Fear and Loathing in Brisvegas

This next installment has taken a little while.  In the now, I’ve had to find a new place to live and let’s not even talk about my working life.  Let’s just say I’ve had plenty of other things on my mind! This next post was always going to be a tricky one to put together (read time consuming).  I was in Brisbane for the best part of 6 months.  That’s a lot of photos and things to think about.

After leaving Byron Bay I arrived in Brisbane.  I’d found a backpackers called Cloud 9.  Although I’d become accustomed to dorms, this was something else as I found myself in a room of 15 other people! Still, it was cheap and the beds were super comfortable (at least they were until the bed bugs started biting).

The plan was I’d give myself no more than 2 weeks to find a job.  If I failed, I would have to move on to a farm and do some fruit picking.  I truly was low on money.  On the first day I took myself to the buildings rooftop area with my phone and the hostels jobs folder.  I started to make calls and quickly secured 2 interviews for the following day.

The first was at an agency.  I made a grand impression by arriving an hour early.  Thanks for the warning on the time difference between NSW and Queensland! Although the interview went well, I didn’t actually hear from them again.  I later heard this was something they were notorious for – they just wanted names on the book.

The second was at a marketing agency called ‘IVD’.  It seemed to me all I had to do was show up to be offered the job.  I would start the very next week.  We were told it was a customer services related role and definitely not door to door sales.  Guess what it turned out to be? I went for it.  I had no other offers in the pipeline and I was anxious to do something.

Integrity (and) Values Direct (IVD) was a company straight out of Melbourne.  The electricity industry in Queensland had just been deregulated and it was prime territory for the energy retailers to move in.  Our job was simple, on a daily basis a team would head out in a van taking 1 or 2 streets per person in a neighbourhood.   We’d knock doors from 10am – 6pm (though we’d work until closer to 7pm) and we’d try to get people to sign to the supplier we were representing; Queensland Electricity.  For the customers it was pretty much a no brainer – it saved them 7% on their bills and was the best deal available. We were paid 100% commission-  25$ a sale.  I later learned of the pyramid structure at IVD – that the management were all taking additional money on top of each and every sale.

It was hugely fun at first.  High pressure, but a game.  We had great energy.  We worked and played together.  Sales flew in and we all made money. Some of us a small fortune. (I was never great at this kind of selling, but I got by).  A bunch of us ended up taking a house together (which got me out of the bedbug ridden hostel I’d been sleeping in). We really were having the best of times.

Then things changed at work.  The product changed – we no longer had the best on the market.  Competition from other companies intensified.  We no longer had easy sales – we were instead expected to break people’s contracts when we encountered them.  I began to loathe it – we weren’t doing a favour to people any more and saving them money – instead, it was just the opposite.  I couldn’t bring myself to make sales in those circumstances and my numbers dramatically dropped.  I barely earned enough each week to sleep and eat. I wasn’t the only one struggling with sales either.

In early September I decided to take a break, remember why I’d come to Australia in the first place and took a few weeks out to head up to Fraser Island and The Whitsundays. In that time major changes happened.  The company restructured and relocated to its Melbourne home, taking with it the best sales reps.  I came home from my trip to a near empty house.  It was no longer the same.  I couldn’t stay any longer, so I packed my bags and got on an plane to Melbourne.  I wouldn’t work again in Australia.

I loved Brisbane.  I loved the first 3-4 months of my working life there.  I loved the people I met, they became extended family.  I grew to hate the job – how can you do something that compromised your morals and who you are as a person?

I hope one day I can go back and see it again. I still think of it as home.

From the vast number of photos I took over those 6 months I’ve picked 50 as an overview of my time:

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