I've read some of the experiences of those who had dealt with Cobra, so I thought that I might as well add my own seeing as reading other's experiences was a factor in my decision to leave the company. My experience wasn't horrible, and in my short time there I learned a lot of lessons and believe that I have become more resilient as a person. This, however, does not excuse The Cobra Group's deception and lack of decency. My experience was also unique because I came at a time when they launched a new partnership, but more on that later.
**WHAT IS COBRA GROUP?**
Cobra is a huge marketing company which deals with 'human commercials'. When I say huge, I mean huge! According to their website, they created $5 billion in revenue for their clients. They're obviously very good at what they do. They have offices in 20 countries worldwide, and my experience comes from an office in Australia.
Despite the fact that they are a huge company, Cobra officially employs very very few people. Most of their workers are actually independent contracters. In the case of Cobra, this means that they waive all responsibility for their workers, so if anything happens while their doing the job, they're on their own. Cobra is also quite unique in that individuals can open their own offices, but more about that later, here's how I would best describe Cobra's layout for a typical worker:
COBRA > Individual Office > Independent Contractor.
The individual office can be named anything, and I mean anything! HDC group, ROK corp, Lizard Queen group... you name it! (These aren't real by the way, not to my knowledge.)
**THE JOB AD**
Cobra Group offices rarely ever use Cobra Group in their ads, and instead use their individual office name, which I find strange at least because for such a huge company, you'd think that they'd want to affiliate themselves with their 'mother'. They are also targetted at those who have little experience in sales, little managerial skills, do not hold uni degrees and so forth. Basically it's a very attractive ad, which sounds almost too good to be true, so naturally you apply for it because you're looking to do something different and think to yourself 'What have I got to lose?'
So I applied for the job before I went to bed, which would have been around 5.00AM. At 9.00AM I received a call on my mobile from a number I didn't recognise. I was way too tired so I switched it on silent. I didn't have a great day, so when I received a call from the same number I couldn't be bothered answering the phone. The next morning I received yet another call, so I picked it up mostly out of curiosity. The lady was pleasant enough, and after a few vague questions about my past experience, told me that they were very excited about meeting me (Really? A guy who'd been unemployed for the last 3 months, has worked only in hospitality and warehouses would get you THIS excited?), so I thought that was a little strange, but whatever. I arranged an interview with them for the next day. That did set off some alarm bells, but it actually made me very curious about the company.
**THE FIRST INTERVIEW**
Well I arrived nice and early for the interview and filled out the usual forms you do when you go for one. The office was actually really nice, and for the first time, I was not nervous for an interview. At this point, I should mention that one of the other people going for an interview was dressed in a crummy t-shirt and tracksuit pants and shoes that were beyond disrepair. You'll see why later. Well anyway, my turn for an interview came up, but it was a double interview.
The interviewer, lets call him Jason, was a really pleasant bloke and did most of the talking. The questions asked were basically the same ones asked on the phone. So I was really surprised that I got invited to an Observation Day, the next day no less. In fact, both me and the other girl got it, but she smartly never showed up. I however, did.
The next day I came back to do an Observation Day. Basically what this means is that I follow around one of the more successful people and watch the workings of the job. As I later discovered, this basically allows people to run away and never return, but those who don't returned are said to have been let go because of their bad attitude. The guy who would become my team leader, lets call him Scotty, showed me what looked to be like a fun day, even though to get to the field (Oh yea, it was door knocking) it took nearly an hour by car.
What they did when they got onto the field was to split their turf up and then start the door knocking. The weather was a bit chilly but nothing to complain about. Scotty was a really bubbly, bright and was very enthusiastic. At this point he told me that at 19, he was making $800-$1,200 per week on average. The gross GDP for each Australian is around $32,000 a year.. so earning $52,000 a year was a lot for a 19 year old. I do have my reasons now for thinking that he's full of it.
In any case, on the way back to the office, he asked me what I thought of doing 6 hours of work and earning possibly $200 a day. Obviously it sounded great. So when it came down to second interview time, I was made to wait. This time the owner of the office, lets call him Max, was the interviewer. Again, a few vague descriptions of what the job encompasses, and then he told me I got the job. I was pretty ecstatic I have to say. He then proceeded to tell me that I was one of two who got hired that day, which made me feel even better.
The day I accepted the job was also the last day that Cobra were doing their campaign with a certain telecommunications company. So I would be working with the new campaign at the same time everyone else was. It put us all on a level playing field and this made me feel good. However, for the launch of the new partnership, Cobra required us to attend a 3 day seminar in the city. It was a 9 - 5 thing, that some of us were re-imbursed $100 for.
**FIRST DAY ON THE FIELD**
Remember the guy I mentioned earlier in the tracksuit pants and raggedy tee? He also got the job. Again, I ignored the alarm bells, and besides, it was none of my business who this company chose to employ, but like any normal person, it did strike me as odd. Getting down to business, my first day on the field was a little crazy. We'd just finished the last day of the seminar which ran from 9 to noon. Then we had to go back to the office and then go out onto the field, which we reached around the time of sunset, at 6 I believe. Basically I was partnered up with another guy who was there for only 2 weeks, but he seemed to know what he was doing. I made my first pitch too, through a bloody intercom. Needless to say I didn't make any sales, but the guy they buddied me up with didn't make any sales either.
**WORKING HARD FOR THE MONEY**
When you start, Cobra give you the impression that you're only working 6 hours in a day, and that you don't have to do weekends. That's what I was told. Reality was, I was in the office each day at 11, and I left the office around 10 every night. That's 11 hours each day, 6 days a week and if my math is any good that's 66 hours per week.
The first part of each day consisted of practising your pitches, attitudes, cheering those on who had made good sales on the previous days and basically trying to get everyone hyped up. One of the earliest phrases I learned was JUICE! [J]oin [U]s [I]n [C]reating [E]xcitement! I did tell my friends that this part was odd after my first day, and I felt almost like I was in a cult.
Then everyone gets a map of their turf and we split off into groups. The drive to each area could take as little as 10 minutes to as long as 80 minutes. On my second day I decided to jump in the deep end and go for it. I had a great time, had a few laughs, made no sales. On our way back to the office the 'high-rollers' were teaching me a few techniques, what to say, what not to say and such. By this time I felt like I was very close to these guys, even though I'd only met them on Monday, and it was by now Thursday...
Back at the office, more encouragement, targets for the next day and I went home.
The next day was much the same, except this time when I got back to the office they were doing their traditional gong and bell thing. Basically, everyone stands in a massive circle and people who reached target sales of $120 would ring the bell, and those who did $200 would smash the gong. It was kind of cheesy but it worked, everyone got really excited.
They asked me if I wanted to work the Saturday, and initially I said no because it was 'optional' and I wanted a break over the weekend. Then they put the 'guilt' trip into me and told me that 'if you don't put the hours in you'll never make it anywhere'. A sort of intimidation technique, so I reluctantly said yes.
I also became close to one of the girls at work, and we'll call her Sarah. Another girl who I became close with was Sonia.. well that's what I'm calling her.
That Saturday I went to work and made no sales. So basically in my first week (including the seminar hours), I did six days, 62 hours and came home with nothing. I wasn't actually annoyed either. The people there were awesome and quickly became like a family to me... so I couldn't wait for Monday to roll around.
On Tuesday I made my first sale. When I came back to the office, I was given a hero's welcome. That night, I rang the bell because I had made my very first sale, and it felt great. I began to notice by this point that Scotty never rung the bell meaning he was making less than $120 a day, a far cry from the $200 average he claimed. This was later confirmed by Sarah who didn't take to him too well.
So I went home feeling like I was king of the world, despite the fact that I had just worked 11 hours for $90. I didn't see it that way though, I saw it was 6 hours of fun and $90 as a bonus.
The next two days we actually were told to get into the office by 9, and by the time we left the office, because our turf was far far away, it was nearly 11. Effectively 14 hours of work. I didn't make a sale on Wednesday and Thursday, and came home feeling a little down. A talk with Sarah made me feel a lot better, and I resolved to make Friday a big one.
On Friday, I made 3 sales, and $165 dollars, and because I had made 5 sales in the week, an incentive from the company was to give a bonus $100 to anyone who could make 5 sales by the end of the week. I made it so I was even more happy. $355 was what I earned that week, and at this point I was so sure that I could earn even more next week. Even reach my personal target of $150 average per day! I even told my friends so that night when I was having drinks with them.
I was then surprised that they wanted me to work on Saturday. I declined, Monday and Tuesday were public holidays, but I was told I can come in on Monday instead. It didn't sound like I had a choice, so I came in on Monday.
On Saturday Max rang up and hassled me about not coming in, but again said Monday was fine, he's not fussed. I thought that was a little odd, but whatever. Back to bed. I woke up in afternoon, and decided to research the company a little bit. I found this site and at first was in denial. 'These people don't know what they're talking about!' I thought.
I kept reading, and reading and suddenly realised that everything that was being detailed was what I was going through. It actually frightened me. Then I started going through everything they had told me and all of a sudden everything fell into place. I had to quit before it was too late. Less than 12 hours ago I envisioned myself making $150 a day the next week.
Later that day I found something else out that would change my life, but I'm not going to say it in here.
**MY LAST DAY**
On Monday I slept in, because I really didn't want to go in, but when Max called up, I really couldn't say no. His attitude shocked me actually, he used language that could only be described as abusive. Basically I was bullied into work. I had things on my mind so I didn't perform that day at all. I visited very few houses, and with quitting on my mind as well as the other personal issue, I could not continue working.
I confided in one of the other guys and he seemed to really understand, I also confided in Sarah, so I got back to the office that night hoping to see Max and tell him that I can't keep working. Instead I talked to Scotty. Although it didn't seem like it at the time, his message to me was clear, 'You're a loser if you quit'. Max wasn't in so I got home and decided I needed to leave a message on the answering machine, I didn't have anymore time to waste. I left a message on the answering machine, and I did expect a call from him on Wednesday morning, but I was totally shocked at the events that were to unfold.
Okay, I so I slept in again and didn't hear my house phone ring. My mum actually picked up the call and spoke to Max. What my mother told me was actually quite shocking.
Max had called up to speak to me, and my mother has never been one to take shit from anyone, so she told him to calm down and told him to mind his manners when he was speaking to her. He then started abusing her, telling her that she was stupid to have such a lazy son (I'd rather be lazy than working 66 hours per week and making $400), and that I was stupid and that I had no future without the company. What I woke up to was my mother screaming over the phone. She barged into my room and told me what had happened. Oh, and he also told her because of the contract I had signed on my first day, I would have the give him $1,000 because that's what I owed him... okay, I'll explain this part later.
I didn't know what to say my mother was obviously outraged, and I felt like shit after that. In my mind I plotted revenge. I actually thought I was going to go over that morning and stab him, obviously I did not.
To clear my mind, I went out and just chilled with a few friends.
**I OWE HIM $1,000?**
Well basically this is how it works with cobra companies. From your first payments, they retain part of your payment up to the value of $1,000. This is the bond money and it's basically their security blanket. If a customer I had signed up decides to cancel within the next three months, then they take it out of my bond money. I had earned around $400 that last week I worked. According to my contract, the boss can actually ask for the $1,000 legally and withhold it for 3 months. My mother was told that unless I gave him $1,000 I would be taken to court (which i haven't, thus far).
I quit in November, so to get what's rightfully my money, I need to ring them up again in February.
Well this was my last real contact with the company, I rang up expecting to speak to Max, but instead the office admin answered the call, thankfully. She was really pleasant about the situation, of course I don't think she knows about Max's verbal tirade, but that didn't matter to me. She told me that instead of me paying them $600 now and receiving $1000 later, it'll just be a lot easier if they retained my $400 til February. Fair enough. Then I went to drop off my things and that's the last I've heard of Cobra since.
Sonia was also fired on Wednesday, and I had a heart to heart with her. She realised the same thing I did. For most of the workers, all this company does is build up your hopes and dreams. To get to the upper levels you have to take advantage of those below you. To make good money you must rip off those below you. To get to ownership you must manipulate those that work for you. In the end, to me at least, I couldn't live with myself if I was forcing 20 people to work for me for 60 hours a week each and giving them $500 each on average.
Well I do have to say I was a little shattered. From the moment you walk into the office, everything is a farce, they outright lie to you. What they teach you to market to the consumer also appies to the job. The 5 impulses: Greed, Indifference, Fear of Loss, The Jones' Theory and Sense of Urgency.
Greed: They tell you that you can make $1200 for working as little as 30 hours a week.
Indifference: They don't care if you take the job, if you don't want it someone else will take it.
Fear of Loss: If you don't take this opportunity someone else will, and by then it'll be too late for you to change your mind.
The Jones' Theory: I like this one, the majority of us that work make $30,000 to $40,000 a year. This company offers us the chane to make an uncapped amount. So in essence we're not just keeping up with the Jones's, we're surpassing them.
Sense of Urgency: The quicker you start the quicker you an start making money for yourself.
They do what they do very well.
Like I said, right up until the end I would say that my experience was rather good. I met some really great people, and I do feel more confident now. I express myself more clearly and now know where I want to go. All this in 2 weeks? Is it possible? For my, yes.
Oh I should also mention that going to and from work actually sent me broke. In the two weeks that I made $400, I spend roughly $10 a day on lunch, and per week, $60 on petrol.
So what am I doing now? I've just began working again. Basically I'm an office all rounder. The job pays $35,000 per year plus incentives. I also make a few sales here and there and the comission is added onto what my base salary is, which in itself is nothing to complain about. The best part is that it takes me 10 minutes to get to work. My advice to you if you're in COBRA, RUN! Get out while you can. If you're currently owner or leader, just think about what you're doing to the lives of other people.