May 19, 2010
A Report About a "Sketchy" Interview With Phone to Phone Inc.
It has been a while since I've blogged about Phone to Phone Inc., the company that earned my enmity (and piqued my curiosity) after an annoying telemarketing assault last year. Initially, I was curious about their shady marketing practices, but I'm now more interested in their employment practices. With graduation season upon us, a new crop of eager and anxious graduating seniors are entering the job market--apparently the prime target of Phone to Phone Inc.'s Craigslist-heavy recruiting practices. I'm hearing from a number of these folks as they are doing their homework. The following email (republished with permission) is typical of the feedback I'm getting:
[begin third party email]
I wanted to thank you so much for your blogs on Phone to Phone. Being a recent college graduate with a degree in literature and writing, I was excited to receive an e-mail from Phone to Phone (actually, they were posing to be from laws.com) asking me to come in for an interview. I obliged but I felt everything was sketchy to begin with.
First of all, the e-mail I received from their Human Resources department gave no indication of what company she was working for (it wasn’t until I actually got the cooperate building for my interview that I saw it was Phone to Phone not laws.com). Also in the e-mail she only gave me her first name which I thought was a bit odd because all other e-mails I received from other potential employers included the full name of the recruiter.
Looking past all of this, I proceeded to the interview and was shocked when I walked into the suite and was wandering around and no one even said anything to me or asked to help. Also, I noticed that all of the employees were young (college or recently out of college). Even the Human Resource woman could not have been that much older than me, and I am only 22. I also realized that everyone, once again the HR girl included, was in casual attire. I made sure my attire was presentable, however they were all wearing jeans, tank tops, and flip flops. It was all very odd to me.
The interview wasn’t really an interview at all—rather, HR told me briefly about what the company does (writes brief articles for different websites about law and medicine using key words), talked about the work shift, and how I would receive benefits after 3 months of employment. Our whole talk lasted maybe five minutes before she handed me a paper and sat me down at a computer and had me write two writing samples—one medical related and one law related. I was there for about one and a half hours working on my two articles. She told me that they really only used online sources and when I was writing my own samples to not worry about citations. Again, I thought that was weird because that’s the number one rule you are taught as a student—always cite where you got your information from. Anyway, I told HR that I e-mailed her my work, she made sure she got it, and dismissed me saying that she would contact me in a couple of days. She didn’t even get up and shake my hand.
Overall, I thought everything was a bit sketchy. While it seems like a great opportunity, I don’t think that employment here, if offered to me, would benefit me in any way or better my writing (which is what I’m looking for). When I got home and saw your blog I was glad I wasn’t alone in feeling that the situation was a bit off. I think that the company does a good job at remaining a mystery and makes it sound ideal for recent college graduates that are trying to find a job. I think everyone should be wary when attempting to get a job with this company.
[end third party email]
This report identifies a few oddities. First, it's odd that the interviewee wasn't clear on the employer's identity until interview-time. Second, I've heard from others as well that the office environment is strangely quiet because everyone can overhear each other's conversations and because the content production requirements don't leave much room for chit-chat time. If so, that seems incongruous with the kind of office environment/culture I would expect recent college grads to want or enjoy. Third, it makes sense to request writing samples, but I wonder what Phone to Phone does with those writing samples. Do they publish them? If so, do they compensate the interviewee for them? Finally, the "no citation" policy is interesting. I have previously suspected that Phone to Phone is generating lots of low-cost but low-quality search engine bait, and this email is consistent with that.
My previous coverage of Phone to Phone Inc. and related entities:
* Public Librarian Complains About Phone to Phone Inc. (Jan. 17, 2010)
* Phone to Phone Inc. is Spamming Again--This Time for Lawschool.org (Jan. 14, 2010)
* Another Phone to Phone Inc. Employee Speaks Out (Dec. 15, 2009)
* Questionable Employment and SEO Practices at Phone to Phone Inc.? (Dec. 10, 2009)
* Attorney.org is Latest Phone to Phone Inc. Website to Spam Me (Oct. 28, 2009)
* More Spam from Phone to Phone Inc.--This Time on Behalf of Laws.com (Oct. 23, 2009)
* Newlawyer.com Spams Me Again (Twice in One Day!) (Oct. 19, 2009)
* Newlawyer.com: Persistent Telemarketer, and Now a Spammer (Oct. 2, 2009)
I also wrote a review of Newlawyer.com at SiteJabber.
May 05, 2010
Law Professor: We Should Petition the FDA to Certify Vegetarian Foods
Carrie Griffin Basas, 'V' is for Vegetarian: FDA-Mandated Vegetarian Food Labeling
I became a vegetarian over a quarter-century ago, when the vegetarian market was small/fringe-y. Back then, it was hard to get a supply of high-quality and trustworthy vegetarian food, either in the grocery stores or when I traveled.
Things have changed so much for the better in the intervening years. The vegetarian market has grown a lot, which has spurred competition and innovation, with the result being that vegetarians are now blessed with a panoply of high-quality vegetarian offerings. Despite this, I remain baffled that the market has not successfully self-organized a vegetarian certification. The vegetarian market is large enough to drive significant business from a successful certification, and there are so many products with obscure or hidden ingredients that vegetarians would like to know about.
Carrie Griffin Basas, a self-described "herbivore" and VAP at UNC, argues that this market failure should be cured by an FDA certification process. Normally, involving the FDA automatically goes into the bottom 10% of my desired outcomes (I don't know what options are in the top 90%, but I know FDA involvement never is). However, given the long-standing failure of the market to produce a reliable vegetarian certification, perhaps government involvement is necessary. She concludes:
Currently, vegetarians do not have the full information about ingredients that they need to make informed dietary choices. A federally mandated system of vegetarian food labeling hinges on having a consistent definition of “vegetarian” and addressing concerns about crosscontact that might arise in the manufacturing process. Consumers need to be involved in generating a compelling petition for these changes at the FDA. Unsuspectingly, vegetarians may be consuming food that contains animal ingredients because the current regulatory scheme falls short of full disclosure of ingredient sources. Manufacturers can play pivotal roles in ensuring that the FDA takes a consumer-driven petition seriously. Short of a successful petition, consumers should form coalitions with manufacturers to strengthen existing, voluntary certification systems. A cohesive, functioning model of labeling and certification can spur progress at the federal level, as well as in the food industry.
I have reached out to Prof. Basas about pursuing an FDA petition. If you would be interested in the effort, please let me know.
More than eight million adults in the United States are vegetarians and around forty percent of all people in the United States seek vegetarian food options while dining. Vegetarianism comes in a multitude of flavors, but a “pure vegetarian” or a vegan does not consume any products that come from animals, including milk, eggs, and gelatin. People practicing a vegetarian lifestyle may have turned to these dietary restrictions for ethical, religious, environmental, health, or other reasons. Currently, the FDA does not require the labeling of vegetarian foods as such. Because of the FDA’s permissive attitude toward food labeling generalities, such as “natural” or “artificial” flavoring and colorings, many vegetarians find it difficult to identify if their foods are indeed compatible with their lifestyles and ethical choices. Without this information, people interested in making food choices that respect the lives of animals may unintentionally cause harm to the creatures that they seek to protect. While voluntary, community-driven labeling programs exist, they reach only a small fraction of food products.
This article will explore the case for a standardized vegetarian packaged food labeling and certification system designed and implemented by the FDA. Part I presents the current problems with the FDA’s laissez faire approach to vegetarian food certification. Part II of the article addresses the law giving the FDA the authority and duty to ensure that vegetarian consumers are fully informed of food ingredients. Part III then presents three case studies - kosher certification, bioengineered foods, and food allergens - that could assist the FDA in designing a consumer-friendly, animal-conscious approach to vegetarian packaged foods. In Part IV, I outline a proposal to assist the FDA in addressing this critical monitoring and labeling issue.
Another reason to read the article: the footnotes provide a useful citation collection of academic research on vegetarianism.