**ATTENTION: This is a great post on Reddit about “direct marketing” or “outsourced sales” companies. It was corroborates pretty much everything I’ve written in this post. Other companies you need to watch out for include Red Ten NYC, Limitless Marketing, 5 North, I.D.B Consulting, and LIFE Long Island. This is another informative website about companies of this nature.
**ATTENTION: If you’ve ever dealt with Troy International or any of the companies affiliated with them (Northstar Consulting Group, Polaris, The Henry Group, EQM, EQ New York, Worldwide Marketing, The BBB Conglomerate and Noble Solution) please share your experience by comment below. Current and ex-employees, you are especially encouraged to share your experiences!
This post is about Troy International, a direct selling company in Manhattan. I had a very negative experience being interviewed by them. I did extensive research after I left and what I found was disturbing. This post is a message to job seekers to be wary of Troy International and other direct selling companies.
Last week I saw Troy International’s Craigslist post:
I thought it was a good fit what I was looking for. I sent them my resume and cover letter.
Within a few hours I received an email from a woman named Anastasiia Oliinyk asking me if I’d like to come in for an interview. Anastasiia’s email signature said that she was the HR Manager at Troy International, Inc. I Googled her name (in quotes) to see if it was legitimate and the 3rd result on the first page was a LinkedIn profile for an Anastasiia Popova (I’m guessing she got married or divorced). The profile confirmed that she was the HR Manager at Troy International. Her profile is awful and her summary seems to be more appropriate for MySpace. This is her Twitter account and Facebook profile.
I emailed her back and scheduled an interview for the next week. I then went to Troy International’s website. My suspicions first began at when I saw how vague the website was. The company says they are in the sales and marketing industry but on the “Services” section of the site, they don’t go into detail about exactly what they do- they just spout some overused business jargon. I found this very off-putting. They also list 5 of their clients (including American Express) but they don’t say what they did for these companies. The logos only link to the companies’ respective websites. If you look at any other marketing firm’s website, they will almost always give a specific list of their services and have a portfolio of their work. Troy International’s website has neither.
The website has generic stock photos of Greek ruins (hence Troy) and office conference rooms. It doesn’t contain a single name of anyone who works there. The site also talks about the huge opportunities for growth in such a clichéd manner. Their social media pages show absolutely nothing about what the company has done or anything about the staff. Instead they are full of cheesy motivational quotes. Their Facebook page has a few pictures of the people who work there but they all are taken at a bar and none of the people in these pictures are tagged. A lot of the links in the “Social Media & PR” section don’t even work. But I then searched for Troy International on Ripoff Report but found nothing. That’s why I decided to go for the interview.
**UPDATE: My submission to Ripoff Report about Troy International got published. Check it out here.
The email that confirmed my interview told me that I would need to check in with security upon entering and show a valid picture ID. The security guard would then provide me with a visitor’s pass and direct me to their office. The day of my interview, the taxi driver dropped me off at the address on the website (690 8th Avenue, 5th Floor). The building was in between a souvenir shop and a McDonald’s. I saw about 10 people crammed in a dimly lit and tiny lobby (no security guard). I opened the door and there was a man in jeans interviewing the other people in the lobby, one after the other. I ignored them and went to look at the directory next to the broken down elevator. The sign said a company called EQM was on the 5th floor. Troy International’s name was not written anywhere. The man who was interviewing the others asked me what I was looking for. I told him Troy International and he said “It’s on the 5th floor. We’re all the same company.”
I was very confused because Troy’s website said nothing about EQM. I asked some of the people what they were interviewing for and they all told me Troy International. I showed them the Craigslist ad on my iPhone and they all said it was the same one they responded to. I was even more confused because I thought I’d be interviewed in an office setting. I had some time so I went to the McDonald’s and did some research. I Googled the address and one of the first results was a complaint on Ripoff Report about a company called Polaris / EQM. This complaint accused the company of only paying in commissions and having a very high turnover rate. I Googled Polaris and found this second post on Ripoff Report. Polaris was listed at a different address but I was sure it was the same company. The person who wrote said the following things (keep these in mind as you continue reading):
- “…I didn’t have to sign in I was thinking to myself that’s odd? All companies usually have you sign in, in the lobby.”
- “…about 12 people sitting waiting to be interviewed…The people seemed to be coming out of the interviews within 10 minutes. I thought to myself these are the fastest interviews of all time?”
- “…was told to check off a list of verbs that describes me the most/least.”
- About the 2nd interview: “they were going to have me go door to door to businesses to sell supposed Staples products? On top of that they weren’t going to pay me for lunch, transportation and I even read most times you dont get paid even if you make a sale. It’s a full commission job and I knew I sniffed something from the weird website, bio’s that look like they were written by a blogger, and worse yet that small, depressing, shady office.”
I went back into the building and climbed the dirty stairwell to the 5th floor (the elevator was broken). No one was there to ask me for ID or sign me in. I got to the 5th floor and walked into the open door. It was a dingy waiting room with cheap furniture and the paint on the walls was peeling (I wish I took pictures). The secretary at the desk was blasting crappy pop music through her iPad (hardly professional). She had me fill out 2 forms and give a copy of my resume. One was for my information (address, work eligibility, etc.) and the other was a stupid form asking me to check off words that described me the most and described me the least (same exact thing the person on Ripoff Report said). The waiting room had nothing that mentioned Troy, EQM, or Polaris. There was nothing on the walls nor were there were any brochures or flyers. There was a coffee table with a broken flat screen TV and some music CDs. I sat down and began filling the forms. I noticed that in the one room with with an open door, there was a huge rack (like ones in department stores) of suit jackets. I have no idea what this was for.
There were about 5 other people in the waiting room. Every 5 minutes people would come out of the other rooms and leave. Then the interviewers who came out after them would tell another person in the waiting room to come in and be interviewed. New people kept coming through the front door every so often. The person who was called before me went into an interview room. He came out and left within 2 minutes. A man came out of a room and called my name. He introduced himself as Jason and told me to come in his office. He sat down and told me to do the same. Next to me was a woman on a laptop. He introduced her as Anastasiia (same woman in the LinkedIn profile). He began telling me about the company (basically reciting what I read on the website). He glanced at my resume then told me about the interview process. If they liked me they would call me within a day. The 2nd interview would be me following around one of their employees for an entire day. The 3rd interview would decide if I’d be given an offer. He ended the interview and was ready to ask me to leave until I asked if I could ask some questions (something one would assume you usually do during an interview).
I started listing my concerns. I told him the office looked like they just moved in recently and Jason seemed caught off-guard and offended. I asked him about Polaris, EQM, and the vagueness of the website. Jason got extremely defensive and said Troy had no links to those other companies (despite them all being sales/marketing companies, being linked to the same address, AND THE GUY DOWNSTAIRS TELLING ME THEY WERE THE SAME COMPANY). He admitted that the position would be an outside contractor and not an employee. He started getting really cagey and then blurted that he the president of Troy International (as if this would give him some credibility) and wouldn’t say why he wasn’t mentioned on the website. I forgot his last name but I’m guessing that it’s Malone based on this LinkedIn profile.
**UPDATE: Jason Malone is the president of Troy International and the person who interviewed me. I emailed the company this post and he responded saying he is going to talk to his lawyers. This is his Twitter account and this is his Google+ account.
Jason told me that he had “lots of clients” (only 5 listed on the website) such as energy procurers (who often outsource their sales to outside firms). He said he had offices in Miami and Baltimore (not mentioned on Troy’s website). He kept trying to ask me what exactly I found suspicious despite me repeating myself. I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere and I told him I’m not trying to offend him but I wasn’t interested in the job. We ended on a friendly note and I left the office.
**UPDATE: I came clean to Jason Malone and told him who I really was. I said I would no longer post on Troy International’s Facebook (but I would continue to post elsewhere) and I said he was welcome to refute any of the points I made. This is his response :
And this is my reply:
When I got home I did further research and I found the following:
- Another Ripoff Report post about Polaris.
- Polaris’s Twitter. Last tweet was in December 2011 which said they are leaving 690 8th Ave, 5th floor. Their website is down.
- Twitter profiles for two Polaris employees, John Palladino and Alisha Sims. Both profiles are nearly identical. They tweet about a woman named Elana Stein.
- Elana Stein’s Twitter is linked to a similar marketing company, EQ New York, located at the same address.
- A press release that confirms Elana Stein worked at Polaris. This Manta listing say she’s the owner.
- More on Ripoff Report about Polaris and EQM. This post mentions Elana Stein.
- A listing for EQM. Says Elana Stein is the registered agent. This is very important. I’ll explain more below.
- A blog post that talks about a similar company called Universal Online Promotions (and also mentions Polaris). The post talks about a man named Rafael “Raf” Diaz (president of Universal Online Promotions) and refers to him as a “douchebag”. Doing more digging I found this wedding website for Rafael Diaz and Elana Stein.
- Elana Stein’s Tumblr. Similar dumb motivational quotes like Troy International’s social media pages.
- Another company, The Henry Group, had the same address with similar complaints. The Henry Group’s website is also down.
- More complaints about The Henry Group on Ripoff Report.
- A very vague website (no longer active) about a company called Worldwide Marketing at the same address. Worldwide’s Facebook page is very similar to Troy International’s. It shows pictures of employees in the office and on a business trip but none are tagged.
Elana Stein is what everything has in common. She is connected EQ New York and Polaris, which are/were both located in the same exact address as Troy International. She is also connected to EQM. As I explained earlier, when I arrived at Troy International’s building, the directory in the lobby said the company on the 5th floor of 690 8th Avenue was EQM (in writing). The man who I met in the lobby said that EQM was the same company as Troy International! Furthermore, I found Elana Stein’s Facebook page and she is friends with Jason Malone. Jason’s Facebook profile confirms that he is president of Troy International.
This Ripoff Report post discusses The Henry Group and mentions a woman named Brenda Bernal. It also mentions that Elana and Raf Diaz are getting married. This other post also mentions Brenda Bernal and Elana Stein. Elana and Jason are both Facebook friends with Brenda Bernal. In addition, I found a profile for a Stefan Mainhart who is Facebook friends with Brenda, Elana, and Jason. I also found a profile for Rafael Diaz (Elana’s husband) who is Facebook friends with Elana, Brenda, Jason, and Stefan.
All of this is very unsettling. Troy International and all these other companies are definitely operated by people who know each other. My guess is that they change the company’s name (or form a new company) when people catch on to what’s happening. I’m not accusing Troy International of being a scam, MLM (multi-level marketing), or doing anything illegal. They are just being very deceptive. Direct sales companies, like Troy International are intentionally vague and make big promises to lure desperate job seekers, especially recent grads. They pay only on commission. They employ people as contractors so they don’t have to give benefits. These companies often don’t compensate their contractors for expenses such as transportation during work hours. Craigslist gives you the option of saying a job is a contractor position but Troy International conveniently neglected to do so.
These companies “hire by the dozen” because of their very large turnover rates (due to the frustrating nature of the job). I’m sure if you worked very hard at a company like Troy International, you could make a lot of money (most people don’t). But I wouldn’t ever trust a company that was so dishonest to begin with.
**UPDATE: I emailed EQ New York and they replied. They denied knowing anything about Troy International, despite them both being direct sales companies on the SAME EXACT FLOOR in THE SAME EXACT BUILDING. They have the same address listed on their websites! They told me to call and speak to Elana (who is Facebook friends with Jason, the president of Troy International). I also Googled the phone number they gave me for Elana and came up with two posts, one about Polaris and one about Polaris and The Henry Group.
**UPDATE: I found ANOTHER company operating out (at least in one point in time) of the 5th floor on 690 8th Ave. It’s called The BBB Conglomerate Network, a direct sales company headed by a man named Antoine Bell. The Facebook page (no longer active) says they are located at the same address as Troy International. But the website says they are located at 40 Exchange Place. This Manta listing also has them at the same address at Troy International. The website actually has a good deal of information, especially about Antoine Bell. I’ll email them and ask them how they fit in to this network. Here is their Google+ profile, Twitter, and LinkedIn profile. This is Antoine Bell’s Facebook profile.
WHY I KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT
A few years ago, I read a lot about a company called CorConcepts, located in McLean, VA and Chicago, IL. Their website is no longer active but their LinkedIn page is still up. If you Google CorConcepts, you’ll find a vast amount of complaints about the company. When I worked as a recruiter, I had two coworkers who worked for CorConcepts and both of them quit within a month. This post on Ripoff Report talks about CorConcepts. It describes their deceptive jobs ads and an interview process very similar to Troy International’s. Funny enough, the person who wrote the post mentions CorConcept’s vice-president “blasting inappropriate club music in the office”. The company hires people to work as contractors doing door-t0-door sales (subcontracting for large companies, such as Verizon). They offer no benefits, paid sick days, or compensation for transportation expenses.
CorConcepts is affiliated with a company called Cydcor. Companies affiliated with Cydcor “advertise entry-level jobs and management training, but in reality they are recruiting for door-to-door commission sales people”. Interestingly enough, I found this post that alleges that Polaris and The Henry Group are connected to Cydcor. But in the comments section, a representative from The Henry Group denies any connection to Cydcor. But a response to this comment says that The Henry Group switched from Cydcor to Credico, another direct sales company.
A biography of Cydcor’s president, Jim Majeski, says he developed “developed national sales and marketing campaigns” for numerous companies, including American Express, which happens to be one of Troy International’s clients.
I’ve done my best to hold my tongue while writing with this. I hate being lied to and I really hate businesses that are untruthful. I think any educated person can see how bad of a company Troy International is. Their shady history (all public information available on the Internet) speaks for itself. Their website looks very cheap and and the lame business lingo they use on it makes me want to throw up. Their social media sites are pathetic and almost anyone with a brain can see beyond that lame motivational garbage they post. You’d think a company that does marketing would know better. Their name is even dishonest. They do no business in other countries. They have no substance and that’s why they lie. I, on the other hand, don’t have to lie.
I happen to know about companies like this because I’ve done extensive research on them for years. I’ve even worked for a couple that were the absolute worst (one being the infamous Vector Marketing Group who sell Cutco knives). But other people, especially recent grads, don’t have the experience I have. It’s only fair that they know what they’re getting into when they apply for jobs and go on interviews. But don’t let my experience prevent you from doing anything. You should do your own research and ask your own questions before you draw any conclusions. Good luck!
**UPDATE: Almost 24 hours after I wrote this post, it is the first post on Reddit’s NYC Job’s page.
**UPDATE: Noble Solution is another company affiliated with Troy International
Since I wrote my post about Troy International, I have regularly been receiving messages from people thanking me for publicizing all this information. Many of them are glad they saw my post and didn’t have to waste time and money being interviewed by such a dishonest group of companies.
A few day ago, I received this email from a woman who was going to a second interview at a company called Noble Solution:
She informed me that Noble Solution was located on the 5th floor of 690 8th Avenue (same address as Troy International and the other companies). She decided to go for the second interview and then sent me this email:
I found Noble Solution’s website. The website describes Noble Solution as “strategic marketing company that focuses on event coordinating and market research, promoting programs for [their] fortune 500 clients”. Their main client is Assurance Wireless, “a federal Lifeline Assistance program brought to you by Virgin Mobile. Lifeline is a government benefit program supported by the federal Universal Service Fund”. The website also links to Noble Solution’s Google+ profile, Twitter, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, and YouTube Channel. The website, like Troy International’s, uses a lot of cliched business jargon that makes little sense.
The woman who emailed me informed me that a woman named Brenda conducted her first interview. Another woman named Tia (a “trainer”) accompanied her during the second interview. Noble Solution’s interview process seems to be identical to Troy International’s interview process. I did some more digging and found this blog post on Noble Solution’s website:
It was posted by a BBernal. This means that Brenda is none other than Brenda Bernal of the Henry Group, a Troy International affiliate. On Noble Solution’s Facebook profile, a man named Lee Tyler comments on several of the photographs. Lee is Facebook friends with Brenda Bernal, Jason Malone (Troy International), Elana Stein (Polaris, EQM, and EQ New York), Rafael Diaz (Elana Stein’s husband), and Antoine Bell (The BBB Conglomerate Network). Doing some more digging, I found this blog post about The BBB Conglomerate Network. A commenter named Hilly said she was contacted for an interview by The BBB Conglomerate Network a few months back but decided not to go. Last month she was contacted by Noble Solution for an interview. She was shocked to see that both companies did the exact same thing (direct sales) and were located at the same address (The BBB Conglomerate Network has since moved to 40 Exchange Place).
For added confirmation I looked up Noble Solution’s domain name and found out that the website is indeed registered to Brenda Bernal.
I also looked up the number on that registration (9152021229) and found out it was the same number for The Henry Group.
Noble Solution’s YouTube channel has this video of employees doing sales exercises:
When I did my initial research, I found a Facebook page for Worldwide Marketing, another direct sales company located at the same address at Noble Solution and Troy International. I found this photograph on the Facebook page which was taken in the same room as the video above. It is also the same office as Troy International. I’d recognize those ugly wood floors anywhere.
All this evidence proves that Noble Solution is indeed part of the same network of direct sales companies as Troy International, Polaris, The Henry Group, EQM, EQ New York, Worldwide Marketing, and The BBB Conglomerate Network. These are all direct sales companies, operated out of the same address and by people who know each other. They change the company’s name (or form a new company) when people catch on to what’s happening.
**UPDATE: A few days after updating this post, I got this email! So awesome!
**UPDATE: Northstar Consulting Group is another company affiliated with Troy International
I recently received this email from a man who interviewed at Troy International with Jason Malone.
He was reviled by Troy International and Jason Malone’s deceptive tactics and unnecessarily exhausting interview process. He was especially disgusted at the fact that the average person who worked for Troy International would make such a pathetic wage (impossible to live on in New York City). After he interview, he found my post and emailed me. He told me that he had also applied at The BBB Conglomerate Network and a company called Northstar Consulting Group (their website, Facebook page, Twitter, and Google+). As stated in the email above, he informed me that when Northstar Consulting Group called him, it said Polaris on his caller ID. He also sent me this email from an Anita Poon who works at Northstar Consulting Group:
What’s interesting is that when I clicked on the website link in the email, it led me to a website for a company based in the UK called Fundraising Initiatives. It was only when I manually typed the URL into the search bar that I got to Northstar Consulting Group’s website. The website is the same exact layout as Noble Solution’s website, with a lot of the same text. An inside source at Noble Solution (who wishes to remain anonymous and I will respect this) told me that both companies used the same web designer.
Northstar Consulting Group says they “originally worked solely with Fortune 500 clients [and] built an unparalleled expertise for customer acquisition campaigns. By expanding [their] scope to encompass clients in the non-profit sector, [their] vision has expanded to provide fundraising services for several international charities and most importantly the noble causes they serve.” The non-profit connection would explain why the link in the email sent me to Fundraising Initiatives’ website. Fundraising Initiatives specializes in door to door fundraising, a sales tactic similar to Troy International and the companies connected to it.
Northstar Consulting Group is located at 40 Exchange Place, Suite 600 in Manhattan. 40 Exchange Place is also where The BBB Conglomerate Network is located. The Founder/CEO is a man named Bartholomew “Bart” Yates (Facebook profile and Linkedin profile). Jerome Fenton is the manager (Facebook profile and LinkedIn profile) and Anita Poon is the HR manager (Facebook profile and LinkedIn profile). Bart’s privacy settings do not let me see any of his Facebook friends but Jerome and Anita’s profiles do. Both of them are friends with Jason Malone, Anastasiia Popova, Elana Stein, Rafael Diaz, Antoine Bell, and Brenda Bernal.
Doing a little more digging, I came across this website that I had seen when I first wrote this post in February. The post is about Rafael Diaz but in the comments, Bart Yates is mentioned 49 times (use CTRL+F to find them all). The comments also mention Jason Malone, Brenda Bernal, Elana Stein, and Antoine Bell. People are very angry at them for being so dishonest and exploitive. Northstar Consulting Group seems to be a rather new company and there is very little else about them online. I’m sure this will change once more people learn what they’re up to.
Another interesting thing to note is that on Jerome Fenton’s LinkedIn profile, it says he is the CEO of a company called Centurion & Co. I found their website (as well as Twitter and Facebook page) which says they are a “promotional marketing company” located in Wesley Chapel, Florida. Their website’s text is very similar to that of Troy International and the others. I didn’t find any complaints about them but I did find a lot of their job ads. All the ads are for entry level sales and marketing positions. My guess is that they are another Cydcor-affiliated company.