She was a college sophomore going back to campus after visiting her family for the weekend. A sweet quiet Mexican girl wearing her college’s sweatshirt and a Jansen backpack. Somehow we got on the subject of summer plans and she mentioned that she was just gong to go home this year, that last year had been kinda crazy. Oh really? How? She said she got her first job last year, well an internship, and had been living away from home on the East Coast. I asked what it was. She said it was for an educational company that had her going door to door selling their products. I shuddered. Memories of being forced to sell Girl Scout cookies to the same neighbors year after year came flooding back. Knocking. Waiting. The inevitable dismay/hostility on the face of whoever opened the door. Oh god — the smell of those strange houses. Soup. Sweat. Old bacon. Moldy carpet.
“Wait — that doesn’t sound like an internship. Did you get paid?”
“Well it was a commission thing. I made some money but other people ending up owing the company money because they didn’t sell enough and they would end up driving around looking for places to sell and that used up gas.”
“This sounds awful.”
“It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.”
“They made you go all the way across the country to sell door to door? How did you get there? Did they pay for your flight?”
“There was a van. They picked us up.”
“It sounds like you were a migrant worker.”
“I guess. Kind of.”
“Where did you stay?”
“Well that was kinda weird. We had to ask people that we were selling to if they had an extra room.”
I nearly spit. “What??? You asked strangers if you could live in their house??? DId you parents know?”
“No, I didn’t tell them because they would’ve worried. And the company asked us not to tell them anything because they said we would be homesick and our parents would just make us come home.”
“Oh my god, this sounds illegal. How did you get this ‘internship?'”
Turns out her COLLEGE actually passed out an innocuous seeming summer survey that was turned over to this company run by an alumni. When she marked that she had no plans, they contacted her with this amazing offer. Why a college would endorse a company that would ship 18 year olds thousands of miles away from home without a place to stay or a per diem and then send them door to door asking strangers if they could live in their house, I just don’t know.
She reassured me, “I learned a lot. I made some good friends. And this woman, when she found out that I was paying this guy to live in his house, she told me I could stay with her for free. So I learned there are some really good people out there.”
Wait — you had to pay the boarding fees yourself? Oh don’t get me started…
I ran home and looked up the company. This is what I found.
I suppose there’s two sides to every story. I’m sure some strange twisted mind might enjoy this particular kind of torture. Might even say it builds character. But me, I think it sounds like pure hell.