With the economy suffffering and the safety net of the welfare state being cut from under us, jobs are hard to come by these days. But as one BRISTOLIAN reader found out, you’d be better offff punching yourself in the face than accepting employment with some of the COWBOYS out there.

‘Jane’ contacted us to warn others about Clover Advertising. “I responded to an advert for an office-based ‘energy surveyor’, and got an interview. But in the interview it suddenly turned out to be door-to-door sales – and the advertised hours of 10-7 became 10-8,” recalls Jane.

The interview began as a sales pitch for Riverford, an organic veg box scheme from Devon. When asked what this had to do with energy surveying, the interviewer cagily said “Um, you’ll be doing some of that too”.

“They lied through their teeth. Advertising a different job to the one they had,” says Jane. “I want people to know they’re a bunch of crooks. From the start they were ABSOLUTE BLAGGERS.”

Other people conned into applying for MISADVERTISED JOBS with Clover have told The BRISTOLIAN that it gets worse if you work for them! Clover is a Bristol-based marketing company run by Gareth Byrne and Natalie Powell from an office above an unlet shop off Park Street. It’s effectively a franchise of the UK’s largest direct sales outfit, Appco Group, run by MILLIONAIRE WIDEBOY Chris Niarchos.

“Billion dollar enterprise” Appco once traded as Cobra Group – until its reputation got known – and sells direct debit subscriptions on doorsteps, mainly on behalf of charities.

Meanwhile in Bristol, Clover – like other Appco companies – recruits mainly young people with vague promises of “fantastic average earning potential”. Appco-linked firms don’t employ their doorstep canvassers either.

Instead they consider their workers self-employed (so don’t pay tax or National Insurance contributions) and only pay commission. That’s right – no basic wage. If you don’t sell anything you don’t get paid! Appco-style self-employment also means answering to the same boss everyday, being contractually tied to the company and being forbidden to work for competitors.

So you’re like a charity street seller only without the Minimum Wage. A few really ruthless I-could-sell-anything-to-your-102-year-old-gran types do succeed – but most Appco workers are simply exploited, with reports of staff earning less than a hundred quid for fifty-hour weeks.

So why does right-on farm Riverford Organics use a company that rinses the desperate-to-work unemployed to sell their lovely organic veg? They proudly display ‘Best Online Retailer 2011 in the Observer Ethical Awards’ on their website; ethical with vegetables not people though.

Other clients of Clover include the Red Cross, who recently started providing food donations in the UK for the first time in seventy years. So the people who flog their direct debits will likely be the same people forced to use their food banks! Clover Advertising and Appco Group: you win The BRISTOLIAN‘s very first CRAP EMPLOYER OF THE MONTH award.

You absolute scumbags!


  1. Sarah

    I worked for Appco based down in Brighton, which was worse. I worked till 10.30pm and then travelled half an hour to get home after an exhausting day. All you uni grads and job-hunters be warned. DON’T GO THERE! Believe me save yourself.

  2. A Matter Of Time

    I have experience of this. Clover Advertising didn’t tell me anything, and indeed gave me false impressions over the working hours.

    I didn’t really understand the structure of the company, and where door-to-door sales and the Riverford farm actually came into it. I soon realised that any position they were offering wasn’t for me, not just because of a lack of basic wage, but because I couldn’t trust them completely.

    I got on with a couple of people there well, but having seen this article I am even more relieved that I made my decision not to pursue anything with them at a relatively early stage.

  3. Natalie

    I got a call from this company about an hour ago, offering me an interview tomorrow morning at 10am. A couple of years ago I went along to an interview and 2nd interview with a similar company further South, and I know exactly how these companies try to scam young people into working long hours for no pay. They definitely WON’T be seeing me tomorrow! Job websites should be more controlling of these kinds of ads, they’re misleading and unfair to job seekers – especially those who pay to travel to the interview.

    1. A Matter Of Time

      Yeah, I agree. I will certainly never trust an ad on a job website saying No Experience Needed! anymore.

      I went in for the first and second ‘interviews’ and then spent a day shadowing. Those 3 days have left me feeling that I wouldn’t trust Clover Advertising or any similar company if my life depended on it.

  4. Prefer not to say

    Please also alert people that Yellow Monkey Marketing are essentially the same group also operating from Bristol, it looks like identical conditions. There’s been many others in Bristol, including Mantra marketing, and lots of other names, maybe they keep changing the name every couple of years after they get enough bad publicity or maybe they are franchises, you even see some of the same staff on the Facebook page photos of Mantra Marketing and Yellow Monkey Marketing. It seems everything you wrote about is true in your description, their Facebook photos just seem to be boys in cheap suits looking a bit awkward. I’ve heard they do lots of trips together and go out often to distract the employee’s from the fact they’re paid peanuts. They also have chanting, call their employees “monkeys” & sort of brainwash them. A laddie who tried to get me to come to an interview sent an email with references to the weather and smiley faces…

    The BBC even did an investigation back in 2007
    It seems to all be part of the Cobra Group.

  5. Chris

    Very deserved award I think! I had the misfortune of working a week for Clover a few years ago. Very misleading advert and interview, absolutely no mention of door to door sales – I think ‘direct marketing’ was mentioned briefly and then very quickly moved on from. Partly my own fault for being 18 and very naive – but I was a desperate jobseeker, and they’re very good at roping you in with promises of running your own company, earning £400+ a week from the offset, and lots of very fake, cringe-y positivity and an almost cult-like office environment.

    Then came the working week – “So uh, what are we actually doing then?” I asked my colleague. “What, didn’t they tell you in there?” he said. “Well no… not really, just about earning lots of money”. So I ended up working 1 week in the ‘field’, a run-down council estate in Nailsea, oh – and I had to drive a group of the employees there (and although promised, never received any petrol money for this). 6 days work (Mon-Sat), 10am-8pm (although pressured to turn up 1 hour early for training), in the cold, dark, rain, in January, getting told to ‘fuck off and get a real job’ by the local residents (good advice in hindsight), and I’d say about 50% of doors slammed in my face. “Err, this door has a sign saying no cold-callers” I said, “Don’t care, we literally knock on EVERY door” was my colleagues reply. And he wasn’t lying – walking through gardens to get to back doors if they didn’t answer the front, gaining unauthorised access to a block of flats and knocking on every door within, etc. I think I managed one sale only because someone took pity on me, although it takes a month to process (around a month I think), and i remember several colleagues mention they were still waiting on payments. There was one very brief mentioning of being self-employed, obviously to take responsibility away from the company, however I wasn’t able to get any more information on this and it all seemed very hush-hush. So after quitting I never received any money for the sale – granted I never pursued this as I couldn’t bring myself to speak to them, I think it was about £15-£20-ish per sale. Even if i did receive that payment that works out 60 hours work for £20, which works out about 30p an hour. During that week I probably spent around £50 on petrol, train tickets, dinner money etc.

    Pretty horrible experience overall and would strongly suggest avoiding this and other Appco companies at all costs. The good, honest, rewarding jobs are out there and are very much worth the wait and effort.

  6. The one and Only

    There appear to be a lot of these types of companies in Bristol. Lots. I well remember falling foul but happily not into the job itself in Summer 2012, it said all this stuff about marketing etc but it’s a very tenuous definition of marketing.

  7. Luci

    I’ve just been offered an interview for this company only 3 hours ago. Apparently they loved my CV and my experience, though they didn’t seem to have really read it. Although where I received the call was noisy, I didn’t really hear a job title mentioned, only that they were offering me an interview in the morning and would I like to attend. It sounded like a relief, since I’m unemployed and have the DWP on my back.

    Thank you so, so much for this article. I now know to stay as far away from Clover as I can. I won’t be attending the interview. Really, bottom of my heart, thank you. <3

  8. Ryan

    I actually work for the company and being 18 and not being bothered at anything I wanted to do in life I took the job. My impressions of it in the first/second week was this business is a scam making some bulls**t promises. Turns out my hard work actually paid of and I now run my own business earning 300-400 pound per week bare in mind I have only just started my team, Don’t always believe what you read people the comments though actually make me laugh because I am probably thee most sceptical person you could meet and I am succeeding in a business that is full of “cowboys”

  9. Jess

    I had the absolute misfortune of working for Appco in Bristol, although it was called Mantra, however we had meetings at Clover once a month.

    I felt absolutely scammed into working there. Was not informed ONCE what we would be doing, they told me we were going to work with RSPCA for the day, when we pulled up in an estate I was actually confused as to why we weren’t AT the RSPCA.

    Everything they do is unethical, I was brainwashed into believing as an 18 year old girl, I had no job prospects outside of their ‘bubble’. I stayed there for months,

    They encourage workers to go on week long ‘roadtrips’ where you stay in a caravan for a week so that you can work from 9am-9pm.

    I – an 18 year old girl – was dumped in a village for the week in the middle of no where (no other employees were around for miles) in the middle of winter. The village was famous for having no street lamps and it was the middle of winter. It was dark from 4pm and a lovely lady was so worried about my safety that when I knocked on her door, she gave me her dog for the evening as she wanted it to protect me.

    I was then forced to share a bed with a male colleague – I had a boyfriend at the time and it was awful.

    Once I left I received letchy messages from the boss asking for me to be hired as his ‘personal secretary’.

    I have no idea why I didn’t leave sooner but now that I’ve left I’m a wiser person, and 3 years on own my own business.

    Thank you Appco for being a giant waste of my time.

  10. Jennifer

    Oh God, my friend works for one of these, also in Bristol.

    Always talking about the other offices (e.g. Mantra) They basically hire young naive kids (18-26), then build their hopes high and promote them really quickly so that they can open their “own businesses” within a year or two. That’s why there are so many of these companies are all linked – they are all stemming from Appco.

    They work 12+ hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week. Involves a lot of travel. They sell charity subscriptions door to door – and I presume that the business takes a huge cut from these charities profits (eugh!).

    It’s completely 100% commission based and they’re all self employed so no protection or benefits. No idea how much they make per sale…They all say that they’re making a fortune too, and it’s definitely enough to live off, but I think per hour worked they’re on way below minimum wage. They claim they will all retire rich at 35YO.

    They’re taught that meetings, conferences and lectures that take place before official office hours and on weekends are all to help them progress so aren’t counted as work time (and certainly aren’t paid). Because they are “voluntary”.

    Oh it’s called 1TO1 ADVERTISING – just to add the name to the list!

    It’s the kind of horror job my Mum always warned me about, I wouldn’t go near it!

    Just wish I could help my friend see it…

  11. DJ

    Jaysus, this brings back (bad) memories. It would have been 1994 or so, I didn’t much like my new job (also commission only) so followed a flyer that took me to a dingy office above a shop front on Denmark Street (the same “office above an unlet shop off Park Street”, after all these years?) The place was rammed with people my age, all about to be bundled into vans, cars, whatever, and sell door-to-door. I ended up in Cheltenham, the task was selling some kind of season ticket to a local Chinese restaurant, a sliding discount with each fifteenth meal completely free or some shite like that. The guy that was told to take me under his wing was, to put it kindly, a nutcase in a cheap suit, spent the entire day singing the praises of the Richard Dreyfuss / Danny DeVito film “Tin Men” (about two salesmen using whatever devious trick they could to best the other). As the day wore on, the guy managed no sales – as more and more Cheltonians were given the sales pitch, it became obvious the restaurant had a reputation locally somewhere below Fred West’s – and his patter became progressively more unhinged and desperate with each failed sales opportunity. There were moments when I entertained the possibility that I had somehow managed to get myself kidnapped, but we were finally driven back to Bristol about eight in the evening. By that point I was ready to just bolt – for God’s sake, they were ringing a bell (the “seller’s bell”) for somebody that had made a fair number of sales – but the big boss wanted to see how my first day had gone. The nutcase in a cheap suit was down-braided in a fairly brusque manner for his sales drought, which of course hadn’t exactly blown me away with the unlimited earnings potential the job offered. I told them I’d think about it and just got out of there as soon as I could. When I finally got home, my girlfriend could see how freaked out I was by the sheer oddness of the whole day.
    So the following Sunday night, I’d say about quarter to one, the phone rings. I’m thinking someone’s died, but no, it’s nutcase in a cheap suit, all fired up, talking a mile a minute: “Yeah, we’ve just had a great day, all out together, the whole team, quad-biking, brilliant! So, what do you think, interested then? We’ll see you tomorrow?”
    I told him no, no he wouldn’t, and thankfully never heard from them again. Absolutely the closest I ever want to get to a cult mindset, and frankly, the fact that it’s something that’s still out there, feeding on young people – who just want an interview, a job, a hope – concerns the shit out of me.

  12. Scott

    It’s just another shitty Appco pyramid scheme. 99% of them won’t earn anything decent despite what they tell you – stay well away.

  13. AngryInBristol

    I have had EXACTLY the same experiences as listed above. I was at 1to1 Advertising Bristol at 26 Baldwin Street. It’s a subsidiary of Mantra Marketing which is part of the APPCO and COBRA group (makes sense as they are all snakes). Lies about success and progression and a base salary- its all commission, you pay percentage of your sales commission to upline members, have to pay your own travel, expenses, work like 70hours, get spoken down to by a stupid cheap looking crew leader who thinks she knows everything but just talks a big game and repeats bulls**t about law of averages and other unproven nonsense statistics. The environment was cult like,lots of really loud music, cheap suits, high fives, fake personalities and lies about how good people were doing. Pyramid style multilevel network marketing scheme… It’s all bulls**t.


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