Watch out PR and marketing students: This company wants to take advantage of you
Like most public relations students and recent graduates, you’re probably searching for that first entry-level PR or marketing job on popular job finders like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and Glassdoor. Unfortunately, people are finding themselves being tricked into a multi-level marketing scheme that advertises itself on these sites across the country.
The scheme is called The Smart Circle, a national corporation worth $327 million dollars. This company is what is referred to as “A New Pyramid Scheme” in the sense that it differs from well-known traditional pyramid schemes like It Works, Young Living, and Mary Kay. It is different because, unlike the ones I previously listed, you don't have to buy into the scheme to be a part of it.
Instead, the company hires recruits and puts them through a 12-month “training program” in which they guarantee promotions after a certain amount of time on the grounds that they complete what are called systems (i.e., tests), to prove they are ready.
But how does this big of a pyramid scheme work? And how do they keep getting new employees to work for them? The simple answer. They lie.
See, when you apply to The Smart Circle on these popular job search engines, you aren't actually applying to the Smart Circle itself. Instead, the company has devised a way to hide its operations under the guise of an “independent distributor company.” These independent distributors, called “owners” have worked their way through the training system themselves and are given their own title, contracts, and company name to build a pyramid underneath them.
These owners claim they don’t work for The Smart Circle and are their own bosses. However, they are still subject to The Smart Circle’s rules, pay structure, training program, contract obligations, and are required to network with other owners and higher-ups on a daily basis. Meaning, they are employees with extra steps.
Once employees reach the “owner” level, they think they get to rename their brand because they own it. In fact, it is required by The Smart Circle that they do this, so it's harder to trace the operations back to them. They choose names like ‘New Age Marketing’ or ‘Pursuit Promotional Management’ to attract young and bright hires who know nothing about The Smart Circle and wouldn't be able to see the relationship between the companies on the internet.
But what does The Smart Circle have to hide? A lot. A quick Google search would show you they are what is referred to as an economic cult, they have multiple labor law violations, they underpay and overwork their employees, and have lawsuits against them for purposefully misclassifying their employees, so they don't receive proper pay or benefits.
They also make their employees work overtime regularly, and some employees report working 80 hour weeks with no weekends. On top of that, employees are regularly told to ignore any negative comments about the business practices and are gaslit when they speak up about the nature of the job.
Employees will be called lazy, stupid, or untalented when they cannot perform certain tasks exactly to their liking. They are often refused time off and told they are falling behind on tasks as the reason. Multiple employees even claimed they were told not to talk to friends or family because they had been questioning the legitimacy of the company.
In 2018, a documentary made by a former employee called “The Slave Circle” made swirls and required the company to make some adjustments to their company.
However, they still are on job search sites and are still recruiting young naive students into one of the largest, most abusive pyramid schemes in the country.
By Zac Strater
Zac was born in Chicago, Illinois but currently resides in San Diego, California. Zac is a third-year Journalism-Public Relations major with a minor in TV, Film, and Media. After graduation, he hopes to move to Los Angeles and start a career in creative writing and content creation.