An elite new marketing firm has opened shop here in Chattanooga. They have some big name Fortune 500 clients like DirectTV, and they’re generating so much new business that they’re currently hiring for 18 additional marketing positions with extremely generous salaries. And the best part? You don’t need any education, specific knowledge or relevant experience to apply. They will literally hire anyone… even someone as comically unqualified as “Dale Vanderburke.”
More on Dale later.
Any desperate job seeker has come across these spammy job offers on sites like Craigslist, Monster or CareerBuilder. They are the indirect work of a notoriously corrupt MLM (Multi Level Marketing) scam that’s been growing a gullible base to its pyramid for nearly 40 years, when a 26-year-old Canadian salesman named Murray Reinhart formed a company first known as DS-Max.
Or is it called Granton? Or possibly Cydcor? Or Wholesale Warehousing Industries? Or Innovage? Or Credco? Or Appco? Or Credico? It’s extremely difficult to trace the history of this company because this company does not want you to trace its history. Today it’s known as Smart Circle, but they’ve found a diabolical way to conceal that identity by convincing individual members of its sales staff to incorporate themselves into “CEOs” of their own independent companies with forgettable new names.
Just how many different companies with different names are operating under the Smart Circle umbrella? It’s hard to know exactly because they open and close at a staggering rate in locations around the world. There are hundreds in the U.S. alone. There are thousands throughout the world.
That’s because, like traditional pyramid schemes, their revenue is generated primarily by expanding their employee base as opposed to expanding their customer base. On the surface, Smart Circle is engaged in direct marketing of products. But really, the focus is on the internal marketing of that original marketing job down-line to
new recruits future CEO’s.
And what exactly is the “marketing job” at the center of this unbelievably successful pyramid? The grueling, thankless, degrading task of hawking DirectTV packages to people as they leave Costco. The job is six days a week, ten hours a day. Plus mandatory team meetings in the morning. Plus mandatory team building events on days off. Vehicles aren’t provided. Gas is not reimbursed. Pay is commission based, which means the sky is the limit. But realistically, salespeople earn minimum wage with no overtime. And as numerous lawsuits have alleged, employees get even less than that.
Meanwhile, they see the “CEO” above them flourishing. He’s wearing nice suits and shiny watches and treating them to business lunches at classy joints like Buffalo Wild Wings. He seems to be making money hand-over-fist, and isn’t required to spend ten hours a day yelling at passersby as they leave Costco. What’s the secret?
The secret is being an owner instead of a salesperson! And so any gullible recruit desperate enough to continue working this sub-minimum wage job for more than a few weeks will soon begin the ascent towards ownership of their own “independent” corporate marketing firm, where they can theoretically earn a fat commission for feeding more CEO’s into the CEO pipeline.
And that’s what inevitably happened to the CEO of EQUIP Marketing Solutions, the extremely suspicious new corporate marketing firm that recently opened in Chattanooga and has flooded the market with spammy ads that desperately cast a wide net for what should be a very exclusive job search. This is one of many red flags.
Despite Equip Marketing Solutions boasting of an exclusive Fortune 500 client roster, their web presence is amateur. And that’s being polite. Their social media features random inspirational memes of “employees” reading Tony Robbins books or gesticulating to others as they write words on a dry erase board. Spelling and grammatical errors abound. There’s a conspicuous absence of any concrete information about what the company actually does. There is, however, this vague testimonial from some random dude in South Dakota who used to be a cook but is now a CEO. He never mentions Chattanooga nor Equip Marketing Solutions, the company for which he supposedly works.
If that seems incredibly generic, that’s because it’s supposed to be. Equip Marketing Solutions’ entire website is nearly identical to other similar “independent” companies that try to conceal their involvement in the imminently Google-able Smart Circle scam. For example, there’s Chess Consulting, Infinity Marketing Management, Elite Marketing Association, Advanced Branding Consultants Inc, Soul Marketing Inc, Peak Concepts Inc, Clear Branding Solutions, Mountain Peak Marketing, Xtra Mike Marketing Solutions, Del-Tex Marketing, and countless others. Literally… countless. New independent companies pop up just as quickly as the old ones go out of business — which usually seems to be about a year.
But in the mean time, their meticulously scripted process indoctrinates desperate and gullible new recruits with the belief that financial freedom is just around the corner… if only they continue to invest their time and money and faith into the program and ignore any rational “negative” feelings like doubt, fear, and common sense. The full week of work and mandatory team building events effectively isolate new recruits from old friends and family who may discourage their participation. The practice of hastily promoting and relocating members to new cities further isolates employees from anyone outside the company itself. And the only hope to recoup any return on the investment involves convincing new recruits to take your place.
Of course, that could all be bullshit. And for legal reasons, I should hasten to add that I can’t prove Smart Circle is running a pyramid scheme or if it’s actually just some semi-legal variation on a pyramid scheme with a nonetheless long and shameful record of destroying people’s lives. They’re an aggressively litigious company who tries to silence critics with bully tactics. Like for instance, this hilarious exchange with Gawker’s legal department over whether or not they had the right to mention the name DS-Max while reporting on DS-Max’s name change.
While I might not be able to independently verify the many very credible and very similar accusations former employees have made against Smart Circle/DS-Max/Etc, I can try to independently verify my accusation that Chattanooga’s very own EQUIP Marketing Solutions is a part of that same pyramid-shaped business currently known as Smart Circle.
Which brings is back to the case of Dale Vanderburke, a comically under-qualified candidate for one of 18 top-tier marketing positions with Equip Marketing Solutions. If they are in fact a reputable company, there’s no way in hell that they would entertain the notion of hiring someone like Dale Vanderburke, who appears to have spent the better part of a decade inside a Chuck E. Cheese costume before graduating to a career as a pharmaceutical guinea pig. Oh yeah, and he was the founder of his high school “Dutch Oven Society.”
Apparently, Dale was just the kind of
employee rube Equip Marketing Solutions Smart Circle was looking for, because Dale promptly received a reply to his job inquiry and has an interview scheduled for later today. The only way for me to find out if this new Chattanooga “marketing company” is part of Smart Circle’s notorious international “pyramid-shaped scheme” is to ask them directly.
I’ll post part II of this epic saga when I get home from the big interview! Wish Dale luck!