I work these days as a baker for Kroger’s, baking bread at the crack of dawn, unloading boxes of frozen bread from the truck, lifting and sorting heavy boxes, putting the bread on racks, baking the bread and bagging the bread and decorating cakes and filling the floor and ordering the bread and whatever else I’m asked to do. I don’t get much pay but it’s a full-time job and while I’m grateful to have it, I long for the days when I used to do administrative assistant work. My body is wearing out faster than my still-keen mind wants to admit, and I don’t know how much longer I can keep it up.
I put my resume up on Monster.com for prospective employers to see, so when I got a phone call one Saturday I was not taken completely by surprise. The man reminded me I was sent an email from them, and I recalled getting it but I had not read it yet. He said he scheduled an online interview for that day – Saturday – and I was to get online at Google Chat and interview with a Cathleen Meyer.
It was unexpected, but it kind of made sense. I had posted my resume publicly, they saw it and wanted to interview me – okay. I went downstairs and did as requested.
She said she was in charge of hiring at Sykes Enterprises. Had I ever done online interviews before? No? Well, they were looking for data entry workers to handle accounting work for employers who would send me raw data, I was to use certain accounting software and send it back for their people to use. The pay was $24 an hour, with benefits, work from home. She had a lot of information and I read it all, then she asked me what sort of accounting programs I used, if I was familiar with check printing programs, did I have a quiet workspace available, et cetera. They were looking for people who would show company loyalty and be on time and keep accurate work time.
She told me at the end of it that I scored 7.5 out of 10 – I was hired!
I was told I could ask questions, so I asked “what happens if there is a power outage and I can’t get online, will I get in touch with them or directly with the companies whose work I handle?” She didn’t answer directly but instead reaffirmed my address and said they would send me a check to cover the cost of the software programs I would need. She told me she would contact me Monday and we could go over the job details then, and I was to expect a FedEx with the check.
It sounded too good to be true, but I’d been working at a physically difficult job for the past year and a half and needed a change. Other good things were happening to members of my family and I thought, someone up there is looking out for me at last! I looked the company up on the Internet and checked out the reviews at Glassdoor.com and other sites. Everything looked real, everything looked possible. I told my boss at work about the offer but I did not turn in my notice because something didn’t feel right. It’s too good to be true. It’s more luck than I ever have. There must be a catch. I decided at the most I would take all my personal money out of my account, then deposit only their check so only it would be at risk. When it went through and I knew for sure there were honest funds there, I would then do business with them. At the least, I would ask a bank officer or teller what they thought about the whole thing.
I drew up a list of questions to ask her, and managed to arrange to get my baking work done early so I could be home at 8 to contact her. When Monday came she gave me a tracking number for the Fed Ex package. Once I got it, I was to deposit the check, make a copy of the deposit slip and make certain I covered up my account number, and email her the copy. I was to use a certain vendor to order the software. She would call me the next day at 8 and we would wait for the FedEx to arrive. I said I had some questions, and she replied, ‘Trust in the Lord and let Him lead you in all ways’ and quoted Scripture.
Say WHAT. No responsible hiring officer would pull that kind of shit. I’m not asking the Lord for answers; He and I are fine. I’m asking YOU.
It rang a bell in my head and I recalled some articles about scams I had read. All this rush and the incredible offer just smelled off. Still, I went along with it to see what would happen. Tuesday happened to be my day off so I could do the 8 am contact again. I was there at 8, at least – it took her until 9 or 10 to get around to contacting me. I needed to go help my daughter pack to move to Denver (I’ll write about that some other time) so I didn’t have time to wait around.
Cathleen contacted me – all this was by Google Chat by the way, I never heard her voice – and she asked if FedEx had arrived yet. I said no and looked at the tracking information, which said it was en route. I told her I had some questions and she said feel free to ask.
I launched into about ten questions, all job related. Who will be my supervisor; when will I get their contact information? Is my first day on the job considered when I begin training, and when will that be? Will I be able to give my present company a two-week notice? Will I be able to contact the companies I will work for directly or will I always go through the supervisor? Will I need to destroy any hard-copy they mail me or do I send it back? What sort of physical files will I need to keep, what sort of records?
I noticed that in her initial chat on Saturday her statements were fine, but in live chat she used poor grammar and her spelling was atrocious. Once more she chided me to Trust in the Lord and repeatedly asked if FedEx had arrived.
FedEx arrived, and she had me open it and tell me how much the check was for. There was a check inside, with a cover letter. The check was for $3,850.00, on a SunTrust account.
For FOUR PROGRAMS? No software is that expensive – they’d better be made of gold and encrusted with diamonds and studded with emeralds made from fairy wings. I did not say so, however. I just told her the amount. She said for me to deposit it in the bank or go to an ATM and cash it and then send her a copy of the receipt, bank information redacted of course.
I drove over to my bank and went inside to the teller and briefly gave her a rundown, concluding with, “Could you look at this for me? It smells fishy.” My teller looked the check over, called for another teller, and they both said “this isn’t right. I don’t think that’s SunTrust’s routing number. There’s a SunTrust up the street, you should take it there but for our part, we don’t think you should cash it at all.”
Me either! I took the check over to the SunTrust bank. They took one glance at the check and the cover letter and hooted, “Fraud! We have a fraud!”
“We’ll keep this,” one of the tellers told me gleefully. “Our Fraud department will take care of this for you.”
“In that case, would you like the FedEx envelope too?”
On the way home, Cathleen kept text/chatting “did you deposit the check?” I pulled over long enough to send, ‘I cannot text and drive.’ She replied “oh of course not you are right but let me know when you deposit the check.”
Oh bitch please. I will let you know, all right.
I really wanted to believe; I really hoped my luck would have turned around, and I was terribly disappointed and PISSED OFF by then. If she had been some personal adversary getting payback, that would have at least been understandable. Wrong, but understandable. But she didn’t even know me, I was a total stranger and these crooks were ready to cheat me and throw me in debt and who knows what else. Goddamn it, I was mad! Trust in the Lord, my eye – the chick only ASSUMED I was a good little Christian. Didn’t know I am a Deist and don’t hold with all that Scripture stuff.
When I got home and back online, she immediately asked (again!) Did you deposit the check?
I replied, “Not exactly, but the nice man in the Fraud Division said he would handle everything for me. Shame on you for invoking the Lord’s name in matters of trust. Good day and goodbye.”
She immediately went offline.
Oh, I know I should have played her along a little while, at least until the Fraud folks could get into full swing, but I did not want her to keep bugging me with text and besides, I was DAMN MAD. So I got to bite her ass a bit and that was that.
So yes good people, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone wants to interview you, speak to them by phone. If they insist on an online interview, explain you do not trust such things and to call you. (She had my phone number, she could have spoken and asked the questions immediately. Chat covers up accent, poor grammar, and subject ignorance.) If someone sends you a check, it’s a confidence scam. Don’t just blindly deposit a thing, take it inside to the teller window and get someone to look it over. “Oh, we sent you too much? Well, just send us the balance and that’s fine.” That’s fine. Hallelujah, Trust in the Lord to help us run scams and dash the hopes of people trying to find a better job.
And oh by the way: Fuck you, “Cathleen Meyers” or whoever you really are. I hope the Lord smites you with some good old-time religion ass-kickin’.
I tried to contact Sykes Enterprises to warn them that someone is using their name and their Internet presence as a cover for scam, but I could not contact them easily. Hey Sykes! You’re being used, just an FYI. You might make your site easier to navigate, and make your company less of a target for scammers.
I went to work, relieved I did not rush to quit. One of my co-workers, Chef Earl, knew I might leave and he was not happy with the news. The first thing he said when he heard about all this latest detail was, “Thank God, Jay about got scammed! I’m so glad you’re not going to leave us, we need you here.” Bread baking for Kroger’s is physically hard and the pay is crummy, but the people are nice and trustworthy and I’ve learned that’s worth a lot more than I realized. Maybe this is as good as I’ll get after all.
Still, I won’t turn down a well-paying desk job. You know – as long as it’s a REAL one.