The Right Question

I’ve been involved in an unfortunate dispute with a company I work for as a sales representative. As a sales rep, I make only commission on what I sell. I put in tons of time last year researching and contacting leads. It went pretty well, though I bet if I had tracked my hours last year as I do this year, the average hourly wage wouldn’t be very impressive. But it was a gig, and I was glad to have it. I was glad to have it again this year, and I was pleased to receive repeat orders from a few customers. I was excited to continue seeking out orders, if not to the extent I had the year before, but at least a few hours a week.

Last year I was paid pretty regularly. Once in awhile a check would be late, but I’d contact the people over there at this organization I’m not going to name, and they would get back to me right away. A check was mailed pretty much right after that.

I made my first sale this year in the Spring. No check came, so I emailed and called. Ooooh they were working on it. I waited. I was patient at this point. Very patient. I continued being patient as I emailed over forty times, receiving around six total emails in response, and none ever from the accountant who was supposed to be looking into it. I was told at various times that “checks were being processed” and would be mailed the “next week.” At a certain point, I was told that “checks should have already been received.” I emailed back informing them that I had not received my check, and asking them to update me as to why. I received no response.

I grew madder and madder. An okay-paying side job turned into a thorn in my side that I couldn’t ignore. Here I am, working on the promise of commission for the sales I make, and this company doesn’t have the decency to even respond to my emails, let alone pay me! I like everyone there who I have worked with, but as an organization, I grew to hate them. My acupuncturist told me that the best way to deal with difficult people was to send love and light their way. I practiced that daily, as frustrated and insulted as I was. And still no response.

I like to think of myself as a pretty shrewd business person. I predicted soap opera characters having blogs and myspace pages years before it ever happened. I read Inc Magazine from cover to cover. The idea of treating your work force with such complete and utter disregard makes me shudder. I wish I had the contact information for other sales representatives, because I honestly cannot believe that they treat us all like this. How can they expect to survive when the people who should be out there promoting their products aren’t getting paid and their inquiries are ignored? And how could they expect us (me!) to continue promoting their product and seeking out sales when I hadn’t been paid for the sales I’ve made?

Finally I listened to my attorney friends and sent a demand letter. And finally I started getting responses to my emails. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. But I noticed that they were only addressing part of the due commissions, ignoring the other part. I asked about the ignored portion, and once again, did not receive a response. I emailed again to ask for an update. But this time I tacked on, “If you are not the right person to update me, can you please provide someone who can?”

Boom. Twenty minutes later I had an email to someone I had never heard of asking them to update me. I don’t know yet if she’s going to, but I am struck by the absurdity of the situation. Perhaps if I had asked that question back in March this whole situation could have been avoided? Was it really my responsibility to ask the right question?

I definitely don’t think so. They’re in an industry with a few layers of customer service; they have people who buy their product who they should want to be happy. They also have a force of sales reps who are out there selling their products in exchange for their commission. They aren’t what you think of as typical customers, but they are buying money with their time. And they, like the customers who buy the products, are out there in the world sharing their experiences. I can’t tell you how hard it was for me not to buy www.[name of company I work for]sucks.com. Months ago I wanted to start a blog about their disregard for my work and time, but ultimately I knew it wouldn’t help me professionally or personally.

So here I am, as anonymously as possible, sharing my experiences. Hopefully the checks come in and I don’t need that looming court date. When the checks come in I will email them urging them to think of their sales reps more as customers. This time I won’t expect a response.

Whatchu think?

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