“Wait a minute, I recognise that woman,” I thought to myself as I studied the mug shot in front of me on my computer.

Then the penny dropped. “HA,” I blurted out loud, “it IS her!”

Arlington Network boss, sourced from 'The Voice' website

“The scoundrel”, I silently thought in my head. I grunted and crossed my arms for good measure.

My colleagues looked at me weirdly, but I didn’t care. That woman tried to scam me out of my non-existent cash (the bank’s overdraft money), and now justice has been served-sort of, HA!

Her name: Michelle Rowe. Her company: Arlington Network (and Career for Life).

In 2009 I had freshly graduated from uni with grandiose dreams of changing the world, blah, blah, blah.

But then I soon realised that jobs were hard to come by and I ended up applying for anything… anything legal anyway. I applied for so many jobs and only heard back from a few.

One of those responses was from good old Arlington Network. “Eureka,” I thought, “this could be the stop gap I’ve been looking for.”

So I went to research the company to dazzle the interviewer with my impressive knowledge of the company. I wanted to blind her… figuratively speaking.

“Yes, I do know all about the world of inventory clerk…ism. Even though I studied European Studies with German, I’ve always secretly wanted to be an inventory clerk. Oh boy, oh boy, this would be a dream come true, pick me, pick MEEEEEE!”

But said less desperately, of course.

So with this scenario running around in my head, I beelined straight to their website only to find… well, nothing really. The website looked professional, it was just quite… vague with loads of flowery words which didn’t really mean anything. I decided I would have to try and blag it

I headed off to South Bank University to the interview. Quite random right, but I thought, well, that uni wouldn’t really host any dodgy companies on their premises, so it all seemed pretty legit to me.

The reception area was filled with young hopefuls, and even some middle-aged men too. I looked around to size up my competition. “Yeah I could take them,” I thought with a friendly smile on my face. “Bring it.” Well actually, I felt kind of nervous.

When I was finally called up for my interview with a few other people (the interviews were running late), we were brought into a small room with a line of chairs against the wall on one side of the room. On another side of the room, one-to-one interviews were being held, and right next to the chairs were young people inviting people to interviews on the telephone.

I guess this was done to create the illusion that jobs in her company were in high demand and this was also coupled by the fact that she probably couldn’t afford another room. Nevertheless, this began to set off some alarm bells.

I saw our dear Michelle talking to a few people, but I could only hear parts of her conversations with people. For example, I saw what seemed to be a middle-aged man accept the job right there on the spot. With hindsight, I wouldn’t even be surprised if he was an actor.

Then it was my turn. Some random guy called my over to discuss my CV and asked me standard interview questions. Then I was told to sit back and wait, again.

After a while, Miss Boss-Lady herself called me over. She told me she liked me and my CV. She said I shouldn’t leave it too long before I get another job. The housing sector was getting better and they were getting plenty of clients, but there were so many people looking for jobs as I could see downstairs, and she was only looking for the best candidates. All new employees of the company would need to train, but to go on this training programme they (meaning I) would need to pay in advance.

Then, bam, she told me how much it would cost, or rather she wrote it down on a piece of paper. £400, and I could pay in instalments. In fact, my picture above is the same ‘receipt’ she gave me. My heart began to beat faster. There was no mention of this in the adverts. She tried to pressurise me but there was no way I could do that, and besides, couldn’t she just take that money out of my pay?

After much resistance (and ‘um-ing and ah’ing’), I finally managed to leave. I did my research and called some companies to make some checks and decided it wasn’t worth the risk.

I received a phone call from Arlington Network a few days later telling me that their positions were going quickly (obviously), but I had no intentions of paying. I’m glad I didn’t.

And with unemployment rates still high, especially among young people and over 55s, there are a good few more people out there who will seek to exploit hard-working people.

There are still a couple of dodgy companies that are out there and are a bit more complex, so be careful job seekers. My message to these ‘businesses’ is this: you will be hunted down and exposed. And… that’s it!

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