News

They style themselves as 'social enterprises'

They don’t use the words “charity” or “donation”.

But they style themselves as "social enterprises" so they can collect funds.

When Sarah (not her real name) heard that her friend was earning $100 to $200 a day doing "direct sales", her curiosity was piqued.

But when she was led into an office with about 30 other youths and met the boss, she had second thoughts.

"I'm sure there's no need to tell you what this job is about. Just ask your friend to teach you," she was told.

The job involved selling cheap trinkets to members of the public for $10 apiece. Each sales agent had his or her own pitch.

Some would say they were former convicts from the Yellow Ribbon Project.

Others claimed to be students working part-time to support themselves or supplement their families' income.

After watching her friend in action, Sarah decided not to join as she felt it was not an honest way to make money.

"I understand if they need the money, but if you have a pair of hands and legs, you're physically all right, you might as well go work at McDonald's or KFC. At least it's decent," she said.

SELL FOR PROFIT

Mr Johnny Chua (not his real name), 21, worked for a similar company and was told never to claim to represent a charity, but to say that proceeds from his sales would go to "support" several organisations.

Mr Chua would go on the street to sell trinkets such as touchscreen styluses for a profit.

"The average daily take is $200, sometimes more," he said.

Mr Chua was told that part of the money he brought in would be donated to charities like the Singapore Children's Society (SCS) and the Bishan Home For The Intellectually Disabled.

But when The New Paper called to check, an SCS spokesman said it had received only a one-time donation of $1,000 from the company.

SCS added that they had a memorandum of understanding, but it was prematurely terminated due to complaints from the public.

Bishan Home said it had not received donations from the company and were not aware of the company's existence.

But Mr Chua thinks the bad publicity is the fault of the individual sales agents, not the company.

"Clarifying that we are a business and not a charity in our sales pitch has been told to us again and again, but sales staff still use the terms interchangeably to solicit empathy from customers," he said.

"I would say that it's more likely the fault of the sales staff and not the company."