FIVE executives of a vacuum cleaner dealer near Florence, Italy, have been arrested for allegedly mistreating employees by whipping them and banning toilet breaks, news reports said today.
Employees who failed to meet sales targets at Italcarone’s call centre were humiliated in front of their colleagues and sometimes lashed on the legs with a whip, the reports said.
Another punishment was to be refused permission to use the toilet, the La Repubblica newspaper reported.
The job was advertised with promises of lavish bonuses and commissions on sales of the machines designed to eliminate acarids, microscopic insects blamed for human allergies.
Prospective employees at the company in Incisa, central Italy, were enticed by the executives’ luxury lifestyle, the reports said.
Investigators told La Repubblica that employees at the company’s call centre were under pressure to set a maximum number of appointments for the sales force.
The US-made vacuum cleaners – actually worth $494 – sold for more than $4942, or $7964 in 60 monthly payments of $132.73 .
The company made undeclared sales of E4.5 million ($6.35 million), investigators told the ANSA news agency.
Employees were required to begin each work day by singing Italy’s national anthem and repeating motivational slogans while holding hands.
Each new salesperson was assigned a buddy who pressed them to sell the vacuum cleaners to family and friends.
Employees often put in up to 14 hours a day trying to meet the targets in order to earn the bonuses, some in the form of exotic vacations.
The arrests come after a three-year investigation into the company, whose executives are also accused of tax fraud.