Crystal Clear Advertising

Crystal Clear Advertising New Westminster, BC

Crystal Clear Advertising was a door-to-door promotion/advertising company that operated in Vancouver (New Westminster), Portland, and Seattle in the late 80s and early 90s.

Young people, looking for their first job in marketing, have to be careful of not getting duped into working for a terrible employer. In today’s world of social media, bad employers get exposed quickly – just look at Reddit discussions on the topic. In 1991, sometimes you had to learn the hard way.

Back in 1991, Crystal Clear used to run ads in local newspapers hiring “all positions” such as admin, warehouse, sales, etc. In reality, there was only one position – sales, and they needed an endless supply of them. In the end, the job was to go door-to-door from about 9am to 4pm in Vancouver’s suburbs selling coupon books. We were sent to places like Surrey, Delta, Maple Ridge etc. because those people were more tolerant of door-to-door sales and often, the wife stayed at home. As bad as this job was, I was introduced to a few concepts like consumer behaviour and demographics.

The coupon books were often a one-page folded card with 2-for-1 pizza, A & W special offers, golf discounts from November 1 to March 30 – which was hilarious but in Vancouver there were a few winter days you could still play golf. The cards were sold for $20+gst and your commission was $7 per sale.

Straight out of high school, having a job in marketing was great, except the number of red flags had me thinking this wasn’t the place to get my start. The best thing about Crystal Clear Advertising’s location was that it was close to Douglas College. Attending Douglas College was a good start but the entrepreneurial spirit I had back then made me realize that this school wasn’t the place for me. BCIT, on the other hand, was a place I enjoyed immensely, but that’s another story.

While I waited for the winter semester to start at Douglas College, I stuck it out at Crystal Clear Advertising for a few more weeks. Here’s a list of those red flags:

  1. The place felt like a cult – they actually encouraged employees to live in the same house. Maybe that saved on rent but my impression was it would reinforce a cultish lifestyle. By cultish I mean, make the most possible amount money for the owners using bizarre HR tactics. Note: I didn’t live in their company house.
  2. The morning chants before we were sent to a neighbourhood – this was a WTF moment for me. I know some companies still do it but I always found it weird.
  3. The “bank.” This was a place they kept your commissions because you didn’t need them (insert sarcasm). I once won a $100 bonus for the most sales in a day, on my very fist day actually, but when we got back to the office, my manager announced that I was the winner but also, that he would keep it in my “account” for safety.
  4. The day I told my manager that I was quitting to go to school, he responded with, “b.s.” As though none of his employees were actually smart enough to go to school.
  5. They hyped up the ability to get promoted, which I learned later, was the addition of a new segment of an MLM system. The reality was, these promotions were often only given to family members of the owner.
  6. They had a pizza division. This was a crazy idea where, from 5pm to 7pm, teams of people would be dropped off at apartment buildings, go door-to-door at tell residents that someone cancelled their pizza order but they could have a hot pizza for only $20.
  7. They also had a toy division. Vans of sales people would be driven around to high pedestrian traffic areas to sell cheap toys.
  8. In the end, it took a few days to get all my money from their “bank.” When I finally got paid out, my boss was sure to count the money out in front of the next batch of new recruits so they could be amazed at how much money they could make.

From an entrepreneurial perspective, I learned a lot observing Crystal Clear Advertising’s business model. Everything had a shady feel to it but I think the owner made a lot of money. I can only assume there was a LOT of money left in those bank accounts that employees never collected – and keep in mind, this was when bank interest was 10 percent. Looking back, I can’t believe a company like this existed and that I survived there for six weeks!