Southwestern Advantage Taking Advantage of Students

Southwestern Advantage is one of the oldest direct sales businesses which began in 1855.

The company recruits college students across the nation to independently sell educational materials such as textbooks and software.

Southwestern Advantage has been banned from recruiting at multiple colleges such as Harvard University, the University of Idaho, and the University of Maryland. The company was barred due to its tendency to misinform students and violate, in the case of the University of Idaho, University and career center policies.

Southwestern Advantage representatives have also visited our campus multiple times over the course of the semester to sign UF students up for information sessions. During these information sessions, students have been misinformed about the nature of this business.

I reached out to a freshman PR student here at UF, who wishes to remain anonymous, about the content of the information session. “During the interview, we were told that we had the potential to make $8,000 through door-to-door sales, but they neglected to mention, until the very end, that there is a possibility you could finish earning no money at all.”

During these informal briefings, the nature of the work also remains undisclosed.

While agenting for the company, students are responsible for their own lodging, transportation, meals, and other expenses, as stated on the Southwestern Advantage website. Students are also unaware, until two weeks before departure, of where they will be working for the summer. While this may not be an issue for some students, the problem arises due to the availability of this information, which is not disclosed during information sessions, but obscured under the questions section on the company’s website.

Students are also told that they can create flexible work schedules based on their needs. However, when speaking to a recent UF graduate, they who also prefers to remain anonymous due to his relationship with the company, I found that students are pressured to work almost 80 hours per week with no guaranteed wage since payment is solely commission-based.

While not disclosed during information sessions, the company’s website states, “The money does not come easy – the most successful Southwestern Advantage students work more than 12 hours a day, six days a week.”

While some students have earned a significant profit by working with this company, beware of the business model they promote during information sessions as it has the potential to exploit vulnerable students.

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