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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Exclusive opportunity, or corporate exploitation? “

Imagine how lucky you’d be if an amazing summer internship came straight to you.

In general education classes across campus, mysterious sign-up sheets are getting passed around during class. They give vague descriptions of an internship program that accepts students of any major and pays them $9,000 on average for one summer’s worth of work.

The corporation that’s offering these internships is called Southwestern Company, and they’ve invited countless UA students to informational meetings about their program.

Southwestern explains that they’re a book publisher seeking interns for an exclusive opportunity: The company sends students to a workshop that teaches marketing skills, and then they allow these students to create their own businesses. Interns get the privilege of setting their own goals, meeting with clientele to perform business negotiations and are encouraged to make as much money as they can — all while boosting their resumes. It sounds too good to be true, and for many college students, it is. This “”exclusive”” deal is not exactly what it sounds like.

You know those telemarketers who always call at the worst times? The obnoxious door-to-door salesmen who don’t take no for an answer? Southwestern is actually giving students the “”privilege”” of becoming one of them.

The Southwestern Company hires “”interns”” to sell books door-to-door. Interns are required to purchase these books wholesale, and then try to sell them to others. That enticing $9,000 is far from guaranteed. Students are often so unsuccessful that they end the summer indebted to Southwestern.

Also, because interns have the “”opportunity”” to run their own business, they are not actually employees of the company. Thus, Southwestern is not responsible for interns’ health, well-being or success — and if the students don’t do well, the company loses nothing. In fact, Southwestern gains money either way. So, although they claim to be exclusive, they’ll hire anybody. That’s why they recruit interns in Gen ed classes, accepting anyone who needs a job.

Southwestern is so intent on hiring hordes of interns that they ask potential employees for names and phone numbers of their friends as well. After all, the more students that Southwestern hires, the more money they can make with no risk to their profits.

But it’s a huge risk to financially burdened college students who might not fully understand the truth before accepting a job. Southwestern claims to teach valuable skills by sending interns to different cities. The company does assign its interns certain regions in which to sell their products; however, interns have no guarantee that these locations will be safe or that they will contain the proper demographic of people who would even be interested in purchasing educational books. Once again, since students don’t work for the company, they are required to pay for their own transportation and gas  expenses that quickly add up when traveling to more than 30 homes per 12-hour day.

Southwestern does not force students to work 72 hours per week, but they do acknowledge that truly successful interns usually toil that much. Nevertheless, even the best salesmen usually only sell books to two houses out of 30 that they visit. That’s 28 other grueling trips where hardworking college students receive no reward for their efforts.

So, the Southwestern Company may seem promising, but there are countless college students who have had horrible summers at Southwestern. The Web site www.southwesterncompanytruth.com supplies numerous testimonies of negative Southwestern experiences. An anonymous UA student posted their story in an article titled “”Do your research before Southwestern!”” Here, the student explains that they put 10,000 miles on their mom’s car while working for the company, and didn’t even come home with much to show for it: “”I didn’t meet one first year that made $8,000 dollars over the summer; in fact I walked away with a check for a little over $200.”” (Keep in mind, that $200 was from 2+ months of work.) The student also adds: “”I just wish I would have listened to a friend when he told me of his buddy’s experience selling for Southwestern.””

If our own peers have had such atrocious summers with this company, is Southwestern the kind of corporation that talented UA students should work for? Many students — and their parents — don’t think so. The Southwestern Company has been barred from some colleges, including the University of Birmingham. There, they were banned from recruiting interns during lectures because “”Southwestern places the welfare of students into jeopardy.””

Thus, we at the UA should realize Southwestern entices potential interns with an opportunity that oftentimes backfires, and is far from worthy of students’ skills and abilities. Allowing Southwestern to advertise during Gen ed lectures just seems like an accident waiting to happen.

— Miranda Butler is a creative writing sophomore.

She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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