Home / News / My Morning In Pleasanton: NorCal’s Web of “Marketing”

My Morning In Pleasanton: NorCal’s Web of “Marketing”

Last Monday, I interviewed with a company that may not exist. I used ZipRecruiter, like a lot of people do to find a job. I had a phone interview with a nice sounding man. A couple hours later, I learned that I was selected for an in-person second interview with the company on Wednesday, where I would be shadowing a representative of the company.

That company was InZone Marketing. (www.inzonemarketing.com)

UPDATE: Brian from InZone Marketing recently contacted me again to try and clarify what happened on the day of the interview and apologize.  He stated that the company had just relocated to a new office in Berkeley, not too far from Pleasanton, and had recently turned off the phone in the old building. i Either way, he apologized and wished me well in my job search.

All of this sounds pretty standard does it not? In fact, the idea of a second interview literally showing you what it is they do sounds downright appealing. I took a job at a different marketing company in November called K2 Consulting, for example. The company sounded great throughout the interview process. What they never told me, however, was that I would have to go door-to-door to try and sell AT&T U-Verse. Had I spent some time during the interview process shadowing someone, I would have known right away that it wasn’t for me, instead of spending two miserable days.

There was no second interview with InZone, however. In fact, I question whether the company actually exists at all.

Our marketing campaigns are certain to be a...home run...oh, stock photos
Our marketing campaigns are certain to be a…home run…oh, stock photos

I woke up at 7:30 Wednesday morning. I put on my suit, printed out a resume, and prepared myself for a two-hour drive. After two hours of San Jose traffic, I showed up at the address that was posted at the bottom of their website. 4900 Hopyard Rd. Suite 100, Pleasanton CA.

Instead, what I found was an entirely different company.  Listed on the front plaque, In suite 100 was an event staffing company  named NorCal Event Staffing. (Found at this website: http://www.norcaleventstaffing.com/ I’m sure they’re lovely if you need to plan a wedding.) InZone marketing was nowhere to be seen. This was odd, sure, but I’ve never missed an interview, and I wasn’t planning to. So my next idea was to go to the other address I had for the company, the one from an email the HR person sent me. 6000 Johnson Drive. This ended up being only a couple blocks away.

That's the power of the Home Depot.
That’s the power of the Home Depot.

It also ended up being a Home Depot. Just a regular Home Depot.ii I went inside and asked an employee about InZone Marketing and learned nothing. I went back to my car and decided I needed to call someone. I returned to the InZone website, and found their phone number at the bottom of their page. When I called it, I got a message saying the phone number didn’t have anyone associated with it. I then tried a couple times to call the HR person who emailed me, but I ended up with a voicemail every time I tried to call.

At this point, I felt as though I had exhausted all of the options at my disposal when it came to interviewing for this company. I waited in that Home Depot parking lot for another half an hour, in case someone tried to call me. At noon, I gave up and drove the two hours back home to Santa Cruz again.

I was left with some questions. “What the hell was that?” was probably the most prevalent one. I wasn’t angry though, I didn’t mind the 4 hours of driving. iii At this point I just wanted answers. I reached out the the HR person I talked to, and have yet to receive a response from her.

InZone's website homepage in all of its buzzword glory.
InZone’s website homepage in all of its buzzword glory.

This curiosity led me to something truly, truly outrageous. I went back to ZipRecruiter to see what exactly InZone had going on. There were 60 different job openings in their name, all posted within the last two months. That’s a lot of job openings for a company I had trouble even finding. I also went to check out their Facebook page. While it has 1000-or-so likes, the last time any post on their page featured an actual picture of an office event or employee was from October 2013. After that, their Facebook seemingly went completely dark until October of this year. On top of this, all of the posts on the Facebook are currently either links to other articles, or stock photos with captions on them. Nothing on there to link the company to actual people. Also odd was the fact that, after checking LinkedIn, the person I interviewed with hadn’t actually been with the company since January this year. Huh.

I don’t want to incriminate InZone in particular. For all I know, I could be reading too much into it. Maybe I just didn’t go to the right place, or find the right people. What I found even more interesting than this, was the sheer volume of companies doing what InZone seemingly does.

DISCLAIMER: The following information is based entirely off internet research. I am not accusing these following companies of anything, I’m simply connecting some dots that could probably use some connecting.

Let’s take a look at another “marketing” company for a second, another one I found on ZipRecruiter, called Next Generation Marketing, or NGM. They have two separate company listings on ZipRecruiter for the same company. (Their website is http://nextgenerationmarketinginc.com/get-in-touch/) Let’s talk about their location for a second. The location they have listed on their site is the exact same location as yet another “marketing” company, called Universal Events Inc. (http://universaleventsinc.com/contact/) Interestingly enough, both of these companies share the exact same Pleasanton location, but have different phone numbers with different area codes. They are both currently hiring on ZipRecruiter.

OUR SUCCESS IS LIMITLESS!!!
OUR SUCCESS IS LIMITLESS!!!
I've never seen so many stock photos used unironically in one picture in my entire life
I’ve never seen so many stock photos used unironically in one picture in my entire life

Now let’s see the two companies’ Facebook Pages. (https://www.facebook.com/universaleventsincca and https://www.facebook.com/NextGenerationsMarketing) iv NGM has only 30 Facebook likes, and nothing but stock photos and captions. Universal Events seems much more legit. It has 6000-something likes, and real pictures of staff at various events sprinkled throughout. They’re both out of the same exact office space, but one seems considerably more legit than the other.

While I was searching though, I came across this: (http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/universal-events-inc/pleasanton-california-94588/universal-events-inc-next-generation-marketing-inc-entry-level-job-scam-pleasanton-cali-1185547) I can’t make any claim to the veracity of this report, but based on my experience with InZone, I wouldn’t place it out of the realm of possibility.

One more company I found on ZipRecruiter in the NorCal area is the Self Made Marketing Group. (http://selfmademarketinginc.com/) This company has a relatively subtle connection to the previous two companies, but once I found it, I couldn’t help but question “Why?” Both SMMG and NGM’s website feature the exact same quote from Henry Ford in the lower left of their website under a section marked “Daily Motivation.”  They claim to be expanding throughout the country. Perhaps that would explain why SMMG has 513(!!!) separate job openings for their company situated throughout California. (https://www.ziprecruiter.com/jobs/SMMG/5280f73f) Pretty good for a company that shares an office with Monarch Wealth and Retirement Strategies. (http://www.monarchadvisors.com/)

If there was ever a stock photo in YouTube video form, this video on SMMG’s home page would be it.

As I said in the disclaimer, I haven’t personally applied to or seen any of these other companies in person. Hell, even InZone may have a reason for their faulty address/phone number on their website. v But based on my time looking throughout ZipRecruiter, something seems off when it comes to all of these “Marketing” jobs.

Let me leave you with a couple pieces of advice when it comes to your job seeking, so you don’t end up driving 150 miles for no reason.

NUMBER 1: Check their website for buzzwords and stock photos. Seirously, every. single. one. of the websites I went to were 90% buzzwords and stock photos. Hell I don’t think a single one of these sites actually had real pictures of their staff on it. And for real companies, maybe put some qualifying pictures up there to make yourselves seem like a real company and not a buzzword machine.

NUMBER 2: Check out glassdoor.com. Glassdoor is phenomenal. Glassdoor is a site that lets you check out what employees think of companies and their interview processes before you interview with them. I don’t think any one of these companies has more than one real review on Glassdoor. Hell, the somewhat legit looking Universal Events Inc. is a photography company for some reason on there. If you’ve got an interview for a job, this is the place to start.

NUMBER 3: Linkedin. Linkedin. Linkedin. If a company doesn’t have a LinkedIn, it’s probably not really much of a thing. Technically InZone and Universal Events both have LinkedIns, but both of them also have zero connections. That’s a red flag, because you would assume that somewhere in there, there would be a connection.

NUMBER 4: Should you get a phone interview, don’t be afraid to press them a little bit. Can I get your company address? Where can I call during office hours? What is it exactly that my job description would entail? I didn’t ask these questions in the two positions I went out for and, well, I ended up going in completely blind. When the person interviewing you asks “Do you have any questions?” you should definitely come loaded with some questions.

This was a very odd experience for me, and the more I looked into it, it just seemed to get more and more strange. From this experience, I’ve learned to be careful where it is I’m applying, and to stay vigilant and on my toes. If not, I could end up wasting another morning in Pleasanton.

LOOK HOW SUCCESSFUL WE ARE!
LOOK HOW SUCCESSFUL WE ARE!

 

BONUS ROUND: This “marketing” company on ZipRecruiter has 258 job openings throughout California, but doesn’t even have a corporate website or Facebook page. I can’t tell whether that sketchy or just lazy. (https://www.ziprecruiter.com/jobs/Supreme-Marketing-Solutions/0992d2f1)

6 comments

  1. That is bizarre. But not surprising, especially after the whole Instagram “rapture”. If only people would put that much time into a legitimate company.

  2. Hi. Let me answer ur questions. I am an ex employee of inzone at Pleasanton. It’s a new office, new boss. Was under another boss by the name power position group just got handed over to another guy Brian 3 months back. He ran another office in Irvine which shut down. Now he is trying running one in Pleasanton. Hence you don’t see any connections or history whatsoever. It’s sad you didn’t get a reply from them or their location. But I commend your deduction and observation skills! Yes most marketing company have the same modus operandi for hiring and paying and it’s mostly scammish. So I recommend not wasting ur time interviewing for them.

  3. There is another one – Emerge Marketing Group.

  4. Disclaimer: This is an opinion article written about one individual’s experience with this company. In no way is this article accusing this company of any foul play, it is simply a precautionary tale.

    I recently was contacted by InZone Marketing, Inc. and went to their new location in Berkeley, CA for an interview. However, prior to the interview I found a few red flags:
    1) Their company’s website had no clear indication that they had any clients, nor any examples of their work to date.
    2) On their homepage the company motto and explanation of their marketing process was redundant, basically stating the definition of “marketing” in ten different ways, making it utterly vague and meaningless. Buzzwords were scattered throughout.
    3) Through further research on InZone, the information I was able to compile regarding the company and their background was very little. Their Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter accounts all had the same stock photos, with little to no connection to actual employees. There were a few images of “company outings,” but there was no linkage within these photos to indicate that these people were actually associated with InZone. The LinkedIn page is vague, with very few connections, and their Glassdoor review has only one review that states very little info.

    If you search InZone Marketing” on Google, there are numerous reviews for various other companies utilizing the words “In” and “Zone” in their title, and several LinkedIn users who have a work history with Home Depot and In Zone (however, this work history was but not with this InZone company, and did not work in tandem with Home Depot). Also, Home Depot doesn’t seem to have any information linking them to InZone. Based on the information I was able to get off their website and a phone conversation with their corporate office, Home Depot apparently has their own marketing team. In fact, they are hiring right now.

    During my interview at InZone I was not asked any questions regarding my previous experience. It was an overall pleasant conversation, but the content of what we discussed should not have qualified me for a second interview, which I received notice of. In addition, their new office location, now in Berkeley for several months, has no indication of being inhabited. Sure, there was a lobby desk, a few chairs, but it was sparsely furnished. Their were no wall decorations, no sign on the building or front door, and there seemed to be no one else working at the office that Monday other than the owner (who was conducting the interviews) and the receptionist. The HR manager, who set up my first interview, was out of town, and just like in the original post here, I could only reach her voicemail every time I called her.

    It was explained to me during the first interview that the second interview serves as an “observation day,” where you shadow an employee. I would bet that just about every candidate was cleared for the second interview based on how easy the preliminary one was. This all sounds very similar to online descriptions of multi-level marketing scams where you apply for an entry-level position with “advancement opportunities,” but end up doing something like selling coupons door-to-door and working for hours off of commission.

    I politely declined a second interview with InZone after reading up on job scams and suspicious signs. What finally made me the most skeptical of their motives was the email confirmation regarding the second interview, which asked me to bring two forms of identification. This was not mentioned in the phone call. There is no reason for their HR department to be asking for this personal information, especially prior to an actual job offer, and I did not agree to a credit check of any kind. Since declining the interview, I have not received any other correspondence with InZone. Having been scammed in a previous experience where a potential employer sent me a fake check, I now know to trust my gut when things don’t seem to be adding up.

    The fact is, whether or not InZone is an authentic business, they have demonstrated to me that they are a young company with young employees and seem to be lacking in experience and clientele. However, all signs seem to indicate a scam. I encourage others with similar experiences, be it with this company or another, to email the Golden Gate Better Business Bureau as a precaution. To fellow job hunters out there: be vigilant of similar scenarios, they could be a waste of your time.

    • While I’m sorry you’ve had some negative experiences with small marketing companies, I had an initial in-house interview with InZone Marketing last Thursday, and I can assure you they are a legitimate business!

      I have an MBA from Kellogg in marketing and policy and have consulted for small companies, nonprofits and startups for the past 20 years. InZone Marketing appears to be a typical startup with a relatively young, talented but inexperienced team and a short list of clients. Yet I was particularly impressed with their company president, Brian Hunter, who has integrity, determination and an innovative idea for direct relationship marketing that has the potential for taking his company far.

      I agree it’s important to be vigilant when looking for a job, but it’s also important not to write off an organization too quickly. Working for a startup company involves long hours, hard work and high risk for failure. Often positions are not well-defined and require a high need for flexibility and high tolerance for ambiguity. While it certainly isn’t for everyone, the personal, professional and financial rewards can be significant.

      Whether or not I end up working in marketing for InZone, I’m glad I didn’t take your advice but decided to take the opportunity to talk with them.

    • The masterminds behind all of these fake fronts are Harmony Hunt Vallejo from San Francisco (originally from OH) & Mike Putnam of Boston, MA. They’ve been running the same games for over a decade. When they get found out, they close up shop & set up elsewhere. They have huge turnover bc their employees start to catch on & figure out their scamming ways by reading posts on the Internet, or the employees never get their 401K, medical benefits package, etc as promised. Everyone is invited back for a 2nd & 3rd round interview unless you’re a complete bafoon (or you’re super negative) bc law of averages dictates that the more people they invite back, the more likely someone will actually accept the job & make them $$$$.
      Once in a while, an equally shady person will be discovered by them & given an office to run in a different city until they get caught again. They use legitimate non-profit organizations (DARE & Toys For Tots) as their front to appeal to potential employees so less questions will be asked. They order junky toys that are made cheaply in China to be sold for a huge profit & keep a large portion of the profit, paying the actual people standing outside Wal-Mart for 8 hours per day trying to sell the junk, the smallest amount possible to keep them coming back. If the non-profits knew how these people were operating, I’m sure they’d shut them down quickly for misrepresentation. Not even DARE or Toys For Tots could want the small amount of $$ or toys they get at the expense of all of these swindled people they try to call employees.
      It seems like “Susan Hanford” is 1 of 3 people:
      1. Harmony Hunt Vallejo or Mike Putnam posing as a fictional person.
      2. One of those equally shady people referred to above.
      3. Someone who has lived under a rock, and the type of person to willingly give you a credi card number if you told her you had her dead Grandfather’s inheritance of $2 billion waiting in the UK if only she’ll pay $5,000 in taxes to release the $$$$ into her bank account.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *