WARNING: Long ass post. You may want to print it out and bring it to the bathroom with you so you can do something, er, productive with your time while reading this...
Training was about to start and I was actually excited about it. I mean, I was going to learn everything. Everything I needed to know to be a qualified, certified, and confident weight loss consultant. It all felt so very professional.
I showed up in my new business lady clothes that I bought fresh off the racks at TJ Maxx. I had to convince John that I needed the new wardrobe, so I could look the part.
When I got there, the receptionist told me to go on back and the training would start as soon as Amy and Diane arrived.
There was a half circle of about eight chairs with attached desktops in the room, a dry-erase marker board, and flip chart. About half of the newly hired were there and I said hello and introduced myself. One of the girls practically rolled her eyes at me and went back to her conversation and another one just smiled and nodded her head. Feeling like an absolute idiot, I sat down and rustled some papers around my puny desktop trying to look busy.
After spending what felt like an hour of me looking at papers I wasn’t reading, the girl who rolled her eyes got up and grabbed a fun-sized Nestle Crunch bar. I wondered why in the world she was going to eat candy in a diet center. I mean, duh?
But then I discovered she’d fished it out of a giant plastic bowl overflowing with candy on a snack table tucked in the corner of the room. There were other things on the snack table too, like veggies and dip and some fruit. But who the hell is going to help themselves to an unpeeled orange? All that orange zest gets stuck under your nails and then your hands are all sticky, every time you pull a piece off you risk squirting juice all over you. And everybody knows when someone’s eating an orange. It’s impossible to contain the smell. It’s not a bad smell, it’s just that then everyone’s like, "Hey, is someone eating an orange in here or something?" Who wants to draw that kind of attention to themselves? Even more puzzling; why was there all this candy? I knew it was a test. There was probably some sort of hidden camera in the room. Maybe that was why the trainers were late. They were probably yukkin’ it up in the back watching us on some small black and white t.v. I can’t believe that idiot fell for it. Serves her right; thinking she’s better than me. Bitch.
Finally, Amy and Diane strolled in causing a whirlwind of excitement. They were the only ones that seemed excited, though. Amy started up some friendly banter with some of the girls. And Diane stood there with a smile that made her mouth appear freakishly large in comparison to the rest of her face. She was in a navy pantsuit with a white turtleneck, gold necklace, and gold hoop earrings. She looked as though she’d just stepped out of 1988 and was feeling like a million bucks. Amy was dressed in a much more updated pantsuit which just became a pair of slacks and t-shirt soon after she lost the jacket.
Diane instructed Amy to go ahead and start setting up, which meant she was to become her lowly assistant for the rest of the day. Everything that Diane said was quickly recorded on to the dry-erase board as a bold point. Then Amy would flip to referenced pages that were previously written out in different colored markers on the big flip chart.
We learned about the history of Jenny Craig the woman, the inspiration, the diet guru. Later on we were then quizzed on that information.
We learned about what every employment position was responsible for. For example, a consultant’s job was to see active clients once a week for a fifteen minute long consultation. In those fifteen minutes a trained consultant could help their client celebrate their weight loss by being their little hired cheerleader and then they’d get down to business and put together the next week’s food menu.
A Program Director’s job was to set up appointments with potential clients, called "tours", and spend one hour with them asking questions about their weight loss goals, the challenges that have prevented them from losing weight, and then to sign them up with one of the Jenny Craig programs that would best suit their individual needs.
The next day of training involved rolling up our sleeves and role-playing the parts of consultants. Amy and Diane acted out a scene which involved a nervous caller played by Diane, and a consultant, played by Amy, who tried to comfort her and encourage her to come in for an appointment. In the end, Diane’s character felt relieved that she’d taken the first step in calling and Amy thanked her for calling Jenny Craig and was looking forward to meeting with her to discuss the weight loss program options this Wednesday at 2:00 PM. Sounded easy enough. But then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
First, we had to learn how to answer the phone. This was tricky. There was a script to follow and those anxious callers could throw you a curve, such as asking how much it cost to join, or "do you have to eat the food?", and "I heard the food was expensive!" Beads of sweat formed on the forehead of every trainee with a look of "what do I do next???" Enter the experts. Diane and Amy would step in to show you how it’s done.
When it came to receiving new customer phone calls, it was crucial to remain in control of the conversation at all times. Don’t let questions about price or food get you off track. Never, and I mean never, talk about what the food or programs cost except in the case of the advertised program specials. You were permitted to say "Our current special is 19 lbs for $19! (plus the cost of food)" And you always had to say "plus the cost of food" to cover Jenny’s ass. If the Federal Trade Commission called and you forgot to say that, it could be grounds for immediate termination. They were always telling us about all the legality stuff, and how you would be fired if you messed up just once with the wrong person.
After a long morning of rehearsing our telephone answering scripts, it was time to break for lunch. Two of the girls, Lisa and Courtney, asked if I wanted to go to Chili’s across the street.
While the three of us waited for our food, we talked about the whole phone pitch. "Doesn’t it feel kind of phony? I mean, if I called, and like, wanted to just find out how much it cost, and like, some stupid chick kept saying ‘19 lbs for $19!’, I’d be like, shut-up and tell me what it really costs," Lisa said. "Oh, and I like how we’re supposed to say ‘plus the cost of food’, which would naturally lead into the customer asking, ‘Well, how much is the food?’ and we’re not even allowed to tell them. So stupid."
I asked what was up with all the candy. "I mean there were mounds of candy on that snack table yesterday and today. And someone had to have refilled it, because I noticed M&Ms were there this time and they weren’t there yesterday, you know." But they didn’t seem to bothered by it. I asked if they thought it was some kind of test or something. They shrugged. Was I the only one who thought that was little hypocritical? They hadn’t really thought about it. I started to think they maybe they were in on it. Maybe I was the one that Jenny Craig was testing and the rest of trainees were just paid actors. I dropped the subject immediately.
The next couple of days involved more role-playing, but this time it was acting out a consultation. It was even more awkward and unnatural than the phone answering bit. You really had to hone in your acting skills with this one. Always using a positive spin on everything and making sure that you sent your client off with a full week’s worth of food and a motivated spirit. Before they left, you had to be sure to secure their next week’s appointment, because if you didn’t, they could fall off the wagon and you’d lose them forever. In other words, if they didn’t come in next week, Jenny made less money and you were out of food commission.
Consultations are free, the food is not, and that’s how Jenny Craig stays rich.
As the end of our training days neared, we’d spent almost every moment of our time learning how to answer a phone, sell food, products, and programs. We learned how to operate the extremely outdated and anything but user-friendly computer systems. We practiced bagging up clients’ weekly food orders and then double checking with the clients to make sure that we packed all their precious Jenny Cuisine and had "secured" their next appointment. We made "reminder calls" to real live clients to make sure they weren’t going to conveniently forget to come in tomorrow.
The last day of training involved some serious testing. Diane and Amy pushed us to the limit, role-playing phone call and consultations. It was the day that we all had to bring our A-game or we could kiss our Jenny Craig careers goodbye.