Why 18 door-to-door salespeople sued their employer on the same day

The direct sales company Grit Marketing reported a big year. Some of its sales reps say they didn’t get paid.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Grit Marketing building in Lindon is pictured on Thursday, February. 29, 2024. The direct door-to-door sales company, is being sued by former sales reps who claim it owes them commission, following 18 lawsuits filed in one day for a combined $1.4 million.

Grit Marketing had a big year in 2023, as the direct, door-to-door sales company earned $95 million, donated more than $900,000 to charity, and moved into a new office building in Lindon — complete with an indoor basketball court.

Current salespeople say, in a series of lawsuits, that Grit Marketing also stopped paying some of its sales reps.

Eighteen nearly identical lawsuits were filed in Salt Lake’s 3rd District Court in mid-February, all by former salespeople who claim the company has not paid them the commission it owes. The 18 plaintiffs suing Grit claim it owes them anywhere between $10,000 and $250,000 per person — a total of $1.4 million.

The company, founded in 2020, contracts its door-to-door salespeople to pest control companies across the country, according to its website. Its rise was meteoric: It was earning tens of millions of dollars in its first year, and the company partnered with the Utah Jazz in 2022.

To pest control companies, Grit promises “rampant revenue growth,” according to its website. To its sales reps, it promises “a platform to become financially literate,” plus the potential to earn “hundreds of thousands of dollars” and turn their lives around with enough grit and hustle, co-founder John Tayler told podcast host Jimmy Rex in the company’s early days.

To the sales reps suing Grit, most of them young, college-aged men, the unpaid commissions are a lot of money, said Justin James, an attorney representing all 18 plaintiffs.

“I’m just trying to help these young guys,” James said.

Grit executives and an attorney for the company did not respond to The Salt Lake Tribune’s requests for comment.

Sales and recruits

Grit Marketing is what James and direct selling experts call a “mercenary” sales force: the company does not sell its own product. Instead, it recruits and trains independent sales reps to sell on behalf of other companies — specifically pest control companies. The model can save businesses money, researchers say, because salespeople are paid on commission, not on salary.

Grit Marketing was not included in the Kem G. Gardner Institute’s analysis of Utah’s direct selling industry; the study, published in 2022, used data from 2020, the same year Grit was founded. But the study, and the Federal Trade Commission, define direct sales as a sales strategy that relies on the success of independent sales representatives. A multilevel marketing company, according to the FTC, also encourages sales representatives to recruit new sales representatives, and incentivizes each new recruit.

Grit Marketing’s sales representatives earn commissions from their sales; they can also earn “overrides,” or a cut of sales for every new salesperson they recruit, according to court documents.

All 18 plaintiffs have claimed Grit owes them commission money; 10 of them claim they should have also been paid a cut of their recruits’ sales.

Multi-level marketing is popular among women, and especially women in Utah, experts say. Research from Gardner Institute found that as of 2020, most large direct selling company sales representatives were women, drawn to the flexibility and financial freedom MLMs can offer. More critical scholars have called the business model ”predatory.” Reps for such brands as doTERRA sell not just products, but lifestyles of wellness, or beauty, or luxury.

Grit is MLM’s hyper-masculine counterpart. Its social media posts celebrate top sellers in dark, stylized graphics that evoke the internet’s early days. Some posts borrow militaristic language and iconography to describe Grit’s workforce: “Deployment will be here before you know it,” says one post, captioning a flyer about “Grit Trench Education Camp.”

The company’s website includes an online store full of branded apparel. All of it is listed as sold out.

Instagram followers and Google reviewers comment that they are “proud to be aligned with an organization always striving for greatness” and “forever changed” by the company’s “blessings.”

“A top 5 blessing in my life to be here,” one sales rep commented. “Never been surrounded by a better group.”

“Blessed to be a part of something bigger than me,” another commented.

A smaller faction of the internet is more skeptical. On Reddit, users who claim to be former sales reps or acquainted with sales reps (Reddit is anonymous) said the company felt like a “pyramid scheme” or a “scam.”

“In my opinion, it’s a disgusting low,” said one Reddit user who claimed to have sold for Grit for a week before quitting. “Erroneously, I had this vision of sales being something where you just talk about a product and, through a whole lot of work, try to find the occasional person who might be interested in it. Instead I found a culture of, this is how to exploit the feelings of vulnerable people to get what you want.”

Grit’s top sellers sell more than $1 million of pest control services per year, according to company Instagram posts. Commission structure is based on “veteran” status — the longer you stick around, and the more you sell, the more you earn. Some plaintiffs claim they were eligible for 13% of their sales revenue; others claim they were eligible for up to 63%.

According to each lawsuit, Grit told all 18 sales reps it would pay them what it owed “on or before January 26.” It still hasn’t, the plaintiffs allege.

Grit has been served in each case, according to court records, but has not issued a response.

Shannon Sollitt is a Report for America corps member covering business accountability and sustainability for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.