Shady sales tactics aren't just a problem for consumers — they're a problem for young workers, too

September 11, 2018

A recent CBC Go Public reportseemed to confirm what many Canadians have long claimed from firsthand experience: companies such as Bell and Rogers use aggressive and misleading sales tactics to squeeze every last dollar out of telecom customers.

Employees and former employees of Canada's biggest telcos reported being pressured to upsell, to mislead customers, and that they have been subject to dubious incentive schemes. This story is alarming in its own right, and Canadians should demand better. And indeed, the CRTC has launched an inquiry on the allegations and plans to host a series of hearings next month. The big telecom companies, for their part, have rejected the allegations and say they have no tolerance for unethical sales practices.

The telecom industry is, of course, far from unique in terms of its use of unsavoury sales tactics. Canada's big banks found themselves in an uncomfortable spotlight last year when a different CBC investigationfound that pressure to upsell and even lie to customers was rampant in that industry.

That story hit home for me when one of my best students in Ryerson's Bachelor of Commerce program came to me to tell me she had quit her summer job — her first real job — at one of the big banks, in light of continual pressure from her boss to sell financial instruments to retail customers, regardless of customer need or comprehension.

But the big issue here isn't only about banking or about telecom, as important as those two industries are. A major issue here also has to do with youth — in particular, the young Canadians who are so often the ones being pressured to engage in unethical, and sometimes illegal, sales practices. 

Consider: estimates vary, but consensus seems to be that roughly half of call-centre employees are under 30. And turnover in these junior sales jobs is high, implying that a lot of young people flow through these kinds of positions. It's not hard to understand why young people are attracted to these jobs: they are white-collar positions, entry-level at many large companies and yet, they don't require much in the way of specific skills. 

Read more: Shady sales tactics aren't just a problem for consumers — they're a problem for young workers, too