Vector-Cutco: Caveat Emptor

We’ve all seen the advertisements in colleges, high schools, in the newspapers, on Craigslist, and even on chalkboards. They say things along the lines of “Student Work” or “Winter Break Work” or “Summer Work.” The advertisements talk about making your own hours. They have the faces of smiling young people on their posters with little pieces at the bottom to tear off. However, the advertisements never tell you the name of the company offering the jobs. They don’t tell you what kind of work you’ll be doing either. The fact that the potential employer remains a mystery is itself a bad sign.

Image taken from article.

Well, Our Streets is going to tell you all you need to know about this so-called “student work.” The company putting out these advertisements is called Vector Marketing Corporation (or just Vector). They are a wholly owned subsidiary of Cutco Corporation. The job they are trying to attract young people to is one selling Cutco cutlery, such as knives, scissors, other kitchen utensils, and the occasional gardening tools.

Spoiler alert! Every young person who calls in gets the job. Here is the problem. It’s a scam. They are taking advantage of desperate, and sometimes naive, students who are already facing mounting loan debt and possibly unsympathetic parents.

Students are recruited by Vector to sell Cutco knives, but first the students need to buy a package of the knives, usually for $145. They don’t sell door-to-door and the company doesn’t provide you with a list of people to call. The student salesperson is expected to sell the cutlery to their relatives, friends, friends’ relatives, relatives’ friends, relatives of relatives, friends of friends, etc. The cutlery set they are selling their family and friends usually costs from $200 to $2,000. Phone and travel expenses aren’t reimbursed by the company, and employees found themselves working longer and stricter hours than lead to believe.

A former Vector assistant manager from Tacoma, Washington reported working over 90 hours a week. She said she was not allowed to give details about the job to people who called the office, she was only allowed to read from a script.

One former employee reported working five to six hour days and only taking home $100 at the end of the week. To put it in perspective, if he worked five hours a day for $7.00 an hour (below minimum wage) he would still be making more money than he did at Vector. A survey done by the state of Wisconsin found that employees who sold cutlery for Vector earned less than $3 a day (on average).

When he quit, the company was supposed to send him his final paycheck in the mail. It never came, which is a violation of labor law. He had to file a wage claim with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries just to get his last paycheck. The Oregon Attorney General’s Office had handled several claims against Vector over the past few years (as of 2004).

Speaking of breaking the law, Vector has been sued several times. In 1990, the Arizona attorney general sued them. In 1999, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission sued Vector/Cutco. In 1994, a Wisconsin court ordered Vector to stop using misleading advertisements about its positions. A court in Marion County, Oregon ordered the same thing that year as well. In 2003, Vector lost a case with the New York Department of Labor when a former employee proved the company violated the independent contractor-client relationship by not paying her for the mandatory, time-consuming trainings they subject their “independent contractors” to.

In 2010, the Carolinian, which is the student newspaper for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, reported that Vector was posting misleading signs for positions starting at $13.25 an hour around their campus. This tactic, this outright lie about pay, is something the company has been doing for years. This year, 2013, it was reported that Vector put up posters advertising $20 an hour positions for people with zero experience and a high school degree. If it sounds too good to be true, then it is. They lied in the 1990s and they are telling lies now.

The Toronto Star newspaper now refuses to post anymore of Vector’s job listings. The Toronto Star is the biggest newspaper in Canada.

In 1996, the Washington Post wrote about a survey of nearly a thousand Vector employees (“independent contractors”). Half of those surveyed either lost money or didn’t make any money working for the company. In 2004, the now defunct Complaint Station, a website where people could post their concerns and experiences with a company, had over 4,200 complaints against Vector/Cutco.

Lastly, the type of steel Cutco uses to make its knives with is 440A. That is the same type used to make the cheap knives sold at Wal-Mart. So why do they insist on making buyers and victims pay anywhere from $200 to $2,000 for their knife sets?

Personally speaking, I went in for an interview a few years ago. There was only one older person there, and he looked to be in his fifties. He was a former Marine looking for work. The manager didn’t call the old guy into his office like he did with the young folks. Instead, the manager asked him a little about himself, and then sent him away saying he’d call him. The manager then proceeded to interview all of the young people in his office. He knew he couldn’t pull the same stunts on this older man.

Many articles about the fraudulent practices of Vector have disappeared from the internet over the past few years, which leads me to believe that Vector is intimidating whistle-blowers, journalists, and others who speak out. Our Streets will not be intimidated.

If you are a high school or college student, or a young person who has had a bad experience with Vector, please share this article. Reblog it, Facebook it, Tweet it, email it, print it out, whatever you want to do. Don’t let your friends get scammed by Vector. If you see one of Vector’s shady posters, write “scam” on it so everyone will know. If any of you are reading this, I would like to humbly request the solidarity of Adbusters, Anonymous, SDS, or any labor union in the fight to stop Vector from scamming young people.


2 thoughts on “Vector-Cutco: Caveat Emptor

  1. Pingback: Things People Say to the Unemployed | Democracy Lives in the Streets

  2. THE SMASHING HUNGER SQUASHING POVERTY TOUR with Food Not Bombs Co-founder Keith McHenry

    I hope you had a great summer. We sure did. The Food Not Bombs Free Skool really made progress and next summer promises to be even better. This is the 25th anniversary of the first arrest of our volunteers for sharing ideas and food. Since that day on August 15, 1988 the authorities have tried to stop our progress by arresting our activists as they provided food to the hungry.

    Each wave of arrests inspired the formation of another wave of Food Not Bombs groups. This summer Food Not Bombs groups have once again been threatened with arrest and over 50 cities in the United States have passed laws banning or restricting our work. August 15, 2013 is also the final day to donate to the Food Not Lawns Solar Pump House so please consider making a contribution at the website below. Today it is more important than ever to seek change and one of the most effective ways to help is to volunteer. We encourage you to bring Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry to speak with your community. His cooking demonstration is an inspiration and will not only encourage participation in Food Not Bombs but support any effort you may be involved in.

    As you start back to school and the many other fall activities I hope you will consider bringing Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry to your school or community venue. Keith’s presentation is sure to inspire your classmates, friends and family. Visit our website and read all the positive comments students have made about past presentation. You don’t want to miss this opportunity. Speak with club leaders at your campus and ask them to host the Smashing Hunger Squashing Poverty tour. Don’t wait to book Keith as soon as possible before his schedule is filled.

    Email us at today.
    Visit our website to learn more.


    The last day to contribute to the completion of the Food Not Lawns Solar Pump House at the Food Not Bombs Free Skool.

    Food Not Bombs thrives even as it faces repression.


    THE SMASHING HUNGER SQUASHING POVERTY TOUR with Food Not Bombs Co-founder Keith McHenry

    Food Not Bombs volunteers have been smashing hunger and squashing tofu in protest to the exploitation of capitalism for over three decades. During Keith’s tofu spread demonstration he will talk about the principles, history and Food Not Bombs participation in the global transformation away from corporate domination. Hunger and poverty are intentional features of capitalism and will increase as corporate power increases. Over 25,000 people die every day because of hunger often as tons of food pass them on the way to better prices.

    Oxfam and the UN are reporting that hunger will be on the increase this year leading to civil unrest and violent police repression. The capitalist food system is not only causing millions of animals to suffer but is directly responsible for an increase in food insecurity, disease and the climate crisis. Keith’s presentation will inspire you to participate in the transition to a future free from violence and exploitation.

    Copies of Keith’s book “Hungry for Peace” with the tofu spread recipe will be available at the presentation

    P.O. Box 424
    Arroyo Seco, NM 87514 USA

    Food Not Bombs thrives even as it faces repression.
    (The anniversary of the first arrest on August 15, 1988 )

    Keith McHenry cooking demonstration the Taos Food Pecha Kucha on August 11, 2013 (8:33 minutes)

    Keith’s book Hungry For Peace “is a self-defense guide for the compassionate, a catering cookbook for the generous, and a history of social change, but above all it’s a hymn to compassion. ”
    Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved

    HUNGRY FOR PEACE – How you can help end poverty and war with Food Not Bombs

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