Pet Peeve #35: Companies That Say “Marketing” When They Mean “Sales”

The year was 2000, and I needed a summer job.

This was before and craigslist; companies posted jobs in the classifieds section of the newspaper back then. I was pursuing a degree in marketing at that point, so I went through the paper and circled all the marketing jobs.

I sent my resume to a company that was looking for a “marketing account executive.” I thought I was aiming a bit high, but it was worth a shot.

During the first “interview,” I found it a little odd that the manager wouldn’t tell me what the job was or what the company did. He kept saying that in less than a year, I could be running an office of my own, just like him. I told him that I was a rising sophomore in college and that I was just looking for a summer job; he winked and said, “We’ll see if you want to go back to school after a summer on the job.” Clearly he thought the company was great , and I didn’t have any other prospects yet, so I agreed to come back at 8:00 am the next day for a follow up interview.

Can you name what Amy Adams was selling on The Office?

When I showed up that morning, I was assigned to my interviewer, who ushered me to his car with two other men. My interviewer was a young guy, maybe 20 or 21, and the other two men were haggard and older. I asked where we were going, and the young guy said, “This is part of the interview.”

Then we drove off.

The young guy peppered me with questions for a good 10 minutes before I could turn the questions back around to him. I finally got the first clear answer about what they did: They sold coupon packs for Pizza Hut. $20 for a sheet of coupons.

“Oh, okay,” I said. I knew immediately I wasn’t going to take the job. “So, are you going to watch me make a sale and then we’ll go back to the office?”

The young guy shook his head. “We’re making sales all day.”

It hit me. This “marketing interview” was actually me shadowing coupon salesmen for an entire workday. I was about to spend eight hours going door to door in a terrible neighborhood.

I considered trying to get out of it. Calling a cab or my mother. But I told myself to suck it up, deal with it, and try to learn something. You know what I learned?

  1. Many jobs listed under “marketing” are actually “sales.” Dinky little companies flat-out lie about this. There is a huge difference between the two. Marketing involves developing a product or brand and figuring out how to tell the world about it. Sales is nothing other than getting someone to give you money for something else. All marketers are salesmen. Most salesmen are not marketers.
  2. Don’t apply to work at any company that isn’t completely transparent about what they do in the job description. If they’re hiding something, it’s for a reason.
  3. There are a surprising number of people home during the day in poor neighborhoods. Thank you, welfare.
  4. People in poor neighborhoods are surprisingly friendly to random people, even salesmen.
A few months after that fateful day, I was home when I heard the doorbell ring. At the door was the young salesmen. After we exchanged pleasantries, he said, “Well, you know what we’re selling.”
I smiled and replied, “Sorry, we’re a Papa John’s family.”

13 thoughts on “Pet Peeve #35: Companies That Say “Marketing” When They Mean “Sales””

  1. It’s a good thing you happened to be on welfare and living in a poor neighborhood so you could be home during the day to Zing! that young salesman! 🙂

  2. After spending the past few months looking for a job in marketing (the real marketing, not sales), I can fully attest to this! It has become my number one pet peeve in the job search process.

    • dK–I hear you. It’s really unfortunate that companies do that. Rather than lie about sales jobs, why not just call them “sales” and promote the high commissions you can make. I’m sure there are plenty of people who enjoy sales and can make quite a bit of money in sales positions, so why hide it?

  3. Glad you made out of the poor neighborhoods with some educational experience and both kidneys intact. And if you have additional Pizza Hut coupons, throw them this way. We like Pizza Hut. I love their breadsticks. 🙂 Yummy in my tummy.

      • Well, okay. Then if you have any current unwanted Pizza Hut coupons, throw them over here. Because I want breadsticks, breadsticks, BREADSTICKS! Whenever this cold is over and I can eat whatever I want again such as ice cream and breadsticks. 🙂

        And I can totally use those coupons. I got a spare time machine.

  4. Had this exact thing happen to me. It’s the worst. We sold long distance service. In 2003. What a nightmare. At the end of the day, they asked if I was interested. When I replied that I was not, they said I was the first person to tell them that. Probably the biggest lie they told all day.

    Also, something you can put under what you can learn from this experience. Any time someone tells you that you can run the place at 21, run far, far away very quickly. No 21 year old should ever be let anywhere near the controls of a business that does not involve gasoline.

    • Brad–Sorry to hear this happened to you to. I’m bewildered that companies could think that candidates will walk away with a good impression of the company after they lock them into an all-day “interview.”

      I’m also not quite sure that 21 year olds should run gasoline-related businesses either, but that’s up for debate.

  5. I almost took a job like this in 2004, but I got smart after the first interview. The guy even had an “office” right across the street from Westport Plaza. His office was a small round table and 2 fold up chairs. He claimed he just moved in and that’s why there was no furniture and a hand written sign on his office door. The job was supposed to be with a well-known insurance company. His stationary, business cards, etc. all had the insurance company on it, but underneath it in very small letters was the division of his company that was supposedly attached to the insurance company. I got suspicious when during the interview he said I had to pay $200 up front for the costs of my supplies. As I listened to his spiel for an hour and wondered how this con-artist and his fellow scammers sleep at night, I realized it would be me going door-to-door,cold calling random numbers, placing bad ads in the newspaper like the one I originally saw, etc. to make the income each month. I politely told him I wasn’t interested after his speech and left. I researched the real company o the BBB website only to find out they have complaints and warnings about the company out the wazoo. Thank goodness I didn’t play into the scam.

    • as–Yikes, so many things wrong with that situation! I think the cherry on top is that you would have had to pay $200 up front. Good thing you walked out. 🙂

  6. I had the same deal in 2004, but this sketchy crew LITERALLY sold art out of the back of a van. Then, I found out at the end of the day that like 20 of them all lived together, and everyone was paid in cash at the end of the day. It was like spending a day with the Artful Dodger. There is a certain amount of helplessness you feel when this happens, because you’re in a stranger’s van, in an unfamiliar area, and you know you have to stick it out the whole day. As much as my dad wanted me to get a job, he was even grateful I didn’t take this one.

    • Red–It sounds like you missed a great job opportunity. Don’t worry–I’m sure there are other van crews out there. What were they selling?


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