Insurance Cult

3 12 2011

I should have known god was trying to tell me something this morning, when in a haste, I realized I had locked my keys in my car. Fantastic. Somehow I managed to struggle my right arm in through a crack, jump the jam up, and unlocked. So against the universe’s attempt at stopping me from going to this interview, I willed myself determined that this interview would be both successful, and worth the effort at 8 in the morning. I don’t believe in fate, but I’m beginning to question my beliefs.

I decided to wear the nice Ralph Lauren outfit that makes me look expensive and smart. I had opted-out previously and learned that interviews are the kind of deal that befit from some sparkle, so I left the leather behind. I didn’t have time to do my hair which really pissed me off. I really like wearing my hair down when I need to do something important. I like the way it feels on my cheeks, and more importantly I like the way I feel when I know I’m having a good hair day; which is pretty much any time I wear my hair down.

So, I hop in the car and head for Sorrento Valley, with no reservations. After a few of these things you start to lose the jitters usually induced by too much caffeine. But I resisted my anxiety over one minor detail: I didn’t really know anything about this company. I was just going to wing it.

The second I walked into the building, something was clearly amiss. The building looked to be under construction. It was cold, I imagined somewhere a plastic tarp was fluttering open and letting that cool air in. A makeshift sign at the end of the gray atrium pointed to suite 206. I followed. Six or seven people were behind the door I pushed open, filling out forms on clipboards. I told the receptionist I had an appointment with Kristen at ten. At this point I’ve completely checked out. It was a frenzy. People were coming in and out, one at a time being called to the back by various people I assumed were conducting interviews. Everyone was in their Sunday best. I knew I should have done my hair! But the more I sat there, the more I got the feeling that these people had just been picked up from downtown, I thought maybe Occupy had found somewhere else to occupy. Something was up. This was bullshit. But that’s the funny thing about unemployment: I have nothing better to do than stay in potentially time-consuming, superfluous activities, that wont help me get ahead in the slightest.

Whitney?

I ran up to the woman who called my name, deciding I was really going to give it my all, and by that I mean I clearly had nothing to lose.  As far as I was concerned there was nothing professional happening in this building. We sit down and she asks for my resume. Wow, you worked in South Korea?! This woman was not Kristin. Did they even look at my resume? She continues to ask me questions that were completely irrelevant my skill set, focused more on personality traits. Another red flag. So, when she asked me to describe my dream job, I just let it fly. I want to be a writer! I love creativity and being part of the creative process. I love to travel, so if I could fit that in there somehow that would be awesome. Oh! And I want to make a lot of money, I also really enjoy working with social media and networking. Kids are great too. I like leadership rolls. Anything creative. She just looked at me. Well, you wont be doing any writing with us, and I wouldn’t call what we do creative. I grin. I tell her that that’s perfectly fine because I know that writing isn’t going to pay the bills and I understand that working in the insurance business must also be personally rewarding. They weren’t the only ones full of shit. Then she proceeds to tell me that she would like to move me through to the next step of the interview, which at this point could have been a pit with a bunch of snakes in it, I don’t know. We walk down a long hall to a conference room where she says I am going to have an orientation, so that I can get an idea of what the company is all about. I wait, and I wait, and I wait. Free coffee, thank god. The room slowly filled. Ten, fifteen, forty people.

I was kind of hoping that the presenter would be dressed like a wizard, or something more impressive than a middle-aged man in a cheap suit. For forty-five minutes he explained life insurance policies. He used the phrase, ‘mortal remains’ several times to describe dead people who need to be buried or whatever. Something about that phrase gave me the creeps. He talked about his love for all people; his greatest joy is seeing people happy, he’s a people person, and so on. What the fuck planet are you on? You’re in the business of making people pay for medicine so they can stay alive. He showed us something called a ‘decline certificate’, which basically alleviates a families burden to pay the people who get rid of dead bodies. I guess usually these companies want the money up front, and expect the insurance companies to reimburse the family. I mean come on!  Nothing about this guy said to me: You know what? He must really care about people. I hope my mortal remains are as well taken care of as those he looks after. I was beginning to think that this guy didn’t want to offer anybody a job, but instead, had cleverly gathered an audience of forty people into a room and was actually selling life insurance policies. Some of the people in the crowd looked like they could use it.

But it gets better. He asks his staff in the back to come up and introduce themselves. He consistently refered to them as ‘managers,’ which was also the way he described the job being offered. How cleaver I thought. Build everyone up with a fake ‘manager’ label and watch them drool over the bone. No thank you. I’m totally not into that. The managers come up to the front, and the freak show continues. But because I myself am a freak, I can’t look away. Six young-ish looking people stood in their Sunday best. What followed were six short introductions into these people’s lives that went way too deep for professionalism. She’s a single mom, and he hated his job, and he was a bartender through college, and her life has never been the same since, blah, blah, blah. But they spoke with such conviction that I almost believed them. Good god. At this point, I was pretty sure I’d figured it out. This is a cult. These people could not be seriously that jazzed about selling people life insurance, going door-to-door with a memorized script like some Jehovah Witness. At least it all made sense now. We were all going to go to a happy place together, drink pink punch, watch the sunset hand-in-hand, and die with really good life insurance polices. Utopia. My mortal remains were saved.

I got up. He was talking about salary and inflating the hell out of commission. I left. I don’t know if anyone starred me down, gave a shit that I was leaving, because I never looked. I just felt really bad and wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. Not only had they wasted my time, but even worse, I had finally seen my people, people surfing through unemployment. It was depressing. I drove home with the radio loud enough to blow your eardrums, I’m use to it.

This was the first time I had ever gotten a good look at someone who, like myself, is unemployed and looking for work in a down economy. It was uncomfortable sitting next to people who I knew were out of work and in hard times. I’m in hard times too. But I got the feeling that hard times was relative depending on the circumstance. We can’t tell in daily life who has a job and who doesn’t. Who wants one, and who needs one. I thought about the people I see in Rancho Bernardo, signs up asking for money. How are they any different?  Here we were all together: young, and old, black, white, asian, mexican. This is my competition. This is who we are.

At about 6:30 that night I got a phone call. I didn’t answer it. I knew it was them. The cult was clearly out to get me for human sacrifice, or maybe they just weren’t going to take no for an answer and I would purchase a life insurance policy. It didn’t matter. But I was rather surprised by the message they left: they were considering me for hire and requested another interview. Are you kidding me? They don’t know anything about me! They have no idea that I’m putting them on blast right now, and they think they want to hire me? What kind of company hires people so recklessly? If I wanted that I would go back into sales or customer service, where tolerating alienation is standard practice. Fuck that.

I didn’t call back the insurance cult. And I’m relieved I didn’t do my hair, that would have put me over the edge, as if I wasn’t there already.

 
Edited by
Rachel Bates and Nicole Rork
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4 responses

3 12 2011
Michele

*highfive*

3 12 2011
Lisa Hall Bates

Guaranteed, this is a sales position. One FULL of rejection and resorting to slimy tricks to get any sales. I used to do the “Amway thing that wasn’t really Amway” (also BS) and my upline was an insurance broker as well. They like to hire in groups then have sales meetings all the time to get you pumped up before sending you out for rejection…. I think it is wrong that potential employers can be so vague about a position, then try to sell it like it is exclusive, then unleash all the new hires at one time to compete for the same accounts. Be thankful you have such good intuition…

If you are feeling cruel, answer the next time they call and tell them in one of your colorful ways that you wouldn’t be caught dead-or would that be your mortal remains wouldn’t be caught dead selling policies!

3 12 2011
Whitney Marie Butler

@Lisa: I should answer next time. And I should really give them a pice of my mind about how misleading and totally ridiculous the whole thing was. The whole process from start to finish was so calculated I couldn’t believe it. It was like a science experiment. I felt like a rat. These organizations should be uncovered for what they are. They know they cant glamorize the job or sell it to people because it’s so mindless, so they have to fool people into considering it at all. And that’s not even the part that bothers me, like you said, it’s bullshit they waste everyones time with a false premiss. I need Geraldo on this one.

@Michele **HIGHFIVE**

5 12 2011
Kathie

And after they hire you, they either sit you at a phone doing cold calls or they give you a neighboorhood and you start bounding the pavement. The fly-by-night life insurance companies are loosing money because no one is buying. Hmm, buy life insurance or buy food? Welcome to the world of creatively phrased want ads! If they call you again, tell them that when you want to scrape the bottom of the barrel of employment, you will call them!

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