over the phone, and was scheduled to come in the next day for an interview and training.  Awesome!

I showed up for work at 8am to a location in Dallas right off of 35E and Royal Lane.  It was your standard warehouse, with about 2,000 or 3,000 sq/ft of space and a small area for accounting and office personnel.  I walked in to the office and was ushered to fill out a few pieces of paperwork, talk with the guy I spoke with on the phone, and wait around for the other guys to get into the shop.  As I waited, he took me on a tour of the warehouse, showing me the pallets upon pallets of boxed up speakers, anxiously waiting to be installed in customers homes.  This was great.  If this guy was needing to stock up on this much inventory, the money and work must be really good around Dallas.  Things were looking promising.  I had finally found a job where I could make a decent amount and not have to travel anymore.

After about 15 minutes or so, a few of the work crews started rolling in for work.  They mostly consisted of two man teams.  This wasn't out of place, as I'm sure running light speaker wire down a wall is much easier than multiple data lines.  I wanted to make a good first impression, so I immediately jumped in and started loading up white Ford and Chevy work vans that they had backed up to the warehouse doors.  One by one the crews of two began loading 4 to 6 boxes per van to head out for the day for installs.  Of the group, I met the two guys I would be working with for the day, going out on a training assignment with them.  Sadly their truck didn't have an extra seat for me to sit on (hey, it's a work truck), so I was forced to sit on a boxed up speaker pushed in between the two front captain's chairs.  Not comfy, but we're only going to the job site and will be out of the van in no time.

As we pushed off from the warehouse, the two guys in front began to talk about a few of their previous jobs, their late night shenanigans, and where one had just come back from working in Chicago.  He filled the other one in on how business was going up there, and that it was nice to be in a warm state again.  Cool!  Maybe I'll have the option to travel this time around, and not be forced to travel if I don't want to.  Since he was here from the Chicago office, he was also given per diem to eat each day, and was given the option of getting a hotel room.  He would have gotten one, but decided to stay with a buddy of his in town.

After a 15 minute drive over to Preston and Walnut Hill (a very happening and busy intersection with strip malls, grocery stores, and a collection of places), the driver of the van rolled his window down and was trying to get the attention of a fellow motorist in the next lane over at a stoplight.  Maybe he's just letting the guy know he's got a light out or has a flat tire?  Nope.  What happened next completely blew my mind.  For the sake of making it easier to understand,  I'll try to transcribe the conversation that happened, and we'll name the person in the car David, and the guy in the white van Drew.

Drew:  (makes motion to David to roll his window down)
David: (rolls window down to make sure everything is okay)
Drew:  Hey man, what's going on?  Listen, I just got this speaker install to do over in this really nice neighborhood and the warehouse gave me an extra set of speakers.  It's not on the inventory delivery sheet they gave me and as soon as I take it to the house, the install guys are gonna know what's up and just keep them for themselves.
David:  Okay?
Drew:  So, do you want to pull over to this parking lot and see them?  I could sell you these really nice speakers and everyone is happy?  You would get a really nice set of speakers for cheap, and I don't have to deliver them.  Just follow me and I'll show you.
David:  Okay.

So at this point I'm thinking, "Oh shit, someone at the warehouse fucked up." and "I can't believe that my first day on the job this dude is wanting to fuck over the company on my first day. He must not get paid enough."

So we draw the guy in the car (David) behind us and proceed to pull over into a busy shopping center right in front of a UPS Store.  Drew shuts off the engine and goes around back to show the speakers off.  The other gentlemen in the van (Leroy I guess) ushers me to sit in the drivers seat while Drew puts on a "show" (that's apparently lingo in the biz for a sales pitch).

I scoot up front and watch as the driver (still called Drew) opens the back and starts to make a sales pitch to the guy he grabbed out of the middle of the road on his way to Starbucks or wherever else he was headed, to see if he wants to buy some speakers.  For the life of me, I don't remember the exact retail price of the speakers, but I know the guys carried a laminated spec sheet for the speakers with a price tag of $250 dollars apiece.  The out of the back of the van discount put them right at $90-$100 dollars per speaker.

I do know this though, they weren't quality speakers.  Not in a long shot.

Side track:  My dad has always been the go to guy when it comes to speakers or audio equipment.  If you've ever been to my house and seen his setup, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  I wish I had a picture for you to see it.  I used to have one, and he used to have one too, but after awhile these speakers just became part of the family.  Hell, they are part of the family.  They became the decorative pieces of the house in one room in particular.  8 foot tall, 4 foot wide front speakers with ribbon tweeters, 3 - 5 inch mid-range, 2 - 8 inch lower, and 2 - 12 inch bass speakers per side.  Yeah.  I laugh in the face of all of those out of the box 5.1 systems.  Especially Bose.  FUCK BOSE speakers.  If you have Bose and you think you have an awesome sound system?  Shoot yourself in the dickhole, then shoot yourself in the face.  Spare us from the sound of that garbage.  The average system in a box power output?  Probably around 75 watts to 110 watts per channel.  My dad's setup?  1,000 watts for the left channel, 1,000 watts for the right channel, and 200 watts for the surround speakers.  Do the math kiddies.  That's 440 watts per channel (but not really).   It might be more with the surround and subwoofers, but those are the specs off the top of my head.

So I know a few things about speakers, and the ones these dudes are trying to sell out of a van are pretty shitty.  You probably already knew that.  They're not Bose shitty, but probably just above that.

In this day and age, I don't know anybody who carries around that much cash with them on a given day, and even then, would actually want to buy a set of speakers out of a UPS Store parking lot by a shady guy in a white van.

After the "show" sales pitch ended and David didn't want to buy the speakers, we loaded back up into the van and headed out towards the job site.

We never made it to that job site, and I never got to install a speaker setup in someone's luxurious home.  This job was essentially driving around Dallas in a white van trying to sell speaker setups in parking lots.  I did that job for one day.  ONE day.  I had to sit through 4 or 5 more of these "shows" in parking lots, driving all over Dallas for the people "hot spots", and had to remain sitting on that hard cardboard box in a bumpy van for 7 more hours.

I never got paid for my time that day either (apparently the company only starts to pay you or let you have a share of the cut after you get out of the training period) and you only get money per sale.  I honestly can't remember if the guys split the profits or if the company gets a cut of it.

My theory in all of this after the fact was that I think there was some shitty Taiwanese company who made some horrible speakers and just wanted to get rid of them, or used them to sell Taiwanese slaves in California, an needed a front for the operation.  They got to America and sent the slaves to the black market.  But what about all of these shitty speakers?  They'res got to be a better way!

The news in Dallas eventually picked up on the whole deal and ran a story a few months later on these people in white vans trying to sell speakers and blew the whole thing wide open.  I don't know if that company is still around or is still in business (like I said, I don't see how they could be after the DFW news got involved), but I do see a few online chat boards and communities comment and mention the van/speaker racket in Dallas still.

I have to put a notch in my cap for that job, and thank them for an experience I'll never forget.  Part of me stuck with it for the whole day because I wanted to see it through and take it all in, and the other part of me thought, "Surely this can't be real?"  It definitely was an experience, and real, even if it was only for a day.

And no, I do not include that bullshit job on my resume, just a blog post.  But this is what it would look like if it was:

10/01/2003 (8:00AM) - 10/1/2003 (5:00PM) - White Van Speaker Salesman
A self motivated sales professional with extensive experience in sales and merchandising. Excellent communication skills and a commitment to team work result in exceeding sales quotas. A flexible and dependable employee.  Also an achievement-orientated salesperson with a proven track record of creativity, negotiation and in-depth product knowledge. Able to work independently or as part of a team to meet company sales objectives.