The blinds were closed, the doors were locked, and Crimewatch were outside. They were investigating reports of a bogus time share company in the south of England. Sharon said it was all hype, orchestrated by a few disgruntled customers, and it would all blow over. It usually does.
Meanwhile, the plan was to keep selling, keep doing your job, don’t be distracted. They got the phonebook out and “…organised new leads….” which meant calling people further away, where the news hadn’t reached. By now, most of the other reps had been fired or left. They couldn’t handle the pressure, weren’t happy with the media attention, or were sick of the increasingly aggressive groups hovering at the front door.
The crux of the customer problem appeared to be money. More specifically, a deposit paid for an apartment in Spain. I read this some time later when the story eventually broke.
The people we’d been calling had been awarded a free night in a hotel down the road. Once they accepted, they were given dinner, some wine and a complementary plastic watch. A condition of accepting the overnight stay was they attend a seminar on some investment opportunities. Once there, they were presented with a dream story on Foreign Property. New developments. Get in early. Mutual funds. Pooled resources. All they had to do was commit £4,000 today and wait for it to quadruple in six months time. They were also given exclusive access to the apartments – pending availability.
However, it turned out the apartments weren’t available. A problem exacerbated by the fact that they didn’t exist at all. The whole thing was pure fabrication. A photoshopped pyramid scheme. £4000 for a short night in a cheap hotel and a free plastic watch. How are ya fixed?
Worse still, the cheques started bouncing. Which meant we weren’t getting paid. Sharon said they were having accounting problems with the bank and it would all be resolved soon.
Time to hit the road here, Micky. I was about to hand in my notice when Frank arrived. The man above it all. He was from Northern Ireland. The others spoke of his reputation in morbid tones. Had I looked him up on Google? Did I not know this was how it worked? It was simple. Set up a company under Limited Liability, run it to the ground and claim bankruptcy. Then set up again the following year under a new name. New entity. Everybody wins except them that got burnt outside.
I met him in the back office. He wanted to talk to me because I was Irish and had been selling well, and he heard I was leaving. He was sitting behind a desk scattered with paper punches and biros. Black hair, paunch. White vest. What did I make of England? Where was I from in Ireland? All a joke isn’t it? Am I getting paid alright?
I told him my last cheque bounced, anything he can do there?
He said he can of course, and how much was it. I told him the figure and he took out his wallet and counted out some cash and handed it over. He asked if that was alright. I told him almost, he was three pound short but it be grand. No, he said, not at all. And he reached into his pocket and took out three pound coins and handed them to me. Will that do, he asked? Twill, I said. What about the rest of them outside, waiting to get paid?
Fuck them, he said. We Irish look after each other. Let me know if you’re looking for work again any time.