Never pay for privilege of working


August 12, 1991|By Joyce Lain Kennedy | Joyce Lain Kennedy,Sun Features

Dear Joyce: The fears and frustrations of being unemployed make job seekers easy targets for crackpots, kooks, hustlers and flimflam artists. I responded to an advertisement for a sales representative for a new, out-of-state corporation, which supposedly is a spin-off of a national greeting card company.

The sales manager and personnel head called me in for a lengthy and thorough interview. I had a pressing appointment, but as I vainly tried to extricate myself from the interview, the truth became apparent.

Even though I was to be a "company person," with taxes withheld, full medical benefits, salary, commission and expenses, the company expected me to hand over $5,000 as a condition of employment. The money supposedly was to insure they wouldn't train me only to have me jump ship. I offered to sign a no-compete contract. They said the no-compete contract was a great idea but I'd still have to give them $5,000. If I didn't have the cash, they said, the company could arrange a loan.

There were to be no stock shares, limited partnership, promissory note, lien or other protective investment documents. I said the proposition sounded as though they are looking for a no-effort way to raise start-up capital. Needless to say, the interview was terminated abruptly when I said there was no way they would get $5,000 from me.

I called a representative of the state labor department who said they get five calls a day about this form of "interviewing." She said it is legal and a result of the poor economy. Her explanation for the lack of legal controls on this maneuver is a lame one: "Who would be stupid enough to give them $5,000?"

I also wrote the better business bureau in the community where the company is headquartered. But I think you would be doing job seekers a service to address this issue. B.K.H.

Dear B.K.H.: Give me a break! Pay an employer for a job! A shameful and transparent sham. Who knows how many desperate job seekers have been sucked into this grifter's delight?

Your comments cut to the point: Never buy your job. Whether it's an outrageous swindle like this, or a requirement to call a 900 telephone number to apply for employment, steer clear.

The 900 telephone number job scam is not exactly the same thing but is a close relation. Usually it is operated by con kings who do not really have jobs to offer. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the core gyp works like this:

You see an ad in a newspaper for a job which instructs you to dial a toll-free 800 number for an application. When you call, you are told to dial a 900 number to find out about job openings in your area. When you get through on the 900 number, a recording advises you to send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to receive a job application. What you get is a one-page generic job application along with a 900 number charge for $10 to $18 or more on your telephone bill. This is because 900 numbers cost either a flat fee or a per-minute charge for each call, and the charge usually is much greater than the toll for an ordinary long-distance call.

In an employment bargain, the employer puts in the capital; the employee puts in the labor. If you fork over $5,000, the recipient should work for you. And there are much better ways to spend your scarce job search resources than on scams.

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