How Dumb Is Your Employer?

      • A few years back there was a movie named “The Secret Of My Success” starring Michael J. Fox. In it, he gets hired at a relative’s company as a mailboy but sneaks up to the top floor and pretends to be a board member. All the other executives take his word that he’s a new board member without checking, because they are afraid of who might have given him the position (-who he is “after”, I guess, I don’t recall exactly). Watching that movie, I don’t think I ever once believed that doing what Mike did in the film was possible. Now I kinda wonder.
  • Cut to a few years later: I try a few days at a very odd job. Basically it is hawking cheap stuff on the street. The company you work for provides a different area of several city blocks every day, and a quantity of a couple cheap products (costing less than $5 each). You get paid a couple bucks for every item you sell. The guy training me grabs several cases of each item and says at the start (at 8:00 AM) that by the end of the day he’ll take in over $300, and about half he’ll get to keep. We fill our bags and leave the rest in the car. During the day, we go back and refill, running out only one day at 4:30. He does take in about that much money, and he does get to keep about half, and that’s normal. He does it all three days.
  • There’s rules though: traditional business dress is strictly required (haircut too), including a business-type leather bag to carry your stuff in. Business casual is not acceptable. Part of the reason is just to give a better image to people on the street. The company gives you this line about doing market research for product manufacturers for when anyone asks what you’re doing -and it isn’t entirely untrue, but all we did was sell junk out of our bags. And you go anyplace there’s people that’s “accessible”. The company doesn’t tell you to do anything illegal, but since you only get paid for what you sell, you quickly learn to go anywhere you can where people will be, within reason.
  • Like office buildings. He had a method that he had learned from other people at the same company for going through office buildings, and hitting as many people as possible. It worked almost all the time:
    • Go to the rear of the building. Never go in the front, where security guards will turn you away. At the back of the building, there’s almost always an open door, or often, a locking door blocked open. Service entrances work too. Even if there’s somebody there watching, you just walk right up and ask how to get to the elevator. Look at your watch, pretend you’re in a hurry. “Janitors are afraid of angering people in suits” he says. Trying to talk to the janitor while yelling into a cell phone at nobody works good too. Often the elevator doesn’t go down to the maintenance levels, so instead they tell you where the stairs are.
    • Find the stairs, and walk all the way up -even in a ten-story building. Don’t use the elevator to go up, because floor receptionists desks are often right in front of the elevator doors, and if you have no appointment or contact name they will know to turn you away or call security. They will only turn you away if you’re coming up though, not if you’re coming down. They can tell from the lights above the elevator doors which way you came from. If you came from an upper floor, they tend to assume you’re supposed to be there. That becomes important later.
    • Go to anyone who looks like they’re not in charge, and give your pitch. He’d always start out with “Somebody downstairs said I could come up here real quick, I’m not supposed to say who,”. People almost always said “We’re not supposed to allow, -well, what do you got?”
    • When you get caught (and you do get caught, because you try to sell your crap until somebody stops you or until you’ve tried everyone on the floor) be totally agreeable, be totally considerate, grab your stuff and leave. Get on the elevator. Take it down to the next floor, and start again at step #1.
      We did this all day long. We’d walk right past people who looked to be in charge, and none ever asked us who we were or what we were doing. They only asked us to leave after it was obvious we didn’t belong there. And not just office buildings, everywhere else too. Construction sites, meatpacking plants, hospitals (admin areas anyway, not everywhere). The guy training me said the key was to look right and to have the right attitude, even when you were pushing your way through a group of executive-looking types, in their own office building, on their own Goddamned top floor. -Which he did more than once, but I didn’t -quite- get used to in three days. -And have a story to explain how you got in, that doesn’t implicate anybody or give away the real way you did.
      —I tell this story now and it still just amazes me how easy it was to wander around in office buildings just by looking like you belong and ignoring people. The hours were too long (even for the money, 12-13 hrs/6 days a week) so I gave it up because it didn’t average out that well. ~~~ If I had come to your company selling junk, how long would it have taken me to get thrown out? - MC

HEY!!! I work security for a company in D. C. and I’ve arrested people who probably worked for your company. They always try the back, walk past the “No Trespassing” signs and I grab them. We used to let them go, but since they keep coming in we hold them and give their stuff to the police.

I guess I’ll have to admit… we missed them a couple of times and I’ve had to track 'em down on one of the floors.

Between my freshman and sophomore year of college, when computers were still relatively new to some companies, I was working as a temp doing data entry for a law firm. My boss had never owned a computer but said he wanted one right away. When it came, he told me to set it up, as he had no idea how anything worked. Once I had it all set up, I restarted it one last time before I let him sit at the helm. About five minutes later, he came back to my cubicle and asked me where the knob was to change channels since the channel he was on wasn’t showing up.
I know that doesn’t have much relevance to the topic at hand, but he was once in a pinch for a gift and he sent me out to buy a ‘Rolex’ from some guy on the street near Navy Pier (in Chicago) for a family member; which is what reminded me of that.

We were using a local printer. He was late on all three jobs we gave him (our newsletters) and we decided to find another but ran out of time before our deadline, so we gave him one more shot.

I was ill and could not pick up the job so the boss did. The printer announced that the newsletter would cost more than it had in the past.

She said why? He pointed to the two colors on the cover, blue and a screen of blue: a block in the logo and a light blue block behind the table of contents.

For those of you who do not know, when you print a screen, you get a lighter color, i.e. print 20% of red and you get a pink. It cost us about $125 to add the extra color–this is nothing fancy.

The job had cost us $700 in the past, but this time it was $1,500.00!

She paid the guy and didn’t tell me about it until it was too late to do anything about it.

But that’s not the punchline.

The next printer did a poor job and told us to take it or leave it. We had to take it. It wasn’t that bad, but his attitude was, so we vowed to dump him as well.

On the way back to the car, the boss tells me she wants to go back to the first printer!

I said, “Over my dead body” and decided to start looking for work elsewhere.

There are many more examples, but I am saving them for my comedy routine.


My employer is the exact opposite of the companies the OP went into. I have to say though, that I work in a call centre for a bank, so there is a lot of sensitive info on customers and the wrong person could get access to a lot of money. Securtiy is drilled into us from the first day. We have ID cards, and we are supposed to challenge people without them. There is only one was in, at the front (other than the alarmed fire doors) and you need to be swiped through a revolving gate.

I have been to interviews at other places that are similar, you have to wear a visitor ID badge at all times and most of the places you have to be accompanied by an employee of the company. I dunno if it is something that only happens in the US, but it just sound so odd the someone would walk into a company’s offices and just start to sell stuff to the employees. Didn’t the employees report you?

This is definitely not something I could do.